New York Police Embracing a Weapon They Have a Complicated Past With: Tasers

Amid national anger over police killings of unarmed black men, the department is easing its limits on the devices, hoping to reduce police shootings by providing officers a less dangerous fallback.

Comments: 41

  1. Better Tased than dead.

  2. People do die from being tased.

  3. Unfortunately sometimes tased equals dead.

  4. Why aren't there trained supervisors to accompany police officers on all calls where there is there is the necessity of restraint to prevent harm to innocents as well as the perpetrators of the events?
    In the United States Armed Forces there is a cadre of non-commissioned officers who are well trained to perform their duties and take command when officers are not present. They have rules that determine how they are to act and command others without the presents of other officers or supervisors. And they follow them. Strictly.
    Why doesn't the NY police dept. have a cadre of trained non-coms when officer-supervisors and commanders aren't present on the scene?
    Not having well trained supervisors, field officers and non-coms on the scene is the cause of this problem. The solution is to create the trained officers and supervisors immediately and get them onto the streets doing their job.

  5. The difference between police supervision & military supervision is that the military aren't driven by numbers. I have always believed that much of the police's over-responses to many incidents are the unintended consequence of numbers based policing. The police are under pressure to produce arrests, tickets, summonses, etc. to satisfy their bosses in government who now use a corporate-like style of leadership.

  6. promotion in the nypd is by civil-service exam. officers who work indoors--house mice--have an advantage here because they can study while on the job. many of them, once promoted, are no good in the street.

  7. And Mr. Reporter, why did you not find out about the police seizure of the cellphone mentioned in the last incident in the article? Was there a warrant or not? Remember, the Supreme court ruled that a search warrant was required to seize and/or search a cellphone with certain limited exceptions. When you leave these kind of questions unanswered, I get curious/suspicious.

  8. The police need to come into contact with people less. The NYPD wants to maintain the same level of presence they had during the broken windows days and that is NOT what we want. Tazers mean they still want to enforce and harass people the same way for the same offenses before, only this time, they hope no one will die when they arrest them. This will not change the attitude of most officers, especially the plain clothes officers, when they approach people on the street from everything to noise complaints to drinking a beer on a hot night outside. Leave people alone and stop with this nonsense, you aren't paid by my taxes to bother people simply because you don't like their "quality of life". I am very disappointed in De Blasio for letting Bratton off his leash after 2014. Don't let what happened to Eric Garner ever happen again. A taser is absolutely the wrong direction to go in.

  9. Quality of life means different things to different people, Mark. For some of us t clean and safe streets are important and if we taxpayers see conditions returning to the bad old days, we'll vote with our feet. And then there'll be no money to pay the police and you'll for sure get your desired 'less contact between them and the people'.

  10. Max, "moving with your feet" is no longer the case in NYC. With so many residents now owning their homes with large mortgages, many will be here to stay. Its the reason why so many people have empathy with the anti-police brutality movement. The well-to-do are also concerned that the slightest infraction by a citizen causes a military like response by the police.

  11. "Don't tase me bro"

  12. Shoot a gun, or shoot a taser - a trigger happy cop will use either one if he or she has not been trained properly in conflict resolution. There are a hundred good cops for every twisted cop, and the reputation of the entire force goes on the line when a loose cannon is tolerated by their peers. Fear mongering lobbyists only care about how to grab a fistfull of taxpayer dollars. Tasers have been misused since day one of their introduction. And given the importance of a quick response to a truly dangerous situation, where does the officer find the time to switch to a sidearm if the Taser is ineffective?

  13. Tasers also kill people -- and invite abuse. What's needed is better weapons, it's better training, better supervision and a change of policy generally -- an end to "broken windows" and routine harassment over the non-violent street offenses common in all poor urban neighborhoods.

    OTOH, if we're so concerned about crime, perhaps we ought to move broken windows to Wall Street -- subject investment bankers, traders and brokers to routine drug searches on the street, seize their cell phones, read their emails for evidence of insider trading and securities violations, and when they protest, haul them in for resisting arrest, creating a public disturbance, etc. And be sure to put the cuffs on so tightly, they cause permanent nerve damage -- a very common occurrence. Those injuries, which could easily end careers dependent on computer use, will be great for pushing policing reform generally.

  14. I've seen it employed with great skill by the NYPD to stop a gigantic bodybuilder who went berserk, threatening every person on the street. It would have taken bullets or a rain of nightsticks to stop this guy. Instead he went down fast, they restrained him, and he immediately recovered. Like any weapon, it has its proper and improper uses.

