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Thursday, June 14, 2007

UPDATE: No Tasers for Montpelier, Vermont

I am elated to report that Montpelier city council had concerns and tabled the taser issue last night, saying they were not ready to authorize the weapons. Two members of the public spoke at the meeting, both of them opposed to the use of tasers, citing concerns about civil liberties, the medical impact, and the risk they'd be used inappropriately. City resident Erik Esselstyn said "I get very skeptical when I see this weaponization of a wonderful small city police force." Resident Ethan Parke said "Precisely because they are billed as non-lethal, they are too easily used as the first choice, and the verbal commands and less lethal methods are simply bypassed."

Councilor Sarah Jarvis said she worries that tasers might become the tool of choice in situations where verbal negotiations might otherwise suffice. "When you decrease lethality of the instrument the police use, you also decrease inhibitions around using that weapon," she said. No Montpelier officer in recent years has had to fire his gun.

The city council asked police to provide more information about tasers, including studies on the medical impacts and written policies on how the tools should and should not be used.

City council would like more input from the public.

Strangely enough, police at last night's meeting referred to the taser as "non-lethal" - even the manufacturer doesn't call it that anymore. The new term is "less than lethal." And that's a whole other story.

I'll never know if my e-mail to city council, including a link to this site, had an impact. Do I suspect it did? You betcha!!!

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