Shock and Law: Tasers and the Cult of Compliance

The State of CT mandates the tracking of taser use by law enforcement, which is fairly rare across the country. We’ve got the 2015 numbers. From Connecticut Magazine:

A total of 650 reported Taser incidents involved 610 people. Of those subjected to Taser use in 2015:

83 percent were unarmed
53 percent were people of color
49 percent were under the influence of drugs or alcohol
33 percent were described as “emotionally disturbed”
13 percent were suicidal
Two died

When involved in Taser incidents, including instances when a Taser is drawn but a shock is not delivered, people of color were more likely to be shocked and less likely to be given a warning before being shocked than whites.

The state of CT found that 100% of these taser uses were justified, and that’s where the problem lies. Such weapons are an important tool for law enforcement, but too often they are used not in lieu of lethal force (it’s better to tase than shoot!), but in lieu of patience and conversation. The people who suffer from this the most are people of color, disabled individuals, and especially disabled people of color.

Policing the Police
McGuire says, in Connecticut, all the Taser investigations “have vindicated the officers and found no police misconduct.” But there are cases in which justification of Taser use is unclear, he says. “A few years back, in Middletown, a person who was in mental health crisis was [shocked] 34 times by three different officers, and that was deemed a justifiable use of force and ultimately the officers were exonerated.”

Accountability must be part of reform. Data serves accountability, so I’m glad they are counting.

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