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Tasers: an NYC tragedy waiting to happen?

Nayaba Arinde | 4/12/2011, 4:34 p.m.

Kelly announced that by week's end, 3,500 sergeants on patrol will have access to 520 Tasers.

In response to AmNews questions, Assistant Chief Michael Collins said a Taser actually works is when "an electric current temporarily disables a person." Asked how long sergeants have had them and if they have specific training, Collins replied, "All supervisors have been trained upon their promotion, and they have been available to supervisors since 1984."

The AmNews asked, how often have they been used?

"Last year, approximately 350 times," said Collins. With a number of deaths and subsequent protests and lawsuits being reported around the country, the paper asked Collins, what is the number of Taser-related deaths nationally?

"We have never had one. but I do not know the national statistics," said Collins.

According to Taser International, in a published report, up until April, 68 wrongful-death or injury lawsuits have been dismissed or lost.

When The Amsterdam News asked, does the department have any concerns regarding the use of Tasers? Collins answered, "We restrict their use to supervisors only and to specific situations and review each and every use to see that they are not misused."

Two years ago, Amnesty International decried the deaths of 150 people following the use of Tasers.

"Amnesty International has reviewed the cases of the 152 [[EDITOR: SAYS 150 IN PREVIOUS GRAPH.]] people who have now died in the U.S.A. since 2001 and reiterates its call for the use and transfer of Tasers to be suspended pending an independent, impartial and comprehensive inquiry into the effects of their use."

Furthermore: "Since June 2001, more than 150 people have died in the U.S.A. after being shocked by a Taser. Of those deaths, 85 have occurred in the U.S.A. since Amnesty International released its report (in November 2004) calling for a suspension on the use and transfer of these weapons. Amnesty International raised its concerns in its previous report that the number of Taser-related deaths had been rising each year. There were three deaths reported in 2001, 13 in 2002, 17 in 2003 and 48 in 2004. In 2005 there were 61 Taser-related deaths, and by mid-February 2006, there have already been 10 deaths."

The organization continued, "In light of these concerns, and pending the results of a comprehensive, independent and impartial medical study, AI is reiterating its call on all police departments and authorities to suspend their use of Tasers or strictly limit their use to deadly force situations as defined under international standards. Strict guidelines and monitoring should govern all such use.'

There was no response from Taser International by press time.