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Reporter's Notebook: Why police often favor guns over Tasers
August 22nd, 2014
10:19 PM ET

Reporter's Notebook: Why police often favor guns over Tasers

There has been a lot of discussion on social media about law enforcement's use of force. There was the officer-involved shooting death of unarmed teen Michael Brown in Ferguson on August 9. Then ten days later, Kajieme Powell was fatally gunned down by St. Louis police officers.

Many have questioned why officers pulled their guns instead of using a less lethal device like pepper spray or a Taser. Experts walked us through the 21-foot rule, which is currently taught in police academies across the United States. The average assailant can run a distance of 21 feet in two seconds. That's the same amount of time it takes an officer to remove his gun from his holster and raise his weapon.

Forensic criminologist Ron Martinelli, an expert in more than 100 shooting cases, most of them officer-involved, showed us how the drill works. It revealed how little time an officer has to decide to shoot an assailant. But it also showed how the more items you add to a duty belt, the more an officer’s response time is going to be delayed, by as much as 50%.

If the officer is in close proximity to an assailant, he will likely turn to his gun because it's more effective. A Taser must be used when the assailant is more than two feet away but not more than 20 feet away in order for the two probes to launch and hit the perpetrator. Martinelli estimates the Taser has an effectiveness rate of only 60%, much of it due to operator error.

Given how little time an officer has to make a lethal force decision and the proximity these decisions often have to be made, experts say it's the reason officers often grab their gun before their Taser.

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Filed under: Law enforcement • Michael Brown • News • Reporter's Notebook • Uncategorized
soundoff (One Response)
  1. bob

    As former LEO, I WOULDN'T CARRY A TASER. I DON'T TRUST THEM, AND WHEN MY BUTT IS ON THE LINE, I'LL DEPEND ON MY SIDEARM FIRST. I WOULD NOT REQUIRE OTHER OFFICERS TO CARRY A TASER EITHER.

    August 23, 2014 at 1:19 am | Reply

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