Monday, November 19, 2007

Don't Kill Me, Bro!

Remember that funny little story a few months ago about the obnoxious college student who got tasered for heckling a campus lecturer? Oh it was so funny! A clearly unarmed 20 year old taken down by six cops and electrocuted after he pleaded, "don't tase me bro!" What a week of humor that supplied! Hell the only thing funnier would be if he were wearing a burka and it happened to him while inside an Iraqi insurgent prison camp!
In fact, a grumpy friend of mine responded to it by saying, "Oh come on. The kid got what he deserved."
Yeah, well what would this country say if the little run-at-the-mouth white college kid died?

Well, it's starting to happen. CNN is reporting:

A 20-year-old man died Sunday after being shot with a Taser device during a scuffle with a sheriff's deputy in Maryland, a spokeswoman for the Frederick County Sheriff's Office said. Amnesty International blames dozens of deaths on police use of stun guns.

Cpl. Jennifer Bailey said deputies responding to a report of a fight in progress arrived at the location in Frederick, Maryland, just before 5 a.m. ET and found four people fighting. A deputy used a Taser device on one of the men, who fell unconscious, Bailey said. The man was taken to Frederick Memorial Hospital, where he was pronounced dead...

Amnesty International has reported that, since June 2001, more than 150 people have died in the United States after being subdued with a stun gun. The organization has called for police departments to suspend use of the devices pending study of their possible risks. Few have done so, said Amnesty, which added that more than 7,000 of the nation's 18,000 law enforcement agencies use the devices.
Last week, an airport security officer in Vancouver International Airport in Canada used a Taser device on a distraught 40-year-old man on his first airplane trip outside Poland. He died. In a statement released Friday, Taser International cited the Vancouver case and said it "appears to follow the pattern of many in-custody deaths or deaths following a confrontation with police.

Historically, medical science and forensic analysis has shown that these deaths are attributable to other factors and not the low-energy electrical discharge of the Taser.""We are taken aback by the number of media outlets that have irresponsibly published conclusive headlines blaming the Taser device and/or the law enforcement officers involved as the cause of death before completion of the investigation," said Tom Smith, the [taser] company's founder and chairman of the board. But Amnesty International, noting that coroners have identified Tasers as a contributory factor in more than 30 deaths, said such a link cannot be ruled out.

I have always stood firmly against the use of tasers. It's simply excessive force. I certainly understand the theory behind why tasers are issued, but I cannot trust many of the cops to whom these tasers are being handed. There are cops who would hate to use them and then, like anything else, there are cops who would love to use them.

There are 150 total taser deaths. If more than 30 of those death list the taser as a "contributory factor" then shouldn't we be concerned about the idea of tasing itself? Would any of these 150 people be dead had they not been tased? When was the last time we had a story about cops detaining someone naturally and the suspect dying right then and there?

I know since 9/11 this country has been shock and awed into the fear that somehow people have grown to be more dangerous, more powerful, more insidious. Why not? We're pumped to the brim with sensationalized 24 hour up-to-the-minute news sources forecasting our impending doom, movies and television shows with huge explosions, hundreds of thousands of causalities, transformers taking shape into our worst bio and technological weapons and reigning terror upon the world, Jack Bauer fighting season after season to save humanity and bionic women capable of running faster than jets. But believe you me, unless your some outrageously paid, high-honered sports figure, people are not becoming stronger, or bionic, by any means. They're remaining the same flesh and blood we as a species have always been. Yeah, sometimes our species carries a knife, or a gun, or a bomb, but in the case of this 20 year old man, now dead, he was just using his fists.


Anonymous said...

This is unbelievable. I cannot comprehend this, I do not know how ANY sane person cannot see what I see. I am not a doctor but I will tell you that any person who is elderly, in poor health, under the influence of drugs (both legal and illegal) will DIE if they are tasered. This is just common sense. When are we going to start to see an end to this maddness and place a permanent ban on this death device?

Anonymous said...

Well here's my take on it.
you have 150 deaths that "may be" due to taser use, but only 30 that you're willing to say are "probably".

So, let's take away the tasers. Go back to what the cops used on out of control or armed suspect without using tasers... a billy club or a 9mm. How many people were killed by club use and how many by GUN use???

Amnesty international has a point... let's stop using those painful tasers and go back to a nice painless bullet in the skull. That's a GRAND idea.

Those same irresponsible cops who love using tasers used to love clubbing someone in the head or even better, shooting them. me personally, I'd rather take my chances with the taser than with a club or a Beretta.

Dennis said...

Anonymous #2, you assume, incorrectly I think, that cops use clubs and fired their guns at the same rates they use tasers. The reason tasers are such a concern is because there is an assumption that they as or more effective than other forms of detterence, while being safer. Cops that use tasers may believe they are acting responsibly when they aren't. As for irresponsible cops, I think you're pretty much screwed if he has a taser, club, or gun. Either can inflict a lot of pain without killing you.

As the CNN article mentions, there's a huge controversy in Canada right now about the death of a Polish immigrant after he was stunned with a taser at Vancouver International Aiport. Another passenger recorded the incident, surrended the recording to the police after being promised that it would be returned, and then had to retain a lawyer to get the recording back after the police changed their mind.