A lawsuit filed by the family of a Virginia man, who died after being tasedIFC Films approximately 20 times by three police officers while he laid on his back near the entrance of a hospital, has led to the much-publicized release of video footage of the incident and has contributed to growing scrutiny of the use of Tasers by police.
For the past decade and a half, police have been taught that tasers are a safe tool for pacifying potentially violent citizens. But with Taser-related fatalities becoming more common, and the weapon’s own manufacturer conceding that improper use can be deadly, the myth of Tasers as inherently safe beggars belief.
While studying at the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, Nick Berardini learned of the death of Stanley Harlan, a 23-year-old Missouri man stopped for a traffic infraction in front of his house, who ended up dying of a heart attack after being tased three different times for a total of 31 seconds. Fascinated by the lethality of the “revolutionary” law enforcement tool, Berardini exhaustively researched the history of the Taser, resulting in the newly released documentary Killing Them Safely, available on demand and in limited release via IFC Films.
In a phone interview last week, Berardini told me the film is not a polemic, but in fact is told from the point of view of TASER International, the company that manufactures the weapon.
“We try to shift the moral standard in order to justify our decisions. What that means is without real self-awareness, we can justify almost…