Recently, an off-duty Ohio police officer used a Taser on an eleven-year-old girl caught shoplifting in a grocery store late on a Monday evening. In that instance, police department had a policy that Tasers could be used on anyone seven and older, but only after certain protocols had been taken. That officer likely didn’t follow proper protocol. But it brings up a good question: Can cops use Tasers on children?

What Are the State Laws on Tasers?

Generally, there is no state law on this matter. Rather, it is up to local Police Department Procedure Manuals. The Cincinnati Police Department’s policy allows stun gun use on anyone seven years of age or older. But before using the stun gun, officers must consider the severity of the crime as well as the risk to society if the suspect isn’t immediately apprehended. Good uses of stun guns are for self-defense or if the suspect is actively resisting arrest, even though a verbal warning has been given. The likelihood of there being an immediate risk to the general public of an eleven-year-old grocery store shoplifting girl on the loose is questionable, at best.

Are Tasers on Children an Excessive Use of Force?

Use of Force is generally permitted by officers under specific circumstances in order to compel an unwilling suspect to comply. There is no generally agreed-upon definition of its scope. Evidently, excessive force is like obscenity; in the famous words of Justice Potter Stewart, “I’ll know it when I see it.” What has been considered excessive use of force with a stun gun on children?

  • A Texas sheriff used a Taser on a teen that was trying to break up a school fight. He was tased, struck his head on the floor, and police delayed giving him medical care. He suffered severe brain damage. The teen received a $775,000 settlement, though it is unclear if police admitted the taser was excessive force.
  • A jury determined a California police officer was found not to have used excessive force in an incident where a teenage boy was zapped in the groin by a Taser after refusing the officer’s commands. There, police wanted to question the suspect about his potential involvement in a recent crime. The suspect was unwilling to move where the officer asked because we was waiting to board a train, therefore presumably a flight risk. Also, he had his hands in his pockets, and officers were concerned he was about to brandish a weapon.

If you feel that your child has been subjected to excessive force when detained by police or security guards, contact a local civil rights attorney. Use of Force cases are determined by the facts unique to each circumstance, and a trained expert can guide you on what is acceptable, what may be excessive, and what sort of damages you may be able to recover.

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