3/22/2005 Special Taser Edition Newsletter


  • Introduction
  • Taser Panel Discussion and Community Meeting
  • The Heart of the Matter: Taser Effects on the Heart
  • From the Horse's Mouth: Cops Get Bad Info from Taser, Intl
  • MPD Sgt. Ron Bellendier Engineered City's Taser Purchase While on Taser Intl Board
  • Teen Goes Into Cardiac Arrest After Tasing
  • Roseville, MN Teen Tased in School over Miscommunication
  • Criminalization of Youth Behavior: 6 Yr Old and 12 Yr Old Children Tased at School
  • Miami Police Tase Wheelchair-Bound Man
  • Taser Used to Violate Fourth Amendment and Patient's Rights


CUAPB has been raising concerns about the use of Tasers and other so-called "less lethal" weapons for quite some time.  Besides the lack of studies on the long and short-term effects of these weapons on various populations, valid fears have been raised that Tasers could become torture devices in the hands of agents of repressive regimes.  Now that a "home edition" of the Taser is being brought to market, there are concerns that rapists and robbers will use them to debilitate their victims.

Despite calls for caution by us and others, large numbers of police departments in the US and around the world have adopted Tasers in the last few years and the use of Tasers is becoming commonplace.  Deaths after Tasering have drastically increased.

In this special edition of our newsletter, we will explore what is and isn't known about Taser safety and the role Taser International has played in keeping safety issues from being examined, not to mention the unquestioning support of Tasers given by some police departments.  Tasers were initially touted as a "less lethal" alternative to deadly force.  However, they are now being used routinely on everyone from unruly school kids to mentally ill folks to anyone who doesn't immediately and unquestioningly comply with police commands.  The last set of articles will explore some of these situations.

Panel Discussion and Community Meeting
Wednesday, March 23rd
7:00 p.m.
Walker Community Church
3104 16th Avenue South, Minneapolis

We're excited to have a very distinguished panel of speakers as part of this event:

  • Nathan Thompson with St. Paul Amnesty International
  • Paul Johnson, psychologist
  • Duane Reed, Minneapolis Chapter, NAACP
  • A representative of the St. Paul Chapter, NAACP
  • A school board representative has been invited
  • A physician has been invited

For more information or directions, call our hotline at 612-874-7867.

This article uses a death after Tasering to explore the effects on the heart of Tasers.  One interesting note that we've been saying for a while: while Taser International uses the fact that some police officers have been Tasered during training as evidence that they are not harmful, these officers are not subjected to the kind of Tasering that happens in the real world.  Cops tend to administer multiple shocks and for a longer period per shock in the field.  And, as the article points out, the longer the heart is subjected to a shock the more likely defibrillation will occur--and defibrillation is impossible to determine during an autopsy.  It should be noted that many police departments no longer require receiving a Taser shock as part of the training.  Finally, while this article does not address the issue, a number of neurologists are raising concerns about the affects of multiple Taser shocks on the nervous system, pointing out that subtle but lasting effects on the nervous system may not become apparent until later.

Death raises Taser safety questions
Some call for further testing of stun gun
Herald Correspondent
Posted on Sun, Sep. 05, 2004

One minute he was standing in his doorway talking to police officers.

The next minute he was laid out flat on the floor.

"It felt like my whole body was lit up," said a 74-year-old Peninsula man who "got Tased" several weeks ago during a disturbance at his home.

"I felt like a guy in one of those cartoons with sparks coming out of his body."

The Taser that knocked this man down and out for a few seconds was designed to incapacitate its target without causing permanent injury, and that's exactly what it did in this case. In fact, experts generally agree that it's exactly what it does in most cases.

Taser International of Scottsdale, Ariz., maker of the stun gun, goes even further, maintaining that it's exactly what it does in every case.

Even cases like the one in Del Rey Oaks last Sunday when Michael Robert Rosa died after Seaside police shocked him with an M26, the more powerful of two models the company provides to police officers across the country.

Mark Kroll, a member of Taser's board of directors and the chief technology officer of St. Jude Medical Center in Scottsdale, expressed sympathy for the Rosa family but said, "It is clear to me from your newspaper accounts, and from understanding the science, that the Taser did not kill the poor man."

