A study on Taser use in Hamilton County released Oct. 1 by a local law firm that has represented Taser victims in the past four years seeks
to shed light on the problems behind Taser use in the county and
The study, which looked at 39 law enforcement agencies around Hamilton County through public record requests, listed a few key findings:
- Out of the 39 agencies, 33 use Tasers.
of agencies’ materials do not adequately warn that Tasers can capture
the heart rhythm of the subject, possibly leading to death.
- 67% of
policies permit upper chest shots despite the manufacturer’s warning
moving the preferred target zone away from the upper chest.
of policies do not instruct officers to consider the seriousness of the
crime before deciding whether or not to use the Taser.
policies do not specifically instruct officers to consider the risk of
secondary impact of falling from an elevated surface subsequent to Taser
of policies do not restrict Taser use on vulnerable populations such as
juveniles, elderly individuals, or the visibly pregnant despite the
increased risk associated with those populations.
of policies fail to require that Tasers output be tested to ensure that
the actual performance of the device is within manufacturer’s
of policies do not require an investigation that includes a data
download from the Taser’s memory chip after use to independently verify
the number and duration of shocks delivered to the subject.
of policies explicitly authorize officers to use their Taser on a
fleeing subject, regardless of the crime or the threat to the public.
- At least 16 of the agencies deploy Tasers that are older than their estimated useful life.
- Two agencies that deploy Tasers maintain no Taser-specific policy.
- One agency deploys Tasers even though the agency’s policy prohibits their use
The study also pointed out that the tension behind Taser
use “does not exist only in the abstract,” referencing the more than 500
deaths involving Taser use in the United States.
Al Gerhardstein, the local attorney behind the study, hopes the findings will lead to a change in Taser policies around the county.Tasers, which get their name off the company that manufactures them, are supposed to be nonlethal weapons.
They work by firing two barbs into a subject. The barbs then penetrate the target's skin and deliver a shock of high voltage, causing temporary paralysis. The weapons are supposed to allow police officers to subdue a dangerous target without resorting to potentially lethal force. The most common Taser model is the X26.
On Sept. 18, the Cincinnati Police Department established
new guidelines for Taser use, which the department now says are adequate
for dealing with the problems found in Gerhardstein’s study. The new
policy disallows the use of frontal shots except in situations involving
self-defense and the defense of others, reinforces the fact officers
need to make sure force is necessary and specifically points out people
have been injured due to Taser use in the past.