OVERLAND PARK, Kan. -- Two incidents where police officers used tasers to subdue individuals are raising questions about law enforcement and the use of stun weapons.
In once case, Overland Park police said a boy was holding a knife to his own throat and would not drop it. Police said they used a taser to protect others and to prevent the boy from hurting himself. In another case, a 32-year-old Osawatomie man died after police zapped him with a taser during a domestic disturbance call.
There's plenty of video on the internet showing law enforcement officers using tasers to subdue individuals. In many of the instances, those posting the videos claim officers should not have resorted to stunning someone to get them to comply. Johnson County Sheriff's Lieutenant Paul Nonnast said every police agency has a different policy on using tasers. He said his sheriff's deputies don't distinguish between adults and children.
"When we show up on a call we don't know the exact age of individuals," he said. "Even someone smaller in stature can present a significant danger to the public and to officers. We have to look at the entire, to factor all the other considerations."
Nonnast, a master instructor for Taser International, said a study at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center shows adolescents are at no higher risk of harm than adults from tasers. In fact, Nonnast says he has used his taser to safely resolve a threat with striking similarities to what happened at Shawnee Mission West.
"It was extremely effective," Nonnast said. "A young adult was armed with a knife threatening to injure himself, had already cut himself, and we deployed a taser and the situation was ended without any further incident."
Nonnast said a taser often is safer than if an officer pulls out his baton or nightstick to strike someone. And despite reports of deaths following the use of tasers, Nonnast said tasers are the most tested tool officers have and there's no medical study conclusively showing they pose a threat to someone's life.