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Update: Law proposed after Taser death

Last year, we covered the story of a mentally ill man who was killed when police officers shot him with a Taser device. Now the man's death has prompted legislators to take action to prevent similar tragedies in the future. The man who died was a Vermont resident, but Montana law enforcement officers also use stun guns, so the issues are relevant in our state as well.

In particular, a newly proposed law aims to create protocols for when Tasers can be used. These devices are generally thought to be "less lethal" than, say, a gun, but the truth is that Tasers can cause fatal injuries. The proposed law in Vermont stipulates that police officers can only use stun guns if the officers believe their life is in danger.

The lawmakers also want to receive annual reports regarding incidents in which Taser devices are used. The bill includes the additional requirement that all police officers receive training on how to deal with people who are mentally ill. The officer who shot the now deceased man had not undergone such training when the incident occurred.

A major problem with Taser use is that stun guns in general are not regarded as lethal weapons. This leads to overuse of these guns. The risk of death or serious injury is considerable, especially for people who have a heart condition.

Montanans who have been injured by a Taser device need to be aware of their legal rights to pursue compensation in civil court. In the vast majority of cases, police officers serve and protect the community, but sometimes the use of a stun gun has the opposite effect.

Source: Valley News, "Taser Death Spurs Vermont Bill," Mark Davis, Feb. 13, 2013

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