Many Police Agencies Lack Guidelines On Taser Use


Robert Stanley was subdued with a Taser in 2003 during an epileptic seizure when he fled from paramedics in Baytown, Tx., the Houston Chronicle says. Stanley, 30, is suing the Baytown police charging excessive use of force – the third such case. Several Houston law enforcement agencies are issuing Tasers to officers and giving them almost complete discretion on when to use it. “There is a philosophy to use a Taser anytime you would have to put your hands on a suspect,” said prosecutor Tommy LaFon, who charged one Baytown officer with misdemeanor assault charge in a Taser case. “I am not sure the public is ready to give the police that kind of authority. It seems we want them to use more discretion.”

The American Civil Liberties Union in Houston says Tasers should only be used as a last resort to avoid lethal force. In other jurisdictions across the country, officers have been instructed to avoid using a Taser on the very young or very old, the handicapped, and people who already have been brought under control. David Klinger, a former police officer now studying use-of-force issues at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, said agencies must be clear on the proper use of a Taser and when it is preferable to a baton, pepper spray or other weapon. “Anytime you have a new technology, it takes a little time to shake out as to when and how best to use it,” he said. “When you begin to talk about sending 50,000 volts of electricity through a person’s body, you come to a moral question, because this is not just going to cause a little pain. Even if they are not killing people, this is not a completely benign thing.”


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