I don’t generally have problems with police, or any authority figure for that matter. When I was younger I even had occasion to be “arrested” by a very nice police officer who chose not to handcuff me, and made me sit in the corner (instead of in a cell) at the police station while I waited for the also very nice bail bondsman the nice policeman had called. He was so polite and considerate at one point he actually felt the need to say “you realize you are under arrest don’t you?”. (minor traffic ticket snafu – nothing really serious) It would seem I am so obviously harmless I don’t even scare squirrels, rabbits or groundhogs out of my path while walking my dogs. —- the dogs are apparently not very intimidating either.
I will also mention that I have had particularly positive encounters with the Howard County police. Though I have not actually been arrested by them, I have had many contacts with several who have been just lovely – apparently conscientious and competent.
I mention all this because I am probably not likely to be tasered anytime soon. So when I say that I am horrified by the tidal wave of taser deaths and injuries it is not because I am a cop hating anarchist or criminal.
I can see how this tool (the taser) could be a life saving implement under the right circumstances and in the right hands. But like any tool – it can be deadly and must be very carefully and judiciously utilized.
In light of the mounting body of data from “real life” in the field use of this weapon – I hope our own Howard County government and police officials are continuously evaluating our community’s procedures and policies to make sure we do not have the same tragic results which are becoming all too common.
I am troubled to learn that it is permissible for HoCo police officers to “pepper spray” subjects for “verbal aggression” (talking back) —- surely this is only a matter of providing police with an opportunity to exact punishment for the “crime” of “contempt of cop”. What other crime does the cop on the street get to indict, try, judge, and execute sentence for personally? But at least pepper spray does not routinely kill people.
Tasers, on the other hand, have been killing people on a fairly regular basis. What a shock! [no pun intended;)]. Shocking someone with tens of thousands of volts of electricity – often in the direct areas of the heart — it is hard to imagine it can come as a surprise when people die of heart beat problems.
In cases where a traditional gun shot would truly have been used if not for the availability of the taser – then that is a risk our community can reasonably take (imho) —- but for anything short of the true need for potentially lethal force we should have very strong policies against the use of the tasers.
Look at the recent death in Frederick County of the 20 year old man. He was shot with the taser by an officer “trying to break up a fight”. Can it seriously be argued that had the officer not had the taser that he would have been forced to shoot the fighters with his gun? Is that how we want HoCo police to respond to a fight?
Bottom line – HoCo officials MUST maintain an ongoing vigilance regarding the policies and procedures for the appropriate use of these taser weapons. As much as I respect our police force – I do not believe it is appropriate for the power to pass judgment and inflict punishment to rest in one set of hands…. particularly when the crime can be “talking back” and the punishment can be death.