TASER USE ISSUES 8
Theimportance of security cannot be gainsaid as far as the health of anycountry is concerned both in the long term and short term. Indeed,security may be the most fundamental aspect of any nation as there isno way that any economic activity can take place without some elementof stability. This explains why quite a substantial amount offinancial resources have been dedicated to enhancing security(Terrill, 2001). Indeed, a large number of countries have thesecurity and defense dockets taking a large share of the financialresources or budget. Needless to say, security matters have becomeeven more complicated with the increased development of technology.However, law enforcement agencies have seized the varied technologiesinvented and incorporated them into their efforts to curb crime andenhance security. Indeed, scholars have acknowledged that the use ofelectronic control devices by law enforcement agencies has been onthe increase since the 1970s (Vila & Morris, 1999). Studies haveshown that the devices are particularly crucial in the control ofnoncompliant suspects while also averting the possibility of seriousinjuries. On extremely rare or no occasions have the use of thesedevises resulted in death. At the center of enhancing security is thesuccessful apprehension and potential incarceration of offenders.This is often not very easy as suspects are bound to resist arrest.This introduces concerns pertaining to the use of force by policeofficers. As the most visible branch of government, police officersare entrusted with considerable discretion and authority. Indeed,they are the only societal members who have the legal authority toinflict serious injury or even take life so as to enforce the law orpreserve social order (Vila & Morris, 1999). It goes withoutsaying that the perception of the capacity of law enforcementagencies to control crime and maintain ethical standards and highaccountability levels by the public is often based on the use of thisforce by the police. Unfortunately, the last few decades have seen anincrease in the international, national and local media attention onthe varied incidents where police force have used excessive force.These cases have cast the police force in an extremely negative lightand altered the perception of the public on police use-of-forcejudgment. In essence, police have turned to technology in an effortto address public concerns regarding police-citizen confrontations(Terrill, 2001). The technologies that are typically sought,electronic control devices in this case, are less lethal compared tothe conventional techniques of controlling suspects. However, the useof electronic control devises such as Tasers has elicited even moredebates regarding their safety to suspects (Vila & Morris, 1999).This is especially as a result of incidences where suspects haverequired hospitalization after being Tasered or even died shortlyafter being subjected to the electric shocks from Tasers. Questionshave emerged as to the safety of these devices. This paper explores astudy in which the safety of Tasers use is examined.
Fewliterary or scholarly works have explored the efficacy of Tasers asnon-lethal weapons used by police officers. Indeed, a largeproportion of research concentrates on the frequency by which theyare deployed in encounters that necessitate the use of force, as wellas their effectiveness rather than their use and effects. Theavailable body of literature pertaining to the use of Tasers andother electronic control devices by police insinuates that theirutilization is beneficial to the control of noncompliant suspects oroffenders without inflicting fatal injuries. Indeed, currentliterature reviews support these weapons’ effectiveness as lesslethal alternatives although there exists no current studies examinestheir effects on the health of the victims (Terrill, 2001).
Taseris an acronym that stands for Thomas A. Swift Electric Rifle. It wasinvented in the 60s as a nonlethal weapon and was based on the notionthat immediate incapacitation occurred almost always with no furtherdirect negative side effects in instances where the Taser is appliedin short periods of time on human beings. However, scholars note thatthere has been significant modification of these weapons so as toaddress the flaws in its design as well as improve effectiveness andreliability (McBride & Tedder, 2005). It is noted that latestmodels have a nitrogen gas propulsion system that, when triggered,fires two darts from at most 21 feet travelling at 200-220 feet persecond. Once fired, the probes would impact and penetrate a quarterinch of clothing and bare skin thereby delivering about 10-20 pulsesper second. The shocks have 50,000 electrical shock volts, in whichcase the recipient would experience a series of electrical shocksthat result in an interruption of his or her neuromuscular messages,as well as cause muscle contractions (McBride & Tedder, 2005).The shocks, therefore, would leave him or her dazed and incapable ofcausing any aggression or resisting the deploying officer’sactions. These effects have, in essence, been the bone of contentionwith regard to the safety of Tasers.
Asmuch as studies have found the use of Tasers to be extremely safe, astudy by Wake Forest University School of Medicine has found that99.7% of cases had mild injuries. In this study, only three peoplehad to be hospitalized after having Tasers used on them (Hougland etal, 2005). Two of these had fallen immediately after being subjectedto the Taser, while the third was hospitalized two days after theincident, in which case it was not clear whether the hospitalizationwas a direct effect of being Tasered (Nielson, 2001). Of particularnote is the fact that the study would follow individuals only if theyneeded follow-up care for the injuries sustained in the incident oreven had to be hospitalized. Amnesty International, on the otherhand, has determined that over 245 people in the U.S have succumbedto cardiac arrest after being subjected to Taser shocks. Ofparticular note is the fact that a large number of individuals whosuccumbed to the shocks or had larger injuries had pre-existingmedical conditions such as heart attacks, asthma and respiratoryailments (Nielson, 2001). Others got more bruises or injuries as aresult of falling after the electric shock from the Tasers.Variables and Hypothesis
Thisstudy rides on the hypothesis that the use of Tasers is not onlyeffective but also safe when used on individuals with no priorchronic conditions such as heart diseases, high blood pressure andrespiratory ailments. The independent variables in the study would benumber of individuals on whom Tasers are used in quellingconfrontations between police and the public or suspects. Thedependent variables would be the number of people who experiencedmore than the mild injuries including bruises.
Hougland,S., Mesloh, C & Henych, M (2005). Use of Force, Civil Litigation,and the Taser. FBILaw Enforcement Bulletin 74:24
McBride,D.K & Tedder, N.B (2005). Efficacyand Safety of Electrical Stun Devices.Washington, D.C.: Potomac Institute for Policy Studies
Nielson,E (2001). The Advanced Taser: Taser International Takes the Taser toa Higher Level,” Lawand Order 49,no. 5 (2001): 57–62.
Terrill,W (2001). PoliceCoercion: Application of the Force Continuum.New York: LFB Scholarly Publishing
Vila.B & Morris, C (1999). TheRole of Police in American Society: A Documentary History.Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press