NEW ORLEANS, LA – In a move tied to the federal consent decree, the NOPD is set to drop pepper spray from its arsenal, making Tasers the primary non-lethal option for officers.
The plan is raising concerns.
“I can’t imagine why for any given situation, the only thing you wanna be able to use is electricity versus a mild irritant to the eyes,” said Raymond Burkhart, an attorney for the Fraternal Order of Police.
Burkhart questions the logic behind the decision. His group is now asking the federal judge reviewing the consent decree to consider scrapping that part of the plan.
“The fact is, there are certain situations where you cannot use the Taser, or ECD as it’s sometimes known,” he said.
Dr. Jameel Ahmed with the LSU Health Sciences Center says some are more vulnerable than others.
“Anytime we are delivering electricity into a person’s body, it can affect the heart in a negative way,” Ahmed said.
But when it comes to just how dangerous Tasers can be, Ahmed said it’s difficult to quantify.
“There are published reports of a limited number of adverse outcomes — deaths — with Taser, but obviously it’s used on a wide scale internationally, many countries, so we don’t know, really, the full scale of how many incidents have actually occurred,” Ahmed said.
But for a department trying to recover from past complaints and allegations of excessive force, Burkhart says the focus should be on reducing risks.
“If you’re holding these officers to such a standard and not giving them every tool possible to minimize the force used, you’re exposing the officers individually and professionally, as well as the city itself,” Burkhart said.