July 15, 2005 – Citing the need for more study on the safety of so-called "non-lethal weapons," the mayor of an Alabama city told police officers to stop using Tasers following the death of a man hit with electric blasts from the instrument and sprayed with a chemical irritant while in custody.
Birmingham Mayor Bernard Kincaid ended the use of Tasers, hand-held weapons police use to shock people into submission, pending further study of their safety, according to news accounts. He insisted the decision was not related to the death of a 41-year-old incarcerated man who officers subdued with Taser shots and mace.
Rockey Bryson was found dead in his cell more than twelve hours after the confrontation, the Associated Press reported yesterday. Preliminary findings by the coroner show no direct connection between the Taser blasts and Brysonâ€™s death, the news service reports.
Taser use among law enforcement officers is growing across the country. According to a 2004 Amnesty International report, at least 5,000 law enforcement agencies provide officers with the weapons, billing them as an alternative to guns in confrontations with suspects or captives.
In a statement reported by the AP, Birmingham Police Chief Annetta Nunn expressed her support for the mayorâ€™s decision while saying she was confident that Taser use would be reinstated shortly.
While the company that manufactures Tasers says the weapons are a safe alternative to firearms, Taser opponents note that studies on how the weapons affect diverse human subjects are all but non-existent.