Police departments in the Miami area have been called to task by the American Civil Liberties Union to revamp their policy on the use of Taser stun guns after it was ruled by a medical examiner that a young Miami Beach street artist died as the result of police using the weapon on him. The artist died of heart failure from what was termed by the examiner as an “electrical device discharge”. While the death was also declared to be accidental, the ACLU declared in a statement that police in South Florida have an obligation to change the way in which their officers use the Taser weapon and that additional training should be provided to reduce the number of deaths that occur as a result of their use.
The medical examiners findings as well as the ACLU’s statements have tremendous legal potential in that the company that manufactures Taser weapons may face litigation as a direct result of the deaths that have occurred from their use. The 18-year-old artist was caught by police in North Beach spray painting an abandoned fast food restaurant. When he ran, police officers gave chase and eventually Tased him in the chest. His subsequent death from the act sparked a firestorm of protest and controversy aimed at police as well as at the Taser weapon and its manufacturer.
Several South Florida police officials, however, have defended their departments’ use of the Taser stating that the device has saved countless lives. The company that manufactures the device has made and continues to make strong claims about the weapons value as a “less-than-lethal” alternative to traditional firearms in the apprehension of criminal suspects and in the assisting of police in performing certain elements of their duties as law enforcement officers.