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Report: Racial Disparities in Stun Gun Use

Officers last year fired stun guns at Blacks at a higher rate than at white suspects, and warned but didn’t fire at white suspects at a higher rate than they did Blacks or Hispanics, according to preliminary data from the first state to require police to document their use of stun guns.

The new data from Connecticut comes as police across the country face mounting scrutiny over their use of force, in the wake of several high-profile fatal shootings by officers, especially of Black suspects.

While stun guns have been billed as non-lethal alternatives to guns, they have resulted in deaths, and reliable information on how police use them has been lacking.

The overall number of stun gun incidents recorded officers firing them 60 percent of the time in cases involving whites, compared to 80 percent of the time in cases involving Blacks.

Officers warned about firing but did not do so at white suspects 40 percent of the time, compared to 20 percent of the time when dealing with Black suspects.

A 2014 law made Connecticut the first state to require all police departments to report every instance in which an officer discharges or threatens to use a stun gun. Researchers at Central Connecticut State University are reviewing the data and will submit a report with analysis to state officials, possibly by the end of February.

The figures don’t include data from several smaller towns that didn’t submit reports. Researchers have contacted them and are awaiting responses.

Amnesty International has reported that at least 540 people in the United States died after being shocked with stun guns from 2001 to 2012.