As reported by the Springfield, MO Leader, Tasers have been at the center of many recent controversies, both nationally and locally, and deserve special mention when talking about police use of force.
Taser misuse has led to controversy across the country. (Associated Press file photo)
"In many ways, the Taser is touted as a great thing, and it is an awesome, awesome support tool," said former police major Steve Ijames. "In other ways, it has caused public mistrust that I have never seen before."
Statistically, Tasers are "very, very safe," said Ijames, a certified master instructor in the weapon's use.
As a law enforcement tool, Tasers allow officers to avoid or defuse many situations that in the past could have escalated, requiring application of force with more serious or long-lasting effects, he said.
"There has been a marked decline in all uses of force in agencies that have adopted the Taser," he said. "Deaths are down, officer and suspect injuries are dramatically down ...
"So why isn't everyone smiling?"
Ijames, who has conducted presentations on the issue for groups in the U.S. and abroad, attributes much of the negative public perception to missteps by police.
Several involve the use of Tasers on the young, old, pregnant or physically frail; people offering passive, rather than active resistance; and restrained prisoners.
Although using a Taser in such circumstances is sometimes justified, it is often an example of "lawful, but awful" use of force, Ijames said.
"I'm not saying I would never Tase a pregnant woman -- if she was a holding a knife to her throat, I would," Ijames said. But officers need to be sensitive to how such incidents appear to the public.
"Public trust is very important. We just need to recognize that and positively shape our programs to emphasize it," he said. More HERE
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