Are tasers effective?

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TOPEKA (KSNT) – Social media has the public weighing in, as police shootings come under fire again around the nation.

The struggle captured on cell phone videos as Los Angeles Police Department officers confront a man believed to be a robbery suspect.

When the man fights back, police turn to their tasers, but it doesn’t work, resulting in the officers fatally shooting the suspect.

“This is an awful tragedy but the officers took on the face of it took reasonable steps to avoid it,” Chief Charlie Beck, Los Angeles Police Department said.

Hearing about a taser malfunction is nothing new for Lieutenant Joe Withman, with the Kansas Highway Patrol. He once fired off his taser to stop a man, but an everyday object caused it to backfire.

“I hit him in his bill fold with the lower probe, and then it did not affect him whatsoever,” Withman said.

Tasers have two probes that shoot out when fired, but just like with Withman’s case the simplest things can make it malfunction.

“Clothing can interfere, there’s a distance that the probes have to be apart from each other on the body to achieve the muscle lock up that you see.” Cpl. James Loghry, Shawnee County Sheriff’s Office said.

“Nothing ever goes as planned, it is merely a tool in our belt,” Withman said.

And it’s a tool, unlike a firearm that needs to hit in certain areas to really be effective.

“Our best case scenario is in the back of the body with a wide probe spread it affects a lot of muscles. On the front of the body we try to split the belt line to get multiple muscle groups,” Loghry said.

But in the case with what happened in Los Angeles, there was no perfect target, and according to police the suspect even attempted to grab the officer’s gun.

“Officers don’t bring tasers to gun fights; they shouldn’t because it will kill them,” Withman said.

The Los Angeles Police Chief said the next step in the case will be reviewing all of the footage of this incident, including body cameras that were on at least one of the of the responding officers.



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