The question of what force is justified in respect to tasers comes up again.


From a Slashdot commenter from a hardly related story:

What’s truly ironic is that the anti-taser nonsense exposes the real goals of the nutbag/hoplophobic groups.

The American Criminal Liberties Union, National Association for the Ascendancy of Crappy People, New Black Panthers, et al spent an amazing amount of time in the late ’90s/early ’00s suing police departments across the country, demanding more “nonlethal” weaponry be used by police (because if you draw a gun, you had better be prepared to shoot to kill [wikipedia.org].)

Thus we wound up with cops carrying pepper spray (useful only at a range of melee combat: bad thought) and then the Taser, which is normally nonlethal unless someone fits certain conditions; sadly, one of those conditions is “hopped up on drugs like cocaine.”

Once they’d gotten that concession, however, the anti-police groups weren’t done. Now they want to harm the police even further. The goal is to make it impossible for the police to ever do their jobs. Thus, if they taser someone who’s trying to start a fight, and that person happens to have a heart condition or turns out to be on drugs that cause the body to mimic one, and it sends them into cardiac arrest or arrhythmia, then the nutbag groups scream bloody murder about how the cops “should have known” and shouldn’t have used the taser.

It’s all about the fact that they hate the cops. I agree that there are cops out there that are dicks, but the vast majority of cops are incredible people. They do a job that is almost always thankless. They deal with people every day who approach them with incredibly disrespectful attitudes or try to bait them (see: Henry Louis Gates Jr the Racist Professor), merely because they think they can get away with it or because they have authority issues. They deal with working 12-14 hour shifts, because first they have to work their beat time, and then they have to do the paperwork AFTER their patrol hours. They have to deal with the stress of wondering, every time they put on their uniform, “is today the day some drunk/stoned motherfucker pulls a gun and instead of me coming home, it’s the police chief/sergeant coming to my door to tell my wife and kids that I’m dead or in the hospital.” They walk into every situation wondering if some stupid motherfucker is going to do something stupid that ends in them getting stuck in lawsuit hell. They get paid an incredibly small paycheck for the enormous amount of work they do.

Re-read what I just posted. Now the next time you see a police officer, whether it is because you got pulled over for speeding or just that they happen to be in a store at the same time you are, tell them THANK YOU for doing the job they do.

And my response:

Your post is moronic. The first part of the post you show your prejudices and then go on to ask that we keep an open mind about what police officers go through.

Think what you want about the ACLU and the NAACP, but the fact is, they’re trying to fight for people’s rights that so often get trampled. It’s good that they fought for less lethal equipment for law enforcement. Now I’m sure the police are wondering what they ever did without them.

Problem is, now the police are abusing them. They didn’t give those weapons to police so they could go around tasing anybody that wasn’t complying with their orders, do you agree?

Any sort of weapon should only be used as the last resort. The old lady who was being unruly on the side of the road could have easily been restrained and handcuffed, but instead, she was tased. Another incident that got me mad as hell was an incident in Southern Illinois at a state home for orphaned children. The cops went in and tased three minors, threatened one with sodomy, held a 17 year-old girl up against a wall by her neck while the cop asked if she wanted to live or die. Now I concede that as there’s no video of this incident there’s no way of knowing if that’s the truth or not, but as the police department only responded with, “the officers acted appropriately”, that’s the only side I have to go by. Another problem with the case is, it wasn’t until a year later that the news went national and then only because a civil lawsuit was filed. And then, only because as it was a state home, the administrators were obligated to do so on behalf of the boys and girl who were assaulted.

Your attempted insinuation that only those “hopped up on cocaine” are susceptible to fatal consequences from tasers is laughable. A countless number of situations, circumstances, and medical conditions could put someone at risk of fatal injury from high voltage electric shock. All police officers have to keep this in mind when they are considering employing such means to subdue a suspect.

Please, please don’t get me wrong. If a suspect is attempting to attack and officer or someone else, I have absolutely no problem with tasers being used! In fact, in some cases, with the kind of evil criminals that are out on their streets, I wish sometimes that there was no less lethal solution to be utilized and we could avoid the trouble of a trial with a trip to the morgue. (I’m not condoning murder, just a shortcut to justice.)

On to the second part of your post, the part where you actually show that you’re intelligent and capable of compassion, or at least would like others to have compassion for you, if you are as I suspect, a police officer.

