The Police Executive Research Forum is recommending new restrictions on the use of Tasers, the electric stun guns associated with nearly 140 deaths of people being taken into custody, reports the New York Times. A a conference in Houston with representatives from the Department of Justice and about 80 police departments, the group suggested that officers be allowed to use the stun guns only on people who are aggressively resisting arrest, not just refusing to follow orders, said Chuck Wexler, PERF executive director. The group recommended that officers pause and evaluate suspects after shocking them once, instead of repeatedly shocking someone without a break.
The recommendations are not binding, but they will be closely watched by civil rights groups and plaintiffs lawyers. Police departments that do not follow them could face greater legal liability. Tasers fire electrified barbs up to 25 feet, delivering a painful 50,000-volt shock. PERF’s recommendations are based on about 18 months of research and discussions with major police departments, Wexler said. Weapons like Tasers should remain in use, he said, because they give officers a way to handle difficult or potentially violent suspects without resorting to deadly force.