WHERE NOT TO SHOOT
Officers are advised to aim Tasers away from the following body parts:
Source: Taser International
Police may make a more conscious effort to aim Taser probes away from a person's chest after the stun gun's manufacturer issued a safety advisory last week.
Taser International warns officers to aim away from the chest area to avoid the "controversy about whether (electronic control devices) do or do not affect the human heart," a situation that sometimes results in lawsuits, according to the company's bulletin.
Chattanooga police said they don't expect to change their training much, if at all, though they will inform their officers about the bulletin.
"It's just more precautionary than anything else," said Sgt. Mark Smeltzer, a training coordinator with the Chattanooga Police Department.
The back remains the ideal place for stun-gun shots, the company's bulletin states.
Common practice among police departments is to aim for the center of the body -- or "center mass" -- because it represents the largest target.
The further Taser probes are spread across the body, the larger area they can immobilize. At 12 to 15 feet from a target, the probes can have a 21- to 24-inch spread, Sgt. Smeltzer said.
Hamilton County Sheriff's Office spokespeople did not return messages seeking comment.
Officers' use of Tasers has come under scrutiny this year in the area. In January, a Soddy-Daisy police officer shot a man seven times with her Taser. The man, Robert Redden, died, but a medical examiner's report ruled his death a natural event. An investigation found that the Soddy-Daisy police department's administration had failed to issue Taser policies properly to officers.
In June, Fort Oglethorpe police Officer Mitchell Moore fired his Taser at John Curtis Coates. The officer had to fire the Taser again, but Mr. Coates remained a threat. Walker County Deputy Terry Miller shot the man twice, according to reports.
In July, a Chattanooga police officer used a Taser unsuccessfully to subdue Alonzo Heyward. Six police officers then shot at Mr. Heyward 59 times. He died with 43 entrance and exit wounds, reports show.
In the Taser International bulletin, the company did not admit any wrongdoing or that stunning someone with its stun gun causes heart problems. It instead is offering a best-practices message to help departments with risk management, according to the bulletin.
Any party filing a claim of excessive force against a law enforcement agency could allege that a Taser played a role in a person's death by causing a heart arrhythmia that can be fatal without intervention, according to a second bulletin clarifying the first. The first bulletin was sent Oct. 12, and the second was sent Oct. 15, according to the company.
Research does not support the arrhythmia allegation and shows that the risk of the arrhythmia is "extremely rare," the bulletin states.
"However, law enforcement is left defending a lawsuit and disproving a negative, which is difficult to do," wrote Rick Guilbault, Taser's vice president of training, in the bulletin.