Friday, June 13, 2008

Musings: The Dark Side of Tasers

Now this is more like it. The rain fell most of yesterday and a good part of last night, often heavily, and when morning came, Koko and I found ourselves walking in a magical world of sparkle, glisten and rainbow.

Waterfalls, the first I’d seen in months, streamed down the face of Waialeale, whose slopes had already visibly greened, until the clouds descended again, bringing more showers. That prompted us to head home early, but not before we ran into farmer Jerry, who said he had stayed up last night to enjoy the rain, and my neighbor Andy, who said he couldn’t remember such a long dry spell.

It seems the rain had everyone was smiling this morning, even the cop who drove by with his window down — a sight you don’t often see on a cruising patrol car — and waved.

He was the same cop who said aloha and flashed the shaka at the showdown over the burials at Naue last week. A friend of mine said he’d chatted with the cop, who comes from the mainland and said he loved being a police officer here — it was the best job he’d ever had.

It shows in his attitude. While teachers who come from the mainland often face a rough transition in the classroom, where cultural nuances and pidgin can be hard to grasp, recruiting cops from the mainland could be a positive thing.

It could help break up some of the longtime family and other alliances that make it difficult at times for local cops to enforce the law and speak out against other cops who are doing bad things. And the new cops might even be grateful enough for the relatively easy duty on Kauai that they approach their jobs with a sort of cheerfulness that translates into compassion and respect.

One can only hope. Main thing is we don’t bring in cops who have picked up bad habits elsewhere, like the techniques of Taser torture. I’ve been getting quite a few emails lately about Tasers, which a Kauai attorney recently described as “the asbestos of this generation.”

As he noted, “for 30 years asbestos was considered harmless and that’s what manufacturers and contractors told us, even though there was abundant information that it caused mesothelioma.”

“There will be decades of expensive litigation about Tasers,” the attorney predicted.

It seems it’s already started. In a very extensive post about Tasers on his blog, Disappeared News, Larry Geller references an article in Bloomberg News that reports Taser International Inc. recently lost its first product liability case.

The article notes that a California jury awarded $6.2 million to the estate and parents of a 40-year-old man who died after police shot him several times with a stun gun. The jury found that Taser had failed to warn police that prolonged exposure to electric shocks emitted by the gun could cause cardiac arrest.

It seems, according to an article posted on on CBC News that officers with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police — a force not known for its excessive violence — do tend to fire their Tasers multiple times, despite rules prohibiting such practices. The article states:

The RCMP policy, in place since 2005, states that “multiple deployment or continuous cycling of the CEW [conducted energy weapon] may be hazardous to a subject. Unless situational factors dictate otherwise, do not cycle the CEW repeatedly, for more than 15-20 seconds at a time against a subject.”

The article goes on to report:

The investigation also revealed that in 2,200 of the 3,000 RCMP Taser incidents between 2002 and 2007, the person the Mounties were dealing with was unarmed.

It seems that cops are perhaps a bit more quick to draw their Tasers than guns — and keep on firing once they do.

And it’s not just the public that’s getting zapped and suing. According to the Bloomberg News article:

Taser previously won two trials, one over claims by a police officer injured in a training accident and the other involving a death in custody. Taser has settled at least 10 cases involving injuries to police officers during training, company lawyer Doug Klint told Bloomberg News last year. Taser said it will appeal the verdict.

On his blog, Larry Geller uses testimony submitted by law enforcement officers to support his contention that Tasers are still widely touted as non-lethal weapons, even though they have already killed people.

The Kauai attorney I cited earlier predicted that Tasers purchased for Kauai cops would likely “end up in the closet” with the riot gear that Chief Perry also wants to purchase.

That may be true. However, given the many cases surfacing about the physical harm inflicted by Tasers, as well as the seeming propensity of cops to use them in a more cavalier fashion than guns, we might just want to hang back a bit before we give Kauai cops a weapon that it hasn’t been proven they actually need.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Excellent comment asbestos training and management was paramount and the same should be used with tasers.asbestos training