Study Explores Whether Cops Use Tasers As “Shortcuts”


The Grand Junction, Co., Police Department and Mesa County, Co., Sheriff's Department used Tasers in a higher percentage of arrests last year than the majority of other Colorado law-enforcement agencies, concludes an investigation by the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel. Grand Junction police Capt. Troy Smith his department has a lower threshold for Taser use than the Denver Police Department, which deployed Tasers the least of all agencies surveyed. Grand Junction says a a suspect must be “defensively resisting” police to merit Taser use. Denver says suspects must exhibit “active aggression” to merit a Taser deployment. That is, the suspect must provide a credible “threat or overt act of an assault.”

Greg Connor, a retired professor from the University of Illinois Police Training Institute, is concerned that new technologies, such as Tasers, have effectively replaced other conventional police tactics. Connor said that even though Tasers were generally safe and effective tools, officers should not forget about “talking down” suspects in the field. “I think officers need to be trained in every aspect of arrest and not have a fad-type of emphasis on this type of weapon,” he said. Criminologist Geoff Alpert of the University of South Carolina has concerns that Tasers have become policing “shortcuts” across the country. Alpert and a colleague have a $647,387 grant from the Justice Department to study use-of-force and Taser-use statistics from 1,000 law-enforcement agencies. “One of the things we're looking at is whether or not police officers, instead of doing what they should do – wrestle with someone, put their hands on them – are using a Taser,” Alpert said.


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