The hidden cost of the ‘less lethal’ law enforcement tool
By Brian Seay
More than 90 percent of the nearly 18,000 police agencies nationwide use Tasers. (Photo: Mike Blake/Reuters)
More than 1,000 people have died following incidents where police stunned them with Tasers nationwide since the early 2000s.
The findings come from a thorough report compiled by Reuters, in which reporters pored over court documents, police reports, public records, news stories and interviews.
Of the 1,005 documented deaths following police Taser use, at least 153 saw coroners or medical examiners citing the Taser as the cause, or as a contributing factor in the death. Wrongful death lawsuits were filed in more than 440 of the incidents. Compare those numbers to Taser’s official count: just 24 cases in which a person died as a result of secondary injuries, such as a fall or a fire.
Tasers fire two darts connected to the ‘stun gun’ by thin wires. When the darts make contact with a subject, a current of electricity briefly paralyzes the subject, allowing law enforcement to restrain them. When used properly, the weapons lower the rate of injury for both police and residents, according to a 2011 study from the Department of Justice. Axon estimates the devices have been deployed more than 3 million times in the field.