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Wednesday, August 22, 2007

State of shock

August 22, 2007
Steve Palopoli, Metro Active, Silicon Valley (California)

"To use it [the taser] in a deadly force situation implicates officer safety, and it's not safe for the cops to use it on unarmed individuals. So when is it safe?" asks Aram James [retired public defender and Palo Alto resident who campaigns against tasers and helped found the Coalition for Justice and Accountability in 2003]. Nor does he think better training is a viable solution. "Even with the best of training, the result is no different," he says. "You can't draft a safe policy for an unsafe device."

"My position personally is that they should be banned, and the coalition's position is that they should be banned," says James. "But at the minimum there should be a moratorium until there is independent testing to determine whether they can be used safely on unarmed citizens and vulnerable populations."

The national stories about stupid taser tricks aren't going away, taser-related lawsuits keep piling up and more people than ever are demanding answers that so far law enforcement has been unwilling to provide.

San Jose has had its share of taser-related incidents, most recently the May 25 death of Steve Salinas, who died after being tased while naked and unarmed outside a motel room.

Salinas' daughter Noreen has experienced the lack of transparency in such incidents firsthand. She's still waiting for key information about the circumstances surrounding her father's death, though she's been told autopsy results will be released this month. She's been frustrated at every stage of the discovery process, with toxicology reports shipped to Pennsylvania and what she feels is a longer than necessary wait for the department to collect reports from the officers involved.

"It's just absurd," she says. "They're holding back a lot of information they shouldn't be. If they're so confident," she asks, "then why are people dying?"

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