  15. Southampton Village, New York has a distasteful history of laser use. It was a total tragedy that brought deep shame to our little spot on the map.. A young man of our Village who as an adult man lived under the protection of his family had mental health problems that were well known and long standing. One morning this fellow, well known to the local police, went off the tracks toward his loving Mom and she called called our Village police. The disturbed young man ran off two blocks and was "hiding" in plain sight near a trash can hard by the L.I.Rail Road Station. The story becomes cloudy at this point but the finale is thus: many trained and fully armed police responded but somehow this mentally handicapped human being was Tazered to death by the female police person.
    The fury among the rest of us was huge. no avail. No one was held officially responsible for this murder by official Tazering. The family lost their wrongful death by police lawsuit that lingered in the court system for more than a decade. So folks... look forward to police death by Tazer rather than guns. Our Village of Southampton remembers in sadness. Many families have what the Irish refer to as "stayin' in boys" All police everywhere on this earth require immediate and giant attitude adjustment. Call me disillusioned!

  16. So, the problem with police and people in this nation, is that the police don't have enough enforcement tools and toys. But I could swear I saw police in protests across the country get kitted up like Special Operations soldiers on a Seal Team! Who knew that they merely lacked a stun gun with 5000 volts of electricity to go with those scoped long rifles and special extending batons and special pads and thigh strapped weapons....and....and.....Wait! those are the Stormtroopers we need for crowd control! My mistake. Because bum-rushing postal workers with five Mixed Martial Arts cops, yelling "relax" and "stop resisting", resistance which seems unlikely unless you're trying to keep a joint from being popped, which you will try to do, as a sentient being with pain receptors and a desire to not have bones broken. But gee, when you add a taser to that shiny tool kit of human relations, you've obviously found the thing missing from an abusive officer's necessary resources to administer a little "street justice". For how dare you even ask a single question of the omniscient high school graduate now deciding your fate with a jaundiced eye that says it's US, versus THEM. It seems they have a really good handle on the essence of their problem, don't you think?

  17. I think you would be the first one to call the police if you thought you saw a badie walking down your street.

  18. It's a step in the right direction
    It's good for police and the public

  19. As a 62 year old white woman, I have always respected our police and most probably will never have occasion to withhold that respect. My personal experience with policing in America is not shared by many of my fellows citizens. I do not have to have been mistreated to understand that policing in America must change. It is sad to say that tasing is better that shot to death but it just might save a life. I believe that the majority of Americans support our police and want safe and secure neighborhoods to live in. I would never presume to tell our police HOW to police as I have no clue. Citizens are asking the police to clean up your own house. I agree that our government asks our police to do too much because of its failure to deal with problems such as mental health. Police departments across the country must embrace better policing. You know what that means, you know all the variables that must come into play to better police our communities so please start doing it. We are here to support you. We want to support you. Cell phone videos are not going away. They never tell the whole story but perception counts these days. We want to respect you and you to respect ALL of us.

  20. I do not understand why better training and community policing is not the path taken and addressing a whole host of society's ills that have been ignored and thus exacerbated. Why just keep adding more and more weaponry, many times used in quality of life, non-violent crimes or on the mentally ill. Weapons, that no one 'seems' to understand, ...

    “It’s not a well-understood phenomenon why young, otherwise healthy people collapse and die" while being tased!
    (see link below).

    Really, so this is what, an ongoing live experiment on the human species, results to date: more death and long term injury.

    Taser and the Myth of Non-Lethal Weaponry:
    "... the concept of “excited delirium” is highly controversial. ... excited delirium is a phrase that medical examiners sometimes use in official reports after a person is severely injured or killed in an intense police interaction. It is not recognized by the American Medical Association or the American Psychological Association, nor is it listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders."

    More reading:

  21. Tasers are NOT safe, they are potentially lethal should not be used haphazardly. A taser can stop a person's heart, or the target could fall and crack her head on the pavement. The choice of weapon isn't the problem. Instead, perhaps the focus should be on ways to avoid using a deadly weapon whenever possible.

  22. Tasers are not the answer. They allow the escalation of routine encounters into a violent act, firing a taser, without the assumption of serious consequences. Yet, death sometimes follows. There are also many instances where police officers, failing to "gain control", repeatedly shocked someone, greatly increasing the potential for heart attack and death. Should we assume that police officers have somehow cleansed themselves of the human impulse to dominate and control others?

