When And Where Tasers Be Used
Although tasers have been around for years, there are still many misconceptions about them. Many people think that tasers are electrical weapons that need to hit their target with a direct beam of electricity. This is simply not the case. In fact, they are quite different from traditional stun guns or pepper sprays, although both can be called "tasers" due to their resemblance.
A taser is actually an electrical stun gun, usually used in conjunction with another kind of device called a TASER, which stands for Telephone Amplified Shockwave Therapy. A taser basically consists of two major components: the transmitter and the electrodes. The transmitter sends a direct pulse of voltage (close to one hundred volts) into the skin, and the electrodes are worn on or near the skin by the recipient of the shock. The skin is not damaged in the process, but the electric pulse is disruptive to the muscles and other tissues in the area, including the heart. An average electric shock can cause muscles to relax, lose muscle tone, and cause a shortening of time. This can cause the subject to lose balance, breathe irregularly, and may experience muscle weakness.
Professor Stephen Carabino of the Department of Criminal Justice and Security Sciences at the University of Maryland says that there is a difference between the original design of the taser and the modern stun guns and Tasers. The original stun gun was a small handheld device that would be kept close to the criminal (or victim) in order to deliver a much more potent shock. Professor Carabino says that the current generation stun guns and tasers are "almost identical" except for battery life. In the case of the original stun gun, a six or seven-volt shock was powerful enough to stop most people. The current generation model can deliver a ten or eleven-volt shock, and Professor Carabino says these new weapons can stop people in the middle of a car accident. He also says they can "stop an attacker in a room."
Stun guns and Tasers have both their advantages and disadvantages. Professor Carabino says that he feels stun guns are less harmful than tasers, especially for police officers. He also says that stun guns have a greater stopping power than tasers. And that the police in New York use pepper spray devices that can be as far as five feet long and can deliver a continuous spray.
But there are some officers who say that tasers are far too dangerous to be used by the public. Police officials in New York City have recently come under fire for the excessive amount of force they have used against citizens. In one instance, an officer was caught on video striking a suspected unarmed man in the face with his stun gun. The incident was captured on video by a television crew. The New York City Police Department released the dash-cam video, saying that the man had made an attempt to gain dominance over the officer by reaching toward him with his hands.
Experts in the criminal justice system, though, say that even a small number of such incidents might mean that tasers are not worth the risk. For one thing, it is clear from the dash-cam videos that the police in New York City did not have any legitimate reason to pull a suspect over, so using a less invasive weapon like tasers is not necessary. Second, stun guns can be used even if a person is reaching toward an officer with their hands, as has been claimed in some court cases. And, although some police departments have replaced their tasers with more appropriately sized weapons, such as the stun gun, it is clear that some departments still feel that they must use the older model tasers.
But what about the deadly force debate? While some police departments have been criticized for using too much force during arrests and in the field, the New York Police Department says that its officers follow the law in carrying out their duties. The head of the city's police union, John D. Negron, said that the new N.D.A.R.P. report "fails to show just how common" the use of fatal force is "on the job."
He added that the department "will not change tactical procedures based on emotion or public opinion rather than practical fact." The professor also noted that the Justice Department's inspector general was "uneven in his assessment of the use of force against persons." According to the report, the inspector found that "some police officers may have applied force that could have been excessive," but that the review did not determine if the level of force was "appropriate." Still, the Justice Department announced that it would be conducting its own investigation into the police department's use of deadly force.