Tasers remain an issue

It is painfully more obvious than a Taser shot that many people do not understand the realities behind Taser usage and the purposes behind it.

Last week, Kathleen Vogtle wrote that “Tasers have become highly controversial, as their use has been blamed for over 245 deaths.”

This is a very fluid number, as most alleged deaths list the number as closer to 150, not 245. In addition, these are worldwide deaths since 2001. Even using Kathleen’s number, this means that only 27 people worldwide have died per year due to the use of Tasers. Taser International reports that their product has saved at least 9,000 lives over the same time period, because police were able to reach for a less-than-lethal alternative to their firearm.

Moving on, she also writes that “Even volunteers who have been Tased as part of police or military training have said the experience was painful, even on a healthy, calm individual in a relaxed and controlled environment.” Being hit by roughly 50,000 volts of electricity absolutely hurts. It will also leave the suspect feeling slight fatigue for an hour afterward. Yet, it subdues individuals of almost any size and physical prowess with benevolent immediacy and leaves no lasting injuries. This is vastly different than the use of nightsticks by police.

To incapacitate a suspect utilizing an asp, or nightstick, police are trained to aim for joints and cause enough significant damage that the suspect can no longer resist. This means you can either deal with less than five seconds of pain or deal with two broken elbows, because you did not want to comply with the officer.

Erie had 7 murders, 88 rapes, 317 robberies, and 234 assaults in 2008. In addition, in the last two years, a man was beaten to death near the front lawn of Mercyhurst College, CVS was robbed and an individual was robbed at gunpoint at the PNC across the street. The judge-sworn police officers of Police & Safety do not wear neon signs that state “I am not armed” to the gun-toting robber that would shoot him or her.

As detailed by last year’s Uniform Crime Report, our campus crime levels exceed Penn State Behrend, Gannon, and Edinboro’s combined in almost every listed crime. Even comparing our college to Ohio State University, on a corrected scale, leaves Mercyhurst looking violent and crime-ridden. We do not live in Mr. Rogers’ neighborhood, despite the denial of much of “Mercy-world.”

Kathleen additionally said that “pepper spray [has] been used effectively against suspects and without serious adverse effects.” However, even pepper spray was alleged to contribute to at least 26 deaths between 1993 and 1995, according to the American Civil Liberties Association.

Also, at its best, pepper spray is effective for up to 15 feet. Outdoors, its effectiveness is even less. Tasers can fire up to 35 feet outdoors and can be used indoors as a contact stun gun without rendering both the suspect and officer incapacitated, as the use of pepper spray can.

Ohio police departments that use Taser products require the officers to fill out paperwork every time their Taser is drawn, even if it is not fired. In addition, many departments carry models with cameras attached to the device to provide video evidence of the situation, as well as methods used. When a Taser is used, Cleveland police officers are required to call an ambulance so that a trained medical professional can make certain there are no ill effects for any subject.

Finally, Ms. Vogtle wrote that judge-sworn police officers should be prohibited from carrying the life-saving Taser device “until definitively prove[n]” necessary. I feel confident writing that waiting until a student or officer is severely wounded or killed is far too long a wait.