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by Peter Moskos

January 3, 2016

Me talking about Tasers

On NPR Weekend Edition. From my basement. I was wearing a snazzy three-piece suit, in case you were wondering. It's radio, right?


Concerned citizen said...

"All too often, Tasers are not used on somebody with a knife who won't drop it, which is the perfect use for the Taser. It's pretty much what the Taser was designed for"

As a layman, I'm thinking:

He's got a knife and seems unstable. I've got my Taser in my hand. If he rushes me and the Taser doesn't take him down, I've got only a split-second to un-holster my gun, aim, and fire. Therefore, when there's a man with a knife, my Taser stays holstered; my gun is in my hand. Except if I have a partner who is covering the knife-wielder with a gun.

Andy D said...

That is actually exactly what Taser themselves teach. A deadly threat (knife, bat, etc) can/should be confronted with a Taser only when lethal force backup is on scene. In my experience the Taser is effective at taking the guy down about 50% of the time. However, a LOT of the urban confrontations we are talking about so much lately have plenty of backup available, so using a Taser is a viable option in those cases, but hasn't been used. Now, how many times it gets used and therefore we never see it on the news, I don't know.

Moskos said...

I'd also be curious simply to know how many times the Taser has been used in a given year. Seems important. Especially since we do have some idea of how many people die after being tased. I'm not even certain if Taser knows, since many of the cartridges would be used in training.

aNanyMouse said...

“…Tasers are not used on somebody with a knife who won't drop it, which is the perfect use for the Taser.” I buy this, if the subject is (like McDonald, vs. Van Dyke, who had a bunch of backup) clearly an Active Resister, not an Assailant. I’d rather risk tasers occasionally killing subjects, rather than cops feeling a need to draw their pistols on guys like McDonald, or cops hesitating to do anything before getting cut up.

The Use of Force model has, for decades, allowed use of deadly force once a subject becomes an Assailant (e.g. if his weapon, i.e. a knife, could inflict serious bodily harm), and allowed using tasers upon Active Resisters. Perhaps tasers should be limited to be used on (all) Assailants.
It’s disgusting how seldom the Media refer to the Use of Force model, seeing how long it’s been around.

Andy D said...

I believe that in some places Taser uses are reported, although I don't know how the data is broken down. Peter, in Maryland, GOCAP gets annual reports from departments on Taser deployments if I am not mistaken. It should be available somewhere. I doubt that it breaks it down into what types of weapons the people had, etc but I've never filled one out so I'm not sure.

aNanyMouse said...

Peter: Somewhat related to tasers (vs. bullets), my recollection is that, in the Academy (decades ago), we got much more training and testing in the Use of Force model (vs. subjects) than we got about bystanders.
My rather cursory check of the web shows correspondingly less about the latter than about the former, i.e. there’s no Model about bystanders. This surprises me, given the importance of that issue.

What’s your understanding about the kind of training/testing that officers get nowadays about bystanders?

Moskos said...

My guess is little to none. But I don't know. I suspect it's what we had: keep them as far away as possible and arrest them if need be for obstruction of failure to obey. Anybody know?