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When Are Police Allowed to Use Tasers?

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By Andrew Lu on September 12, 2012 7:01 AM

The issue of when police are allowed to use Tasers came up again recently as an Oklahoma police officer was suspended after he was caught on camera tasing a handcuffed woman.

In the video, the police officer is seen talking to a woman in custody when the woman appears to spit on the officer. The officer then took out his Taser and shocked the woman, leaving the probes in the woman for over a minute, reports ABC.

The officer was placed on two-week unpaid suspension and will have to undergo more training. The ACLU commented on the case saying that while spitting on an officer is inexcusable, tasing of the handcuffed woman was unjustified, reports ABC.

So when are police allowed to use Tasers?

Most police departments have policies and guidelines in place for when a Taser should be used. For example, the San Jose police department says that a Taser should only be used when a suspect is actively resisting or exhibiting sings of aggression.

While each police department may have their own Taser policies, an overarching principle may be that Tasers should only be used when it is "reasonable" or when it doesn't cross the line into police brutality. In judging these circumstances, one will have to take a look at each individual circumstance and determine if the Taser use was justified.

So if a suspect does not pose a threat -- such as being already restrained -- police probably should not use their Tasers. In addition, police officers probably cannot justify Taser use if it is strictly used as punishment -- such as retaliation for being spit upon. Punishment is for a court to decide, not a cop.

The answer to when police are allowed to use Tasers can be difficult to state in one clear rule. Instead, one will have to look at all the circumstances surrounding the Taser use. If you believe you have been unlawfully tased, you may want to talk to a civil rights attorney.

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