Since 2001, more than 50 people have died in the United States after being shocked by a Taser, six of them in June. Company officials believe that the growing popularity of their guns makes such statistics almost inevitable. Their figures show that Tasers are now used by about 100,000 officers in more than 5,000 departments.

"As more and more police departments adopt this lifesaving and injury-saving tool," Kroll said, "more deaths will be coincidentally associated with the use of the Taser."

But other experts are less sure that it's all just coincidence.

John Wikswo, a biomedical engineer at Vanderbilt University, questions any coroner's report that says a death after a Taser shock was caused by heart problems but was not caused by the Taser.

"I don't know how they can know that," Wikswo said. "It's a hard call either way, to know that it was caused by the Taser or to know that it wasn't."

Heart of the matter

Tasers are not intended to be lethal weapons. But they are intended to make big trouble for their targets.

Instead of bullets, the long-distance stun guns fire two electrified barbs that shock the target's central nervous system, causing large-scale but short-term disruption of electrical signals and muscle control.

But in general, at least, Tasers aren't thought to affect the heart, because they dole out their shocks in very short pulses lasting just a tiny fraction of a second, according to Raymond Ideker, an electrophysiologist and cardiologist at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

"When you're trying to stimulate the heart, you give much longer pulses," Ideker said. "Shorter pulses are able to stimulate nerves, but less likely to stimulate the heart."

But just because Tasers are unlikely to stimulate the heart doesn't necessarily mean they never do. And many, including Ideker as well as Wikswo, are not ready to declare them completely safe.

One of the worst things that can happen to a heart is ventricular fibrillation, which occurs when the heart's electrical activity goes haywire. Then its pumping chambers, the ventricles, go haywire, too, contracting so chaotically that they pump little or no blood.

Unless the heart is "defibrillated," death occurs within minutes. For some people who are shocked with a Taser, death occurs within minutes.

Taser International says that no coroner's report has ever listed a Taser as the cause of death. However, some reports have listed a Taser as a possible contributing cause.

But as Ideker observed, "If the Taser is causing ventricular fibrillation, you won't see anything in an autopsy. When the heart fibrillates, a person dies so fast there's no time for any evidence to show up."

Robert Stratbucker, Taser's medical director, essentially agreed. "Electricity doesn't leave any telltale marks around," he said.

Cocaine effect disputed

Many deaths that occur after Taser shocks are not immediate, however, and this means they were not caused by ventricular fibrillation. Could there still be a connection between the Tasers and the deaths?

"The longer the interval between being Tasered and death," Wikswo said, "the less likely they're related."

Local authorities have not disclosed how much time passed between the Taser shock administered to Rosa and his death.

What might make a person's heart vulnerable to fibrillation or other damage from the generally safe Taser? Cocaine perhaps.

Based on news accounts, it appears that a significant percentage of those who died after receiving Taser shocks had cocaine in their systems.

Wikswo cited a study showing that using cocaine makes a normal adult 24 times more likely to have a heart attack than one not using cocaine. It also may make a person more likely to be harmed by a Taser, he reasoned.

Kroll, however, disputed that notion.

"The Taser is not, in fact, more dangerous in subjects on cocaine," he said. "This conclusion is based on a published independent animal study that found that animals with heavy doses of cocaine were actually less likely to be induced into fibrillation with electrical shock."

In February 2003 Rosa was arrested for cocaine possession and he completed a drug rehabilitation program a year ago.

Results of his autopsy and toxicology tests aren't expected to be ready for at least two weeks. The Monterey County District Attorney's Office is heading the investigation into his death, but the scope is limited to determining whether any police officers should be prosecuted.

That investigation won't answer the question of whether the police officers involved followed proper procedures, and it certainly won't determine whether the Taser caused the death.

Terry Spitz, chief assistant district attorney, said the inquiry with his office may take several weeks. Following that would be internal affairs investigations by the police agencies.

Police volunteers

Police officials have said Rosa was stunned after he refused to drop a board he was brandishing. He had run through several back yards after officers from several police agencies descended on his Del Rey Oaks neighborhood because of reports he was screaming for no apparent reason.

