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Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Taser Use in the U.S. is a Serious Problem

August 4, 2009
Political Perspective by Tim King Salem-News.com
Just because we have the guts to talk about it.

(SALEM, Ore.) - You know, Sigmund Freud would have had a time with the psychology behind police Taser abuse. My story Monday on the new Taser gun that shoots and tortures up to three people at once, did not go over well with the Taser company in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Skateboarding on a sidewalk, being disrespectful, refusing to sign a speeding ticket; these are the reasons some cops use Tasers on people.

I think Steve Tuttle, Taser's company spokesman, feels the heat generating from American awareness. It isn't a level you can simply turn down. Taser use is ridiculous in this country and the video clips I assembled to accompany this article are a hard realistic look at what this device really represents to Americans.

Tuttle wrote to me Monday, objecting to several points in the article. Salem Police also contacted me over referencing a recent arrest-based death that involved a Taser. I corrected the lead to that video link.

I hope every politician reading this article and every taxpayer for that matter, can try to imagine their father, mother, daughter or grandparent being subjected to this level of outright no-holes-barred torture.

There actually aren't words to describe how badly this device is eroding support of law enforcement in the United States. We're the YouTube generation and the controlled atmosphere of the regular media channels is slowly slipping away.

It is being replaced by new media's braver reporters who won't pander or mince words when reporting about a serious problem. In fact I think Internet media is the only hope for discouraging and eventually banning this over the top method of inflicting pain on human beings.

The Taser started out as "an alternative to lethal force". It is important to remember that most police are trained to shoot to kill. In my opinion that is bad business, and one of the few places I have ever heard of that actually trains officers to not always shoot to kill, is right here in Salem, Oregon. The pattern carries across to all of the different local police agencies. They bring in a lot of suspects without killing them.

The dangerous situation is what the Taser was designed for, but as the video shows, they are frequently abused by police. I don't know how or why anyone ever fooled themselves into thinking that this constitutes anything less than excessive force.

Excessive force

It took about 45 minutes to download all of the clips here and another twenty minutes to edit them into place. Imagine how grisly and revolting it would be if I put a couple of hours into it.

You just don't have to look very hard these days to see a clip of police abusing people with these highly controversial devices.

Tuttle says I was wrong to connect the Taser to 351 deaths so far in the United States, as cited by Amnesty International.

"It should also be noted that by its own admission, Amnesty International has conducted no medical studies and has done no direct evaluation of TASER ECDs. They simply clip news story headlines from the media and look at other open source materials then published their so called 'finding,'" Tuttle said.

From it's report, Tasers – potentially lethal and easy to abuse from December 16, 2008, they cite a number of chilling cases that require no medical degree to appreciate.

Among those findings:

"Many were subjected to repeated or prolonged shocks – far more than the five-second 'standard' cycle – or by more than one officer at a time. Some people were even shocked for failing to comply with police commands after they had been incapacitated by a first shock."

"In at least six of the cases where people died, Tasers were used on individuals suffering from medical conditions such as seizures – including a doctor who had crashed his car when he suffered an epileptic seizure. He died after being repeatedly shocked at the side of the highway when, dazed and confused, he failed to comply with an officer's commands."

"Police officers also used Tasers on schoolchildren, pregnant women and even an elderly person with dementia."

"In March 2008, an 11-year-old girl with a learning disability was shocked with a Taser after she punched a police officer in the face. The officer had been called to the school in Orange County, Florida, after the child had become disturbed, pushing desks and chairs and spitting at staff."

These are just a sample of the horror stories that abounbd in American communities over police Taser abuse.

In addressing the deaths that Amnesty International cites, Tuttle said, “Amnesty International’s review is not a scientific study, nor is the organization in a position to reach conclusions regarding the role of the Taser in each case. It can be difficult to determine through autopsy alone whether Taser shocks caused or contributed to a fatal arrhythmia as there are often no direct pathological signs.”

I wrote, “Amnesty International reports that most people who have been killed by Tasers were not carrying weapons. That is a tragedy.”

Tuttle reacted by saying, "Actually, the vast majority of the suspects involved in ANY incident involving the use of a TASER device are unarmed as the TASER is NOT a replacement for deadly force. You don’t bring a knife to a gunfight, period. Case law backs this up time and time again."

He continued, "A closer look at the scientific and medical evidence associated with the arrest-related deaths cited by Amnesty International indicates that in only less than 50 incidents a TASER device has been listed by a medical examiner or coroner as a contributing factor or more likely couldn’t be ruled out in an arrest related death and in only a couple disputed cases has a TASER device been listed as the 'cause' of death. In many of these cases, numerous causes, drug overdoses, pre-existing medical conditions, blunt trauma and other factors have also been listed. Amnesty does not dispute these facts; they just conveniently don’t include them in all statements."

The company Tuttle works for has changed the face of police in this country. They were allowed to market this device right under our very noses, and now police use it almost casually, all based on some crazy premise that they aren't completely torturing people when they press the trigger.

Torturing and punishing people is the job of the courts and prosecutors and judges, not law enforcement. They got by without these things for a long time, and something tells me the police did just fine without them.

If you listen to Tuttle, getting zapped with one of these things is about the same as being tagged with pepper spray. Funny, I was gassed in the Marine Corps and between that and pepper spray, I've never heard of anyone dying. Also, somehow everyone ignores the fact that when people are Tased, they lose all control of their muscles. Sometimes they crap their pants, sometimes they strike their heads and receive terrible injuries. There is no dignity in this product, none at all, yet all in the name of police safety, according to Tuttle.

"The TASER is used at the same level as pepper spray at 85 percent of the nation’s 14,500 agencies deploying TASER devices. TASER devices have been used more than 800,000 times against suspects. They are used more than fists, punches, tackles, batons and chemical sprays due to their effectiveness, accountability, and as a safer alternative for a response to resistance for both officers and suspects than the aforementioned tools and techniques."

And now Taser offers its new three-shot model; triple the effectiveness to inflict indignant torture on people, triple the fun for sadistic cops who are a disgrace to their uniforms. That counts for every badge wearing officer or deputy out there who uses this device casually, on frail people, or at any time they could otherwise avoid it. They are the ones blowing this fecal matter into the fan, and there is no going back.

Tuttle's message to the world is that 351 times, people who were violently shocked by skin piercing Taser darts with 50 thousand of volts of electricity, for some other reason... dropped dead.

From the company Website, "TASER® Weapons fire 50000 volts and drop an assailant from up to 15 feet away."

If we don't restrain police from taking possession of increasingly dangerous weapons to use on Americans, we will all in the end be very sorry. Take that one to the bank.

Tuttle and his team of Taser salesmen have it all figured out, there is no question about it. They have the muscle of law enforcement and the money from your taxpayer pocket. The only way to stop it is for the government agencies that fund police to put pressure on these agencies. I don't think they would easily give them up. In a way it would be like taking the latest tool away from a mechanic, or depriving a firefighter of the latest lifesaving equipment, at least in their eyes.

So the second thought is that local citizen review boards should investigate Taser deployments just like when they shoot their firearms in the line of duty. This would at least add some respect to the average citizen.

It would help a great deal if cops just limited the use of Tasers to unavoidable circumstances. That would also help a great deal at restoring some level of faith. Most cops do a good job and their good reputations are being tarnished by this type of publicity. Yet if we ignore the problem it will never go away.

I swear that when I see the video of the police in Iran moving against the people demonstrating for peace under Mousavi, and then look at the cops in this video, I have a hard time not seeing a real correlation. Absolute power corrupts, absolutely.

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