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Video: '60 Minutes' Questions Officers' TASER Use

November 14, 2011  | 

CBS' "60 Minutes" news magazine on Sunday included a segment exploring the use of TASER devices by law enforcement officers that suggested officers overuse the less-lethal devices.

In the segment, "TASER: An officer's weapon of choice," the news magazine credits the TASER for saving lives and preventing injury, and cites a National Institute for Justice study released in June that claims some police officers reach for the weapon too quickly.

The NIJ included analysis of TASER deployments in, "Less-Lethal Technology: Conducted Energy Devices."

The segment concentrated on police using TASERs too much, as a substitute for other ways of controlling suspects. Baltimore Police Commissioner Frederick Bealefeld III, who was interviewed for the segment, said he's wary of the devices. Less than 500 of his 2,800 sworn officers have been issued one, he said.

Two Baltimore police officers interviewed by the show said the loved Tasers and Bealefeld himself said his own troops are clamoring for them.

Also interviewed were Rick and Tom Smith, the founders of TASER International, who discussed the history of the device and provided counter arguments.

Tags: TASER, Less-Lethal Weapons


Comments (23)

Displaying 1 - 23 of 23

Frank Glenn @ 11/14/2011 7:45 PM

I am a retired LEO with 36 years experience. I carried a taser but never used it. I saw the taser used several times and think it is everything they say it is. It does save lives and reduces injuries. Our LEO injuries went down further than you can imagine. It would be a huge loss to law enforcement and the public to take the taser away. It truly is a life saver. Thank you.

Troy Johnston @ 11/14/2011 8:43 PM

I have carried a Taser now for two years, and have yet to actually deploy it on a person. Although I have placed the laser dot on numerous people, and it has saved me having to go hands on with a lot of subjects. The taser saves officers and suspects both from being seriously injured. The media does not understand what a LEO faces daily, so who are they to say the taser is overused. They need to stick with weather forecasting, which they can't get right either.

c @ 11/14/2011 11:32 PM

60 minutes has been slapping law enforcement in the face too long and I'm sick of it.

TripWire @ 11/15/2011 12:41 AM

The Taser is just another tool among many that police officers have at their disposal. You are always going to have "bad apples" abusing it, but the good it does, heavily outweighs the bad. Officers found to be abusing one should be punished, no different than if they have been heavy handed. 60 Minutes should have included stories of officers that have saved lives, including the suspects, on the show.

rick wanamaker @ 11/15/2011 2:22 AM

maybe if people didn't "overuse" drugs and alcohol to the extent they do, officers would not use the taser as often. i've made hundreds of arrests of all kinds of convicts and never used it. great tool though.

Bill @ 11/15/2011 4:01 AM

With a gun the results are permanent, and usually fatal. With these things there is little permanent damage. The problem comes with people who have cardiovascular issues the officer isn't going to know about until it's too late. Then, let the 7 digit law suits begin.

There have been enough deaths attributed to these things to bring their use into question. You Tube videos abound showing officers using these things far too quickly. Yes, they are in the minority, but so are corrupt cops, and that problem is also on the front page far too often. Because their job is in front of the public eye, they are scrutinized far more than the average Joe. This story was to be expected at some point in time, even though the actual misuse rate is quite low. What becomes of it, good or bad, reamins to be seen.

jackwebb714 @ 11/15/2011 4:08 AM

Biill

Thank you for you thoughful insight . Now go back to watching Adam 12 reruns!

Neil @ 11/15/2011 4:34 AM

30 years as a LEO. Many times a taser could have saved injury to officer and suspect. I never carried a taser but I think they are a good tool.
CBS' "60 Minutes are always quick to criticize law enforcement. CBS should carry a regular program and find the good things that law enforcement does every day. CBS should learn to be PRO Law Enforcement instead of being just another part of the liberal media.

Dennis @ 11/15/2011 4:47 AM

I'm an LEO and the Taser is the best tool officers have received in years. The amount of injuries saved to both suspects and officers is dramatic. The general public along with media doesn't see what a LEO faces, and they get to Monday morning quarterback a decision the officer had to make in seconds. If the public was also given the financial numbers of what was saved in workmans comp claims and lawsuits they may think differently. I agree there are probably some officers who use it punitively and that should be addressed, but they should not be taken away.

