Improper Taser Use Costs VT Tax Payers $269,500 Since 2006

In the debate over the use of tasers one of the claims made by taser proponents is that the use of tasers saves police departments money because their people are less likely to be injured, and that as a consequence they save money on their workers' comp premiums.

One might be forgiven for questioning whether the cost savings justify the severe injuries and fatalities suffered by people injured by tasers, but there's more to the story.

A report just completed by the Vermont chapter of the ACLU demonstrates that Vermont's taxpayers are paying hundreds of thousands of dollars for the improper police deployment of tasers.

Here's the report, reprinted, of course, by permission.

 Police Abuse Of Tasers Costs State Over $250,000

The total keeps growing the deeper we dig into police records. State government and local towns have paid out $269,500 since 2006 in seven different lawsuits alleging Taser abuse by Vermont police.

 If the bill that's passed the House and is now in the Senate becomes law, the lawsuits will likely continue. That's because the House bill codifies the existing Taser deployment standard -- a standard that allows police to use the powerful weapons on anybody "actively resisting" an officer. "Active resistance" includes a subject crossing his arms over his chest, or even protestors who have chained themselves to a barrel and refuse to move. No immediate threat to anyone's safety is needed to justify a 50,000-volt shock.

We'll be fighting in the Senate for a new standard -- a standard that says Tasers should only be used to reduce an immediate threat of serious injury or expected death to a subject or others. We'll also be fighting for measurement and calibration of Tasers' electrical charge; that's crucial to the weapons' safer operation but isn't currently required. We also want officers to carry cameras when they carry Tasers; even Taser International's CEO says cameras can reduce abuse. Finally, we want civilian review of incidents involving Tasers. Internal reviews don't bring the impartiality and objectivity that independent panels do.

The bill is now in the Senate Government Operations Committee. If you know any of the committee members, send them an e-mail. Tell them you want a Taser bill that stops the abuses that so far have cost the state over a quarter million dollars -- as well as the death of a disturbed, epileptic man, and unnecessary injuries to others. Mention the need for calibration, cameras, and civilian review, too.  

For more information on Tasers and their use, navigate to our Taser research series:


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