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Missouri: Arrestees Billed for Cost of Police Tasers

Police officers in St. Joseph, Missouri have successfully recouped payments from defendants for the cost of “tasing” them during an arrest. It costs $24.99 for a Taser cartridge and about $1.05 in battery use each time an officer tases a suspect, according to the police department’s Taser instructor, Brendan McGinnis.

Between March and December 2012, the department sought restitution in 64 cases where Tasers were used, representing approximately $2,000 in costs and resulting in payments totaling about $700. Within the first five months of 2013, 28 Taser deployments resulted in another $790 in restitution being requested by prosecutors, who petition the courts to impose the sanction. A state law allows police departments to recover general arrest costs, said McGinnis.

While there have been numerous civil actions alleging wrongful deaths related to Taser use by law enforcement officers [see, e.g.: PLN, Feb. 2013, p.46; Jan. 2012, p.42; Oct. 2011, p.40], McGinnis sees no conflict in viewing Taser deployments in the same light as DWI cases, in which restitution for police expenditures also has been sought.

“We’re spending about $4,000 a year for Taser usage, a cost we will never recover,” he noted. “The department makes no money, it just replenishes the cost that we use.” McGinnis said that seeking restitution from suspects who are tased is the fairest way to recover the costs, instead of passing the bill on to taxpayers.

According to Amnesty International, over 500 deaths were associated with Tasers in the United States from 2001 to 2011 alone. [See: PLN, April 2012, p.26]. Presumably, it is only a matter of time before the St. Joseph police department starts charging suspects for the cost of the bullets used in police shootings.


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