The Shelby County Sheriff’s office in Tennesee has come under fire after deploying taser shields to protests that sprang up in response to the lack of charges against the officers who killed Breonna Taylor. After the strange shields were noticed by a group of protesters who gathered in front of the Criminal Justice Center, and images of the shields went viral online, Shelby County Sheriff Floyd Bonner was forced to apologize for the deployment of the shields, calling it a “regrettable mistake.”
In a statement, the sheriff’s office said that Bonner has “directed policy modifications that will prohibit those shields from being displayed or used outside of the Jail again.”
According to WREG, the sheriff’s office recently upgraded to the newest e-shields in July 2020 but has had other “less lethal shock shields” since a jail riot in the 1990s. The shields reportedly cost $895 each.
Police often use shields as weapons during protests. Just this week, an LA County Sheriff’s deputy was seen on film repeatedly striking a protester with a riot shield. Luckily, in that case, it was just a normal riot shield and not a taser shield, but one could imagine how much more dangerous these encounters could be if these devices were commonly deployed by police departments across the country. Luckily, there were no reports of the taser shields being used on any of the protesters in Tennessee.
Hunter Demster, one of the activists that saw the officers wielding the shields suggested that they were being used to intimidate the protesters.
“They are scary looking and once again I think that’s the point, to chill our 1st Amendment-protected rights,” Demster told Fox13 Memphis.