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The Indianapolis Star had a very interesting article on Sunday about the use of Tasers in Indiana. Is the weapon overused?
There have been cases where it has been used unnecessarily. From the coverage of the death of James Borden in the Herald-Times, I think that personnel in the county jail used excessive force. The coroner's report concluded that electric shock contributed to his death.
I do not think, however, that Taser International should be held liable for his death. The weapon, when used properly, immobilizes a suspect without causing permanent injury. Borden had other health issues that contributed to his death. Furthermore, the Taser must be used as designed, and no manufacturer should be held liable for the misuse of their product.
In examining use of the Taser by law enforcement, we must strike a delicate balance. We do not want to prevent police from using a good tool to subdue a suspect in a non-lethal way. Few would argue that the baton is preferable to the Taser, and Tasers are certainly safer for suspects than firearms. I am concerned that the Taser is the media "flavor of the moment" that is blown out of proportion.
It is important to note, however, overuse of the Taser is wrong and must be dealt with. The Taser should not, in my opinion, be used simply to force compliance from a suspect. While less likely to cause permanent injury than a baton, it is still a significant use of force and must be taken seriously.
It goes without saying that those who make policy decisions about the use of the Taser need to do so based on sound policy analysis, not what is politically expedient. The odds of that happening, sadly, are not very high.