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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(39) "Law enforcement officials may use force only when strictly necessary and to the extent required for the performance of their duty" (Article 2, UN Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials); "Law enforcement officials, in carrying out their duty, shall, as far as possible, use non-violent means before resorting to the use of force and firearms.." and should "exercise restraint in such use and act in proportion to the seriousness of the offence and the legitimate objective to be pursued" (Articles 5 and 5(a) of the Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials.

(40) General Comment 20, 10 April 1992

(41) Sources include: Miami Herald 14 April 2002; Orlando Sentinel 4 August 2002; Miramar Police Department; WJXT, 8 January 2004; Putnam County Sheriff's Office, March 2004.

(42) Report by J.D. Gallop, Florida Today, June 2004

(43) Source: from statistics in an Orange County Sheriff's Department document dated October 15, 2003, under heading Orange County Use of Force Successes. The Taser was most widely used in cases of "Active Physical Resistance", a level below "Aggressive Physical Resistance".

(44) Police Tasers set to stun, by David Migoya, Denver Post 4 May 2004; the study was based on a review of court and police records.

(45) Concerns outlined in a 10-page letter dated 26 February 2004 to Gerry Whitman, Chief of Denver Police Department, from Mark Silverstein, Legal Director, ACLU of Colorado

(46) Series of articles by Nick Budnick, appearing in the Willamette Week, Portland Oregon, on 4, 11 and 18 February 2004

(47) Widely reported incidents, often called "suicide by cop", in which deranged individuals brandishing weapons allegedly goad officers into shooting them.

(48) Information attributed to Trainng Captain Mike Crebs, reported in, 24 May 2004.

(49) Chandler Police Department: Advanced Taser Use of Force, 2003 Annual Report, published February 2004.

(50) Tasers were added to every Chandler officer's arsenal in May 2003

(51) A 15-member Citizen Review Panel ruled unanimously in January 2004 that use of the Taser in this case, which occurred in September 2003, was within policy and did not constitute excessive force.

(52) SDP Special Reports: The M26 Taser, Two Years' Experience, March 2003; SPD Taser Use 2001-2003 Key Findings, May 2004.

(53) SPD Special Report: The M26 Taser, Two Years' Experience, March 2003

(54) According to the OPARB report, while one officer stated he had used his Taser four times on the complainant, the data retrieval device on the other officer's Taser had been inadvertently "corrupted" and it was unclear how many times he had pulled the trigger (OPARB 2003 Year End Report, April 30, 2004).

(55) Information from the Seattle Times, 21 September 2004

(56) Advanced Taser M26 Field Report Analysis, Taser International, November 2002. Amnesty International has also received a copy of a later analysis prepared for Taser International of 2,690 Taser field uses, dated May 2003, in which 83% of cases the suspect was unarmed, with the remaining percentages broadly similar to the figures given in the November 2002 report.

(57) Amnesty International recognizes that this breakdown may not provide a complete picture of which incidents involved some form of violent or threatening behaviour, as these were the initial call-out categories.

(58) Such standards include the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, signed but not ratified by the USA. As a signatory to the treaty, the US is bound not to do anything to undermine the object and purpose of the treaty. The treaty further enshrines the right of those under 18 to protection "from all forms of physical or mental violence, injury or abuse ...". A child is defined under international standards as a person under 18.

(59) Concerns arise over dangers youths face being zapped by San Jose police; "Chief defends officers' practices", Mercury News, 16 September 2004