Tasers were developed as a non-lethal option to bring dangerous situations under control. But law enforcement officials are now using them with wild abandon in cases where simple diplomacy or a little hard work would otherwise suffice.
In the past I’ve written about the police tasering of a UCLA student for refusing to show his school ID, as well as the time a cop tasered an 11 year old at school because the officer on hand apparently couldn’t physically restrain him?!? (Gee, what would they have done 10 years ago?)
Police have also used Tasers against peaceful protesters (NPR audio about tasering protesters), a pregnant woman (8 months) and an elderly man who called 911 to get medical attention for his diabetic seizure.
So who’s next? Maybe you.
Now, police are being given the green light all over the world to completely disable people whenever they feel like it, and I’m certain we are going to see a whole lot more abuse as a result.
- People will be tasered long before it’s a necessity. Think about it, if you were a cop why even bother to break a sweat when you know you could probably control a situation physically? All you have to do is taser the hell out of someone and they’ll do anything you say.
- People will be intimidated and threatened by the use of tasers. Most people are not that scared of police officers because they feel reasonably sure they won’t be shot (like with a gun). But now you can’t be sure that even arguing with a cop won’t result in a tasering.
- Women will be tasered and raped while they are conscious but unable to react. If you were a rapist you could use one of these to rape anyone you wanted. This guy did, and it happened to this homeless woman and two women in D.C.
- Men will be tasered and then beaten without being able to defend themselves. Want proof? Here is a group of “private security guards” hired by the Israeli government using stun guns against unarmed Rabbis.
- More people will die as a direct result of taser use. In the US nearly 200 people have already died after being shot by a taser gun, including a mentally ill homeless woman who was stunned with a Taser while on the ground in handcuffs.
In case you aren’t quite familiar with the technology, here is a news clip with a bit of an an overview. The most important quote in the clip:
Police say they will only be used when someone poses a real and immediate risk to themselves, the public or the police.
So, just how effective is a Taser? Well, here is what it does to you, as demonstrated by US Military personnel undergoing police training:
For example, here is a cop Tasering a guy who is holding an infant without ever even attempting to place a hand on him. It was a first resort, not a last resort, and it caused the infant to be injured.
Also, take the case of New Orleans resident Ivy Gisclair. Held at OPP for unpaid parking tickets, Gisclair was about to be released on his own recognizance when Hurricane Katrina hit. After languishing with thousands of other prisoners in a flooded jail, Gisclair was sent to the Bossier Parish Maximum Security Prison. Once there, Gisclair apparently had the nerve to inquire about being held past his release date. Gisclair has testified that he was then restrained and stunned repeatedly with a Taser, before being thrown, naked and unconscious, into solitary confinement.
“I can’t imagine any justification for that,” says Tom Jawetz from the ACLU. “[Prison guards] were kicking, beating and ‘Tasing’ him until he lost consciousness. A line was crossed that should never have been crossed.”
And how about this? Here are several large officers Tasering a Woman who is laying on the ground. Why? You cannot convince me that she “…poses a real and immediate risk to herself, the public or the police.” The video makes it exceedingly clear that the weapon is being used as a torture device.
Now, if you want to see a situation where Taser use was clearly warranted, here you go. These officers are acting professionally, they are trying to diffuse the situation and use other means, and they are up against a huge, drunk 340 pound guy.
Police departments operate on a set of standards called a Force Continuum which define the amount of force allowable in a given situation. A typical force continuum from a US government publication on use of force looks like this:
- Verbal command
- Handcuff suspect
- Search suspect
- Use wrist/arm lock
- Use takedown
- Strike suspect
- Wrestle suspect
- Pepper spray
- Use baton
- Use firearm
Here is a PDF document which outlines Categories of Police Continuum of Force for 6 different cities (see page 37), and all are basically similar to the sample above.
As we’ve seen demonstrated in the videos above, the Police have decided that the best place to insert the new Taser capability is often immediately after verbal command, and long before any physical control attempts.
Amnesty International however has called for a Taser moratorium by all law enforcement agencies based on the concern that “stun technology” promoted as harmless may, in fact, be “excessive and lethal force” because of 74 deaths that the organization says have occurred after Taser use.
But it seems to me that officers should be allowed to use them, but forced to treat Tasers at the same level on the Force Continuum as Pepper Spray, another non-lethal weapon whose effects wear off. They both inflict the same amount of pain, although Tasers are just on a more compressed time line. Huge pain followed by quick relief, compared to moderate pain with slower relief. If anything, the Taser is worse.
In the end though, I think we’ve all become too sheepish to actually open our mouths and complain about the unnecessary force. For example, if you’ve got a blog are you going to publish this article? I generally doubt it. And that is evidence of why the Tasering will continue!
Well, that and the fact that we get to watch the hilarious antics of guys like this: