2008-04-17

Let's talk Tasers

In the spirit of Full Service Blogging™, let's talk Tasers.

Apply Liberally is all over the latest round of the public, seemingly eternal Mayor Larry et-family-al trainwreck. Other pastures beckon. Apropos of which, I must declare my bias. My views may be coloured by puppyhood brushes with electric cattle fences: innocently skootching under a wire into a pasture and, ***BLAMMO*** I'm on my butt with my tail smokin' and my ears ringing. You figure out which side I take...

Most of us have seen the appalling video of Robert Dziekanski, and the national followup since last November. I keep seeing things that make me go "Whaaaaa...?". So many, in fact, that I only have time to hit this week's.

First: That while the CEO (Read: head salesman) of Taser International manages to get before a parliamentary committee in January to try to control the damage to his brand and pre-define the public debate (Roughly, "It's not a Taser-related death if the victim doesn't kick off while the probes are still glowing -- two minutes later and it ain't us, eh?") Dziekanski's mother didn't get a rebuttal until yesterday.

Second: That Vancouver transit cops have used these things as electric people prods on at least three people trying to do bunks after not paying their fares. The highest fare is, ummm, five bucks. Sadly, this is not isolated behaviour: there appear to be examples in many police services where 'boys with toys' have zapped (alleged) perps just because they have the damned things.

Third: That Ottawa City Police seem to feel that a Taser-mounted camera that starts rolling when the safety is turned off, stopping again when the thing is turned off after firing, addresses the problem. Ummm, I'm thinking that in any incident like this, one of the important bits is what pissed off the cop enough to thumb that safety in the first place. Not that I distrust police, but just to prove real provocation existed. Say, in a court of law.

I note with interest that spokesmen for both the Vancouver and Ottawa police took care to call the Taser "a tool", and that Taser - by its own narrow terms - labels it "non-lethal".

It's a weapon, dammit. Police may or may not need such a weapon in their arsenals. But let's not let the RCMP try to whitewash their use of Tasers. Let's not try to spin them to appear not to be weapons. Let's not let ourselves be spun. Already too many cops and quasi-cops apparently have drunk the soft soap from this heavy-duty spin cycle, and so have used these weapons where they're not warranted. And people - quite arguably - have died because of it.

Image: Siftings, Arkansas Herald

2 comments:

zoom said...

I couldn't agree more Coyote. Part of the problem with tasers is the cops end up half-believing the euphemistic spin too. I don't want weapons in the hands of anybody who doesn't even recognize them as weapons.

Psychic Librarian said...

Thanks for bringing this up Coyote. I forced myself to watch the video of Robert Dzieknaski when it was in the news, because I wanted to witness what had truly happened (as far as one is able to judge from a video). There is no doubt in my mind that the police acted without consideration of alternative, less violent methods of assisting someone who was obviously in emotional distress.

Imagine if that had been the son of one of our glorious leaders? Would we even be debating this issue? I doubt it.