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Jul-08-2010 23:56printcomments

Police Tasers and Excessive Force in America

Taser makes 'less than lethal' products that resemble real guns.

The new 'triple shot' Taser gun, necessary?
The new 'triple shot' Taser gun, necessary?

(SALEM, Ore.) - In August 2008, just before heading to Iraq for the first time to cover the war there, I wrote an article about police tasers in America; taking a speculative look at a practice but also citing many hard facts.

I was particularly disturbed by a new 'triple shot' model that the Taser company in Arizona had introduced. It debuted at a time when the single shots seemed to be claiming enough lives.

Today's 'Involuntary manslaughter' verdict against a California police officer who allegedly mistook his police revolver for a Taser and then shot a man to death, speaks volumes about the Taser company's apparent desire to make these supposedly "less than lethal" weapons look quite deadly, and an awful lot like a gun.

Maybe that confusion really is why BART officer Johannes Mehserle shot an unarmed 22-year old African American father to death on New Year's day in 2009 in Oakland.

Oscar Grant's death at the BART station in Oakland, according to Mehserle, was a tragic accident caused by accidentally grabbing his firearm instead of an electric Taser weapon during a struggle with Grant on New Year's Day 2009.

To the naked eye, it appears to be cold blooded Murder. The shooting was videotaped by several people standing nearby. The idea of a trained police officer actually mistaking a Taser for a gun seems preposterous, but who knows.

How sad that this dangerous and frequently misused police item isn't at least presented to appear as something that isn't lethal. It rings with irony.

Regarding the video posted below, it took about 45 minutes to download all of the video clips here and another twenty minutes to edit them into place. Imagine how grisly and revolting it would be if I put a couple of hours into it.

You just don't have to look very hard these days to see a clip of police abusing people with these highly controversial devices. My article about this really ticked off the head guy at Taser, Steve Tuttle, who said I was wrong in connecting the Taser to 351 deaths at the time in the United States, as cited by Amnesty International. The number has risen of course over the past two years.

Tuttle said: "It should also be noted that by its own admission, Amnesty International has conducted no medical studies and has done no direct evaluation of TASER ECDs. They simply clip news story headlines from the media and look at other open source materials then published their so called 'finding.'"

I found that to be almost comical. He insinuates that because the media reports an event, it must be non-credible? That is a load; Amnesty International doesn't have a hidden agenda, they have concern for human life.

From the Amnesty International report, Tasers – potentially lethal and easy to abuse from December 16, 2008, they cite a number of chilling cases that require no medical degree to appreciate.

Among those findings:

"Many were subjected to repeated or prolonged shocks – far more than the five-second 'standard' cycle – or by more than one officer at a time. Some people were even shocked for failing to comply with police commands after they had been incapacitated by a first shock.

"In at least six of the cases where people died, Tasers were used on individuals suffering from medical conditions such as seizures – including a doctor who had crashed his car when he suffered an epileptic seizure. He died after being repeatedly shocked at the side of the highway when, dazed and confused, he failed to comply with an officer's commands.

"Police officers also used Tasers on schoolchildren, pregnant women and even an elderly person with dementia.

"In March 2008, an 11-year-old girl with a learning disability was shocked with a Taser after she punched a police officer in the face. The officer had been called to the school in Orange County, Florida, after the child had become disturbed, pushing desks and chairs and spitting at staff."

These are just a sample of the horror stories that abound in American communities over police Taser abuse.

In addressing the deaths that Amnesty International cites, Tuttle said, “Amnesty International’s review is not a scientific study, nor is the organization in a position to reach conclusions regarding the role of the Taser in each case. It can be difficult to determine through autopsy alone whether Taser shocks caused or contributed to a fatal arrhythmia as there are often no direct pathological signs.”

I wrote, “Amnesty International reports that most people who have been killed by Tasers were not carrying weapons. That is a tragedy.”

Tasing Fragile and Elderly

People want to know one thing; that is what in the Hell happened to the desire of police in this country to do goodwill? Police themselves have to react also, and lobby and fight for what is right, stepping out of the flow of the 'boys in blue' mentality. I know they hate these reports but I can't help control what people do.

Earlier model of Taser may be easier to distinguish from a
real gun, we could only hope.

