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Friday, November 28, 2008

Why a Taser shocks me

November 28, 2008
Colin Drury, Evening Courier

APPARENTLY when the dart hits, it feels like an intense cramp gripping every inch of your body. They say you feel the 50,000 volts in your eyeballs, your fingernails and roots of your hair. In the short term it disables you. Nobody knows the long-term effects. So it's obvious: when a Taser's pointed in your direction, you don't argue. And you hope the pointer isn't trigger happy.

Hmm... I still remember the young man who arrested my friend years ago. Not his face, as such, or his rank, or what his partner called him as they cuffed this skinny teenage boy. It was his anger that seared itself in my mind, his inconsolable rage, his disproportionate fury etching his face and stretching his voice. My friend didn't help. He wouldn't stand up when he was told. But the clue was in the eventual charge. Drunk and incapable. He couldn't follow his own mind's instructions, let alone those of a barking policeman. It soured the thin blue line in my eyes.

As did the story of a teenage girl I once interviewed who had a police dog set on her after being mistaken for someone else.

And there are other examples if you care to go looking for them. In every case I wonder what might have happened had the attending officers been armed with Tasers as many of them will now be, under an £8 million Home Office scheme. Not that this is an anti-police rant. Largely, they're good guys doing dangerous jobs, putting their lives on our line. Protectors of order, keepers of law. But police officers are also often young and – in situations where a taser may be used particularly – high on adrenalin. They are regularly in situations where keeping the cool head needed to use proportionately a weapon of such power is not always possible. Giving police Tasers is a dangerous precedent. They don't need them. They have colleagues with years of specialist training who can deal with extreme situations. Although. of course, even such firearms officers have been known to get it wrong.

Tasers are open to massive abuse. Their potential to escalate dangerous situations far outweigh any deterrent benefits. They would be a last resort soon promoted to a first. Those who keep the law must not only stay within it themselves, they must be shining examples of it. Walking around with an offensive weapon is against the law. A Taser is an offensive weapon. Since when was policemen being above the law a good idea?

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