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Recent Taser Deaths Prompt Questions

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By Michael Pope

In Arlington, Virginia, two people died this year after police officers used a Taser® on them. That's raised new concerns about the use of stun guns in Virginia.

Amnesty International conducted a nationwide study in 2008 and concluded that the use of Tasers should be banned among police agencies. But Dana Schrad of the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police says she disagrees with those who argue that Tasers are too dangerous.

"Well, I guess we can take officers' guns away too," says Schrad. "The fact of the matter is that there are times when officers have to use lethal force or less than lethal force to bring someone into compliance."

Kent Willis of the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia says there's mounting evidence that the devices are just too unpredictable, which is why his organization is about to launch a study to investigate the recent Taser® deaths in Virginia.

"The subjective reaction to the recent deaths in Virginia leads us all in the direction of saying that we want to ban Tasers," says Willis. "But we think before we come to that conclusion we need to study this more thoroughly."

Willis says he hopes to have the ACLU's recommendations before the next session of the General Assembly.

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