    Tasers are an effort to put the worst part of the pubic controversy behind a police department because shocking someone to death doesn't have the impact of a shooting. It takes on aspects of an accident: how could the officer know the person being arrested would suffer a heart attack? Tasers seem a lot less dramatic and they attract much less media attention, therefore, nothing bad happened?

    The officer shown on video slamming a school teacher to the pavement in Austin, Texas, said repeatedly, while pinning the woman down, "I'm going to taser you." This indicates how in the heat of the moment, escalation of violence is all that some officers know.

    Instead of sending more tasers into the streets, they should be banned nationwide. They are not, in most cases, a solution to a problem but themselves the cause of a new problem, a too easy ramping up of violence that, in many cases, could be handled by other, more peaceful means.

  23. If we are to believe the NRA that guns don't kill people, people kill people, then we should not be focusing on the police portfolio of weapons, we should be focusing on the conduct of police officers. Look at the behavior of the officers in the thousands of police brutality videos flooding the internet. The contempt and disdain for persons of color exhibited by the offending officers is painfully obvious. Watch the Eric Garner video wherein Daniel Panteleo, the NYPD Officer who thus far has escaped any comeuppance for killing Mr. Garner, not only choke Mr. Garner, but mash his face into the concrete pavement and later lick his tongue at onlookers recording the incident. Introducing more tasers to to an already volatile situation will only produce two certain outcomes - 1) a spike in civilian deaths caused by heart attacks and beatings with tasers; and 2) a percentage increase in Taser International's share of the criminal justice industrial complex.

  24. Frankly, I would prefer to see Tazers as the ONLY weapon carried by police during normal patrols. Firearms should be kept locked in the patrol vehicle's trunk and be released only by TWO police officers simultaneously turning keys or remotely by a supervisor. The weapons themselves should be equipped with sound/video recorders that activate when the weapon's safety is disengaged. Additionally, all police weapons should be "smart guns" that can be fired only by the officer it is issued to. Far too many police shootings of civilians seem to contain the narrative "the suspect attempted to take my weapon." If the weapon were a smart gun, police would have far less reason to fear losing control of their sidearm.

    None of the above mentioned controls on the police's use of deadly force would have to be developed. The technology has existed for years. The expense would be more than justified by the reduction in unnecessary shootings by police. We have, as a nation, spent far more to prevent the unlikely repeat of the 9/11 attacks.

  25. Washington Post reported in November 2015 that at least 48 people died that year after having been tazed by police.

  26. It is probably a good move. Tasers are not safe, as another poster noted, and hopefully NYPD trains it officers sufficiently on when not to use them. My hope is not that it will reduce shootings because a Taser is not a response to an armed criminal, but because our officers are not adequately trained or skilled in the use of physical force. A Taser would have been safer and more appropriate than physical force employed in the case of Eric Garner.

    Community policing would be better, but only if officers had discretion like they did and weren't being measured by data from far away One Police Plaza. If cops remain under the pressure of "data" at a time when crime is at an all time low, then community policing will make things worse.

  27. You know what would have been safer than a taser to deal with Eric Garner? Walking away and never bothering him in the first place.

  28. Tasers should only be authorised in situations that would otherwise warrant shots being fired. Too often they've been used against people not responding to commands fast enough or people simply resisting arrest. That is to say, police have used tasers as one more tool of extrajudicial punishment against the public.

  29. So it there's an active shooter situation, you would want the cops to taze the suspects instead of shooting actual bullets at them?

  30. The problem is that a lot of cops respond to situations that involve young, extremely agitated young black guys with lethal weapons, ready as not to shoot anyone who "disrespects" them.
    It's a social problem which no amount of training at the academy will solve.
    The cops are scared to death so are the are the kids
    There are some really bad guys out there, and a bunch of kids in heirthrall/

  31. Great, now the NYPD can go around tazing everyone who doesn't grovel on their knees before the holy presence of the cops. These guys can't even stop themselves from Tasering each other, and we are going to trust them to use them on us for what? jaywalking? We need to go the way of England and take all weapons away from the cops. They have proved time and time again they can't handle it.

  32. OK, then how would cops defend themselves from armed criminals?

  33. According to NYC gun-control laws there should be very few people in the city with guns, therefore lose the Tasers and lose the police guns for a week or two and let's see how that works out. NYC should become a very peaceful place, look at European cities where most of the police are either lightly armed or not armed at all. Isn't that what we all want?