Kathy @ 11/15/2011 5:49 AM

I too watched this segment but did not come away with the same sense of criticism that some others have. I think the point was well stated that the Taser is a useful tool to law enforcement. It was clearly shown to reduce officer and arestee injury. But, it is equally true that too many officers rely too heavily on the Taser because of it's less lethal capabilities. My take on the news program was that there are other ways to make uncooperative people comply that do not include the use of a weapon of any sort, lethal or non-lethal. It starts with excellent communication skills and the willingness to take the time to learn and use them. There will always be cases where IPC does not work, and the Taser then becomes an excellent tool. But, when they bring to light how quickly we turn to the Taser I liken it to society now using spell check instead of dictionaries and calculators instead of hand-figured math. Both are wonderful and helpful. But there will always be the time that they will not be available and you will have to know how to spell and do a math equation without their help. I have been in law enforcement for 20 years and I still find that command presence and IPC skills are paramount to control and cooperation. Whenever possible it is always best to use your brain over your brawn and be respectful and professional. In the cases where this does not work, the Taser has been an important tool that helps keep us all safer.

John @ 11/15/2011 5:56 AM

I have been in law enforcement for over 30 yrs and am currently a working shift commander for a Sheriffs Office. I carry a taser everyday because I have seen that just the mention of it brings suspects down immediately. Hands down the best piece of equipment developed for law enforcement so far. I have not had to use it, only had to advise that its use was close at hand. This devise has saved many injuries to officers and many, many dollars, that otherwise might have been spent to treat suspects injured because personal contact would have had to be used. But lets face it, if it works someone will find fault and we'll be back to hands on and officer and suspect injuries will sky rocket. There's my 2 cents.

Captain C @ 11/15/2011 5:58 AM

NIJ can have its study the DOJ did a study several years ago. The study was geared towards injuries to officers and suspects resulting from an escalating encounter. This study showed that if during the first interdiction a less lethal option was used (Taser, OC, K-9) the result was a significant decrease in a resulting injury to officer or suspect. However the same cannot be said for lesser options. If the scenario went further and no less-lethal option was first used the likelihood of injury went up almost 33%. This was based off of actual officer encounters and options used. I do agree that officers tend to become taser reliant. However, taser does have a place in the toolbox and has significantly safed lives and injury to both officer and suspect. The facts speak for themselves.

North East Region @ 11/15/2011 6:22 AM

I agree with Kathy and Frank Glenn. I have been in law enforcement for 26 years. I started out with carrying a straight wooden baton and a S&W mod. 64. Over the years, it evolves into PR-24 and 9 m.m. and now pepper spray, taser, .40, and 223. This pattern clearly shows that law enforcement today uses less and less IPC skill and heavily depends on more effective forces. Yes, taser is a valuable tool and save life, but IPC, command and presence are far more important than a taser which requires little skill to use. I don't have a TV and I'm not a fan of TV. However, I watched a series of 60 Minutes about Columbine Shooting. 60 Minutes didn't make law enforcement look bad. We made law enforcement look bad by sitting in a squad car surrounded the high school and didn't do a thing until it was over. The kids were watching us from the windows, not the 60 Minutes. We can't just bad mouthing 60 Minutes. In fact, 20 some years ago, the Miami County Police and Florida State Police incident wouldn't have happened. We are one big family in blue. Young cops today don't know how to fight and don't know how to shoot and yet they want to feel the power. In fact, many young folks have not been in a fist fight in their entire life. Stay off the power, learn some skills. You can serve your community better with your skills.

John @ 11/15/2011 6:36 AM

The Taser has greatly improved our options in uses of force. My partner saved a 12 year old from attempting suicide by cop by the use of the taser as I started to shoot my handgun to stop the 12 year old from continuing to slash his mother with a butcher knife. Those stories need to be told. Many EDP's have been tasered instead of higher uses of force, period.

Leonard Mather @ 11/15/2011 7:20 AM

As a Forensic Psychologist, I could not help noticing that 60 Minutes specializes in "Awfulizing" the negative side of the continuum of results on LEO techniques. Most especially when unseen elements on the part of the Perp have caused the negative event, i.e., metabolic acidosis, insulin shock, poor diet + drug addiction + the physical exersion in resisting arrest. The latter example can lead to death. Now the tribe of "Awfulizers" accuse the police. Autopsy be damned; it is a conspiracy! In comes 60 Minutes to gain an audience appealing to the contingent of "Aufulizers" who condemn LEO. It works. Ratings go up for 60 Minutes. Report the precise truth about the Perps and ratings go down.

