In an effort to curb the recent spate of officer-involved shootings, the LAPD has decided to issue tasers to all of their officers. Tasers are one of the more reliable “less than lethal” weapons officers can use when confronting suspects. Typically, a taser works by firing two darts attached to wires originating from the weapon. The darts hit the target and high-voltage electricity is sent through the wires which sends signals to the target’s central nervous system, causing pain and involuntary muscle contractions – which will subdue most, if not all targets.
According to LAPD Deputy Chief Bill Murphy, the idea behind arming every officer on patrol with a taser is that: “It reduces the probability of lethal force. It gives officers another option.” Currently, the LAPD possesses a little less than half of the tasers they require to issue one to every officer, though they plan to purchase more. A taser runs about $850 to the average person, though police departments can typically get them for less. Considering the LAPD needs to purchase another 4,000 tasers to meet their needs, one can only hope that their discount is significant.
Not everyone is on-board with issuing tasers to officers, with those who disagree often citing past instances where tasers lead to the death of the target. For example: in May of 2014, a mentally-ill homeless man sitting on top of a billboard in downtown Los Angeles fell and died after officers used a taser to subdue him. There are a few other cases in which tasers were used and someone died, but those cases are few and far-between. Also, while the use of a taser doesn’t necessarily mean that the target can’t die, tasers are far, far less lethal than traditional firearms when used correctly.