To tase or not to tase

Recent events have brought up questions as to whether the use of tasers by law enforcement officials are always appropriate.

Amnesty International claimed to have documented over 270 deaths in Canada and the US involving the use of tasers. This human rights organization lists related deaths on their Web site along with information about the individual cases. They have been tracking taser related deaths since 2001. The makers of the taser claim that these deaths are unrelated to their product.

The taser is manufactured by Taser International. It works by delivering a 50,000 volt electric shock to the human body. This is delivered through two barbed darts connected by wire tethers and propelled from the taser by nitrogen gas. The effect created, according to Taser International, is called neuromuscular incapacitation or NMI.

The basic effect is massive spasms of the muscle between the darts. Taser International claims that their product leaves no lasting effects.

Amnesty International disagrees and said that the potential for abuse is too great. They have publicly spoken out against the tasing of Andrew Meyer, the University of Florida student forcibly escorted out of an event which centered around a speech by Senator John Kerry, last September. The video footage captured Meyers’s immortal words, "Don’t Tase me, bro!"   

Most law enforcement agencies, when dealing with a violent threat, use a graduated scale called the "force continuum." This scale may differ slightly between departments. The standard taught in any Utah police academy begins at the officers presence, verbal command, active restraint (hands on)–at this point the officer uses tools that are designated less-than-lethal: OC (pepper) spray, taser, specialty impact munitions, nightstick, then deadly force (firearm.) The taser in use by law enforcement today is labeled as a less-than-lethal option. Some human rights groups disagree with that label as well as the taser’s use by law enforcement and the military.

The UVSC police department uses the taser. Officer Justin Sprague has said, "We used the taser a lot when we first got it–mostly during concerts and public events."

When asked how often they are used now, Officer Sprague mentioned that it is not very common. "About twice a year," said Sprague.

The last reported use of a taser on the UVSC campus happened outside the institute building during a dance last August.

Leave a Reply