New Stun Gun Policy Takes NJ in the Wrong Direction

March 3, 2016

The state Office of the Attorney General today released a policy directive (PDF) on the use by local, county and state law enforcement of “conducted energy devices,” also known as stun guns, or by the brand name Taser.

The following statement about the directive is attributable to Ari Rosmarin, ACLU-NJ’s Public Policy Director:

The following statement is from Ari Rosmarin, public policy director at the ACLU of New Jersey.

The Attorney General’s new policy on stun guns (PDF) takes New Jersey in the wrong direction. The policy greatly expands the authority of police officers to use stun guns against civilians. Evidence shows that while stun guns might be considered “less lethal” than firearms, they still can and do kill people. Nor has the use of stun guns led to a decrease in the number of people shot by police.

Further, while we are glad the policy recognizes the need to train stun-gun equipped officers in de-escalation tactics, such training should be mandatory for all officers.

Until today, the state’s policy, which was established after careful study five years ago by the Christie administration, permitted an officer to fire a stun gun only in an effort to prevent death or serious bodily harm. The new policy expands the authorization for the use of stun guns well beyond those limits. For example, the expansion allows for use of a stun gun in resisting arrest scenarios where a person has used no physical force against the officer.

We have little doubt this change will lead to increased – and deadly – use of stun guns.

The ACLU and Electronic Village have documented at least 547 stun gun related deaths from 2001 to 2014. In fact, The Arizona Republic analyzed 377 cases where the Phoenix Police Department used a stun gun and found that in 90 percent of them, the person posed no imminent threat to officers with weapons.

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