Saturday, March 15, 2008

Syracuse Taser Use

I came across this article the other day. It contains some statistics on taser use from Syracuse, NY. In nearby Clay, NY officer Kevin Drumm recently tased Cristopher Jackson who, within 90 seconds, became unresponsive and later died. Some statistics from the first link:

In Syracuse, one injury to a suspect was reported during the first two years since city police began carrying them in mid-May 2005.

During that time, police drew their Tasers in 181 confrontations. They were first used on suspects May 15, 2005, on a 30-year-old black man and a 15-year-old white teenager in separate incidents.

From May 2005 to May 2007, 76 people were shot with probes. Forty-seven were "drive stunned," meaning the Taser probes were placed against the skin. In those cases, the electricity is used to shock without firing probes from the gun. Eight people were both shot with probes and drive stunned.

Suspects involved in Taser confrontations were overwhelmingly male (164 to 17). Tasers were used with blacks more than whites or Hispanics (97 blacks, 71 whites, six Hispanics, one identified as biracial and six listed without race.) At least five dogs were stunned.

Just training the red laser sight on a suspect resulted in 41 people giving up. By making the probes arc with electricity in a show of force, police prompted four more to surrender.

Almost half of those who faced a Taser were under the influence of alcohol or drugs, records indicate. In the first full year of Taser use, 65.7 percent of incidents in which Tasers were used involved suicidal individuals, violent suspects or civil disturbances.

I'm always nervous writing about an article like this. There aren't links to a full report with numbers that I can review for myself. It's hosted at a site called It only quotes police officials. It writes that, from a police perspective, tasers have been a blessing. Still, it does contain contact information for its author. Update: In the comments, someone from sent me the link to the original story from the Post-Standard.

If its numbers are to be believed, one disturbing, but sadly unsurprising, piece of information is that over half (97/181) of taser draws were directed at black people. According to city-data, the population in
Syracuse is approximately one-quarter African-American.