While the investigation continues into the death of a drug suspect in Southampton, L.I., after police shocked him with a Taser, Long Island and the New York Police Department are following a national trend that could one day make the electric weapon as common as the baton, Newsday reports. The Suffolk police department plans to add 250 Tasers in the coming months to its current level of 91. The New York Police Department yesterday expanded its Taser program based on recommendations in a Rand Corp. report on the Sean Bell shooting released this week.
More than 12,000 agencies in the U.S. now employ the weapon, according to the manufacturer of the most popular of the devices. “Say, I tell you to get out of the car and you say ‘No,'” said Dennis Kenney, a John Jay College of Criminal Justice professor. Other than the firearm, he said, “all the available options involve some sort of physical contact. The Taser appeals because of that.” While officials at Arizona-based Taser International say it does no permanent harm, critics say its sudden current can cause cardiac arrhythmias – life-threatening miscues in the heartbeat, and people have died as a result.