But what happened to their physical ability to perform their jobs? Today in Oregon an 87-year old woman was tased by deputies in Clackamas County and died an hour later. She had a gun and a dispute with a bulldozer operator, but was tased in the end, falling the the ground. Almost 90 years old? It seems so damned unnecessary.

I am sorry for all parties involved in these situations, but I hope every cop who uses a Taser for anything but a last resort, should be sent packing and never allowed to work in law enforcement again.

If the agencies were responsible, they would conduct a review each time the Taser is deployed, exactly the same as in the case of firing a weapon in the line of duty.

But they stick to their guns instead, fighting death claims and enjoying their toys. The world looks at us, just destroying each other in the U.S., and they laugh. I'm not laughing though, and I will always do everything in my power to expose needless police brutality.

If you listen to Tuttle and the Taser propaganda, getting zapped with one of these things is about the same as being tagged with pepper spray. Funny, I was gassed in Marine Corps boot camp and between that and pepper spray, I've never heard of anyone dying. Also, somehow everyone ignores the fact that when people are Tased, they lose all control of their muscles. Sometimes they crap their pants, sometimes they strike their heads and receive terrible injuries. There is no dignity in this product, none at all, yet all in the name of police safety, according to Tuttle.

"The TASER is used at the same level as pepper spray at 85 percent of the nation’s 14,500 agencies deploying TASER devices. TASER devices have been used more than 800,000 times against suspects. They are used more than fists, punches, tackles, batons and chemical sprays due to their effectiveness, accountability, and as a safer alternative for a response to resistance for both officers and suspects than the aforementioned tools and techniques."

And now Taser offers its new three-shot model; triple the effectiveness to inflict indignant torture on people, triple the fun for sadistic cops who are a disgrace to their uniforms. That counts for every badge wearing officer or deputy out there who uses this device casually, on frail people, or at any time they could otherwise avoid it. They are the ones blowing this fecal matter into the fan, and there is no going back.

Tuttle's message to the world is that 351 times, people who were violently shocked by skin piercing Taser darts with 50 thousand of volts of electricity, for some other reason... dropped dead.

From the company Website, "TASER® Weapons fire 50000 volts and drop an assailant from up to 15 feet away."

If we don't restrain police from taking possession of increasingly dangerous weapons to use on Americans, we will all in the end be very sorry. Take that one to the bank.

Aug-04-2009: Taser Use in the U.S. is a Serious Problem - Political Perspective by Tim King
Aug-03-2009: Police in U.S. Will Soon Have Multi Shot Taser Guns - Political Perspective by Tim King


Tim King: Editor and Writer

Tim King is a former U.S. Marine with twenty years of experience on the west coast as a television news producer, photojournalist, reporter and assignment editor. In addition to his role as a war correspondent, this Los Angeles native serves as's Executive News Editor. Tim spent the winter of 2006/07 covering the war in Afghanistan, and he was in Iraq over the summer of 2008, reporting from the war while embedded with both the U.S. Army and the Marines.

Tim holds awards for reporting, photography, writing and editing, including the Silver Spoke Award by the National Coalition of Motorcyclists (2011), Excellence in Journalism Award by the Oregon Confederation of Motorcycle Clubs (2010), Oregon AP Award for Spot News Photographer of the Year (2004), First-place Electronic Media Award in Spot News, Las Vegas, (1998), Oregon AP Cooperation Award (1991); and several others including the 2005 Red Cross Good Neighborhood Award for reporting. Tim has several years of experience in network affiliate news TV stations, having worked as a reporter and photographer at NBC, ABC and FOX stations in Arizona, Nevada and Oregon. Tim was a member of the National Press Photographer's Association for several years and is a current member of the Orange County Press Club.

Serving the community in very real terms, is the nation's only truly independent high traffic news Website. As News Editor, Tim among other things, is responsible for publishing the original content of 91 writers. He reminds viewers that emails are easily missed and urges those trying to reach him, to please send a second email if the first goes unanswered. You can write to Tim at this address:

End Israel's Unwarranted Murder of Kids

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Mike July 12, 2010 6:06 am (Pacific time)

Believe me sir, I HATE police abuse of power. I hate ANY government abuse of power. However, I honestly don't see all cops as bad eggs, and I certainly don't begrudge them employing less-lethal force options, when used correctly (which they normally are). I honestly don't believe that police abuse is nearly as rampant as the media would have us to believe. If we do some research, we see that there was approximately 14 million US arrests in 2008, with an generous average of 400 people per year killed by police for the past few years. These odds of survival aren't too bad, in my opinion.

