Houston Police lawsuit makes an interesting claim about the new Taser

FILE - In this Nov. 14, 2013, file photo, a Taser X26 sits on a table in Knightstown, Ind. In the recent shootings of unarmed black men in a San Diego suburb and in Tulsa, Oklahoma, the police officers who fired the fatal shots were accompanied by officers who simultaneously drew their stun guns. Civil rights advocates say the different response by officers facing the same suspect and the same apparent threat illustrates a breakdown in police training and communication and shows that some officers are too quick to turn to deadly force. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy, File)

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A federal lawsuit filed by several law enforcement agencies, including the Houston Police Department, claims that the new model of Taser, released in 2011, has significantly less stopping power than previous models. The suit also alleges that the weakened Taser places both officers’ and suspects’ lives in danger, as it fails to stop suspects and compels officers to use other options, including lethal force.

The suit claims that the new X2 Tasers, manufactured by the Axon Corporation, carry only half the charge of the previous X26 models. The suit also alleges that the new Tasers only have 70 percent of the stopping power of similar models sold over the counter to civilians. The suit claims that the company intentionally reduced the power of its “stun guns” to head off bad publicity and to keep from losing contracts with local, state, and federal agencies that use the non-lethal weapons.

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Karen Taylor, a former HPD officer, filed the suit in March. She claimed that she was seriously injured when her Taser failed to stop a suspect. She says that she suffered back injuries due to a confrontation with the suspect, and that her injuries have prevented her from going back on duty.

“There’s compelling evidence to suggest they did it to stop the lawsuits from the people who were being Tased,” said Andy Vickery, Taylor’s attorney. “They were saying people were killed by the X26 former model, so they ratcheted it down without telling police.”

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A spokesperson for Axon said that the new model delivers a slightly lower charge, but that the difference is due to increased efficiency.

“It’s less power because it’s much more efficient,” the spokesman said. “All of our modern Taser weapons … are designed to stop motivated individuals that don’t feel pain.”

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