Tasers Are Far From Foolproof, Law Enforcement Expert Says

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Police tried to use a Taser on a suspect who went on to attack an off-duty NYPD detective with a meat cleaver near Madison Square Garden this week, but to no avail.

As CBS2’s Dave Carlin reported, this was the second case this week that is now raising questions about the effectiveness of Tasers.

The NYPD has 1,700 of the electric devices, mostly taser brand ones, to shock and subdue suspects.

The department recently announced plans to buy more, and some officers say they’re are under intense pressure to Taser first and use guns second.

But at least twice this week NYPD taser use did not get the results cops wanted.

“Sometimes it’s able to subdue a suspect, and other times it’s not,” NYPD Bronx Borough Cmdr. Chief Larry Nikunen said Wednesday.

Early Wednesday, a Taser was used on a knife-wielding man in the Bronx, but he kept advancing on officers and was shot.

Then, at the start of the Midtown meat cleaver attack on Thursday night, again a Taser was tried. But the suspect did not go down.

Retired NYPD Sgt. Joseph Giacalone is Taser-trained, and said they are far from foolproof.

“There’s a time when using a Taser is not prudent, and I would have looked at that last night as not being a prudent call at that moment,” he said.

Giacalone said the suspect in the meat cleaver incident needed to be stopped with a gun.

He said Tasers are not effective when a suspect wears layers of clothing and might not even feel it, or when a suspect is on drugs and won’t feel the pain.

Giacaolone worries that officers feel too much pressure to try them in every situation anyway.

“The police shoot somebody, and then right away there’s a riot without even waiting for the facts to come out,” he said, “so I think this in the back of every officer’s mind, which is going to cause some hesitations.”

Most of the NYPD’s training on the devices is done on the Rodman’s Neck Firing range on City Island. Tasers are assigned only to patrol sergeants and members of the elite Emergency Service Unit.

Questions about NYPD’s use of force prompted so much extra training that now, 10,000 officers in a force of about 36,000 are cleared to use them.

That number is likely to grow.

In the meat cleaver incident, Akram Joudeh, 32, was shot by officers after he allegedly struck Detective Brian O’Donnell with the meat cleaver. O’Donnell was released from Bellevue Hospital Center on Friday.

The NYPD is looking into why the Tasers did not stop the suspects in the two cases this week.

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