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Published: Sunday, 11/21/2004

Stunning the little kids

Stun guns have become standard weapons in nearly every police department's arsenal. They immobilize suspects, they generally spare the bodies of both suspect and police from serious injury, and they can save lives.

But police and Miami have gone too far using the Taser weapons on children as young as 6 years old.

Police officials walk a careful line in criticizing officers' use of force of all kinds. They don't want their men and women to feel at physical risk, and they don't want the public screaming brutality. But it is clear to everyone else that Miami-Dade officers need better policies for Taser use, including a ban on the weapon's use unless a suspect is armed or truculent.

Last month police went to a school where a 6-year-old was allegedly holding adults, including a security officer, at bay with a shard of glass he obtained from a broken picture. He had cut himself under his eye and on his hand by the time police arrived. So an officer zapped him.

It doesn't take 50,000 volts to disable a 6-year-old, even one carrying a shard of glass. Just two firm hands around each of his.

In another incident, a police officer gave a 12-year-old girl 50,000 volts for running through a parking lot to evade him as he tried to escort her to her car. The excuse? Her safety and that of the officer who, by the way, had no intention of arresting her.

The Florida police agency has decided to review its Taser policy. About time. So should every department that hands out these weapons.

It's hard to imagine a situation involving children when their use would be appropriate, unless police were dealing with dopers off their rockers or gangs with guns. Stun guns have no place in run-of-the-mill dealings with children.

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