Del Rey Oaks Police Chief Ron Langford has said the officers all acted appropriately and there is no reason to suspect the Taser contributed to Rosa's death.

But in Ideker's view, much more testing is needed to determine whether the Taser is as safe as the manufacturer, and many police agencies, contend.

Testing Taser safety is a tricky task, however.

Because no one wants to put humans at risk of fibrillation, most controlled studies have been done on small numbers of animals.

Still, the Taser company believes it has plenty of evidence from humans -- namely the thousands of police officers who have volunteered to be shocked as part of their training.

A recent report in The New York Times claimed that police volunteers receive a single shock of a half-second or less. But Taser International says the volunteers actually receive a five-second shock -- just like crime suspects in the field. And none of the volunteers has had any lasting ill effects, Taser officials say.

Still, the volunteers may not experience a Taser shock in exactly the same way that someone being arrested does. An officer can hold the trigger down to make the Taser discharge longer. The officer can also fire the Taser more than once.

"Not very many police have been Tasered as many times as they may Taser someone in the field," Wikswo said.

Herald staff reporter Clarissa Aljentera contributed to this report.
This article points out a common problem: police departments are getting all of their information about Taser safety directly from the one source that has the biggest stake in making sure safety issues are never really raised.  Most people do not realize that Tasers were designed so they would not require approval by any government agency before going to market.  The manufacturer, Taser International, then controls all training and information about this weapon.  There have been allegations that this wealthy corporation has leaned on medical examiners so that Tasering would not be cited as a cause of death.  For a top-notch article on the role of Taser International, see A Jolting of Reality by Nathan Thompson, on our website at http://www.charityadvantage.com/CUAPB/images/A%20Jolting%20of%20Reality--Tasers.pdf

Chief's defense of Tasers criticized
Some of his statements quoted directly from gunmaker's promotional literature
Alan Gathright, Chronicle Staff Writer
Friday, February 25, 2005

When Salinas Police Chief Daniel Ortega stood before reporters to defend the use of stun guns on a suspect who later died, he was quoting directly from promotional materials from the gun's maker -- in some cases word for word -- and statements from its founder defending the weapon's safety.

The coroner has not determined the cause of Robert Clark Heston's death Sunday. But Ortega was quick to predict that Heston, who had a long history of drug abuse and clashes with police, was undoubtedly killed by a drug-related delirium, not from up to 10 shocks officers delivered with Taser stun guns.

Taser advises police to raise drug overdoses as a likely cause of death in briefing papers and a suggested police statement the company offers to agencies who have a Taser-associated death.

"It is simply not reasonable to draw a casual relationship between the use of Taser energy weapons and a drug related fatality,'' Ortega said at the Wednesday news conference. He was echoing a Taser International briefing paper that said: "It is simply not reasonable to draw a causal relationship between the use of Taser energy weapons and a drug related fatality.''

The chief's use of the Taser's briefing papers and executive's comments has stun gun critics questioning whether Ortega can conduct an independent review of Heston's death, the actions by his officers and the overall safety of Tasers. Critics say the chief's reaction to Heston's death is an example of how too many law enforcement across the country are failing to independently evaluate the use of Tasers.

While the stun guns have become standard issue to officers in hundreds of departments across the state, human rights groups' are increasing calls for a moratorium on police stun gun use because of the deaths of 94 people who were stunned with police Tasers.

Human rights groups, press investigations and San Francisco Assemblyman Mark Leno have raised concerns that some police agencies blindly "have bought the company hype" that Tasers are lifesaving weapons with minimal injury risk, said John Crew, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union in San Francisco. "We've noticed that the police departments are buying into what Taser International is selling them hook, line and sinker and it's to their own detriment and to the detriment of the public that they've sworn to protect, '' said Amnesty International spokesman Edward Jackson. "It's patently obvious that (some police departments) do no independent research at all. All they do is regurgitate quotes from press releases, talking points and other PR material that Taser International prepares for their clients.''

Ortega's insistence the Heston's drug abuse killed him mirrored a standard response by Taser International. The company often argues that Tasers are wrongly blamed for suspects' deaths, when the real cause is drug or alcohol intoxication, health problems or psychotic delirium that often kill people during the physical exertion of police confrontations.

