An estimated 130,000 Tasers are used by law enforcement agencies throughout the United States, which allow officers to subdue violent individuals without killing them. Unfortunately, these non-lethal deterrents have been responsible for a number of deaths since they were introduced in the late 1990s. They’ve also had an eye cast on them due to victims claiming overreaction when police have used them. All the attention has finally landed the attention of the US Supreme Court, who will review the evidence and determine if Taser use should be restricted.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals took on the task in 2011 of clarifying decision-making in the use of Tasers. Unfortunately, they determined there was no “good case law” to help, but did conclude that stunning a non-violent individual may be considered as using excessive force. Because of this, the Supreme Court justices will review the issue this month. If four of the justices agree, then it will be added to their docket.
One of the more prominent names being mentioned regarding a claim of using excessive force is that of Malaika Brooks. The pregnant Seattle resident was stopped in 2005 for speeding and refused to sign the ticket. The officer was instructed to arrest her after multiple attempts to get her to comply failed. A jury was unable to determine if Brooks resisted arrest, but she was Tased after she wouldn’t let go of the steering wheel. The officer even demonstrated what the Taser looked and sounded like prior to using it.
“As police officers, they could have hurt me seriously,” Brooks stated. “They could have hurt my unborn fetus.”
Then again, if Brooks (who was found guilty for not signing the ticket) had simply cooperated and not turned a simple traffic stop into a confrontation, the likelihood of it escalating would have been minimal.
Some appellate judges and even the Los Angeles County Police Chiefs Association are requesting the high court take up the case. They warn that if Taser use becomes restricted, worse injuries could occur to both citizens and law enforcement agents.