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"Don't Tase Me, Bro!" Racial Disparity Found in CT Stun Gun Use

Data shows Connecticut police fired stun guns at black and Hispanic suspects at higher rates than whites. (Junglecat/Wikimedia Commons)
January 28. 2016
Data shows Connecticut police fired stun guns at black and Hispanic suspects at higher rates than whites. (Junglecat/Wikimedia Commons)

HARTFORD, Conn. - Preliminary data shows racial disparities in the use of stun guns by police in Connecticut. Connecticut is the first state in the nation to account for the use of stun guns, or tasers, by law enforcement.

Though an official report hasn't been issued, David McGuire, legislative and policy director of the Connecticut affiliate of the ACLU, says the raw data raises some serious concerns.

"Roughly 55 percent of the people that tasers are used on are minorities," says McGuire. "And that is a very large percentage considering that the minority population is around 25 percent."

Police in Connecticut reported a total of 641 incidents last year, including 437 in which stun guns were actually fired.

While minorities were more likely to be stunned, or tasered, whites accounted for more than 60 percent of incidents where police only threatened to use a stun gun. McGuire points out that officers should not be penalized for displaying a stun gun in an effort to modify behavior before resorting to force.

"But it is concerning that it seems like white suspects are getting a bit more of an opportunity to comply before being tasered," says McGuire.

Though stun guns are less dangerous than firearms, they are not without risk and the ACLU says 17 people have died in Connecticut after being stunned in the past 10 years, 11 of them minorities.

According to McGuire there is still more data yet to be analyzed including how often each person was stunned and for how long.

"So we've got a lot of great data here, and I fully expect that beyond Connecticut policymakers and advocates, you will find national academics wading through this data that just was released," he says.

A full report on the findings is expected to be submitted to state officials in about a month.

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - CT