Friday, October 30, 2015

Special Report: How Tasers became instruments of excessive force for the Border Patrol


In a special report in the Los Angeles Times, Joseph Tanfani, Brian Bennett, and Matt Hansen report that, searching for a way to curb fatal border shootings, Border Patrol leaders decided in 2008 began to supply Tasers, a hand-held device that delivers a paralyzing electric charge, as a way to end confrontations quickly and safely. But in scores of cases, the Tasers became instruments of excessive force.

The Times examined 450 uses of Tasers from 2010 to 2013 that were documented by U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents.  At least 70 times, agents fired the devices at people who were running away, even though there was no struggle or clear indication that agents were in danger, according to use-of-force reports. At least six times, agents used the weapons against people who were trying to climb over the border fence back into Mexico. Two people were shocked while they were handcuffed. Two were hit with five cycles of the weapon, even though the agency's policy says no one should receive more than three. Three people died after being hit by Tasers wielded by border agents or customs officers.

In one episode, 24-year-old Alex Martin, who had led agents on a car chase, burned to death after a border agent smashed his car window and fired a Taser inside. The device ignited an explosion and fireball. Others were seriously hurt.


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