"It is therefore inevitable that police officers will be called to scenes to deal with individuals who have already consumed toxic doses of illegal or legal drugs,'' Ortega said, quoting again from the Taser briefing paper. "These officers are charged to protect other citizens and property from the dangerous and violent behavior associated with excited delirium in the early stages of the chemical reactions from a drug overdose that may inevitably lead to the death of a subject.''

While Ortega acknowledged at the news conference that "most" of his background material was from Taser International's Web site, he adopted Taser Chief Executive Officer Rick Smith's words as his own as the chief lashed out at human rights groups for jeopardizing officers with a campaign to temporarily ban stun guns until independent research is completed. He invoked Smith's comments that critics ignore worldwide independent research confirming Taser's safety.

"These reports clearly indicate that the Taser technology, while not risk- free, is among the safest use of force options for our police officers to have, '' Ortega told reporters. The comment repeated Smith's Nov. 30 statement blasting a report by the human rights group Amnesty International warning about Taser hazards and police stun gun abuse.

"Yes, I quoted Mr. Smith directly, because it absolutely fit into what has occurred here in Salinas and what I'm trying to fight in terms of just out and out rhetoric (by critical human rights groups) without any data or studies to support it,'' Ortega said.

"I understand the critique, but I'm certainly not going to back off from my statements and my support of the use of Taser at this department,'' the chief added, citing statistics showing that Tasers have reduced officer and suspect injuries at his department and others across the nation.

"Nobody from the onset, including me, has brought (Tasers) into play without stating these are not totally risk-free. Nor are they 100 percent effective,'' Ortega said. "But they're still the best tool that we have going out there in terms of combating resistant, violent suspects."

Similar statements

The following lists statements by Salinas Police Chief Daniel Ortega at a news conference Wednesday followed by statements either by officials at Taser or news releases from the company:

"These reports clearly indicate that the Taser technology, while not risk- free, is among the safest use-of-force options for our police officers to have." - Chief Ortega.

"These reports clearly indicate that the Taser technology, while not risk- free, is among the safest use-of-force options our law enforcement officers have." -- Taser International CEO Rick Smith, in a Nov. 30 news release criticizing an Amnesty International report warning about police abuse of Tasers.

"This compilation based on independent police, medical and scientific study clearly supports that Taser's nonlethal systems are reducing injuries and saving lives every day.'' -- Chief Ortega.

"This compilation, based on independent police, medical and scientific studies clearly supports that TASER nonlethal systems are reducing injuries and saving lives every day." -- Smith, Nov. 30 Taser news release.

"I believe this (human right groups' call for a Taser ban) shows complete disregard for the health and safety of the men and woman of law enforcement who put their lives on the line every day to protect society. Last year, the United States alone had over 57,000 police officers assaulted with almost 14, 000 suffering personal injuries. That is in addition to the 150 officers that were killed in the line of duty.'' -- Chief Ortega.

"Furthermore, we are particularly disappointed by Amnesty International's complete disregard for the health and safety of the men and women of law enforcement who put their lives on the line every day to protect our society. Last year in the United States alone, over 57,000 police officers were assaulted with almost 14,000 suffering personal injuries. That is in addition to the 150 officers that were killed in the line of duty." -- Smith, Nov. 30 Taser news release.

"Therefore, it is simply not reasonable to draw a casual relationship between the use of Taser energy weapons and a drug-related fatality.'' -- Chief Ortega.

"Therefore, it is simply not reasonable to draw a causal relationship between the use of Taser energy weapons and a drug related fatality.'' -- Taser International briefing paper "TASER? Non-Lethal Systems: Reducing Injuries and Saving Lives"

"It is, therefore, inevitable that police officers will be called to scenes to deal with individuals who have already consumed toxic doses of illegal or legal drugs. These officers are charged to protect other citizens and property from the dangerous and violent behavior associated with excited delirium in the early stages of the chemical reactions from a drug overdose that may inevitably lead to the death of a subject.'' -- Chief Ortega.

