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Taser Reports Show Racial Disparities

In Connecticut, 82 percent of the people involved in taser incidents last year were unarmed. (Junglecat/Wikimedia Commons)
In Connecticut, 82 percent of the people involved in taser incidents last year were unarmed. (Junglecat/Wikimedia Commons)
July 1, 2016

HARTFORD, Conn. – Civil rights advocates say a first-of-its-kind report on the use of tasers shows that police in Connecticut need better training.

Connecticut is the first state to require annual reports on police use of the electric shock devices.

According to David McGuire, legislative and policy director for the ACLU of Connecticut, the findings show that black and Latino men are more likely to be threatened with tasers, and much more likely to be given shocks, and that tasers often are used against people in crisis.

"People that are expressing suicidal ideations, or defined as 'emotionally disturbed' by the police, account for nearly half of the people involved in taser incidents in Connecticut," said McGuire.

Guidelines from Taser International, the main manufacturer of electrical weapons, urge against the use of its products on such vulnerable populations.

More than 80 percent of the people involved in the 610 reported taser incidents last year were unarmed. And McGuire says some listed in the report were minors.

"Nine children were tased, the youngest of which was 12 years old. It also documented a 14-year-old boy that was tased at least three times," he added. "Those are disturbing trends. Again, Taser International warns against tasing minors."

Although tasers are called "less than lethal" weapons, since 2005, 18 people have died after being tased by police in Connecticut. Two-thirds of them were black or Hispanic.

McGuire explained the ACLU has filed Freedom of Information requests with the police departments that reported taser use last year to better understand the full complexity of the incidents.

"I think that we will document certain trends that will help us get our arms around this issue and figure out how to make sure that police use tasers wisely, justly and fairly in Connecticut," he said.

McGuire believes the report raises several issues about taser use that need to be dealt with by law enforcement officials and the Connecticut Legislature.

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - CT