DAs can’t decide whether tasers are deadly
Following the shooting death of Rayshard Brooks by a police officer in Atlanta this month — after Brooks stole the officer’s taser and fired it at him — NYPD cops are seeking guidance on how to handle similar conflicts.
It’s a good question. Garrett Rolfe, the officer who shot Brooks, is now facing felony murder charges that could get him many years in prison, even executed, if he is found guilty.
Yet a few weeks ago, Paul Howard, the Fulton County district attorney whose office will try Rolfe, acknowledged in a separate matter that, according to Georgia law, “a taser is considered . . . a deadly weapon.” That means, generally speaking, cops can use deadly force in countering their hostile use.
Ed Mullins, president of the Sergeants Benevolent Association, wrote a letter to NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea, asking for clarity on use-of-force protocol regarding tasers. “We respectfully request that the department issue a clear directive answering the following question: If threatened with the use of a [conducted electrical weapon] or taser, are officers authorized to use deadly force to protect themselves and/or others?”
The answer, at least according to current NYPD training, is that officers are authorized to use deadly force when threatened with a taser. And for good reason: Tasers are extremely dangerous weapons, and the NYPD has only brought them into wide use among its patrol officers in the last five years or so.
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