"It is, therefore, inevitable that police officers will be called to scenes to deal with individuals who have already consumed toxic doses of illegal (or legal) drugs. These officers are charged to protect other citizens and property from the dangerous and violent behavior associated with excited delirium in the early stages of the chemical reactions from a drug overdose that may inevitably lead to the death of the subject.'' -- Taser International briefing paper

E-mail Alan Gathright at [email protected].
Including our own former MPD public relations cop Sgt. Ron Bellendier

Taser gave stock options to cops
Posted by IHP on Monday, March 21st, 2005 at 00:13

CHANDLER, Ariz. l Taser International Inc. openly credits its use of active-duty police officers as trainers as a major ingredient in the company's meteoric rise to become the No. 1 seller of stun guns.

And like a lot of other cash-strapped startups, early on Taser offered some of those officers stock options as an incentive.

But with the Scottsdale-based company now under state and federal investigation over safety claims and accounting issues, questions have arisen about whether the officers' moonlighting represented a conflict of interest, particularly when their own departments were buying stun guns.

Jim Halsted is one example.

Halsted was a police sergeant in this town southeast of Phoenix when the police chief tapped him to make a presentation to the city council on March 27, 2003.

During the meeting, and as Taser's president looked on, Halsted touted the benefits of arming Chandler's entire patrol squad with Taser stun guns.

"No deaths are attributed to the (Taser model) M26 at all. That's absolutely incredible," Halsted is seen saying in a video of the presentation. "We put a Band-Aid on that person. There is no injury."

The council approved the $193,000 purchase of an additional 300 Taser guns and related equipment that same day, adding to a small number of stun guns it had already bought.

At the time, Halsted was one of four active-duty police officers granted stock options for serving on Taser's Master Instructor Board, which oversees Taser training programs.

In May, after 17.5 years with the Chandler police, Halsted quit to become Taser's Southwest regional sales manager.

A city councilwoman who set in motion a conflict-of-interest investigation the day after Halsted's sales pitch said it wasn't clear to her from the presentation that he got a paycheck from the company. And Halsted never mentioned the stock options to the acting police chief or when he went before the council.

The inquiry ultimately found that Halsted hadn't violated any conflict of interest laws. But just because no laws were broken doesn't mean Halsted acted ethically, said Marianne Jennings, a business ethics professor at Arizona State University.

Chandler's City Council should have known about the stock options, she said. "They might have made the same decision anyway, but they deserved to know."

Halsted told The Associated Press that he wasn't trying to hide anything: "They knew I was compensated as a trainer," he said of the City Council. "I clearly stated it (during the meeting) because I didn't want there to be any controversy or question. The extent of the compensation was irrelevant."

The investigation looked into Halsted's holdings and found that at the time of the presentation, his wife and children owned 462 shares of Taser stock. After three stock splits, those shares are now worth more than $70,000.

Halsted had also personally been granted options for 750 shares of Taser stock. After the splits, that stock would have been worth about $300,000 when Taser shares were trading at their 52-week high of $33.45 on Dec. 30. The stock now trades around $13 a share.

Taser had also given Halsted a five-day trip for two to Hawaii valued at $3,770 as a reward for training more officers to become Taser instructors than anyone else in 2001.

Taser defends the use of off-duty police officers as trainers, noting that police are allowed to moonlight for security companies and other private corporations as long as they follow their department's disclosure rules.

"Utilizing off-duty law enforcement officers to train other officers is standard industry practice," said Taser spokesman Steve Tuttle. He mentioned Armor Holdings - which makes police batons and body armor - as a company that also uses off-duty police as trainers.

But Taser is unique in that it pretty much has a lock on the stun gun market.

Since Taser began marketing police stun guns in 1998 as a way to subdue combative people in high-risk situations, more than 7,000 law enforcement agencies worldwide as well as the U.S. military have bought them.

But the safety of the weapons, which shoot darts 25 feet that deliver 50,000-volt jolts for about 5 seconds, has increasingly been questioned. According to Amnesty International, some 93 people have died after being shocked with the weapons, which can also be used like cattle prods.

In recent weeks, after several deaths that followed Taser shocks, some police departments have suspended Taser use to re-examine guidelines on their handling and/or await better data on health risks.

