Effective police tool or torture device: Texas lawmakers to debate the taser
DALLAS, TX - It is hard for Marcus Hardin to even talk about what happened to his grandson outside a Fort Worth bar almost three years ago, when Marcus Swiat was taken into custody by officers, who deployed a taser. "Tasers are torture," Hardin said.
Swiat was tased at least eight times while being arrested for public intoxication. Hardin says what happened to his family member was extreme and shouldn't be allowed.
There is a growing chorus of critics who claim the taser and it's 50,000 volts of electric shock, has left a string of deaths and injuries in its wake. "They kill, steal and destroy families," says Rev. Kyev Tatum, Director of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in Fort Worth.
Tatum points to the death of Michael Jacobs, who died after being tased for 54 seconds by a Fort Worth police officer. He is calling on state lawmakers to outlaw tasers. "We believe we are on the right side of moral law and eventually the legal system will catch up."
But, some lawmakers say it will be an uphill climb to ban or even restrict taser use. Fort Worth Representative, Lon Burnham says he has tried for years to pass legislation to improve taser training, but has been unsuccessful because of the deep pockets of Taser International. "This company in Arizona has salted the pockets of politicians across the country."
While a legislative fix many be difficult, some believe police departments could make a difference by standardizing the use of tasers. "There are not uniform standards as to where the taser fits in when it comes to force," Fort Worth attorney, mark Haney, said.
Haney represents a Dallas police officer who is suing the taser maker. The officer claims he was injured during a training exercise after he was shot with a taser. Haney says without rules there is the potential for abuse. "It is a potentially explosive situation if you have a taser in the wrong hands, with the wrong motive."