Tuesday, January 05, 2010

NYT Editorializes on Tasers; Good Policy, but Wishful Thinking

The NYT editorialized on Taser policy this morning (a rare event). They noted a recent 9th circuit decision on appropriate use of force.

I'm not familiar with the specifics of the case at hand, but basically we're talking someone who was a passive resister -- who certainly did not pose an immediate threat.

The NYT suggests the right policy, but uses a bit of wishful thinking:
Although the Ninth Circuit’s decision is only binding on a group of Western states and territories, all of the more than 17,000 law enforcement agencies across the country that use Tasers should follow its guidance. There are questions about how safe Tasers are in the best of circumstances, an issue that deserves greater study. But it is clear that they are too powerful for use on people who do not pose a serious danger to others.
That would be great! But it's not just going to happen like that. I mean, we're talking the 9th circuit here. And some of the other circuit courts have in fact ruled differently -- saying that using force, tasers or otherwise, in a pain-compliance fashion is not a 4th amendment violation.

The ACLU of Florida tried to take such a case to the Supreme Court, in fact, because the 11th circuit ruled against them.

The best research out there suggests that 20%+ of the PD's that use tasers allow for them to be used in pain compliance situations against passive resisters. We're talking 4000 or so PD's. Most of them aren't within the 9th circuit's jurisdiction, obviously. It's unfortunately going to take a lot more to get them to change their policies.


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