Mike July 12, 2010 4:23 am (Pacific time)

You assume a lot, Tim. I am not a cop. I have never been a cop, and will never be a cop. They have to put up with way more BS than I have the capacity to handle. Since you're so quick to assume that I'm a cop, based on nothing more than my simple posted opinion, we can only assume that your perspective is be skewed.

As for TASER-user accountibilty and "badge cams", try googling TASER AFID, TASER Cam, and TASER AXON. Carry on soldier...

Tim King: I try to be straight with this stuff and deal with a lot of people. I appreciate that I suggested something in correct, thanks for clarifying.

Rob Taylor July 11, 2010 8:03 am (Pacific time)

No reason they couldn't have taken a different approach Tim? Like you said, you weren't there. So making a bold statement like that really doesn't carry much weight, does it? Yes she placed the gun on the ground and according to the report it was "momentarily." Followed by "instantaneously" picking the gun back up. Sounds like further aggressive action on her part which escalated the situation. You ask why they didn't move in, or back off when she put the gun down. Sure, move in so she can "instantaneously" pick the gun back up and shoot them. Wouldn't it make more sense to exercise caution and patience and get her to move away from the gun first before you "move in?" Point is she created the situation with her actions, and her actions alone. Like I said, I'm surprised they didn't shoot her because that's what they usually do in these situations. Remember the black kid (just to cite one example because there are many) who was gunned down recently which brought Jesse Jackson to town?

You say you "suspect" she had no intention of harming the cops. "Suspect" sounds like another word for "assume," and you know what they say about those who assume. Maybe she didn't have any intentions of harming the cops, but what about the water line guy she was threatening originally?

Summed up, this old lady was an ARMED suspect, and that completely changes the situation compared to an UNARMED suspect. I don't understand why you don't see the difference. There are plenty of unarmed suspects who have been gunned down or had to endure the taser justice. My simple suggestion was to draw from those examples rather than one of an armed suspect.

You say you could use the "what if it was your little girl" line a lot but choose not to. So? Are you implying I should follow your example? I'm not the "follower" type Tim. I'm not you, I'm me. My apologies if I offended you with a portion of my comment that you deemed a bit personal. I believe it was relevant. Apparently my perspective growing up as a cop's kid is different than your perspective from having a kid who is a cop. Not surprising really if you think about it. I don't establish separate rules for special people in law enforcement either Tim, and I wouldn't modify my thinking on LE practices if I were related to the cop as you suggest. I don't have to modify my thinking because I think the way I do with regard to all cops in the situations we are discussing here. I'll even give you an example. The following is a comment I made in the Portland Tribune a couple of years ago on the Chasse story. Let's get personal again shall we? What better to draw from than my own personal experience...

I had a minor domestic three years ago. Ended up getting tazered by the two cops who responded to the call.

From the cop's perspective, they were responding to a call that is statistically one of the more dangerous calls for cops to deal with. They were also told the suspect was a large man around 6', 250lbs, and if they ran me discovered I was an ex-con.  They never announced themselves as their report reflected, but hey, I knew who they were when they knocked on the front door and called out my name. I should've got up from my bed I was laying on and answered the door, but I didn't. I laid there hoping they would go away. Haha! Yeah right.

They made their way into the house through a back door and again called my name. I got up from the bed and met them in the living room. Both were noticeably smaller in stature and immediately bellowed for me to assume the position. Instead of doing as I was told, I questioned them with sarcasm in the tone of my voice, then complied with their request.

As the one cop reached up and over-aggressively pulled my one arm down to cuff me in order to search me for weapons for their own protection, I spontaneously pulled my arm back and said, "what the f**ck cowboy?"

Both cops stepped back and threatened to taze me if I continued to resist. I turned around to face them, put both of my hands behind my head, and said, "ok, ok, slow down, I'm cool." Next thing I knew I was being tazered.

I think the cops were a bit quick on the tazer button. I don't think it was necessary, however, in hindsight putting myself in their shoes, they might be thinking to heck with this guy and his sarcasm and resisting. (however minor the resisting was)  They simply don't pay me enough to mix it up with this large ex-con if he happens to go off. He should be in cuffs now without asking questions and being sarcastic.

