Take No Prisoners

Dear Police, stop carrying tasers (carry a big stick instead)

Have you been following this story of a man who was tasered to death at Vancouver airport? This is just one of a rash of taser incidents across North America in the past few months, including the highly-publicized incidents at the John Kerry speech and involving the death of a 56-year-old disabled woman in a wheelchair.

Tasers are an inappropriate tool for police to carry for three reasons. First, because tasers are supposed to be non-lethal, police are a little too anxious to use them. Police hesitate to shoot an unarmed man because most police do not relish the thought of killing someone, not to mention the investigation that would follow. Unfortunately, tasers can be fatal, as the examples above illustrate. Second, a taser does not allow a measured response – it gives only two options: shock ’em or don’t. Third, many people don’t recognize a taser, especially foreigners like the poor polish man who was recently killed by one. The threat of force doesn’t work if you don’t recognize a taser as a weapon.

Am I asking you to disarm police? Hell no. That’s stupid. What I’m asking is for police to have weapons that make sense: a gun for lethal response, and a big black club (nightstick, or whatever) for a measured response. Why is a big stick better than a taser? One, it’s easier for police to understand the potential damage they’ll do by hitting someone with a stick than by zapping someone with an ill-understood technological device. Two, a stick allows a measured response – you can swing it hard or softly, hit a person in the side, wrist or head depending on the level of danger. Third, if you threaten someone with a big black stick, they’ll understand.

To sum up, while tasers were introduced to the police force with the best of intentions, i.e., to subdue criminals more humanely, the unexpected consequences have been just the opposite. I don’t think it’s fair to point fingers about this, I just want the tasers out of the police force. To those who would argue for tasers, please invite them to experience one first.

Addendum: The UN’s Committee Against Torture has recently ruled that police use of tasers violate the UN’s Convention against Torture. In other words, the United Nations has condemned tasering as a form of torture.

Second addendum: apparently Taser International is sending some obtuse letters to bloggers criticizing their products. My response to this is 1) It’s fair use, 2) it makes Taser sound guilty, and 3) Taser had best piss off now before I get really mad and start on the “Taser = Torture” case. Taser is also claiming that there is no conclusive evidence of someone dying from a taser weapon. My response is that, unless Taser can produce evidence that all these taser-related deaths would have occurred if the victim had not been electrocuted, they can kiss off.