This report examines law enforcement’s use of Conducted Electrical Weapons — also known as “stun guns” or “tasers” — on children and adolescents. It summarizes the history of tasers, their original intent, the training provided to law enforcement agencies that purchase them and the circumstances surrounding their growing use by police forces across the United States since the 1990s.
The document uses case studies, research summaries and an evolving database of lawsuits to document how tasers have been deployed by police against young people. It shares research on the physical and emotional toll of taser use and how these weapons can impact young people’s developing brains, psyches and bodies.
Readers will learn about federal cases brought on behalf of youth who have been tased and how the courts have generally treated these incidents. The report also reviews examples of taser use policies held by major law enforcement agencies and offers advice to leaders and decision makers on reducing the physical and psychological impact of tasing young people.
The publication’s authors call for closely regulating and monitoring the use of tasers on young people as well as mandatory reviews every time an officer tases an individual under the age of 21. The authors argue that dramatically reducing taser use against children and adolescents must fit within a broader by police that supports developmentally appropriate, racially equitable and trauma-informed approaches to policing of young people.
The expert advice? Ban tasers in almost all instances involving children and teens
Findings & Stats
A 3,300% Increase
The number of law enforcement organizations using tasers jumped from 500 in 2000 to approximately 17,000 in 2013.
A Common School Tool
More than half of police officers working in primary schools carry a stun gun. In secondary schools, this carry rate jumps to 70%.
An Extreme Response
Police have tased children on more than 140 different occasions since 2011. Reasons for tasering include “talking back,” “mouthing off” and “defiance.”
Statements & Quotations
Axon, the sole distributor of tasers in the United States, recommends against using these weapons on children.
While once widely perceived as non-lethal and a positive alternative to guns as a means of stopping or subduing suspects, tasers are recognized now to be extremely powerful weapons that can and do wreak havoc on the bodies and psyches of children and youth.
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