“Right now, the Taser is one of the finest tools for law enforcement we have had in a long time,” said Alexander.
Taser, a brand name, describes its product, the X26 used by both city and county law enforcement on its Website at www.taser.com. The literature said that the non-lethal weapon “uses a replaceable cartridge containing compressed nitrogen to deploy two small probes that are attached to the Taser X26 by insulated conductive wires with a maximum length of 35 feet (10.6 meters). The Taser X26 transmits electrical pulses along the wires and into the body affecting the sensory and motor functions of the peripheral nervous system. The energy can penetrate up to two cumulative inches of clothing, or one inch per probe.”
Critics of the weapon claim that Tasers are as more harmless as manufacturers claim. In 2006, the Kentucky Branch of the American Civil Liberties Union requested the Louisville Police Department suspend field use of Tasers after the death of Larry Noles, a suspect subdued with a Taser.
“The death of Mr. Noles seems inevitable in light of the continually growing evidence that stun guns are not the non-lethal devices that proponents purport them to be,” said Beth Wilson, Executive Director of the ACLU of Kentucky in a press release at www.aclu-ky.org. “Tasers should be used only as an alternative to deadly force in situations where there is an immediate threat to human life.” The release added, “Moreover, the Taser causes excruciating pain to which people should not be exposed without a high degree of law-enforcement justification.”
Alexander attributed Taser-related fatalities to what he called “Sudden In-custody Death Syndrome.” He listed the symptoms of this syndrome as agitation, bizarre and inappropriate behavior, inappropriate nudity, paranoia, exhaustive exertion, superhuman strength, hallucination and profuse sweating. Alexander also said that some deaths could be attributed to “excited delirium,” a state that can induce heart attack or stroke from high-stress confrontations between law enforcement and suspects.
“Studies have shown that the deaths in incidents where Tasers have been employed can be traced back to this syndrome,” said Alexander. “If a suspect is in this state, the alternative would be deploying a baton or using lethal force.”
Kentucky Department of Criminal Justice Police Academy Personal Combat Trainer Lindsey Hughes said that the Academy does not train recruits or veteran officers in the operation of Tasers. “We tell students that Tasers are an option that is out there, and may include them in our curriculum as their use spreads. Right now, officers in the state receive training from the manufacturer or provider of the equipment.”
For a complete report on Tasers, see this week's Cadiz Record.