The Atlantic recently did a piece highlighting the use of tasers by law enforcement and the National Park Service on people for light infractions. The darkly comedic or disturbing title is: Zap! Should the State Keep Shocking Citizens to Enforce Minor Laws? A rhetorical question with this possible answer: “WTF, No!” The url words are also notable: “modest-limits-on-when-the-state-can-electrocute-americans.”
It centers around Californian Gary Hesterberg jogging with his unleashed terrier which he then leashed. It ended with a National Park Service woman deploying taser barbs in his back and calling for backup. The twists and turns are well written in depth and are interesting. But…
Bottom line: he just barely won his case. BARELY. It really isn’t encouraging. Ironically, it actually sets more uncomfortable precedents about the use of tasers by the National Park Service, especially if you read the entire thing. But the point is – why should jogging with your obedient dog ever, ever land a taser in your face to begin with?
Furthermore, something that never entered the case was that he informed the Park Service woman he had a heart problem, but she still shot him in the back. His charges were based on that little interaction, not the one where she originally saw his dog off a leash – a minor infraction. Again, the dog was leashed at this point. She was only supposed to go out and give verbal warnings about it. But the paranoia and Hershberg’s mistrust that she wouldn’t identify her authority led to a crazy tasing incident. She perceives more disobedience when he won’t simply roll over after five seconds of a paralyzing jolt. She takes more action after kindly checking his vital signs.
Speaking of which, often left from the argument of police shooting innocent Americans, is the use of deadly force with so-called non-lethal weapons like tasers. See Joe Wright’s in-depth article on wrongful taser deaths here. Even NBC News asks: Are Tasers too deadly to be called ‘non-lethal’?
Here’s one statistic:
According to Amnesty International, more than 330 Americans have died after being “Tasered” and at least one pregnant mother has lost her unborn child since 2001. From 2002 to 2005, 211 children were shocked with Tasers in the United States and one 14-year-old boy in a Chicago children’s home had a heart attack after police used a Taser on him.
The Taser delivers a paralyzing 50,000 volt shock to the body through metal probes attached to 21-foot wires that are fired from the Taser using a nitrogen propellant. When police fire the device, the probes penetrate the skin or up to 1″ of clothing per probe to deliver a shock. (source)
If you look at the video compilation on The Atlantic – a startling yet not exhaustive one if you’ve been anywhere on YouTube in the last few years – you’ll see that many of the officers are deploying the tasers multiple times, in one of them causing cardiac arrest. They are shooting people square in the chest or back.
You don’t really see pending threats in those videos, either. Either the person is already detained or is doing something that doesn’t warrant a ticket. And that is the point – stop cattle prodding people into submission. And stop cattle prodding after submission. After handcuffs. And maybe stop injuring (kicking, kicking, kicking) someone after they are paralyzed from shock.
Imagine seeing someone shock their kids into submission for every disobeyed command. Yet, this is happening all too often to non-threatening adults. And the elderly, and pregnant women and children – again, from law enforcement. Like this 10-year-old kid who didn’t want to wash an officer’s car. Or this 10-year-old kid at day care.
I’m sorry, would even flipping the bird be considered a threat to…anyone? Enough to warrant 50,000 volts of electricity? And tasers were “intended” to prevent the use of deadly force when there’s a threat – we see how that has turned out. Statistics for American deaths after getting shot by police have gone POOF! But to watch the news interview about a waving firefighter it becomes a “he said, he said” trying to figure out did he actually flip the bird? Did he?? Please…
It’s really important to always bring back the frame of the argument to the use of weapons – yes, deadly weapons – on innocent people. And never by any means simply “get used to it” or rationalize the (irrational) reasoning behind it.
Recently by Amanda Warren