There is a site I visit almost every day called Fail Blog, one of a series of humorous sites run by the guy who brought us LOLcats. People submit photos and videos of examples of idiocy and clumsiness and general examples of a failure to do something right.
So there I was, scrolling through the day’s offerings, and came across this video. It’s not the funniest thing on the internet*, but you’d expect quality to be uneven when a site has so many submissions. First I chuckled at the thought of a policeman hitting himself with his taser. But when I clicked replay, I took in a detail that escaped me on first viewing – the policeman was trying to send 50,000 volts through someone who was already on the ground with their hands held behind their back by another policeman. Since the footage was taken from a helicopter, it is not clear whether the policeman was using the drive stun technique, which is a method of enforcing compliance, not incapacitating someone. Regardless, this is exactly the kind of thuggery that gives cops and non-lethal** weapons a bad name.
Tasers have been promoted as a better alternative to firearms when the public or a police officer is threatened with harm or death. That is true – if they are used instead of firearms. Unfortunately (and perhaps inevitably) they are increasingly used instead of holding someone down, instead of hauling someone along, and instead of talking someone out of their current course of action. They are being used, as mentioned above, to enforce compliance with a policeman’s orders or whim***.
As far as I know, using a taser does not trigger the same kind of paperwork and auditing process that firing a gun does. It could be in some places, I don’t know. It’s certainly not the general rule. And that is a stupid, stupid idea. If tasers are meant to be the second-last resort, used only when a gun would have been used previously, they should be subject to the same oversight. It’s just common sense.
* Obviously I can’t sample all 900 bazillion websites, but this one has to rank pretty high.
** Mostly non-lethal, anyway.
*** There are cases where tasers have been used during routine traffic stops, inmates tased awake by prison guards, and young children (like 6 years old) have been tased.