Charleena Lyles’ attack on two police officers, with butcher knives, which resulted in her tragic death, has brought up many issues. One of them is the use of so-called, less-than-lethal weapons vs. lethal options: Tasers vs. firearms.
Many people have asked, “Why didn’t the cops tase her instead?”
Facts people should know:
- Seattle’s cops must carry a firearm and have an option to carry any of three less-than-lethal weapons: baton, pepper-spray, and/or Taser. An officer may carry one, two, or all three options. I carried a baton and pepper-spray.
- In training, cops are taught that to properly deploy the Taser against a person armed with a deadly weapon, three officers should be present. One officer to deploy the Taser, a second officer for lethal cover (ready with a firearm should the Taser application fail), and a third officer to place the suspect in handcuffs. Routine calls, such as the (false) burglary report Ms. Lyles called in, normally require only one officer to respond. Her known criminal and mental health history made it so radio dispatched two officers (obviously, short of the three necessary).
- When the Taser program started, many officers chose to take the training and become certified to use a Taser on duty.
- As the program continued, community activists and groups criticized the police Taser use. Some even regularly accused cops of “torturing” suspects with their Tasers.
- As criticism increased, policies began changing, making it so to use a Taser an officer needed nearly the same circumstances that would be needed to use lethal force.
- Several officers told me that due to these policy changes, they were turning in their Tasers.
- Since a gun is much more efficient than a Taser in saving an officer’s life during a deadly encounter why would a cop put himself or herself in a position that causes hesitation? Hesitation kills cops.
So, when cop-critics harangue police officers for not using a Taser, they can look in the mirror for why an officer didn’t choose to have a Taser as an option.