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Sunday, September 28, 2008

Editorial: Cops wrong to taser teen

September 28, 2008
The Province

On Monday, a 16-year-old mother was clutching her baby, who was born one month ago with a series of life-threatening medical conditions. As the baby was released from hospital, the threat of those medical conditions had obviously diminished.

Social workers wanted the baby taken away from the mother, and when they were unable to do so, the police were called in.

With a number of police officers and social workers in the room, the distraught teenage mother allegedly gripped her sickly infant more tightly.

For three hours they negotiated.

Efforts to have the teenager willingly turn the baby over to the Vancouver police and social services went nowhere.

At that point, someone decided, for the well-being of this baby, that the standoff demanded immediate action: It was Taser time.

Not one Taser, but two Tasers.

As a result of the blasts, the mom involuntarily released the baby, the police rushed the child into an ambulance and all was resolved.

Well, sorry, but we still have a bunch of questions, starting with: What the hell just happened? Three, maybe four police officers couldn't wrestle an infant from the clutches of a 110-pound, 16-year-old mother? You negotiated for three hours with the teenager, then, 180 minutes later, concluded the infant was in trouble and only a Taser could resolve the situation? VPD Const. Jana McGuinness said officers had no choice but to Taser "the extremely distraught mother to rescue her critically ill infant." Rather than call that a lie, let's just say it's not true. Officers did have a choice. They could have left the room, for example. They could have continued to negotiate. Hell, they could have shot her.

Choices were everywhere. So, apparently, were Tasers.

Const. McGuinness went on to say: "It might appear to be harsh, but we have to remember that if the child died because we hadn't used the Taser, what criticism would we face then?" First off, police officers shouldn't make life and death decisions based on the optics and the potential for criticism. You do the right thing, and if some criticism comes along with doing the right thing, you live with it. Tasering this teenager was not the right thing.

As the citizens of Vancouver are well aware, the use of a Taser comes with the possibility of death. If the mother had a gun to the baby's head, fine, Taser her to Pluto. But the mother reportedly had no plans to hurt her child. The mother was holding the child during three hours of negotiations. Was it really worth risking the life of the 16-year-old by blasting her with thousands of volts of electric shock? Meanwhile, in New York, police Tasered a naked guy with a fluorescent light. He fell from the side of a building, landed on his head and died. A bystander recorded the incident and that recording was shared with the world on YouTube. Prosecutors are now investigating the police on the scene at the time of the death.

Perhaps if someone taped the Tasering of the Vancouver teenager, a similar investigation would ensue.

Perhaps the police themselves should have taped it. After all, they had three hours to set up the cameras.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank goodness the baby is alive and well with no harn to the baby or mother. We could have been readin about a death of a child here from a mother who smothered the child. The police did the apporpriate thing, if someone else has a better solution, please speak up now.