Monday, November 26, 2007

Tasers under scrutiny

The United Nations -- at least, its Committee Against Torture -- says that Tasers are a form of torture and a violation of U.N. treaties. Oddly enough, after what I've written about Tasers recently, I'll have to disagree just a bit.

When used as intended, as a less-lethal alternative to firearms, I think that Tasers are just dandy. If a situation calls for the use of lethal force, resorting instead to 50,000 volts strikes me as a commendable option.

But the U.N. Committee Against Torture is right when it comes to the way that Tasers are often deployed, aside from the merits of the devices themselves. Instead of using them instead of firearms in life-or-death situations, police often seem to resort to them as an easy way to forcefully extract compliance from a suspect -- or simply to punish disrespect. Tasers seem to have become an open invitation to use force in situations that don't necessarily call for any force at all -- let alone lethal force.

The problem is that Tasers are really easy to use -- just point and squeeze the trigger. There's no need to get up-close and personal, and (usually) no corpse to explain away. For a pissed-off cop, a "ride on the Taser" can be a simple and relatively consequence-free means for "correcting" a civilian's disrespectful attitude.

But I don't think Tasers should be abandoned. I like the idea that people who might otherwise be shot with a bullet can instead be stunned with voltage.

The trick, though, is going to be getting police to stop regarding the devices as substitutes for sharp looks -- or just walking away.



Blogger OReally said...

Sorry, but I must disagree with you.

"The trick, though, is going to be getting police to stop regarding the devices as substitutes for sharp looks."

The above is simply not going to happen. Every technology has its own logic. That logic is often not seen until it is in widespread use. The logic of Tasers is as you rightly point out:

"...Tasers are really easy to use..."

Therefore they will be used.

Unfortunately, they will not be banned, especially given the current political climate.

November 26, 2007 8:11 PM  
Blogger Bill said...

Perhaps tasing the officer every time he tases someone else would be a sufficient disincentive for inappropriate use. Put that in the procedure.

November 27, 2007 7:48 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The only thing that will ameliorate police mistreatment of civilians is the abolition of professional, career police in favor of a system where every able-bodied citizen spends time as a policeman/woman. The police are the "standing army" the Founders warned us about.

November 28, 2007 5:08 PM  

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