The Detroit Board of Police Commissioners has taken another step towards getting Tasers into the hands of city police officers, reports the Detroit News. They had been debating the measure for several years, but recently voted unanimously to approve it. It had been initially proposed by Detroit Police Chief James Craig after it had been rejected under several other previous chiefs.
Craig is because he feels like it will help reduce injuries to not just suspects, but also to officers themselves. It gives them another option outside of lethal force to subdue a subject. The stun guns work by shooting two probes, guided by wires, that send 50,000 volts into a person’s body. This can incapacitate them for a short time, allowing police to arrest or detain them safely. Before they can be used on the street, however, Detroit city council must approve the funds to purchase them.
Stun guns started proliferating in the late 1990s across the United States, and have been the subject of controversy ever since. Proponents of the weapons hail them as a safer choice than using a gun when force is required.
However, detractors, such as the Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality, feel that the dangers of Tasers are being undersold. In fact, Tasers have been used to kill citizens in the past. Sandra Hines, of the aforementioned coalition, states that “it’s just another weapon for police to misuse. They’re pushing the theory that this will save lives, but I don’t think there are any statistics to bear that out.” Detroit police already have a policy in place for the use of stun guns, despite not physically having them. However, there is legitimate concern about the amount of discretion officers will have to use them. Police might be more likely to use the “non-lethal” option of a stun gun and cause more injury when another non-lethal technique may have been safer.
In Miami, in the eight years since the police department has started using Tasers, there have been 11 deaths out of the 3,000 times they were used. Closer to Detroit, the police department in Warren halted the use of the weapon for several reasons, not the least of which was the death of a 16-year-old who had a heart attack after being hit with a stun gun. The Warren police commissioner has also stated that they stopped using them for budgetary reasons, so the issue continues to be blurred.
Detroit police commissioner Reggie Crawford is on board with their use, even after being against it in the pas. He feels that the deaths from stun gun use were because officers weren’t following proper policy, so as long as they do, Tasers will be a safer alternative.
Tasers present a great challenge for opponents of police brutality. In theory, they could offer a safer alternative to lethal force, however, they might open up more options for police to use violence against citizens. If you feel that you’ve been a victim, make sure to contact a police brutality attorney that can help protect your constitutional right.