Evan @ 11/15/2011 7:29 AM

Im thinking a better story would be "Take personal responsibilty"...if the criminals didnt act the way they do, we wouldnt need tasers or any other use of force tools. Some how this concept escapes the media. Very disapointing.

Rob in FL @ 11/15/2011 8:04 AM

After watching changes occur in the law enforcement profession over the past 30 years I feel compelled to comment regarding the TASER issue. "60 Minutes" is a liberal TV show and should be expected to promote a liberal agenda. That being said, liberals have apparently forgotten that it's tools like the TASER that have assisted tens of thousands of women to function as LEOs. When I first considered entering law enforcement, you had to be male and over 6 feet tall to qualify. That's no longer true. However, without the TASER, the vast majority of small-framed men and women LEOs would be forced to resort to deadly force far more quickly and often than currently required. I know that some smaller men and women are fit, strong, and able to wrestle a large man without being at a disadvantage, but the majority are not. The TASER, like the firearm, is an equalizer for all LEOs of smaller stature and has made it possible for female and smaller male LEOs to survive on the streets without having to resort to deadly force.

Mark @ 11/15/2011 11:21 AM

It could also be said that some LE officers are too quick to use, the baton, hands-on or any other control method. It is a matter of training and department protocol. If there is abuse, it is not the taser that is abusing, it is the poorly trained officer. I think the taser is a fantastic control device that prevents countless injuries to LE and suspects.

scpdblue @ 11/15/2011 12:49 PM

With over 15 years on the job,I have been stabbed/cut,bruised and battered,kicked,had a busted ear drum.this was done before the taser.After I received my taser and was trained in its use I have yet to receive a injury in a physical confrontation. THANKS TASER.

Adrian Stroud @ 11/15/2011 1:50 PM

Let's go back to blackjacks then.

Adrian Stroud @ 11/15/2011 1:52 PM

Don't fight with the cops and you won"t be tasered.

Mac @ 11/16/2011 6:02 PM

As a LE Use of Force Instructor and Taser Instructor for nearly ten years, and having used the Taser numerous times on the street, I can say without hesitation it is one of the greatest tools to come along to law enforcement in quite sometime......however, there are some issues, not with the Taser itself, but with the view of the Taser by quite a few officers.......there has developed an overreliance on the device that, when it fail, and fail it does on occassion, many officers find themselves entirely without a 'plan B'......i've seen this personally, and what usually occurs is that the officer who had relied on the Taser froze up or became monkey trapped......the Taser should never be viewed as a magic bullet, but that is not a hardware problem, but a software problem.......a training issue. The second problem with the Taser is reflected in the first........many officers become so fixated on the Taser as a solution to the problem that they not only have no Tactics 'Plan B', but they also shortcut legitimate efforts at verbal control.....instead transitioning to Taser, because again, it's the only tool in their tool box.......that becomes apparent when an 80 year old woman or an 8 year old child gets Tasered........don't go me wrong, nearly all of those Tasers are within policy, department guidelines, and the law......however, common sense must prevail......and the argument that using empty hand control on an 80 year old person or an 8 year old is less preferable to a Taser 'Because they might get hurt' is not a legitimate response a great deal of the time, especially where those subjects are unarmed......I know this personally having used those empty hand control techniques for years, and still using them before going to the Taser when preferable........and I say this also saying that the issue is not putting Tasers low on the force array model......it should be low, but officers should USE COMMON SENSE, and not simply response with a Pavlovian 'Taser, Taser'

Mac @ 11/16/2011 6:05 PM

As for the 20 year old gang member? Light him up early! There is a difference. An officer should be confident, develop his physical skills, skills with his weapons, and his interpersonal skills, and bring them all to bare......when an officer is confident with all of the above, including his defensive tactics techniques, it shows, and he's actually LESS likey to use force....don't put all your faith in the Taser.......lets use common sense with it's use, so departments don't put it higher on the force array model or, even worse, legislatures restrict it's use.

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