Saturday, April 18, 2009


Hawaii must stop Taser use on children

by Larry Geller

Shame on the big bad cop who used a potentially lethal weapon on a a teenager in Hilo (Honolulu Advertiser, Taser used on teen at school, 4/18/2009). Concerned citizens should be outraged and demand that these weapons be taken away from cops who cannot use them responsibly.

While we’re at it, while I know that police are seldom held accountable for their actions, why not nail it down in the law that any police officer using a Taser resulting in death or injury will be charged with manslaughter? Let them defend themselves in court, the right that they deprive their victim of when they become executioners.

The Taser is a potentially lethal weapon, though police commonly lie and call it “nonlethal.”

Nor are Tasers proven safe for use on children. A teenager of almost the same age as the Hilo student was killed by police for no reason last week in Michigan:

The family of 16-year-old Robert Mitchell plan to file a wrongful death lawsuit alleging that police used excessive force when they struck the unarmed, 5 foot tall, 125-pound teenager with a Taser stun gun last week. The family believes the shock delivered by the Taser ultimately lead to the teen’s death, which may be the third teen Taser death this year, and the second in the past 30 days in the state of Michigan. [, Another Teen Death After Police Taser Use Leads to Plans for a Lawsuit, 4/17/2009]

Yes, another teen death. This one involved a passenger in a car who fled when the police pulled it over for expired license plates. That’s right, he wasn’t even the driver. He was just a scared kid. He committed no crime. Now he’s dead.

Robert Mitchell, who had a learning disability, died after he was struck with a Taser by police in Warren, Michigan. The teen fled police after a traffic stop for an expired license plate and ran into an abandoned building to hide, where police struck him with the stun gun while apprehending him.

According to the Detroit Free Press, the boy’s family intends to file a police brutality lawsuit alleging that the Taser use was unnecessary and involved excessive force for the teen with a small build.

Here’s the one before, from the same article:

Last month, another Michigan teen died after being struck by a Taser gun in Bay City. Brett Elder, who was 15 years old at the time of his death, was struck after he started to fight with officers while they were attempting to intervene in a dispute between the teen and another person.

According to witnesses, Elder was “flopping around” on the ground after being struck by the Taser and an emergency medical crew was called. Upon his arrival at the hospital, the 15 year old was pronounced dead.

Following the death of Elder, Amnesty International claimed that he was the second minor to die after Taser use this year, making Robert Mitchell at least the third teen Taser death.

Elder was also a small kid and like Robert Mitchell, also suffered from a learning disability.

Reports of the number of Taser deaths vary. I have seen numbers from 350 to 403 deaths attributed to Taser use since 2001. Whatever the correct number, it’s clear that the Taser kills. If police genuinely believe it is non-lethal, they will use it more casually. This seems to be the case:

In December 2008, Amnsty released a report that found 90% of all Taser gun deaths examined involved people who were unarmed and did not appear to present a serious threat to officers. In addition, a number of deaths have been associated with inappropriate use of the weapons, such as repeated firings, shocks that last longer than five seconds or delivering a charge to the neck or head.

So we have a dead 15-year old, a dead 16-year old, and yet Big Island police shot a 17-year old.

Tasers are widely misused. Here’s the current status of an older case you may remember:

Meanwhile in Florida things aren’t going so well. The U.S. Supreme Court might very well hear the case of Buckley v. Haddock. This case arises out of a traffic ticket issued to Mr. Buckley back in 2004. He wouldn’t comply with Washington County Deputy Sherriff Rackard’s request to sign the receipt for the ticket.

He didn’t fight back. He was handcuffed and burst into tears. The Deputy shot him with the Taser and he died. Unfortunately for Deputy Rackards he didn’t remember that his video camera was on.

n_Gen Image-35If you think this is wrong, if you think that Hawaii police should not use Tasers on children, please do something—call, write, make your voice heard.

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I've heard the kid was a pretty big 17 year old. I'm not saying this justifies the use of a tazer, but from what I have heard... the kid was uncontrollable and I'd rather see a kid zapped then a kid shot.

Do you have statistics on death rates from gun shots compared to tazers?

I posted my thoughts on it.

I work at Keaau Middle School which "Feeds" the kids to the High School. Many of these kids are going through some tough times and unfortunately they bring problems from home to school and quite frankly many teachers can not and should not be required to deal with violent students.

Are you seriously proposing that children be shot in schools by police??

Students, teachers and even civil liberties groups complain about abuse by police in schools, particularly where their presence is high, as in New York City. Police have arrested students just because they didn't like their "attitude". Give them Tasers and they will use them instead of just shooting off their mouths at kids.

I'm all for a variable voltage taser (set on "low stun", for example). If you have large and/or aggressive teens or adults "acting out", there should be no danger to teachers, other students or admin personnel. Any means to subdue the unruly one with little or no contact has my blessing.

Kids and adults should be trained to know that any disobedience to police orders will be met with a maximum force level geared to the offense and perpetrator.

Get variable strength tasers and use them as much as reasonable.

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