A recent report found that officers in the New York Police Department (“NYPD”) fired their Tasers 995 times in 2018. Of those incidents, 224 times the use of the Tasers was unintentional.
Retired NYPD Captain John Eterno, now director of graduate studies in criminal justice at Malloy College, was shocked by the number. “I could understand a few, but that’s a lot,” Eterno said. “It’s definitely a training issue.”
The annual NYPD report was released a day before the Civilian Complaint Review Board (“Board”) released a review of complaints regarding police Taser use between 2014 and 2017. The review found officers and executives received differing levels of training on how to use the devices.
The Board recommended that instruction to beat cops be equivalent to that received by their bosses. The Board also suggested police rely on de-escalation tactics rather than use of force—particularly with emotionally disturbed persons.
A spokesman for the NYPD said, “Our guiding principle, in all cases, is to use only a reasonable level of force necessary in any situation.”
And on that note, NYPD data show that in 2017 a newer Taser, known as the X26P, was less effective and resulted in officers having to resort to lethal force more often. Discharges from older Taser models resulted in subjects continuing to resist and/or attack officers 25 percent of the time while the discharges from the X26P resulted in subjects fighting back 36 percent of the time.
According to Joseph Giacalone, a retired NYPD detective sergeant and adjunct professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, ineffective Tasers pose safety concerns for officers and the public. It is suggested the newer model’s ineffectiveness is due to the model’s far lower maximum charge. And the reduced charge stems from lawsuits against Axon, the Taser’s manufacturer. But Axon countered that its own testing showed that innovations with the X-26P actually provided “increased effectiveness.”
Giacalone’s observations were perhaps best illustrated by the tragic 2019 event involving two NYPD officers and Kawaski Trawick. Trawick called the cops after being locked out of his apartment while cooking. The officers received a report from building security that Trawick was banging on the doors of his neighbors. When the officers encountered Trawick at his apartment in a supportive housing facility, they found him in his underwear clutching a stick and a kitchen knife. After Trawick refused multiple orders to drop his weapons, one officer fired his Taser. The electric charge knocked Trawick to the ground, but then he jumped to his feet and charged at the officers. An officer then shot Trawick four times with his gun, killing him.
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