Is It Safe To Use Tasers On The Mentally Ill, Drug Abusers?


Nearly half the time that Utah police deployed electroshock weapons over the past 2½ years, they were used on people in altered states — those suffering from mental illness or under the influence of alcohol or drugs, the Salt Lake Tribune reports. Officers delivered multiple shocks to altered people almost half the time. Science hasn’t answered just how safe Tasers are to use on the mentally ill and substance abusers, a population that advocates say police will be even more likely to encounter as funding for treatment dwindles.

An American Medical Association council in June expressed concern that Tasers are used too often when a person does not pose a clear physical threat. That month, the death of a man shocked by police on a Utah highway sparked a widespread controversy. Nude and unarmed, Brian Cardall was sufering a psychotic episode when an officer zapped him twice — at least once in the chest. Electroshock-gun manufacturer Taser International says its products can’t conclusively be linked to any deaths but acknowledged individual reactions can’t be predicted, particularly when underlying medical conditions or drugs are involved. After Cardall’s death, the company also instructed police to avoid aiming Tasers at a person’s chest – —a departure from previous guidelines that recommended shooting at center body mass.

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