Law enforcement officers around the country are lauding taser stun guns as their less-than-lethal weapons of choice to restrain noncompliant suspects.
The decision, however, to use the dart-firing electroshock device should be limited to situations where the only other alternative is deadly force.
In May, a 24-year-old Phoenix man died shortly after police subdued him was a taser stun gun.
According to The Arizona Republic's study on taser deaths, the man was the 110th person in the past six years to die after being shocked by the new-generation tasers.
Although medical examiners did not list the taser as the primary cause of death in all 110 cases, they didn't rule it out either.
Human rights organizations like Amnesty International are expressing their concerns over deaths and ill-treatment involving law enforcement's use of tasers.
In many of the cases Amnesty International studied, the organization concluded that the use of the tasers appears to violate the "Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials."
These basic requirements dictate that force be used as a last resort and that officers must apply only the minimum amount of force necessary to obtain a lawful objective.
Amnesty International also found violations of the United Nation's standards that prohibit torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.
After a duo of police officers volunteered to be tasered as part of their training in April 2002, they were quoted in Mobile, Ala.'s Mobile Register as saying, "It felt terrible. I'm going to think twice before I use this on anyone."
According to literature on the M26 Advanced Taser, which is several times more powerful than the original models, the tasers are designed to "incapacitate dangerous, combating or high-risk subjects that may be impervious to other less-lethal means, regardless of pain tolerance, drug use, or body size."
Amnesty International concluded that tasers "have been used against unruly school children, disturbed or intoxicated individuals, suspects fleeing minor crime scenes and people who argue with police or fail to comply immediately with a command."
We believe tasers can be a safer alternative to conventional weapons, but should only be used as a last resort.
Officers should avoid relying on the routine use of tasers to subdue noncompliant individuals who do not pose a serious threat to police or others.