The deaths of three people last weekend after they were stunned with Taser guns has renewed scrutiny of the devices, reports the Christian Science Monitor. The deaths–in Atlanta, Cincinnati and Manassas, Va.–are being investigated. But a growing number of police departments have begun to limit Taser use, imposing stricter policies for use or even taking the instruments out of officers’ hands.
About 15,000 US police departments, including 29 of the nation’s 33 largest cities, use a total of 260,000 Tasers. The devices have been the objects of controversy since first being deployed broadly in the 1990s. Some describe them as an alternative to the nightstick that reduces officer injuries and saves lives. Others see the stun guns as instruments of torture whose growing use make them a symbol of reckless policing. Tasers contributed to some 351 US deaths between 2001 and 2008, says Amnesty International, although 99.7 percent of people who are tasered suffer no serious injuries, according to the National Institute of Justice.