The use of force by Massachusetts State Police officers nearly doubled in 2016, driven by troopers’ widespread use of Tasers for the first time last year, reports the Boston Globe. There were 402 incidents, a 93 percent increase over the 2015 total of 208. Some of the increase appeared to be accounted for by the way the use of the new electronic weapons was logged. More than 100 of the incidents in 2016 were warnings associated with Taser use, not actual strikes.
The use of several types of force rose over 2015 levels, including by police dogs, and 44 injuries suffered by suspects during incidents in which State Police officers used force, up from 33. The reports were obtained through a public records request and posted to muckrock.com. Tasers were carried only by some special units before 2016, and not deployed at all in 2015; the State Police began distributing the weapons more widely in April. Law enforcement’s use of Tasers has proved controversial with civil rights groups. Though considered less-than-lethal, their use has led to fatalities. Instead of replacing the use of lethal force — typically firearms — critics fear they instead substitute for nonviolent deescalation tactics.