In the past 10 months, three men have died when they were Tasered by police officers in San Francisco’s San Mateo County.
Now, the families of two of the men want officials to suspend the use of Tasers until the police department reviews its “non-lethal” weapons policy. Early last month, 36-year-old Chinedu Okobi died after he was Tasered by sheriff’s deputies in the county. Following Okobi’s death, the nonprofit American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a public records request for the county sheriff’s use-of-force and stun gun policies.
The incident is raising concerns over the use of Tasers as alternatives to firearms. Law enforcement officials are now reconsidering the value of the electric-shock weapon. Meanwhile, ACLU argues that these weapons can, in fact, be lethal. Critics argue that officers who believe that these are non-lethal alternatives tend to overuse these weapons. They say the availability of such weapons can encourage officers to use them earlier in a confrontation rather than turning to more peaceful tactics.
Do Tasers help de-escalate a confrontation? What are the risks of using Tasers in comparison to other “non-lethal” weapons? We discuss.
Michael Gennaco, principal at the OIR Group that provides consulting services to communities and law enforcement agencies; former chief attorney of the Office of Independent Review for LA County, who provided oversight of the LA County Sheriff’s Department