Cops Use Taser on 8-Year-Old Throwing a Tantrum

police taser gunIt's a worst-case scenario, but as parents, have you ever thought about what effect police presence may have on your child? Take one South Dakota mom, for example, who's now dealing with the aftermath of a disturbing police visit to her home. When police arrived at Dawn Stenstrom's house, they found her 8-year-old daughter holding a knife. To keep the child from harming herself or anyone else, the police warned and then allegedly fired a Taser at the 70-pound little girl. Now Stenstrom is suing the police for using "excessive force" on her daughter.

The facts of the case are tough to parse out. Mom argues that the stun gun was unnecessary, and her attorney has suggested that police should have taken other measures to subdue the child and remove the knife. Police are saying that it "might possibly have saved this girl's life," and an independent investigation by the South Dakota Division of Criminal Investigation backed the officer.


The whole thing seems to have started when Stenstrom's babysitter called the cops for help with the child who her mom says was throwing a tantrum. 

Which should be an option for caregivers and parents alike. When we're desperate, when we don't think we can safely handle our kids, we should be able to call 911 and get real help.

But cases like this put that in question.

When you call the cops, who is going to answer? Are the officers headed your way actually trained to deal with kids? Will the response be kid-appropriate?

In a 2005 study performed by the University of South Florida, researchers found that most children have a very unfavorable view of police officers and believe they are way too forceful. On top of that, if kids learn early that cops are not only not able to help them, but might actually tase them in the process, the trust in authority is gone.

A child and a full-grown adult are obviously entirely different cases. Not only are they in different mental developmental stages, but their physical size makes the shocking approach different. Are police entirely prepared to take on a 70-pound second grader with the same amount of force as they would an adult?

In this case, it's up to the courts to decide if using the Taser gun was the best decision, but it certainly gives all moms reasons to be concerned when they pick up that phone to dial 911.

How do you feel about cops responding to incidents involving kids? Should there be extra training?


Image via Christopher Paul/Flickr

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