Tasers issued to Milan cops

Experimental deployment of electrical stun-gun in Milan.

Tasers are being issued to police and carabinieri patrols in Milan as part of a nationwide experiment.

Tasers are non-lethal electroshock weapons designed to incapacitate, for example, a person resisting arrest.  They fire two small dart-like electrodes which remain connected to the taser by cables, and deliver an electrical shock.

Police officers equipped with tasers will also wear a “body-cam” or miniature video-camera, with colour, HD and night-vision capability.  This will be automatically activated when the taser’s safety catch is released, to enable future analysis of the officer’s and target’s actions.

The X2 model taser which is to be used in Milan can emit a shock for five seconds at distances of up to seven meters, causing incapacitating muscle cramps which enable the officer to overwhelm the subject.

The experiment is also being carried out in Brindisi, Catania, Padua, Reggio Emilia and Caserta.

The use of Tasers has sparked controversy.  Once discharged, and before replacing the propellant cartridge, they can be put in direct contact with the target’s skin to invoke “pain compliance” or “drive stun” effect. Amnesty International concerned that this method is “inherently open to abuse”.

In other countries tasers have been linked to deaths, especially among younger or physically fragile victims, for example with heart problems.  Studies have also indicated that some officers are tempted to rely on tasers during suspect encounters – an effect known as the “lazy cop syndrome”. On the other hand, police forces deploying the tool have published statistics that indicate a sharp drop in the rate of injury to both police officers and suspects.