A USA Today story cited this week by Crime and Justice News reported that police departments across the country are increasingly turning to Tasers to decrease the numbers of fatal officer-involved shootings. In many cases, the device has been a huge success. Miami and Seattle, for instance, last year recorded no fatal officer shootings for the first time in more than a decade. But the Christian Science Monitor reports that as cities increase their use of Tasers, questions are mounting about their misuse. And critics have been calling for independent tests to determine the health risks.
Police agencies began buying the stun guns in large quantities in 1999 and again in 2003 when the company reduced the product’s size and weight. They are now used in 5,400 police departments across the country. Two weeks ago, Taser International was awarded a $1.8 million contract to supply the stun guns to the military. But not everyone is convinced of their benefits. Amnesty International has called for a moratorium on Taser use until tests can be done to determine their safety. Nationwide, more than 50 people have died after being stunned by Tasers since 1999, though the company says no medical examiner has ruled that its product was the cause.