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Using a taser on youth is not okay

On Behalf of | Jan 20, 2022 | Juvenile Crime |

The police’s use of tasers was in the national spotlight after an officer in Minnesota accidentally shot a suspect with her handgun instead of using her taser. She was recently convicted of first- and second-degree manslaughter charges. While this tragedy involved the death of a 26-year-old man who’d been pulled over while driving, it is also a reminder of how much law enforcement has come to depend upon tasers.

Used too often on everyone

Some argue that taser use is too common among law enforcement. According to a new report by a national non-profit dedicated to improving police-youth interactions and reducing the disproportionately large number of minority minors, there are seemingly countless incidences of taser use on children. Moreover, it appears that the officers are not keeping accurate records about Conducted Electrical Weapons (CEWs) discharges.

How tasers work

When officers activate the “stun gun” device, barbed darts are shot at 120 mph onto the target individual, who then receives a shock of 50,000 volts. Then, the device sends a five-second blast of 100 microposules at 19 Hz or 1,200 to 1,300 volts. The target then goes rigid and falls to the ground, unable to use their hands and arms to cushion the fall. Officers can extend the charges if they hold down the trigger mechanism. Afterward, the barbed darts are painful to remove, causing injury to the skin.

Not for kids

According to the watchdog site Fatal Encounters, tasers were the third leading cause of death during inactions with law enforcement. More than 1,000 died from police-fired CEWs. The taser user’s guide recommends avoiding targets with a low body mass index or a child. It adds that doing so could heighten the likelihood of severe injury or death. In other words, it should get used only when it justifies an increased risk to the officers.

Nonetheless, officers have had many instances of use, including 143 documented times in schools since 2011. This number includes one seven-year-old special needs student tased for an outburst in class. Another boy trying to break up a fight between two girls was tased in the neck – he hit his head when falling and was placed in a medically induced coma for 52 days. He suffered permanent brain damage.

Time to put tasers away

Perhaps tasers are a helpful weapon to law enforcement dealing with unruly or dangerous suspects. Still, it leads one to wonder if public safety justifies taser use, particularly on the young. Police officers may not have time to check IDs and age when facing a suspect, but tasers seem to replace interpersonal skills that could diffuse a situation. Officers certainly can follow the taser manufacturer’s directions and not get used on a small suspect or one who has a low BMI.