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Yellow Light for “Caution” on NY Tasers

June 18, 2008

New York, NY - The NYPD, the largest police force in New York state and the nation, has embraced the Taser, and now many smaller police departments in the state are trying to decide if they should follow suit.

Rinku Sen, the publisher of Color Lines Magazine, warns law enforcement to proceed with caution on the electric-shock devices. She says Phoenix was one of the first cities to embrace Tasers, and it saw only a brief decline in fatal shootings.

"Not only did the use of firearms not go down when Tasers were introduced, but lethal Taser shootings themselves have only added to the number of fatalities, most of them deaths of people of color at the hands of police."

Police chiefs in a number of states ranging from California to Wisconsin say Tasers are a useful tool for law enforcement, especially when encountering people with emotional or mental disorders.

Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly has taken a cautious approach. He plans to only issue Tasers to ranking officers because New York has experienced problems in the past. Rinku Sen says the abuses go deep and officers should not be issued stun guns until training and other departmental issues are dealt with.

"There needs to be reform of the Civilian Complaint Review Board in New York City; we certainly need to require drug testing after cops have fired their guns; and we need to ban arrest quotas. So I say no Tasers until we have significant reform of the training and accountability procedures."

A Rand Corporation study issued after the fatal shooting of Sean Bell by officers with firearms recommended that the NYPD experiment with Tasers.

Michael Clifford/Steve Powers, Public News Service - NY