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

Report
November 29, 2004

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

View More Research


(89) There remains some discrepancy between the injuries and the Taser strikes recorded, unless the probes jumped around as they were fired into her body. However, it is clear from the record that the trigger was pulled (in dart and stun mode) at least 12 times.

(90) Sources: The Vancouver Columbian, 26 April 2004, citing police reports; Oregonian, 9, 23 April 2004.

(91) A term of abuse for gay males

(92) email from Rick Smith, Taser International, 7 October 2004

(93) There is no maximum cycle and the duration of the charge could last until the battery is depleted, which Amnesty International has been told could, in theory, be just over four minutes, although no such instance has been recorded.

(94) Testimony of a Las Vegas Metropolital Police Department Taser training officer at the inquest of William Lomax, 25 June 2004 (see under Deaths in Custody, below).

(95) Amnesty International has seen several cases in which officers' reports on the number of trigger pulls are inconsistent or contradict witness statements. In one case, the record could not be verified as the data on the officer's unit had become "corrupted"; a police review board quotes an instructor as stating that such data corruption is "not unusual" due to inability to insulate the data retrieval instrument from the high voltage components of the device (Seattle Office of Professional Accountability Review Board Annual Report 2003). This is listed as a potential occurrence in Taser International's website which states that "there is no correction available for this problem" but that "new data will be recorded normally". In another case, the various clocks involved failed to record the time sequences accurately due to inaccurate settings (see ref to Glenn Leyba death in custody case, Glendale, Colorado, below).

(96) See note 24, above

(97) See Bruce Bellemore case, under 1.7 above. Bellemore's attorney told AI there appeared to be no specific warnings of the dangers of firing Tasers at people in elevated positions in the department's policies. The officer was cleared of criminal wrongdoing. The officer's actions were under police administrative review at the time of writing.

(98) Certified Lesson Plan, Version 8 (op cit). The company maintains that the electrical output of Tasers is not harmful to a fetus , but that secondary injuries from falling are a possible issue for pregnant women. The question of whether electro-shocks from Tasers could trigger miscarriage remains a matter of some dispute (see 2.9, below).

(99) Cases of Cindy Grippi, and Romona Madson (see above, under Lawsuits). Amnesty International was unable to obtain information on whether the force used in the Cindy Grippi case was within police policy, as the results of police internal investigations are "privileged information" and not available to the public under California law. Amnesty International was seeking more information on the recent Madson case (Illinois) at the time of writing.

(100) "City's use of Taser similar to others", The Charlotte Observer, 31 October 2004

(101) Reported in the Denver Post, 20 September 2004.

(102) Associated Press, 12 October 2004, "Police baffled by cause of fatal explosion".

(103) Robert C Trouth was "sprayed repeatedly with pepper spray and zapped with a Taser that set his hair on fire" before he was fatally shot after reportedly taking an officer's gun (Washington Post, 18 August 2004).

(104) Orlando Sentinel, 29 April 2004

(105) "Taser Works So Its Use Increases", Orlando Sentinel, 29 July 2002 (based on data obtained from the Orange County Sheriff's Office).

(106) www.taser.com/pdfs/m26brochure.pdf. The brochure states: "Deputy injuries in Orange County, FL dropped by 80% from 1999 to 2002 despite a 72% increase in use of force over the same period – from 410 force incidents in 1999 to an annual rate of 708 incidents in 2002".

(107) "Police Taser Use Grows, Controversy Continues, Local 6 News (local6.com), 4 May 2004