When my hometown began a debate to arm its some 3,000 police officers with tasers, it was time to sound off in the interest of the public. The last 2 decades have seen police, nation wide, fall from the grace with numerous charges of excessive force and suspect death, becoming particularly brazen in the last 2 years. A man was dumped out of his wheelchair in one police station for refusing to stand up despite his obvious condition and repeated statements why he could not comply. The saving grace: someone caught it on video then posted it on You Tube. In another case an officer, during interrogation, violated procedure and turned off the surveillance camera; before disconnection he is seen roughing up the terrified woman. When filming resumes, the woman is lying on the floor in a pool of her own blood, suffering an obviously broken arm among other injuries. Again recompense came from what was visible on camera. A woman was detained regarding a night club disturbance, charged with assaulting an officer allegedly spitting on him and becoming combative; this claim was denied when video showed the officer shoving the compliant, non violent, petite woman across the club then shoving her, hands handcuffed behind her, down a flight of stairs. Questions arose about how a wife and mother held by airport security died in what was ruled an accident; the panicked woman tried to free herself from handcuffs and choked. Other videos have surfaced since the proliferation of camera phones, handcuffed suspects being thrown over seats, restrained by multiple officers, knees baring down on limbs causing injury, one applying such force to the persons head they cried they couldn’t breath and were ignored.
Tasers are far worse boasting more devastating consequences including over 300 deaths. One publicized case was a woman attending a wedding reception in a bar; a friend offers her a ride. After waiting a few minutes in the friends vehicle she is told to get out; when she repeatedly says no, she is yanked from the car then tasered. Only then does she realize it’s a police officer; she is ordered to get up from the ground where she landed. When she tries, she is tased again. The officer’s dashboard video shows the woman attempting to follow directions but having difficulty walking and moving. This was thought to be due to intoxication, but the woman’s attorney points out you can hear the tasers trademark clicking continuously throughout the several minute scene. Glaringly obvious in the evidence pictures, is blood and an innumerable amount of burn marks on her white outfit turned brown. The aftereffects, her vision was altered, her motor skills damaged; at the time of her interview on The Early Show she could not do the following: pick up her son, play ball with him due to her eyesight, run and play because of dizziness, all from this incident.
In my hometown, pushing to arm officers, public outcry peaked after a man, on an I-70 overpass threatening suicide, was tased down, suffering a broken jaw, at least one broken arm and possible spinal injury. Another man from the state was tased and sent to the hospital; he died. Tasers have a history of burns, hospitalization, carry the potential for nerve damage, cardiac arrest, even death.
It makes no sense to put another weapon into police offers’ arsenal; they have a disturbing trend of being misused on the public. Even with video evidence of misconduct, the punishment received is often nothing more than a slap on the wrist, the officer who disconnected the interrogation camera was fired; his punishment was the most severe of the occurrences detailed. The nightclub officer was only docked pay. It becomes a bigger problem considering the instances of mistaken identity and wrongly accused, incidences that have increased recently. It is often something simple, persons apprehended by the police to sort out the events surrounding an altercation, later determined to have done nothing wrong; these people now face potential injury or death.
Despite claims that tasers keep cops and suspects safer, there is little need for such dangerous objects, with plastic handcuffs, guns that shoot rubber bullets or beanbags. Officials have failed to realize another key point regarding danger when using tasers over other methods, taser use on persons who have medical conditions. For example, persons with pace makers or epilepsy. Has significant research been done to insure tasers pose a minimal threat to these citizens; do those calling for their use on a wide scale have enough information to determine that risk to such persons? Along with these issues and increased negative perception there is the added concern of cost. Purchasing and maintaining the devices, paying for the added training will not come cheap; estimates are in the millions of dollars.
Police wanting to better circumstances should obtain the listed items already used with less injury, carrying minute risk of death. Also, increasing manpower, getting back to the basics, like identifying yourself as a police officer, which would have likely eliminated the situation with the woman at the bar. The suicidal individual may have suffered less injury than if he had jumped; however, anyone knows this is a poor way to treat desperate people. For it to be hailed a positive outcome is an insult. Finally, police here or nation wide are not ready for tasers demonstrated in the amount of misconduct, injury and death present without them never mind with. No one should face permanent damage or death due to apprehension by police; what if this town begins a national trend or the entire state decides to follow its lead? The fact is, this nation has become a nation of too many “keystone cops;” putting tasers in their hands is not only a bad idea but a disaster.