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Monday, May 26, 2008

Taser Country


A Wellington [New Zealand] businessman and leadership consultant has created an exhibition of graphic visual images to generate public discussion about the consequences of introducing the Taser as an everyday policing tool in New Zealand.

Lawrence Green says there hasn’t been enough debate about the issue in this country and he is deeply concerned at the possibility of the Taser being introduced.

“I am not the kind of person who joins protest groups or political parties or stands on a soapbox, but I needed an outlet to express what was stirring me up,” he said. “I have always been drawn to the world of visual advertising and to the poster work of political/satirical artists - the way they use language and imagery to communicate. So creating my own posters seemed like a good idea to capture people’s attention and make them think.”

Lawrence Green says while there is no doubt that police face many difficult situations in the course of duty that can be a threat to their own safety as well as the safety of others, and while advocates of the Taser argue that it will actually save lives (because it is 'less-lethal' than a gun), the North American experience shows unnecessary lives lost.

“Between June 2001 and September 2007, Amnesty International recorded 291 deaths of individuals struck by police Tasers in North America. They reported that the vast majority of these deaths were unarmed men who did not pose "a threat of death or serious injury when they were electro-shocked". In only 25 of the 291 deaths was the individual reported to be armed in any way.

“I am not sure that New Zealanders want a country where it is deemed socially acceptable that a certain number of people die as the price for police carrying out their duties. We need to keep what is good about our country and not lose it by becoming more like North

America in this regard. I believe that if we start down this path there is a real risk that we will lose something as a caring and humanitarian nation.”

Lawrence has pulled his ideas together in 12 different posters, which directly address issues raised by the experience of the United States where he says police have begun using the Taser routinely rather than as a weapon of last resort.

“The Taser is described as having a ‘low level electrical discharge’ but it actually hits people with 50,000 volts of electricity. As it has the capacity to inflict multiple and prolonged electric shocks, it is easily abused. Amnesty International also reported that in about a third of the North American cases those who died were subjected to between 3 and 21 shocks. In November 2007 the United Nations Committee Against Torture described the Taser as an instrument of torture because of the extreme pain it provokes.”

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