Tasers Tailored for Tasing

This is going to be just a quick post on a subject that for me seems like a no brainer that barely warrants any real discussion, yet to which every Canadian news show, talk show, and internet forum imaginable has devoted some time: tasers.

Here in Canada, the use of Tasers by law enforcement teams is still highly argued against and I have a hard time accepting this when no one is arguing that handguns and twelve gauge shotguns shouldn’t be standard police issue. Which one’s more lethal, a bullet or an electrical discharge?

Although, some will quickly point out that a taser is only useful at close range, I would prefer seeing our officers discharge tasers in all of the cases that qualify as such rather than have them fire a gun! Sure, there is always the slight chance that you may die from being ‘tasered,’ but is anyone going to believe that this represents a greater danger than being fired on at close range with a gun. And truth be told, once all the post-mortem dust has settled from the few taser related deaths we’ve had here in Canada, most notably that of Mr. Dziekanski, the actual chances of death from a properly handled taser prove to be infinitesimal. Plus, I can’t see any ‘collateral damage’ resulting from a ricocheted dart, can you?

And many of the arguments voiced throughout the various venues invoke the ol’ you-get-what-you-deserve or action-reaction notion i.e. if people are afraid to die from being tasered, they darn well shouldn’t put themselves in a position to be tasered.
But that’s just where the real problem lies: what is an appropriate taser-deserving situation? Because tasers represent a non-lethal and 'non-violent' (this is debatable) method to subdue a suspect, there's always the off-chance that officers will develop a dependence on this 'tool' and consequently abuse its use. And indeed, we’ve had a few examples where the protocol had apparently become: taser first, handcuff the perpetrator as he’s doing the bacon second, then eventually ask some questions… and that’s just wrong, except of course, in the rare situations that call for such behaviour, but again, how do we define these situations?

The government has revealed their new plan to re-introduce the use of tasers; only time will tell whether or not it’s efficient but I personally find it silly! The key factors mentioned are education, and allowing only officers with 3 years or more of seniority to carry the weapon... yet they are still handing guns over to rookies. The other way around seems to make way more sense to me!

I’m not against the idea of educating officers before arming them with tasers but let’s be honest, our government has a tendency to overdue things on that end and I strongly believe that a majority of the money invested towards this should be going elsewhere.
As far as I’m concerned the only education officers should require—especially once they’ve completed their firearm's course—is a link to Wikipedia, a twenty minute lecture, and some practise time with the weapon.

The really important thing to teach these officers cannot necessarily be conveyed through lengthy talks nor by studying highly-indexed and annexed manuals that have cost a fortune to produce. It’s hard to instill a sense of fear, ultimate responsibility, and impending consequences in a classroom. It took some time between officers being first handed firearms and for them to fire their guns responsibly – think back through history…

Now here is the no brainer part: while doing research for this post I came across this bit of text stating that all models (only two in Canada) approved for official use by law enforcement agencies can be equipped with small cameras. Seems clear to me! Let’s spend the money on this gadget and make sure every single taser is equipped with one of these. And if cost is an issue and the present taser manufacturers are asking too much for these, all that the government has to do is put out a call for tenders and I betcha some other company is willing to pick up the contract for a fraction of the cost…
A camera that is instantly triggered the instant the weapon is deployed, whether or not the taser is actually fired, will resolve many issues, including the lack of evidence or lengthy trials that rely on witnesses, thus saving us plenty of money otherwise squandered in our judicial system, while also acting as a reminder to the police that they are being watched and need to be accountable...

Sorry, guess it wasn’t such short post after all.

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© 2009, Pascal-Denis Lussier

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