Amnesty International has said that industry claims that Taser stun guns are safe and non-lethal do not stand up to scrutiny.
The organization called on governments to limit their deployment to life-threatening situations or to suspend their use.
The call came as the organization released one of the most detailed reports to date on the safety of the stun gun. The report USA: Less than lethal? is being published as the number of people who died after being struck by Tasers in the
USA reached 334 between 2001 and August 2008.
Tasers are not the 'non-lethal' weapons they are portrayed to be, said Angela Wright, US researcher at Amnesty International and author of the report. They can kill and should only be used as a last resort. The problem with Tasers is
that they are inherently open to abuse, as they are easy to carry and easy to use and can inflict severe pain at the push of a button, without leaving substantial marks.
Amnesty International's study – which includes information from 98 autopsies – found that 90% of those who died after being struck with a Taser were unarmed and many did not appear to present a serious threat.
Many were subjected to repeated or prolonged shocks – far more than the five-second "standard" cycle – or by more than one officer at a time. Some people were even shocked for failing to comply with police commands after they had been
incapacitated by a first shock.
In at least six of the cases where people died, Tasers were used on individuals suffering from medical conditions such as seizures – including a doctor who had crashed his car when he suffered an epileptic seizure. He died after being repeatedly
shocked at the side of the highway when, dazed and confused, he failed to comply with an officer's commands.
Police officers also used Tasers on schoolchildren, pregnant women and even an elderly person with dementia.
The official rationale for issuing Tasers to police officers is that the electro-shock devices represent a “non-lethal” alternative to the use of a firearm in dealing with situations that threaten the life or safety of an officer or innocent
In practical terms, however, the Taser — which is proving to be a reliably lethal weapon — has become an instrument of pain compliance. In unadorned terms, this is summary punishment through torture for those who pose no threat to anyone,
but who refuse to cooperate instantly with orders issued to them by police officers.
The recent arrest of 72-year-old Austin grandmother Kathryn Winkfein, who was assaulted with a Taser during a traffic stop, illustrates this perfectly.
After a police officer stopped Mrs. Winkfein for allegedly driving 60 in a 45 MPH zone, the grandmother refused to sign the ticket stub. Under Texas law, motorists are required to sign traffic tickets under threat of arrest.
According to the police officer, Mrs. Winkfein not only refused to comply, but she swore and became violent with him. Palsied with terror over the threat posed by a frail septuagenarian woman, the officer hit her with a blast from
his Taser. Mrs. Winkfein disputes every element of the official account, and intends to file a lawsuit.
LBC's Nottingham newsroom has received video footage which appears to show a police officer punching a suspect in Nottingham city centre three times.
It shows officers attempting to arrest a man on Upper Parliament Street on Sunday night using a taser gun as he lays on the ground. An officer is also seen pushing a bystander.
A Nottinghamshire Police statement read: Officers were called for assistance by door staff to help deal with an aggressive customer. Police attended and an officer was assaulted, requiring hospital treatment.
While no complaint has been made against any of the officers involved in the incident and no one has been suspended, the footage has been voluntarily referred to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC).
Police are keen to speak to anyone who witnessed the incident or events leading up to the arrest, or anyone who has footage of events leading up to and during the incident.
"A 40-year-old man been arrested on suspicion of grievous bodily harm and has been released on police bail.
Assistant Chief Constable Peter Davies, said: We understand that some members of the public may be concerned about this. The public's trust and confidence is very important for us, which is why we have referred this matter for an objective
investigation to the IPCC.
We are proactively looking at other CCTV in the area to ensure we have a clear picture of events leading up to the arrest and I would ask anyone in possession of such evidence, including the person who took the footage that has been published,
to come forward as witnesses.
The video released of police officers punching and Tasering a man lying on the ground speaks for itself. Once you give a weapon like this to the British police it will be used and abused as a weapon of punishment and torture. It seems only a
matter of time before one of the hot–headed thugs, that now seem to constitute the majority of officers on the street, kills someone who is resisting arrest , like this man in Nottingham.
Police in Australia are to review how they use Taser guns after the death of a man in Queensland who was stunned possibly as much as 28 times by one of the powerful electronic weapons.
Antonio Galeano, 39, an amphetamines addict, collapsed and died 15 minutes after being stunned by a 50,000-volt Taser gun during a confrontation with police in Brandon, near Townsville in far north Queensland last Friday.
Police said initially that he had been shot three times, but data recorded on the Taser gun has shown that it was triggered 28 times.
Galeano had gone on a naked rampage just days after being released from a psychiatric hospital. According to police, he was threatening to harm himself and officers so they tried to use pepper spray on him. When that had no apparent effect they
Tasered the man, who collapsed and died while still in handcuffs.
Ian Stewart , the Queensland Police deputy commissioner, said that police were investigating whether the gun used in Friday's incident was faulty. He said that police had no guidelines on how many times a Taser could be fired in one incident, and
a joint Crime and Misconduct Commission and police ethical standards command investigation will look into whether there needed to be a cap on numbers of firings.
The review has three main elements: we are going to look at our policies in the use of the Tasers; we are going to look at the training we provide our officers' and we are looking at the monitoring of the use of Tasers by the police service,
Tasers use a powerful electric current to incapacitate people, with the charge temporarily disrupting muscle control. Critics say that the weapon can cause injury, including severe heart attack in some people, possibly leading to death. Tasers
have been blamed for hundreds of deaths in more than a million official incidents worldwide.
There has been anger in Australia over a newly released video which shows an unarmed Aboriginal man being tasered 13 times by police officers.
The incident occurred in Perth in 2008, and has been released as part of a report on the use of taser guns by the Western Australian police.
The state's premier said the video had damaged the reputation of the force.
The state attorney general said the government would consider new guidelines on the use of the devices.
Closed circuit cameras recorded the moment two years ago when the Aboriginal man was surrounded by nine police officers in a Perth detention facility and then targeted by a taser gun for refusing to agree to a strip search. The man, thought to be
mentally ill, was hit by the stun gun 13 times.
The premier of the state, Colin Barnett, condemned the incident as an unjustified use of excessive force , while the state's attorney general expressed surprise that no charges had been brought against the police officers shown in the