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Cop Watch: Taser Manufacturer Issues New Safety Warnings and Some Cops are Listening (But Not Enough)

Earlier this month, without much fanfare, the company that makes Tasers (those electric stun guns) changed the wording in its training manuals.  Now, the company is warning users of its product NOT to aim for the chest. 

Why not?  People can be severely injured or killed when those 50,000 volts hit near their vital organs, especially their heart.  (We’ve been keeping a running record of Texas Taser injuries and deaths. )

Some Texas law enforcement agencies are heeding this warning – most aren’t

After the new warnings were issued by the Taser maker, heads of several law enforcement agencies issued public statements in response.  For example, Montgomery County is considering the warning as its agency still reels from the death of suspect Robert Lee Welch, 50 years old, being ruled a homicide by Taser last February.  Harris County Precinct 6 Constable Victor Trevino just flat out suspended the use of Tasers by his officers.  (Harris County Precincts 2, 5, 7 and 8 have already banned the use of Tasers by their deputies.)

Most law enforcement agencies haven’t issued any public statements about any changes in policy due to Taser International’s October 2009 bulletin.   And they should.

The Taser Manufacturer Seems Pretty Direct — Their Product Has Killed People and They Understand Legal Liability

Here’s the lingo from the manufacturer:  using lots of words, Taser International based out of Scottsdale, Arizona, warns the cops that Taser deaths can place the law enforcement agency, the police officer who uses its product, and the manufacturer Taser International “in the difficult situation of trying to ascertain what role, if any, (the device) could have played.”  The company goes on to say that cops should never shoot a stun gun near someone’s chest area “unless legally justified” (whatever the heck that means — “legally justified”).

Look, here’s the bottom line.  Tasers kill people.  The company that makes them knows this.  They also know that cops love their product so much that they’ll buy stun guns out of their own pocket money if their employer won’t supply them.  What to do, what to do? 

Here’s what Taser International has done. 

By issuing this warning to law enforcement, the company is setting up its legal defense when other people die from stun guns.  They are going to point to this language and say “hey, we told ’em not to point that thing near the guy’s chest,” if he did it anyway, it’s not our problem.  

Wrongful death cases can mean big money damages, and Taser International is trying a preemptive strike here against having to pay out in the future.  While they keep profiting from a product that issues a horrific electric shock upon humans. 

When is the Texas Legislature going to do something about stun guns in this state?

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