The Verdict - The Lombardi Law Firm Blog
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What people don't seem to appreciate is why this debate continues. Like any tool of law enforcement Tasers can be misused. How and when they are being used has been the ongoing concern but the Canadian research is raising additional questions about how the Taser performs and whether or not the internal functioning of it is predictable or reliable. What has never been discussed or debated is whether the Taser works as it is intended to and how long they function in a reliable manner. Now take a look at this case. I have to wonder if the reporting by the officers should include in their reports how long they actually caused the voltage to be applied. Meaning did the Taser take over and jolt the arrestee longer than the officer intended.
According to a Star Telegram online article, Tasers are gaining acceptance, though there are some still who will not issue this weapon, such as Tarrant County Sheriff Dee Anderson. There are many that are issuing Tasers and believe it is a safer and a more beneficial option to guns. A recent case involving use of a Taser which killed the victim, has spurred this discussion once again.
Opposing Taser Use
The case of Michael Patrick Jacobs, age 24, gives evidence against the use of Tasers. Jacobs’ parents called the Fort Worth police because their son was creating problems for them. When the police arrived, he became aggressive, and was shot twice with a Taser, dying on April 18, 2009. According to the autopsy report done by Tarrant County Medical Examiner Dr. Nizam Peerwani, it was found his body was shot for 49 seconds during the first jolt, and 5 seconds the second time. His body was also found not to have contained any drugs and Peerwani ruled his death a homicide. It was reported that the police officer who pulled the trigger on the Taser did so for 49 seconds “unknowningly.”
“The Jacobs family is suing the city of Fort Worth and the Police Department for wrongful death.” Lt. Paul Henderson, chief of staff for the Fort Worth police department, said the case is undergoing investigation and is expected to go to a grand jury.
“Amnesty International reported this year that 351 people have died after being stunned with Tasers in the United States since June 2001. The organization has called on governments to suspend their use or limit them to life-threatening situations.”
Favoring Taser Use
Sheriff Departments which employ Tasers in Texas include Bexar, Dallas, Harris and Travis counties, as well as locally, more than 10 police departments (including Arlington, Dallas/Fort Worth Airport and Fort Worth) have trained their officers and equipped them with Tasers. “Proponents say officers who use Tasers, which deliver a 50,000-volt shock that can temporarily immobilize a suspect, fire a gun less often, helping protect both the suspect and officer in potentially deadly situations.”
It was reported that a 30% decrease in police shooting has occurred in 2000-2008 compared to the time period of 1992-2000, due to increased implementation of Tasers.
There is conflicting evidence that longer duration of taser jolts will cause death, which was suspected in Jacobs’ case. Dr. Jose A. Joglar, an associate professor of internal medicine at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, has said “there is no evidence longer duration Taser applications would necessarily put the heart at a higher risk of arrhythmia since the energy for each pulse is still low."
Tasers are growing in numbers, according Taser International’s website they have “sold more than 406,000 devices to law enforcement agencies in 29 out of the 33 largest U.S. cities.”
All agencies that purchase and give officers the use of Tasers, “must undergo at least six to eight hours of training, yearly certification and, in some cases, experience being stunned, according to the agencies and Taser officials.”
There are opposing views, among the public and enforcement officials, on whether Tasers should be used by police officers. Despite this, the truth of the matter is Tasers are growing in number among officers and departments.
See related blog on Texas Sheriff Refuses to Issue Tasers to his Officers.
Texas Sheriff Refuses to Issue Tasers to his Officers
Tarrant County Sheriff Dee Anderson has done his own testing of Tasers as well as research on cases using Tasers and according to CBS news in Fort Worth, Texas he's not handing them out to his department officers. The use of this weapon has grown in popularity with Texas police departments, but Anderson is more concerned with it causing deaths. He said that when “people have health issues or who have used alcohol or drugs, the electric shock could be deadly.” He feels the negative aspects of a Taser outweigh the positives. Though Anderson will not issue Tasers to his deputies, he noted that he is not against enforcement agencies employing the weapon, saying "I completely respect others who decide to use them. I'm not a crusader against Tasers. I'm not out telling people not to use them. Everyone has to make the decision right for them.”
A recent incident which supports Anderson’s case of not using Tasers, involved a Taser being employed and caused the death of 24 year old Michael Jacobs in April 2009.
See related blog on Taser Debate spurs acceptance or refusal of Tasers.
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