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Police Civil Liability for Use of Stun and Taser Guns

NCJ Number
Police Liability Review Volume: 4 Dated: (Winter 1992) Pages: 1-3
M S Vaughn; C R Ramirez
Date Published
3 pages
The use of stun and taser guns by police officers has increased in recent years as law enforcement agencies search for ways to subdue violent and uncooperative suspects without resorting to deadly force, but civil liability questions have been raised about the use of these guns.
Stun and taser guns are designed to electronically shock and temporarily incapacitate suspects. Stun guns are nonlethal electric shock weapons that deliver a 50,000-volt shock when pressed against the suspect's skin. A taser gun is a small hand-held device that shoots two darts into a suspect, administering an electric shock on contact. When the use of a stun or taser gun is an issue related to the excessive or unreasonable use of force, the constitutional issue involves whether the fourth amendment's objective reasonableness standard has been violated. Since most police jurisdictions using stun and taser guns have policies on their use, a frequently litigated issue concerns jurisdictional liability for police officer failure to adhere to existing policies. One of the main areas of civil rights litigation involving the use of stun and taser guns is the failure to properly train police officers. Therefore, training seminars need to sensitize police officers to the dangers associated with prolonged administration of electric current to the human body. To minimize the potential risk of civil liability, police jurisdictions must develop detailed guidelines that specify limits on the use of stun and taser guns. 30 notes