USA: Excessive and lethal force? Amnesty International's concerns about deaths and ill-treatment involving police use of Tasers

November 29, 2004

USA: Excessive and lethal force? Amnesty International's concerns about deaths and ill-treatment involving police use of Tasers

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(15) In Michigan the law was changed in December 2002 to legalize Tasers for law enforcement use only, since when more than 100 police agencies in the state have begun using them. Massachusetts became the most recent state to pass similar legislation in July 2004, leaving New Jersey as the only state still banning their use in all circumstances.

(16) Taser International announced in June 2004 that it had won a $1.8 million contract to provide stun weapons to US military personnel, following a previous smaller order by the U.S. Army for stun guns and Tasers for use in Iraq. (AP, 30 June 2004).

(17) Aviation Daily, 2 August 2002 (available

(18) "US issuing troops more 'non-lethal' weaponry", Chicago Tribune, 11 December 2003, citing a report from retired Lt Col Wesley Barbour that members of the 800th Brigade used lethal force several times to quell detainee uprisings but that such rebellions ended after police "demonstrated" the power of the Taser. A report by Major-General Antonio Taguba in December 2003 found members of the 800th Brigade were among US forces which had engaged in "sadistic, blatant and wanton" abuse of detainees in Abu Ghraib Prison in 2003 http://news/

(19) See Appendix 2 for a list of countries reported to have deployed, tested or trialled Tasers, or have Taser distributors based there. Amnesty International obtained the information from various sources, including Taser International's website listing distributors.

(20) Tasers are barred for citizen use in seven US states: Massachussetts, Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey, Wisconsin, Michigan and Hawaii, and in certain cities and counties.

(21) Because Tasers use compressed air or gas instead of gunpowder to propel the darts, Tasers are not considered as firearms and do not fall under the regulation of the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco or Firearms.

(22) Taser International press release, 15 September 2004. The release states that the extended discharge is in order to allow the user "sufficient time to safely get away from a potentially life-threatening situation". The company reports that private citizens who purchase the device will receive a 40 minute training video and a coupon redeemable for a one-hour in-home training course from a local law enforcement officer trained in Taser use.

(23) Principle 9 of the Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials

(24) "Taser International Strongly Refutes New York Times Article", statement from Taser International July 2004, following a critical article in the New York Times. The statement cites company estimates that less than one in ten police reports on such incidents are received and that "Accordingly, we conservatively estimate that there are over 5,000 such incidents where the Taser has saved a life or averted serious bodily injury".

(25) From a Taser International lesson plan on the M26 Advanced Taser.

(26) City of Phoenix Police Department news release, 6 February 2004


(28) "As Shocks Replace Police Bullets, Deaths Drop but Questions Arise", New York Times 7 March 2004 – no-one was shot and killed in Seattle for the first time in 15 years. In Miami there were no police shootings, fatal or otherwise, in 2003, for the first time in 14 years.