  34. Not sure if you're being naive or sarcastic:
    The purpose of the gun control laws in NY, given the looser restrictions elsewhere, is not to naively believe that there are not guns on the street, but rather that it allows checking to see if the gun is owned legally by the stricter laws, and if not, the owner can be jailed and the gun taken away. You can't do this in Texas or many other states.

  35. Remember PARIS!

  36. Swatter - "The purpose of the gun control laws in NY, not to naively believe that there are not guns on the street, but rather that it allows checking to see if the gun is owned legally by the stricter laws,"

    "It allows checking" by who, certainly not the police since "stop and frisk" has been declared null and void? Or maybe they can check after a crime has been committed and people are dead to see if the crime was committed by a legal or illegal gun?

    Gun laws in the US all 22,000 of them do NOTHING to stop criminals from obtaining and using guns illegally. How many more gun laws do you think it will take to stop "gun violence"?
    PS My initial comment was extremely sarcastic - more laws - that certainly will help (more sarcasm)

  37. Before hundreds of tasers hit the streets, someone needs to explain to the public why this is a better option and how police officers will be trained to use and not use them. The specific guidelines should be made available for public examination.

    After watching and reading about this issue for years, I don't believe tasers help in most, perhaps 98% or more, of the situations encountered by police. Instead, they offer an easy pathway to violence and the potential death of someone who does not respond immediately to an officer's command or does not respond in the exact way the officer wants. Just as with guns, if tasers are going to be used, they should be used as a response to a direct indication that an officer is in danger or because all other methods have been tried and failed.

    What we are seeing in police work across America is a disproportionate response to "non-compliance" with an officer's instructions. Tasers encourage violence against suspects by making it less likely that the suspect will be killed. Instead, we need to be moving toward a more peaceful society where, as a first instance, we show respect for each other. Many times, a person being placed under arrest is in a troubled portion of his or her life. Using immediate violence against that person means the officer has to try to justify it with heavier criminal charges, meaning not only is the person harmed by being tasered, but also then faces ruin in employment and other areas because of criminal charges.

  38. Sure, give them tasers so they have two kinds of weapons to use against unarmed citizens. How about completely reforming police training so that they learn how to de-escalate situations? How about political leaders with the guts to condemn cops who kill and the police and justice departments who let them off the hook? How about political leaders who demand reforms and an end to black men being shot by cops? How about hiring more women, who apparently, actually, shoot less and use their words to handle critical situations more often than male cops. How about a moratorium on hiring or arming male cops? How about reforming the criminal justice system so that cops who kill get the same kind of justice as any other murderer? In fact, cops, who are supposed to be protecting the people they are killing, should be treated more harshly for abusing their power. Handing out more weapons is not the answer.

  39. Problem is, and while everyone likes "less-lethal," as there's nothing non-lethal, the manufacturer's instructions warn do not use them when subject will fall on a hard, flat surface. There is a video of a FL trooper "tazing" a woman who fell on parking lot and is in a coma. I was a NY state police lieutenant, with 32 years service, and confirmed that this is our policy. Where other than in a park, will NYPD encounter anything soft--pepper spray works on bears, so I really question this.

  40. Given that many shootings are avoidable, that police COULD have toned down the situation, replacing unnecessary shootings with unnecessary uses of tasers, which can also kill, is the wrong route to go. It's not just the guns, it is the attitude - Eric Garner was not killed by a gun nor was Freddie Gray - and it only takes a few bad cops to do a lot of harm to the public.

  41. More tasers is worrisome for a few reasons. But the main reason is that with so many of these police shootings (or or tasering, or even roughing up) of unarmed suspects, there seems to be a VERY wide gap between what the officer is PERCEIVING as a threat to his life, and what the average person who watches these videos is estimating was the actual threat. Eric Garner, Alton Sterling, and Philando Castile were clear examples of this gap. Now, the push-back argument from the officers is: "Well, you can't judge us, because we have to make split-second decisions, and we just want to go home to our wife & kids." Fair enough. But the question has to be asked: Why do US police shoot (and likely rough up) so many more unarmed suspects, in questionable situations, than in the police in other modern countries? I think the answer is that we have a very aggressive and fearful police culture. Those countries focus far more on deescalation tactics, and they also seem to accept the fact that they might occasionally sustain an injury once in awhile while trying to subdue an unruly subject. That it's an unfortunate part of the job. Now, I suspect there are very good cops who do use proper deescalation tactics, but there also seem to be too many who are tired, cranky, overworked, burnt out, or simply don't have the right temperament for the job. They demand full and total compliance, and if they don't get it, there will be instant consequences. Tasers, like guns, should be a last option.