Friday, November 16, 2007

TASER - Weapon of first resort?

When the TASER was first introduced to law enforcement it was touted as an alternative to deadly force. In other words, when all else failed and your only other option was to shoot, the TASER offered an alternative that was less likely to be fatal. It was the weapon of (second) last resort. Since that time, it appears that, in the hands of many officers, it has become the weapon of first resort. No need to try to talk to the individual, or find out what the problem is, just TASER him (or her) and the questions can come later. And that misuse of this weapon is exactly why the RCMP finds itself in this mess today.

What will it take to put the TASER back where it belongs in the escalating use of force continuum? Well, since the killing of Robert Dziekanski at Vancouver International Airport on October 14, I have seen and heard of several demonstrations where police use the TASER on other officers to show just how safe it is. One day the demonstration won’t go as planned and the targeted officer will not walk away. When that happens, when one cop kills another cop with this “safe” device, we will finally see appropriate guidelines for the use of this weapon. How sad that more life will have to be lost before the authorities come to their senses.


The Mound of Sound said...

You're right on the mark on this one. The taser is a preferred alternative to a firearm - where the use of deadly force is justified and where the alternative can be tried. It is not an alternative to pepper spray. Anyone who has had the awful experience of watching that video can see that at no time was this fellow putting those four officers' lives in peril. When they surrounded him, he had no gun, no knife. They used their tasers, not in self defence, but as a tool to subdue the guy. It's now coming out that, unlike the cops who do the demonstrations, people who are agitated or have been struggling are far more likely to die from the effects of this weapon. This guy had been going berserk for quite a while before he was zapped.

Pat said...

Part of the problem is also that pepper spray is actually likely to make the "vistim" less controllable rather than settle him down (it's almost always "him" not "her"), and the cops get criticised by their bosses if they allow themselves to get into a physical encounter. Effectively, policy makes the taser the weapon of first resort. The cop can't win, the victim can't either.