Friday, December 5, 2008

On Tasers

So, here is something I have been thinking about for a while. It is not theological. I claim no expertise in the area. But, here are my thoughts on tasers.
There has been much concern lately in press reports regarding the use of taser guns by police (and in particular among the Royal Canadian Mounted Police). The claim is that taser guns are dangerous and potentially harmful and in a few cases even lethal. All of those concerns are valid I am sure. I have no doubt that a taser gun can be dangerous, harmful, and even lethal.
But here is the thing: If you don't want to be hit with a taser gun - follow the police officer's orders! The RCMP don't wander around town randomly firing their taser gun at people going about their shopping or picking up their mail. A taser gun is employed to bring a non-compliant person into compliance. A taser gun is employed if a person is not obeying the police officer's commands and is potentially seen as a threat to himself or others.
Police officers want to get home to their families safely. If they are dealing with a person who chooses not to obey their orders they are a threat. There are various ways in which that threat may be reduced or eliminated. You could physically restrain them using various methods of force (punch, club, etc) which puts the officer directly in harms way. You could shoot them - which increases the potential of fatality or serious injury to the person. Or you could use a taser gun. Yes, the potential for injury and harm is there - but less so than being shot. Also, the taser gun significantly reduces the risk for the police officer as he does not need to go into physical combat. The taser gun protects the police officer - and let's not forget why we have to discuss this to begin with - the person is not obeying the police officer's commands!
Everyone is concerned about the risk that the taser gun represents to the person being hit with it. I have not heard many people comment on the risk a non-compliant person poses to the police officer. So from what I can see a taser gun is a reasonable weapon for a police officer. If you choose to disobey a police officer's commands you will suffer the consequences - and you ought to! When you disobey the officer's commands you put him at risk. The taser gun reduces that risk. Seems fair to me.


Father Hollywood said...

Dear Mike:

At least here in the States, it isn't quite that simple. Time and again, we read about cases where the tasers are abused and misused - even on pregnant women, people in wheel chairs, the elderly, etc.

I imagine that the vast majority of uses are legitimate, but the idea that "if you just obey the law, you have nothing to fear from the police" is more theoretical than anything else.

In New Orleans, just in the last couple years, we have had a spate of police officers committing crimes. Not long ago, the Atlanta Police Department reported that a lot of their cops have criminal records.

And before I get the "you haven't been there so you have no right to an opinion" - I used to be a Corrections Officer. I worked with all kinds of officers - the good (professional) the bad (the incompetent) and the ugly (the criminals with badges).

Of course, I recommend obeying orders from the police - but don't presume that just because someone was tased, that they deserved to have been. This is why our system presumes innocence and places the burden of proof on the prosecution. The proliferation of video devices has revealed a lot of misconduct out there among police officers.

Mike Keith said...

This is true. Abuse could happen. What I said assumes that the vast majority of our police forces are not corrupt and abusive.

Though this is nt always the case... I am not sure we can withold a weapon that may protect many police officers from harm for the few who may be corrupt. We give them all gins! :-)

Father Hollywood said...

An interesting piece here.