Tuttle says the company has roughly 300 "Master Instructors" worldwide who train other officers to become instructors and who conduct demonstrations at interested police departments. He said Taser pays about 35 of them on a per-session basis.

Tuttle said the company has not granted stock options to training board members since 2003. Citing privacy concerns, Taser declined to identify the other active-duty officers who were granted stock options.

Halsted isn't the only master instructor to leave his department and join Taser after accusations of a possible conflict of interest.

Sgt. Ron Bellendier quit the Minneapolis police department - he's now Midwest regional sales manager for Taser - in December after questions surfaced about his relationship to Taser.

Bellendier was the point man on Tasers for his department, which said he was involved in stun gun purchasing decisions even as he worked for Taser as a master instructor.

Bellendier told the AP that his decision to leave the department had nothing to do with the Taser flap, and that he submitted retirement paperwork before the controversy.

"I was only being paid when I instructed other officers," Bellendier told The AP. "It wouldn't have mattered if the department bought 5,000 Tasers, I wouldn't have gotten anything out of it."

Other master instructors, including several who served on the training board, have gone on to work for Taser in officer training and sales positions.

Taser has said that a total of 11 "consultants," which include master instructors and members of the training board, were granted stock options as part of their compensation package.

In addition to Halsted and Bellendier, former Sacramento police SWAT team member Sgt. Rick Guilbault went to work as Taser's director of training.

Guilbault served on the master instructor board with Halsted, although it is unclear whether he also received stock options. He did not return calls seeking comment and Taser would not disclose whether he was offered the options.

Louie Marquez, a retired Austin, Texas, police officer is a master instructor. Marquez said he still serves on the board but declined to answer questions about stock options.

Chicago police sued for using taser on teen
By Alan Krashesky
February 10, 2005

A Chicago police officer and the city of Chicago are being sued for using a taser Monday on a 14 year old boy. The teenager went into cardiac arrest and is still recovering in the hospital.

The smashed windows at the Ulich Children's Home are just one indication of how violent this confrontation was, but the question is if the boy was still in a violent rage when police arrived.

That would justify the use of a taser, a weapon that many police officers have personally experienced ringing them to their knees.

According to the lawsuit filed Thursday - the teenager was sitting on the couch when a police sergeant shocked him with a taser gun. That's quite different from the version the police department gave Wednesday.

"At the time he was tased, he was approaching the sergeant with his fist raised and a kicking motion with his leg," said Chicago Police Supt. Phil Cline.

In the lawsuit, the boy is simply named by the initials "A. W." to protect his privacy. The police officer who used the taser is called "john doe", because his name hasn't been made public.

The suit accuses the city and the police officer of using improper and excessive force. It raises a safety issue - saying the city didn't know if the taser was safe to use on a minor.

The suit claims no consideration was given to the minor's physical condition nor any medications he was on. And finally - it claims using a stun gun on the boy violated Chicago police department regulations.

Those regulations say that a taser can be used when a person is aggressively offensive, or is doing something that could cause physical injury.

The police department believes the boy's case fits that category.
Student hit with stun gun at school
Updated: 03/03/2005 02:33:36 PM

ROSEVILLE  - The mother of a 15-year-old girl is upset that a police officer used a Taser on her daughter in School.

The incident happened on Tuesday at Roseville Area High School. A district spokesperson said the student had become "very aggressive with the officer." The girl was then taken to the Ramsey County Juvenile Detention Center.

The student, Devorrah Mack, had been suspended from school Monday but returned Tuesday and "refused to leave and became unruly," school district spokeswoman Sally Latimer said.

"The Roseville schools work hard to ensure the safety of their students, and it is very unfortunate this incident occurred," Latimer said.

Mack told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS that she was hit by the Taser at least three times.

"He kept telling me I was resisting arrest, but I don't know how when I had all those shocks going through my body," she said. "All my muscles just got real tight and I just fell to the ground. When I fell I hit my head."

She said she is still in pain.

"I still have back problems and I have headaches," she said.

The girl's mother, Amy Dozier, said she had not been notified that her daughter had been suspended.

"No one had contacted us and told us she was suspended that day, so she went to school," she said. "We should have been the first ones to have been notified what had happened."