And if they were thinking that, they were correct in that thinking. I should've complied from the get and kept my mouth shut.

Point I'm trying to make is even though I felt the cops used unnecessary excessive force...I caused it. I created that situation with my actions. We don't pay the cops enough money to take any BS or question their commands. When a cop tells you to do something, you do it. If it's wrong, question it later in a courtroom if need be.

I never filed a complaint with the PPD over this incident because of my feelings I just stated.

Chasse was mentally ill. Chasse didn't comply as he was told. Chasse didn't deserve what happened to him. Why didn't they just taze him? Darn thing got my attention, lemme tell you! I think they did taze him, but said it wasn't effective.  Bottom line...the cops were overly excessive based on Chasse's injuries, and Humphrey's went to far. Best evidence of that is the injuries and 78 reported incidents in Humphrey's record of excessive force.

C'mon, one, two...maybe five or ten? No, 78!! This fool shoulda been down the road at least after the 20th report. If my wife who works for the phone company gets five reports of bad behavior with a customer she would be fired.

Most of the time these incidents get out of hand due to suspects simply not complying like me, and like Chasse.

I got tazed. 6' 250lbs, and the thing got my attention. No harm, no foul. Funny when the cops say it's ineffective.

Chasse got beat to hell and died. Lotta harm, big foul!  Most of the cops in PDX do a good job, and we need to support them, just as they should support us in weeding out their department of the ones who are making them look bad, like Humphrey's.

Same goes for corrections officials, but oh hey, don't get me started there. LOL!


So Tim, does that sound like I establish separate rules for special people in law enforcement or modify my thinking on LE practices if I were related to the cop? I surely wasn't related to these two cowboys. I hope you get my point. Yes, I'm all about injustice with the Free Frank Gable site. Are you questioning that because my unique perspective affords me the ability to offer an even-handed, fair, unbiased and honest account of LE practices even when it pertains to my own personal experience?

The old lady dieing after being tased was unfortunate. It wasn't injustice. Supporting your article with LE's handling of an

ARMED suspect had no place in a story about excessive force and LE's handling of an UNARMED suspect.


Anonymous July 11, 2010 5:28 am (Pacific time)

Good article Tim..altho, what you said about needing more regulations in the financial system is not quite accurate..If you will do a little research, the regulations are already in place, but they were not enforced. The SEC, among others, overlooked the violations. Its the same with police officers, they know they can get away with their brutality, so its open season. my point is: we have more than enough rules, laws and regulations, they simply are not being enforced. Oh, same with the gulf oil spill..the regulations are there, but BP can campaign donate their way out of having to abide by them. Seems as though cameras, and youtube are keeping police more in check, than anything else. A police officer could find himself on youtube!

Hank Ruark July 10, 2010 5:20 pm (Pacific time)

Friends-All: Since few people have real experience with the cop-world and its few bad-'uns, let me chime in from some decades of intermittent contact with the same situations --ever since early/days in Maine newsoffice for two whole counties with my photographer the one-man Chief of Police in Presque Isle: His Dad had barbershiop with 24-hr. hot water, so that's where we put our darkroom !! Since then have had similar considerable experience in Boston, Chicago, and some 20 asst./size towns across the nation...and can verify just what Tim details here, via both new/model police-type guns and most recently Tasers in early versions. Further, look for cop-badges with built-in camera as in cars within next two years... happens old contact in large city reports test/model on trial there already... Brutality differs radically from accidental/usage,and the surrounding circumstance will show up bright and honest with badge/cam here none too soon. Taser-drive is dollar-driven "new thing" highly appealing to some police-system bosses as demonstration of devotion to "new technology", now much in disrepute per press reports of continuing abuse and losing early appeal due to truthful appraisal of fatal risks.

Rob Taylor July 9, 2010 10:06 am (Pacific time)

Tim, I'm on the same page with ya over the Oakland shooting, reckless use of tasers and excessive force by the cops in our country today, but c'mon...leave the 87 year old woman bit out of this story. She had a gun and was threatening to use it. She put it down briefly then picked it up again, which in my opinion made it even more likely she was going to use it. Actually I'm surprised she was tased and not shot given the history of Oregon cops in these situations the past few years. Heck, I'd have probably shot her. You just can't go waving guns around, and if you do then use the dang thing and be prepared for the consequences whether you do or not. Ok, so maybe she had mental issues or whatever. A mentally ill person is probably more likely to shoot the gun than someone who is not. You can be killed just as easy by an 87 year old mentally ill person as an EK skinhead.

