Has there ever been a worse idea in the history of police work than the stun gun? Seriously, what’s the point of these things? If you’re close enough to use one, the target clearly isn’t armed with a deadly weapon. So why not use that police training and get in there and subdue the guy the old-fashioned way (assuming that’s even necessary)? Stun guns are for lazy and/or cowardly police officers unwilling to do their jobs properly.
Nothing makes this point more clearly than the “don’t taze me bro” incident.
Now the family of a New York City police officer is suing the city after the officer committed suicide. The alleged reason for his suicide is that he was disciplined after ordering a stun gun be used on a man who subsequently fell to his death.
Let’s review the facts of the matter. The man who was tazed was mentally ill. He was waving a large fluorescent bulb after running naked from his apartment onto the fire escape. The officer ordered the use of a stun gun to subdue him.
A few things are obvious here: 1) the man was not armed other than with a light bulb—he was naked, so he clearly wasn’t hiding another weapon; 2) the officer who ordered the use of the stun gun was not alone, since people generally don’t give orders to themselves.
Not obvious but easily inferred is that a naked man waving a light bulb is probably not a threat to anyone but himself and at a distinct disadvantage in a confrontation with multiple armed police officers, at a minimum carrying firearms and handcuffs and likely also wearing bulletproof vests and carrying a club of some sort.
So why was a taser necessary? Answer: it wasn’t. In fact if we use this as a model for most police confrontations, we can carry it out to its logical conclusion. When is a taser ever necessary? Answer: never. Police work has been done effectively for centuries without them, so why are they needed now?
I’ll concede there are situations where it’s useful or convenient, but using it because it’s convenient is wholly unjustified.
“Ricky Bobby, why did you throw a stick of dynamite in the lake?”
“Because I wanted to catch some fish.”
Sure, dynamite may be more convenient than a worm and a hook, but does that mean it’s justified? So why do we allow police officers to use tasers just because they’re convenient, even when other methods would be just as or more effective? The answer is that we shouldn’t, because they’re bound to be abused.
Anyone who doesn’t think they’re prone to abuse need only look at Wikipedia to read about their use on children:
Police officers that patrol schools, including grade schools, in several U.S. states (including Kansas, Minnesota, Kentucky, Virginia and Florida) have been carrying Tasers since the early 2000s. In 2004, the parents of a 6-year-old boy in Miami sued the police department for tasering their child. The police said the boy was threatening to injure his own leg with a shard of glass, and claimed that using the Taser was the only option to stop the boy from injuring himself. Taser International asserts that the Taser is safe for use on anyone weighing 60 pounds (27 kg) or more. Nevertheless, the boy's mother told CNN that the three officers involved might have found it easier to reason with her child. Two weeks later, a 12-year-old girl skipping school was tasered in Miami-Dade. In March 2008, an 11-year old girl was shocked by a Taser. In March 2009, a 15-year-old boy died in Michigan after being tasered.
In the case of a six year old boy, he was threatening to injure himself. So here’s an idea, stop him. With your hands. There were three of you, after all. I have a five-year-old boy whom I can subdue, without injuring him, at will, with two hands every time and with one hand 90% of the time. We call it “bear trap,” it’s his favorite game, and he only ever escapes if I let him (shhh, don’t tell him that).
If the kid was threatening to injure himself with a piece of glass, how the hell was sending an electrical current through his tiny body going to produce a better outcome? The first question is why an officer who would do such a thing is working in schools in the first place, but even allowing that, why was he carrying a taser?
Amnesty International and the ACLU (if any right-wingers (hi, dad!) are still reading, they just checked out—as if I weren’t preaching to the choir already) have suggested that taser use constitutes cruel, unusual, and degrading treatment and therefore violates the UN convention on human rights. When confronted with this, the CEO of Taser International countered that the UN was “out of touch” with the needs of modern policing. I love the use of the word “needs” in this context.
Back to the case of the New York City officer, his suicide was unfortunate. But frankly, disciplinary action in this situation was wholly justified. He should have been removed from his position and put in one where he couldn’t irresponsibly order the use of what was in this case a deadly weapon on a mentally ill and defenseless man.
The trouble is that not only could he not accept the consequences of his actions, but now neither can his family.
"They ripped his heart out," Susan Pigott said of her husband, Michael. "He was treated so unfairly."
He was treated unfairly? What about the naked guy who got shot up with electricity and fell to his death? Was Pigott’s use of force “fair” to him? And now Pigott’s family want the taxpayers, the victims of police tazing, to foot the bill. It’s disgusting and unnecessary. In this case, two lives would have been saved, along with an as-yet-to-be-determined amount of taxpayer dollars, were the New York City police not equipped with tasers.