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Friday, June 12, 2009

"Tasers are not the problem"

June 12, 2009
Allison Wall, Meridian Booster (Lloydminster, Alberta)

OK I’ve watched these stories bounce around in the headlines and stir up controversy and debate – even a column in the Booster – for almost two years. Everyone has an opinion on Tasers, and so do I.

Obviously, I’m a journalist – not a cop – and have never seen, touched, used or been stunned with a Taser (nor do I ever want to be), but I believe this controversial weapon is 100 per cent acceptable. If I was doing something warranting police intervention, I’m pretty certain I would rather be stunned with a Taser than shot with a gun. Perhaps underlying health conditions or an agitated state from drugs and alcohol could increase my chances of death from a Taser (or perhaps not), but a bullet in the chest will lead to an almost certain demise. I’m not good at math, but I think my odds of surviving a Taser stun far outweigh the other grisly option.

Yes, we hear always hear about people who die after being Tasered, but we don’t hear of the many, many cases of people who are subdued by the Taser and live a long and healthy life (although) perhaps in jail).

Unfortunately, Robert Dziekanski was Tasered and died at the Vancouver International Airport on Oct. 14, 2007, and now four Mounties are under fire for allegations they acted improperly and tried to cover up their actions. Says who?

Many of you may have seen the video, but a simple viewing doesn’t mean we were there and doesn’t mean we have first-hand knowledge of what these officers were thinking and feeling and how they were reacting.

The allegations against one officer include improperly assessing the situation and failing to react appropriately when confronting Dziekanski, misrepresenting Dziekanski’s behaviour in the notes and statements given to homicide investigators, continuing to misrepresent the events while testifying during the inquiry and offering a misleading and self-serving interpretation of his notes during the inquiry.

Let me reiterate. I am not a cop and most likely, neither are you. These brave men and women put themselves in danger every single day to keep us safe. They are on the streets fighting – sometimes very violent – crime and need to be able guard themselves. Why should the alleged criminal have the upper hand? Until we are in the situation and can understand the peril, I don’t think any of us can judge the actions of those who use Tasers.

Sure, police should be held accountable for their actions when necessary, but we’ve got to realize – as in any other situation – there will always be that select group of people who abuse the use of Tasers, which should be the real crux of the controversy.

I know there is a lot about Tasers I don’t understand, but I believe police have my best interest at heart.


How NAIVE!! I wonder which rock this journalist lives under. Below is my letter to the editor in response to this junk article. Limited to 500 words, I couldn't even begin to challenge this woman's beliefs. Nor could I let her words pass by as if they were the god's honest truth.

Dear Editor:

In her article entitled "Tasers are not the problem," Allison Wall raises a number of provocative points.

For example, she says: "I think my odds of surviving a Taser stun far outweigh the other grisly option." And she *may* be right about that. However, at a time when her fellow journalists and average Canadians across the country seem fairly unanimous in their condemnation of the egregious overuse and abuse of tasers by police in Canada, Ms. Wall instead chose to drag out the crusty old "tasers are better than guns" argument.

That argument is so ten-years-ago, when tasers were initially approved for use in Canada as an alternative to lethal force. Over the years, however, the taser has become less an alternative to lethal force than an overused and quite unpredictable weapon of mass convenience, used by police in a vast majority of cases where bullets would never be considered. Those of us in the know refer to this phenomenon as "usage creep."

For the 26 men who have died in Canada (most of whom were unarmed and many of whom posed no credible threat to anyone, let alone highly trained police officers), the use of the taser amounted to street-level justice - the taser was judge, jury and executioner.

And yes, sometimes police officers would abuse the use of tasers (and other force options) and they certainly should be held accountable. The fact is, though, that EVERY time a police officer deploys a taser, he or she engages in a potentially deadly game of Russian Roulette. Police officers do have a difficult job and they deserve nothing less than an alternative to guns that does NOT have the high potential for such severe and unintended outcomes as those too often seen with the taser. And until the taser can be shown unequivocally to be a safe alternative to lethal force, the weapon itself cannot be held harmless with any credibility. Despite what police and the weapon's manufacturer would have us believe, that has yet to be shown.

Perhaps, in a future edition, Ms. Wall could attempt to answer this question: When did certain death by bullet and potential death by taser become our only options in Canada?

Patti Gillman
Owner of TNT - Truth ... not tasers http://truthnottasers.blogspot.com

1 comment:

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