Taser Use Poll

The Volokh Conspiracy is running a poll to get a reader assessment of the following use of a Taser by DC Police:

Based on the information, that he was tearing down the signs and littering the streets with them, the police arguably had probable cause to arrest him for a crime. He resisted. So what’s the choice? Especially given two female officers and one male officer? The women certainly aren’t going to out wrestle an angry male. In my view, use of the Taser is appropriate, and you’ll notice it was quite effective at bringing about compliance.

The alternative is wrestling the guy to the ground, which is far more likely to result in injury to both officer and suspect.

UPDATE: A lot of folks seem to go with this:

I’ll buy that overwhelming force can sometimes be safer….but tasking can KILL someone…is that really a good idea?

Very rarely, yes. But wrestling people to the ground and using a baton can kill someone too, and is far more likely to result in injury than using a taser.

17 thoughts on “Taser Use Poll”

  1. Looks like a smart use. He wasn’t going to go in peacefully and made that VERY clear, and they deployed the taser before the fight escalated.

    Taser strike = low risk. Rolling around with a confrontational suspect trying to force compliance with brute force = High risk for all parties.

  2. So I saw this on the local news last night, and funny they didn’t mention the guy was tearing down notices and littering. What they did note was the guy admitting to resisting arrest.

  3. I’ll just get this out of the way: Occupy folks are nitwits and resisting arrest is usually a good way to get hurt, often deservedly so.

    But as you suggest, is the price of having gender equality in police hiring that we lower the bar on when tasing is OK? You could say the same thing about deadly force, too: a female cop faced with an angry man had no choice but to shoot him (though a male cop would be expected to use the baton, etc.) I’m not trying to a facetious about this, I think it’s an interesting point you raised–are we allowing a different standard of behavior from female police officers assigned to crowd control?

    I’ll admit I’ve met some women out there who could kick my ass (Samoans mostly), but most cannot. On every physically demanding job I’ve held, there were women who could keep up with the average man and other women who couldn’t and for whom others had to step up and do extra work. In theory, most people (myself included) support equal opportunity in hiring, but where the rubber hits the road is if equal opportunity in hiring ends up changing the number of incidents of tasings, shootings, or police conduct in general.

    That said, having never been tased, I don’t know how that compares to a nightstick in the gut or a knee in the back–maybe it’s better?

    1. I’m not an expert on this, but on the plus side, I have heard that female police officers are often very good at verbal de-escalation. This might counteract the concern for a potential increase in the use of TASERs or firearms.

      Of course, when it comes time for the use of force, so be it.

  4. Guess the lesson is that when Officer McFriendly tells you to cease doing something illegal, you should do so or risk receiving pain. If “tazing” is so bad, what other recourse doe the nice officer have? Guess he could shoot the individual with his Glock .40 or beat them into submission with a Kel-Light or riot baton.

    Bottom line: cooperate or pay the price. If what you’re doing is so important to defy a lawful order, then don’t whine about it when Officer McFriendly puts the hurt on you.

    1. It’s my understanding that British police are now required to carry pistols. It has something to do with how “peaceful” and “gun free” Britain has become since they banned individuals from carrying pistols.

  5. Perfectly acceptable use of the taser. I’m against when they use it to get someone to “respect my authoritah!”, like when that cop tasered that 80 year old woman for not signing a traffic ticket. But in this case? Bzzt Bzzt!

  6. “Bottom line: cooperate or pay the price.”

    That’s my view as well even though at this point in history I’ll side against the police by default.

    If you wish to protest against the state, you’re going to have to expect pain. If you get away with a tasering you should count yourself lucky.

    Better to make your point now while they are only using tasers than wait until they start using rifles or machetes – e.g. Syria.

    1. To clarify: Actively piss off cops and get tasered or as in the Jose Guerena case, do nothing wrong and get shot to death. I’ll take getting tasered and living to fight the court battle, thanks.

  7. I think they were too quick on the trigger and not communicative enough. That said, he has no case as he was resisting arrest and clearly not cooperative. Still, they should have spent more time on diplomacy given that he wasn’t showing signs of fleeing or violence.

    What is more striking is how the movement incites these kinds of clashes and how desperate they are to spread the next viral video of police brutality. I personally witnessed this at a occupy protest where the protesters were standing in the intersection blocking traffic. The officers took a long time to assemble in a line and march the protesters onto the sidewalk (traffic was blocked for quite some time). One of the protesters pushed his sign into the face of an officer who responded by shoving him away causing him to stumble backwards a step. Then come the cries of “police brutality”, “what’s your badge number”, [did anybody get that on their iPhone?], followed by a woman with a loudspeaker yelling “we just witnessed police brutality by officer number xyz against a PEACEFUL protestor” for the next 20 minutes.

    All I could think of was: “Help! Help! I’m being repressed! You saw him repressing me, didn’t you?”

  8. With the number of officers present they could have clearly taken him down without use of the taser. The downside would be likely injury to the arrestee and possibly an officer. A friend of mine got kicked in the knee in a similar situation years ago and was out of work almost a year with surgery and recovery. The other issue is that in a group of hostile protesters the best way to deal with the situation was grab the arrestee and get out as quick as possible. I’ve mixed feelings but have to side with use of the taser under the circumstances.

  9. When I saw the topic, I thought it was about the NPS ranger in San Francisco tasing the guy for the heinous crime of having his small dogs off leash and then walking away when she wouldn’t tell him what he was being stopped for. Clearly a bigger abuse than this.

  10. Hell, I say he deserved a good tasing for wearing those pajamas in public.

  11. The cops were weak and stupid.

    The women certainly aren’t going to out wrestle an angry male.

    Wrestling is a sport. Not relevant.

    No longer socially acceptable, but a blackjack would have subdued the man without risking death (if they knew how to use it.)

    1. A blackjack or ASP has significant risk when used. If the suspect moves as you strike, it is very easy to cause tissue damage or break bones.

      Contrary to some upstream comments, tasers are very safe. No one has died from being tased because the voltage is too low. What has killed most of the individuals in the confusion to blame taser use is an underlying medical condition or substance abuse. If you have an enlarged heart from years of substance abuse, then fighting with the police officers is just as likely to cause a heart attack as the being tased.

      Tasers have no long term effects. Getting hit with a police baton does.

  12. Tasers have no long term effects. Getting hit with a police baton does.

    Tasers cause psychological trauma. Due to the physical and psychological distance they are used at they are far more likely to be deployed when they aren’t needed. With a blackjack people are far less likely to abuse it. In addition tasers frequently cause people to fall to the ground, that can injure or kill you.

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