It’s true that firearms are the weapon typically associated with the term “deadly force.” But the recent death of a teenage boy in Bay City at the hands of police officers wasn’t caused by a gun — it was caused by an officer’s Taser. Though Tasers come with the assumption that they don’t cause permanent harm, the incident should serve as a reminder that Tasers are anything but harmless. Tasering can have serious, even life-threatening effects. Police agencies should recognize this danger and put an end to policies that encourage the use of this unpredictable weapon.

Last Sunday, a 15-year-old in Bay City was killed when a police officer Tasered him. According to the police statement, the officer responsible and one other were trying to break up a fight between the boy and another man. The boy resisted and the officer Tasered him, intending to immobilize the teenager. Instead, the Taser killed him. The boy was pronounced dead at a hospital a short time later.

Admittedly, not all the facts about what exactly happened are available yet, and if the State Police investigation discovers that the officer acted inappropriately, he should be held accountable. But it seems like the officers responded to the situation in an appropriate manner.

And that’s the problem — even when used in the correct circumstances, Tasers are inherently flawed. Tasers are clearly much more dangerous than people consider them to be. It’s a faulty tool — one that policy agencies across the country should seriously reconsider.

According to Taser International, more than 5,000 police agencies use Tasers, despite evidence that shows they can be unsafe. The death toll related to Tasering between 2001 and 2007 now exceeds 220, according to Amnesty International. Despite the fact that Tasers are unreliable technology, law enforcement policies do not reflect this reality, making police officers more likely to use them.

The biggest problem with Tasers is that they’re simply too easy to use. It’s true that discharging a firearm is easy, too — all police have to do is aim and squeeze the trigger. But police officers are aware of all the consequences that result from shooting someone. Because Tasers are considered to be the responsible, “safe” option, police use them with less caution. And though there are times when police officers must defend themselves and others, they need to be aware that firing a Taser can result in the same complications as firing a gun.

While plenty of attention has been paid to the incidents in which police Tasered people for no good reason, it’s important to remember that sometimes, even responsible uses of Tasers can go awry. Until police protocol reflects this reality, the number of unintentional Taser deaths will continue to increase.

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