Scott Selmer, photographer
Last semester, the Minnesota State System Office authorized campuses within the system, including Minneapolis College, to decide whether to allow public safety staff to carry Tasers, specifically the Axon Taser, according to Deanna Sheely, chief of staff and communications officer of Minneapolis College. The college administration decided against equipping campus security with Tasers.
Curt Schmidt, directlor of public safety at Minneapolis College, said the question of Tasers went through a long process of discussions over more than three years. Based on surveys and feedback over that period of time more students, faculty, and employees favored equipping campus security with Tasers than not.
Schmidt said he thought it was a good way to keep current with methods of keeping Minneapolis College campus safe for everyone. He thought Tasers would be another tool to help achieve that goal.
The debate as to whether Tasers are more beneficial than potentially harmful depends on the person, place or entity. The debate is ongoing. Their use remains controversial.
Tasers use compressed nitrogen to shoot out darts with electricity-conducting wires attached to them, New York Daily News reported. When the darts hit the targeted person, as much as 50,000 volts of electricity can go into the person’s body causing involuntary muscle contractions and temporary paralysis.
Tasers often look like regular firearms. The name itself is derived from Thomas A. Swift’s Electric Rifle (TASER). The electrical current, although incapacitating, is not designed to be lethal, according to goneoutdoors.com. Some Tasers have been designed to shoot a suspect as far away as 35 feet.
A 2011 U.S. Department of Justice review concluded 99.7% of people shocked by the weapon suffer no injuries or minor injuries, New York Daily News reported.
Taser Corporation Tasers, in its marketing efforts to law enforcement and ordinary people, has described the weapons as effective protection based on its ability to immediately stop an assault, according to goneoutdoors.com.
The Bureau of Justice found that from 2000 the percentage of police departments using Tasers increased from 7% to 81% by 2013, New York Daily News reported.
Civilians, as well as police, are allowed to purchase and use Taser guns for self-protection, goneoutdoors.com reported. There are pros and cons associated with their use.
The New York City Civilian Complaint Review Board in 2016 produced a confidential report that said cops abused their power and illegally used Tasers to inflict pain on already compliant suspects, New York Daily News reported.
The state of Connecticut released the results of its 2016 study that showed police disproportionately used Tasers on black and brown people when compared to the use of Tasers on white suspects, according to the New York Daily News.
The fall alone can be harmful and in rare instances fatal where a person has fallen upon or hit the something wrong thing or fallen in the wrong way, New Daily News reported.
Tasing a person, although typically not lethal, inflicts intense pain. The United Nations Committee Against Torture has alleged Taser induced pain constitutes torture, goneoutdoors.com reported.
The use of a Taser can unintentionally cause death if a targeted person has certain health conditions, according to the New York Daily news.
Amnesty’s 2013 report said between 2001 and 2012, 540 people died from police Taser use.
Allison Christner said she doesn’t think it’s a bad idea for campus security to carry Tasers.
“I would rather they have a Taser than no weapon because a Taser is very debilitating if someone gets tased. It will bring a grown man to his knees.”
Aurora Fenzl said, “I think with any piece of equipment you need training, and I think once you have that training I don’t have concerns about abuse.”
She said she would have to have more time to think about the issue pertaining to research that indicate black and brown people are disproportionately tased compared to whites.
Kyra Harris said, “Well, I have my own Taser. This is college not high school. I don’t think people should get their Tasers taken away. I don’t understand why they would take them away.”
She said she did not actually know the purpose of having Tasers when campus security officers can just call the cops.
Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that the Minneapolis College administration approved Tasers for campus last semester. This version of the article has been corrected.