use of force

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Topic: Force

On November 11, 2009, Ozark Arkansas police officer Dustin Bradshaw was dispatched to a domestic disturbance between a mother and her 10-year-old daughter. When he arrived, the girl was curled up on the floor screaming and kicking. Her mother told the officer the crisis began when the girl refused to take a shower. Officer Bradshaw attempted to take the young girl into custody, but she continued to violently kick at him. It was then that the girl’s mother gave officer Bradshaw permission to use a Conducted Electrical Weapon (TASER, for purposes of this discussion) in an effort to gain control of the girl. According to his report he delivered a very brief stun to her back. It was enough to disable her, and after placing handcuffs on the child, officer Bradshaw carried the 65-pound girl to his squad car. His actions were later determined to be in compliance with department policy, and ultimately, he received a short suspension with pay only for not engaging his video camera during the incident.

A growing number of children in America are finding themselves on the receiving end of a police officer’s TASER. A 14-year-old in Chicago went into cardiac arrest after being Tased in 2005. In that same year a 6-year-old Florida boy threatening to cut himself with a piece of glass was Tased by police, as well as a 12-year-old girl guilty only of skipping school. And in 2010 two federal lawsuits were filed in Illinois, each seeking $10 million, after a Kankakee police officer Tased two 12-year-olds in their school classroom just to demonstrate how the weapon works. These are just a few of the many reported incidents.

The idea of using such a weapon on a child continues to be hotly debated. Most police departments allow for its use with children in certain situations, and the makers of the Taser gun argue that it is a safe and effective weapon for gaining control of an unmanageable person, even a child. They argue that although it is painful and disabling, it has no lasting effects, and its use may even prevent the child from harming themselves much more seriously by continuing to struggle.

Discussion Questions(select one of the following questions and draft a response a

1. Should there be limits placed on the types of weapons a police officer may use against a child?

2. Is there an even greater risk of harm or civil liability related to a police officer physically subduing a child with their hands?

3. Should a child’s parents grant or rescind permission to police for Taser use on their uncontrollable child?

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