NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


July 19, 2004

The Taser gun emits 50,000 volts of electricity up to 21 feet away, enough to momentarily incapacitate a person. Police departments around the country have reported sharp declines in shooting fatalities since deploying the Taser.

  • Seattle police began using Tasers in 2001, and last year reported no fatal shooting incidents for the first time in 15 years.
  • In 2002, Portland police used Tasers 595 times; 25 to 30 percent of those incidents would have required deadly force without the use of Tasers.
  • Phoenix police report that officer-involved shootings dropped 54 percent in 2003 after they started using Tasers.

Currently, Tasers are used by 5,200 law enforcement agencies nationwide. However, critics worry about the safety of Tasers -- reportedly, five people have died after being shot with Tasers, although it was determined that one of the individuals died of an unrelated heart attack.

Additionally, observers are concerned that because Tasers leave only a small mark on the individual, they may be used unnecessarily or result in abuse. However, the Tasers contain a microchip recording the data and time of usage, and many police departments require detailed reports of Taser use.

Source: Charisse Jones, "Police say Taser shocks are replacing deadly shots," USA Today, July 14, 2004.

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