When a skateboarder refused to leave a hospital parking lot, a Salt Lake County sheriff’s deputy tried to arrest him. The skateboarder resisted, wrestling with the deputy, who then shot him with a Taser, says the Salt Lake Tribune. Another time, deputies chased a drunken man into his home – the man yelling, “I’m going to kill you, get my gun and shoot you” – and shot him with a Taser when he swung at them. With each pull of the trigger, Utah officers are growing more comfortable with the 50,000-volt stun gun. Like duct tape, Tasers have become a fix-all for potentially volatile situations. A Tribune analysis of more than 180 Taser deployments shows that police used the weapon four out of 10 times to subdue violent suspects, some already in handcuffs, others wielding knives.
The analysis showed that Utah police commonly pull the trigger on fleeing suspects, in one case a high school student in possession of alcohol. Taser International estimates that more than 4,200 weapons have been added to the duty belts of police in more than 130 law enforcement agencies in Utah. Tasers remain a lighting rod, condemned by watchdog groups, most recently in May when police fatally zapped a handcuffed Oklahoma City woman. “Nothing is safe during a use-of-force incident,” said Taser International spokesman Steve Tuttle. “There is always an inherent risk. But hands-down, the Taser is going to be a safer alternative than pepper spray, K-9 [dog units], punching, bean bag rounds, or any other use of force.” At Amnesty International, which is critical of Taser use, a spokeswoman said, “We believe the jury is still out. There hasn’t truly been research to show what happens when you hit the body with 50,000 volts.”