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Md. task force suggests limiting use of Tasers

Police officers in Maryland should only be permitted to use Tasers on someone when that person's actions pose an imminent theat of physical harm to themselves or others, according to a report released Thursday by the Maryland Attorney General's Task Force on Electronic Weapons.

According to the report, law enforcement agencies in Maryland do not have a uniform policy regarding when Tasers -- which typically emit a 50,000-volt, low-current electrical jolt -- should be used by officers.

The report found that the most commonly applied standard among police agencies surveyed permitted the use of Tasers against people who either pose a physical threat to the officer or others, or who is "actively resisting" officers, a definiation which includes actions such as "bracing" or "tensing one's arms to avoid being placed in handcuffs -- even if the person is otherwise unthreatening," according to the report.

Some law enforcement agencies had even more permissive policies regarding the use of Tasers, the report found. Policies are often vague, the task force found. For example, some law enforcement agencies allow their officers to use Tasers "to safely effect an arrest" and "to control the situation."

The task force was formed by Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler to study the safety and efficacy of Tasers, which are used by law enforcement agencies statewide. The task force, which included law enforcement officials, civil rights advocates, attorneys, a physician, and the immediate past president of the Mental Health Association of Maryland, held a series of public hearings statewide.

Law enforcement officers said the Tasers are a safe tool that is effective in ending tense encounters with agitated people. Civil rights advocates and others said Tasers are potentially lethal weapons that pose a particular risk to the very old, the very young, people with heart conditions, and people who suffer from mental illness.

During a hearing in Riverdale Park last April, June White Dillard, president of the Prince George's County chapter of the NAACP, noted that five people died in Maryland in 2007 after being Tasered by police.

The task force report also recommends that crisis intervention teams should be deployed to try to de-escalate tensions with agitated suspects before police resort to using Tasers.

If de-esclation techniques are not effective or available, police should consider using other methods of restraining such people without using a Taser, the report recommends.

-- Ruben Castaneda

By Ruben Castaneda  |  December 18, 2009; 6:18 AM ET
Categories:  Maryland , Ruben Castaneda  
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If de-esclation techniques are not effective or available, police should consider using other methods of restraining such people without using a Taser, the report recommends.

Like? I mean REALISTICALLY, like what?

Posted by: mloaks | December 18, 2009 11:42 AM | Report abuse

You have got to be kidding me. Excuse me sir please stop shattering all the windows in your parents house until we can get a crisis intervention team here. h please pull that fork out of my eye.

Posted by: TardfarderMcnasty | December 18, 2009 4:46 PM | Report abuse

If de-esclation techniques are not effective or available, police should consider using other methods of restraining such people without using a Taser, the report recommends.

Like? I mean REALISTICALLY, like what?


Like what the cops did before they had tasers..Aka wrestle the person to the ground.....

What the heck is wrong you people. These people chose to be Cops. Being a cop carries risks, one of which is that you have to subdue people whom otherwise don't wanna cooperate. God forbid these idiots have to do something other than say "Stop" and then pull a trigger.

What's next, you get tazered for not answering questions in the right tone? We've already seen the cops shoot somebody for trying to drive away from a traffic stop.

Posted by: JoeMck | December 18, 2009 5:35 PM | Report abuse

Again, the hand wringers have had their day. We have heard from the NAACP, that fine upstanding RACIST organization that comes up with the BS of what the officers should not do, which is to apprehend violators. "Oh, wait officer, do not tase me, I need to escape."

And we have heard from that sharply intellectual poster, JoeMck, who insightfully says some more BS, about wrestling people to the ground, which usually results in MORE injury to the accused.

Hey fellas, Tasers were developed to control theose who would not be otherwise controlled with LESS HARM to the accused.

Posted by: | December 18, 2009 6:21 PM | Report abuse

Giving cops cattle prods and vaguely worded rules on their use: what could go wrong?

Posted by: web_user | December 18, 2009 6:31 PM | Report abuse

The proposed standard is absurd. The bottom line is, sometimes tasering is the best way to keep a crises from escalating to the point that deadly force is the only reasonable option. Yes, there needs to be a revised policy clarifying the situations when tasers should not be used, e.g., when a suspect is passively refusing to comply but other methods of encouraging compliance have not been exhausted. However, a blanket policy restricting their use to situations of imminent danger will reduce use of taser but will likely result in increased fatalities and serious injuries

Posted by: MdLaw | December 18, 2009 7:35 PM | Report abuse

By the way, wrestling suspects to the ground is the LAST thing you want cops doing. There are weapons and adrenaline involved. People get hurt, the get shot, and sometimes asphyxiated. Putting cops in hand-to-hand combat is a much worst idea than tasering and much more dangerous to all concerned.

Posted by: MdLaw | December 18, 2009 7:39 PM | Report abuse

Compliance....That's what this is all about. You people think that people should comply with the police. But where is it written that the police get to control society. Where is it written that I can't get lippy or even anxious or excited or angry with a police officer? Tazers are just another means of force for the police to control all of us. It used to be "police brutality", now instead of seeing a police officer overreact and beating someone up unnecessarily, the police indisriminately taze people into submission. Shoot first and ask questions later. That's why the cops want tazers.

Wrestling a suspect to the ground is more dangerous than putting 40,000 volts through someones chest? Now I've heard it all. Your minds are made up. As is mine. We needn't talk past each other any longer.

Posted by: JoeMck | December 18, 2009 10:28 PM | Report abuse

Tasers kill people despite what the company admits. Its good to see the law enforcement community come together to acknowledge this and make changes.

Posted by: goaway41 | December 19, 2009 11:05 AM | Report abuse

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