I am very appreciative of those good police who approach their jobs with humility and respect for others. I understand the risks they incur to protect the rest of us. I’m not sure that the ‘vast majority’, as you say, approach their jobs in this manner. I wish they did. I think that the police who treat people with respect, until they lose that right, will most times receive the same in return. If you are a police officer as I suspect, do you really have a problem finding people who appreciate what you do? I really can’t imagine that being true. Unless you’re out there throwing the book at everyone while being disrespectful. Why don’t you try and think about how you’d act if someone acted toward you the same way you act toward them?

What scares me is when I watch the TV Show, Cops, I see injustices of all sorts, not necessarily of the illegal variety, possibly just unfair. If the officers feel comfortable doing things like that on the small screen, I have to assume what goes on off camera is that much worse. Also I assume they put only their best officers on the show, what are the bad ones doing?

For instance, using tinted windows as probable cause to stop and search a car. Or a tail light with translucent tape over an area that got broken out for probable cause to stop and search a car. Both stops lead to arrests and I can only hope that both cases got dropped over 4th amendment issues. That was just a single episode. This is starting to feel like a police state to me.

You mention the incident with Henry Louis Gates, considering you’re asking us to have a better opinion of police, why would you bring that up? The man was attempting to get into his own home and somehow police show up and next thing you know, he’s getting arrested on his own property. I don’t care how belligerent he was being, he was doing nothing illegal and that officer should be taught a lesson. Hurting an officer’s ego isn’t cause for arrest, and we all know that that is Gates’ only real offense here. But “because he thought he could get away with it”? With what? Being on his own property? Trying to enter his own house while being black? Why don’t you put yourself in his position?

Working 12-14 hour shifts because they have to work their ‘beat’ then go do all their paperwork is maybe something you should take up with your union, don’t you think? Can you not do some of your paperwork during any downtime you have during your shift?

They start their day wondering if it’s going to be their last. I would think that would be all the more reason to treat people with respect as often as possible. Usually criminals aren’t interested in incurring the wrath of a police force looking for justice for one of their own being killed, but as I mentioned earlier, when someone has their ego insulted, sometimes that can turn ugly. There’s no reason for an officer to go around and piss everyone off that they come into contact with. Trowing the book at every single person is a fine way to accomplish this. Leniency coupled with a respectful attitude is a great way to avoid it.

If you have issues with how much you’re paid, another issue best taken up with your union. Not taken out on the citizens you’re charged to ‘Serve & Protect’.

This whole thing reminds me of a scene from “The Wire”, a TV Show created by a former Baltimore City reporter, who spent 13 years covering the Baltimore police, and a Baltimore City Police Homicide Detective, Ed Burns. It’s not the most eloquent of language, but it’s the best summary of how the relationship between the police and the citizens is so bad and how it effects our safety. It’s from Season 3, Episode 10.

“You’re a good man, Sergeant, you got good instincts, and as far as I can tell, you’re a decent supervisor. But from where I sit, you ain’t shit when it comes to policing. Don’t take it personally, it ain’t just you, it’s all our young police. Whole generation of y’all. Now you think about it, You been here over a year now, you got nobody looking out for you, nobody willing to talk to you, that about sum it up? Now that’s a problem. I didn’t think I would ever get my head around it. But then a cop got shot for some bullshit. That’s when I about reached my limit. Because this drug thing, this ain’t police work. No. It ain’t. I can send any fool with a badge and a gun up on them corners and jack a crew and grab vials. But policing? You call something a war and pretty soon everybody’s going to be running around acting like warriors. They gonna be running around on a damn crusade, storming corners, slapping on cuffs, racking up body counts. And when you’re at war, you need an enemy. And pretty soon, damn near every body on every corner is your fucking enemy. And soon the neighborhood that you’re supposed to be policing, that’s just occupied territory.”

“You follow this?”

“I think so.”

“Okay, the point I’m making is this… Soldiering and Policing, they ain’t the same thing. And before we went and took the wrong turn and started up with these war games. The cop walked the beat, and he learned that post. And if there were things that happened up on that post, whether it be a rape, a robbery, a shooting, he had people out there helping him. Feeding him information. But every time I come to you, my drug Sergeant, for information, to find out what’s going on out in those streets, all that came back was some bullshit. You had your stats, you had your arrests, you had your seizures, but don’t none of that amount to shit when you’re talking about protecting the neighborhood now, does it?”

“You know the worst thing about this so-called drug war, to my mind, it just — ruined this job.”

I hope any police reading this really take some time to think about it. There’s more than one way to police, and some are going to be a lot more effective than others. I’m not trying to tell you how to do your job, but David Simon and Ed Burns may be able to teach you a thing or two, and it may help you get through your days on the street… alive. Can’t hurt, right?

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