Since its invention in 1970, the Taser has become a widely controversial subject regarding its involvement in police work. Many people claim that the electric shock delivered by a standard Taser is excruciatingly painful and that it is an unnecessary form of non-lethal weaponry. Others believe that a Taser is the most effective non-lethal weaponry available, and is much safer to use than clubs or pepper spray. While both groups raise valid arguments, I believe that Tasers are indeed effective and safer than most non-lethal devices.
A standard Taser can deliver up to 50,000 volts of electricity in a single shock. This effectively incapacitates the target, causing violent-but temporary- muscle spasms and in some cases short-term paralysis, making it a simple task to end a potentially dangerous conflict with little or no life-threatening danger for either the assailant or the defender. While there have been instances where suspects have been severely injured or killed because of an electric shock, there has always been one or more contributing factors involved. For example, an individual who has been using a drug that raises heart rate or blood pressure is at a high risk for injury when these factors are coupled with the electroshock delivered by a Taser. Some critics also believe that Tasers have adverse effects on people with pacemakers or heart conditions. Sometimes the cause of death is thought to be associated with a controversial diagnosis called “excited delirium”, a term used to describe the sudden death of suspects in police custody from complications arising from the use of potentially dangerous force on them. However, this condition is not a medical diagnosis.
Despite these dangers, most people believe that Tasers are a much safer way to deal with dangerous or belligerent suspects. Tasers (when used correctly) usually cause only small burns on the skin at the point of contact, with no permanent damage. Studies have been conducted by Taser International (the manufacturer of the Taser) to discover any ill effects on pacemakers or people with heart conditions. In all cases, these tests have revealed that a Taser used correctly poses little or no threat to long-term health with no permanent damage, and display that both the company and the government take the risks of Taser technology very seriously, and are in no way disregarding the concerns of human rights organizations. Tasers are also much safer than the alternative forms of non-lethal weaponry, such as batons or pepper spray, for several reasons. The use of these weapons requires the officer to be dangerously close to the suspect, while a Taser is effective from up to twenty-five feet away. Batons are also known to cause internal damage, while chemical defenses such as pepper spray can affect other people near the intended target, such as other officers. Neither one of these weapons is as accurate or effective as a Taser, and tend to have a much higher rate of misfire.
It has been suggested that Tasers are cruel, due to the pain they cause. However, Tasers provide police with a way to ensure their own safety in a violent situation without resorting to deadly force in order to subdue a suspect. In fact, sometimes just the threat of a Taser is enough to force a person to comply with police officers. This prevents a situation from escalating to the point where force is needed to control it. However, without proper training, a police officer can use a Taser in a way that could cause long-term damage or death. This is why Taser International requires that any police officer that uses a Taser must be properly trained in its functions and abilities.
As you can see, the Taser has both its drawbacks and advantages. However, I believe that the advantages greatly outweigh the very few drawbacks that come with the technology integrated into a Taser. After all, all non-lethal weapons come with the danger of getting carried away with it and causing death. The fact is, Tasers are the least likely to be abused purposefully and are most likely the safest way to subdue suspects with little chance of harm, and no chance of escape.