Dozier added that the school liaison officer should have been able to handle the situation without the use of a Taser.

"She was a very strong girl, but I'm thinking there's two adult men there. They could have had Devorah under control."

Mack pleaded guilty Wednesday in juvenile court to "obstructing legal process" and a sentence was imposed, a court spokesman said.

It was the first time a Taser had been used at a school in St. Paul or Roseville since police in those cities began carrying the stun guns in schools last month, the St. Paul Pioneer Press reported Thursday.

Roseville police Sgt. Lorne Rosand said use of the Taser was "appropriate" in the case. Rosand reviewed a school video of the incident as well as information downloaded from the Taser that indicated the number and duration of stun charges.

Police have said Tasers will rarely be used in schools and are among several law enforcement options. The gun-like weapon fires metal barbs and delivers an electric charge that temporarily immobilizes a person.

Police departments across the country, including more than 200 in Minnesota, use Tasers. Amnesty International has claimed that several people have died after being stunned by Tasers, although the manufacturer, Taser International Inc., says the product is safe.

"It's a hard issue. Anytime you talk about use of force, it offends people's sensibilities," St. Paul police spokesman Paul Schnell said.

Schnell said about a dozen St. Paul police officers assigned to the city's schools have been carrying Tasers for a few weeks but no officer has used the weapon in a school.
Children zapped with stun guns
Police plan review
Sun, November 14, 2004

MIAMI -- Police have acknowledged using a stun gun to immobilize a 12-year-old girl just weeks after an officer jolted a six-year-old with 50,000 volts. Police director Bobby Parker said the department will review its policy but defended the decision to use a Taser stun gun on the six-year-old boy last month because he was threatening to injure himself with a shard of glass. But Parker said he could not defend the decision to shock the fleeing girl, who was skipping school and apparently drunk.
Miami Police Use Taser To Subdue Wheelchair-Bound Man
WFTV | December 21, 2004

MIAMI -- Miami police say they used a Taser stun gun to subdue a wheelchair-bound man who threatened them with scissors.

Police say they responded to a domestic violence all at a home where the man got into an argument with his girlfriend, then threw a soda can at her 13-year-old daughter.

Police say the man resisted officers and threatened them.

The man's name was not released. He was taken to jail, but no charges were immediately filed.
Fla. Officer Uses Taser Over Urine Sample
March 09, 2005 9:27 PM EST

ORLANDO, Fla. - A police officer twice used a Taser stun device on a drug suspect who was restrained to a hospital bed because the man refused to give a urine sample to medical staff, authorities said.

Antonio Wheeler, 18, was arrested Friday on a drug charge and taken to an emergency room after telling officers he had consumed cocaine, police said.

Because Wheeler said he had used the drugs, Florida Hospital officials wanted a urine sample. A police affidavit said Wheeler wouldn't provide a sample on his own, so workers tried to catheterize him to get one.

The police document said Wheeler was handcuffed to a hospital bed and then secured with leather straps after he refused to urinate in a cup. When medical staff tried to insert a catheter to get the sample, Wheeler refused and began thrashing around, the affidavit said.

At one point, police officer Peter Linnenkamp reported, he jumped on the bed with his knees on Wheeler's chest to restrain him. When Wheeler still refused to let the catheter be inserted, Linnenkamp said he twice used his Taser, which sends 50,000 volts into a target.

"After the second shock (Wheeler) stated he would urinate and calmed down enough to be given the portable urinal," Linnenkamp wrote.

At the request of Police Chief Michael McCoy, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement is investigating the incident.

Linnenkamp, who has more than 18 years on the force, has no history of disciplinary problems, said Sgt. Barbara Jones, a department spokeswoman.

He has been relieved pending the investigation's outcome. Jones said officers in such suspensions usually are paid.

In a Tuesday interview at the Orange County jail, Wheeler acknowledged that he aggressively resisted efforts to insert the catheter because he was scared it would hurt. He said the police officer told him the catheter would be necessary if he wouldn't or couldn't urinate on his own.

"I feel I was basically raped," Wheeler said.

Wheeler was being held on $7,500 bail on charges including possession of cocaine with intent to sell, escape and resisting without violence.
Communities United Against Police Brutality
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