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Court Restricts Police Use of Tasers to Immediate Threats

Court Restricts Police Use of Tasers to Immediate Threats

The USA Today via YellowBrix

December 29, 2009

Police who use stun guns must first believe their target represents an immediate threat, not simply acts erratically or refuses to obey orders, a federal court has ruled.

The San Francisco Chronicle says that the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals’ 3-0 ruling “sets judicial standards for police and for people hit by a Taser who claim they were victims of excessive force.”

“The objective facts must indicate that the suspect poses an immediate threat to the officer or a member of the public,” Judge Kim Wardlaw writes.

Taser Resources on PoliceLink

Wardlaw noted that Tasers may offer a valuable, nonlethal alternative to using deadly force, but still inflict a “painful and frightening blow” and must be used only when substantial force is needed and other options are unavailable.

Amnesty International USA reports that at least 351 people have died in the United States since June 2001 after being hit by police Tasers.

The case involves a suit against Coronado, Calif., police officer Bryan McPherson by 21-year-old Carl Bryan, who was Tasered after being stopped for a minor traffic office.

The court noted that Bryan was clearly unarmed and did not challenge the officer or make any menacing gestures.

Bryan fell on his face and broke four front teeth after he was hit by a Taser. He also had to go to the hospital to have the electronic dart surgically removed.

The court says that a “reasonable police officer” with McPherson’s training “would have foreseen these physical injuries when confronting a shirtless individual standing on asphalt.”

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