The Supreme Court is being asked to consider for the first time police use of Tasers, McClatchy Newspapers reports. With more than 11,000 agencies arming officers with the stun guns, the time may be getting ripe for settling questions about when electrical force becomes excessive. “One could argue that the use of painful, permanently scarring weaponry on non-threatening individuals, who were not trying to escape, should have been known to be excessive by any informed police officer,” said Judge Mary Schroeder of the US. Court of Appeals for for the 9th Circuit, before cautioning that “there is no good case law” to clarify decision-making.
The 9th Circuit confronted the complicated Taser questions last year. The majority's conclusion that stunning a nonviolent individual could be considered excessive force will be reviewed by Supreme Court justices in a private conference this month. The Los Angeles County Police Chiefs' Association is urging the high court to take up the Taser cases. Some appellate judges, too, are warning about dire consequences if Taser use is restricted. “My colleagues cast doubt on an effective alternative to more dangerous police techniques, and the resulting uncertainty will lead to more, worse injuries,” said 9th Circuit Judge Alex Kozinski. “This mistake will be paid for in the blood and lives of police and members of the public.” The Taser cases will be considered by the Supreme Court on May 24. If at least four justices agree, the cases will be added to next term’s docket.