I'm shocked you felt the cop's actions were unnecessary with personal ties to LE within your own family. There are plenty of stories to grab from that depict unnecessary excessive force much better. Would you want your own son to attempt to physically disarm a mentally unstable old lady waving a gun around?

Tim King:  Rob thanks for your comment, but there was no reason that they couldn't have taken a different approach.  I would never leave out a huge story that happened the very day I am writing.  She had placed the gun on the ground at one point, why didn't they move in, or back off, or whatever it takes?  Anything to avoid inflicting that violent deadly Taser justice.   But note that I didn't make it a focal point of the story.  In my view it is significant.  This was more 'Ma Kettle' than anything, and while I wasn't there, I suspect that she had no intention of harming any deputies. 

The last thing you said really grabs my curiosity.  I find it highly irrelevant and a bit personal.  I can do that "what if it was your little girl..." line in all kinds of situations but  do not.  I wouldn't want my son to have an old lady's unnecessary death on his hands, I can tell you that.  Besides, he is a decorated combat veteran and is keenly aware of the difference between a threat and a person who is confused and in need of help.  She had no bulletproof vests, they did.  You are the son of a law enforcement officer; you should know that I am dead set against the improper cowboy like use of tasers and other forms of deadly force.  I am even more opposed to the 'take care of the boys in blue' thing you suggested.  I don't establish separate rules for special people in law enforcement.  Again, I am really unable to make sense of this.  You are all about injustice with the site, but you would modify your thinking on LE practices if you were related to the cop?  In my world it is only about truth Rob, unbridled, sometimes pain-inflicting truth.    




Mike July 9, 2010 4:02 am (Pacific time)

Tim, it's strange how you can focus on the negatives of TASER usage, without even touching on the positives of a device that has literally saved thousands of lives. Like Amnesty Int, you get your data from the already biased news media, which is so quick to report a sensational "TASER" death, while the hundreds of effective TASER deployments on a daily basis are ignored. By definition, any weapon has the potential to cause death, and TASER is no exception. There's been hundreds of deaths "proximal" to pepper spray over the years as well. If you'd do some research, you'd discover that in-custody death has been occurring for years, regardless of TASER availability.

Tim King: Right Mike, I completely find myself unable to gloat about the positives when it comes to Tasers.  How about this; we don't criticize the positive and proper uses, cool?  I don't have a problem with police using them, but every use has to be investigated just as if the officer had fired their weapon.  It would establish accountability and I believe the only people against it would be rogue cops who want to maintain their ability to hurt people with them.  The video accompanying this shows what I am talking about.  There shouldn't be a single incident like that on tape and on YouTube but they are endless, literally hundreds of examples.  You guys are losing it with the public; people are growing tired and weary and police are often more of a threat than anything else in this day and age.  That is why people aren't reporting things, they are establishing networks to encourage others to stop involving the police in their lives, even as crime victims.  There are plenty of good cops in this world, but far far too many bad examples every damned day.  The same lack of regulation that ruined this country's financial market also invaded law enforcement.  You guys need to be better regulated, and the day is coming when every cop will have a 'badge cam' that will record their entire work shift, leaving no more questions about how these cops act once out of sight of their superiors.   

Excited-Delirium blog July 9, 2010 3:32 am (Pacific time)

Recent taser news: Taser's appeal of Braidwood Inquiry is a comical, disingenuous farce. New documentary film on the way. Killing Them Safely. See the blogs. Truth not Tasers and (with the dash!).

gp July 9, 2010 12:07 am (Pacific time)

This woman was still wearing a hospital bracelet, where was her care provider? She had been hospitalized for mental and cardiac problems. And why couldn't two big men overpower her if they were close enough to taser her? Of course tasers are horrid legalized torture and the continuing deaths from them are not only elderly and frail but also wheelchair bound, strong and healthy men, young and vigorous people. This is as barbaric as the stoning in Iran. Torture is torture. Our allies the Israelis tasered the flotilla peacemakers. Go figure,it is a sick world. Thanks for this article Tim.

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