The Braidwood Inquiry report is a pretty damning document for Taser International. The inquiry began after Polish Immigrant Robert Dzienkanski died on October 14, 2007, at the age of 40, after being Tasered five times by four RCMP officers in British Columbia. The report concluded, as a finding of fact, that “conducted-energy weapons do have the capacity to cause serious injury or death” and that the risk increases with multiple uses, specifically when aimed at the chest near the heart. Taser International appealed the inquiry. They were not successful.
Eventually, we will be forced to conclude that Tasers are not the safe, non-deadly alternatives to guns that we were told they are. These weapons are not Phasers from Star Trek, set to stun. Nor are they remote controls that can force a subject to submit to the shooter’s authority. Even the most benign use of a Taser can kill. These are deadly weapons, and it is time we treat them as such.
Tasers were sold to the public as a non-deadly alternative to firearms. The idea being that, in a situation in which an officer would normally be forced to shoot someone with a gun, the Taser can instead be used to achieve the same result without the mess of a bullet wound and potential for death. Unfortunately, we now know (and by now we do know it, despite what Taser enthusiasts may claim) that Tasers kill. We must retrain our police to only use Tasers in situations where the use of deadly force is required.
We do not allow police to shoot someone with a gun without giving warnings, trying to deescalate the situation by using words and a calming voice, and exhausting all other options. When an officer pulls his weapon, he has to be ready to intentionally kill another human being. So too must he be prepared to kill when he pulls his Taser.