Documentary takes a closer look at the controversial history of the Taser

Director Nick Berardini on his Tribeca Film Festival doc that explores the safety of Tasers


Filmmaker Nick Berardini’s new documentary “Tom Swift and His Electric Rifle” made its debut at the Tribeca Film Festival. The film questions the safety of Tasers and whether the police department is educated enough on the potential dangers of using this weapon.

FOX411: You became passionate about this topic when you were a student reporter and a man was killed by a Taser. Tell us about that.
Nick Berardini: When I first got out to the scene of his death, when I was a student reporter, it seemed like a very obvious misuse. My surface understanding of the weapon was, here’s a 31 second shot in the chest, there’s got to be something in the police training that says it’s a pretty safe device but if you use it in this way, this could be the result. Of course, that was not the case as I later learned. There was nothing in the training and I eventually turned my attention to the company (Taser International) to try to understand the brothers that founded it as idealistic entrepreneurs beginning, and then guys dealing with very real collateral damage and how they were trying to survive in that climate against a growing number of deaths. 

FOX411: You express in the documentary that you think police are not educated enough on the dangers of Tasers. Can you explain that?
Berardini: A lot of it came from the fact that after, for twenty years before it was effective, it was not effective. And they had heard about the idea of this weapon and wanted it to work so when it finally did work, it was such a magic trick for them but they jumped in head first, and they didn’t really question the message that was coming from one place, coming from this company just because of the fact that it’s regulated as a consumer product. There’s nothing else that would really make them change their messaging except eventually later liability became an issue. Essentially they would say, 'Well, you know it’s not really dangerous but because lawyers want to sue us we have to put some things in the fine print of our training.' And I feel that hung the police out to dry because the training was not actually replicating what was happening in the field.

FOX411: Do you hope with this documentary there will be awareness and possibly more training for the police department?
Berardini: I think as a simple first step to take as an objective goal is to remember a couple things. The first thing is that the movie is not debate about the merits of the Taser, per-se. I’m not a use-of-force expert. I wanted to make a movie about people and characters and this journey that the Smith brothers were on to try and reconcile their success. Are we comfortable with the way they got there? As a journalist, I want police officers seeing the film. Now they have a complete version of events. They have it from the perspective that is not putting them on the defensive but it’s genuinely trying to understand the company’s role and police’s role in these incidents.

Fox Reporter and FOX411 host Diana Falzone covers celebrity news and interviews some of today's top celebrities and newsmakers.  You can follow her on Twitter @dianafalzone.