Friday, July 18, 2008

Be Afraid

Seriously. This article covering the arming of PA state police with tasers grants some insight into how police think about and use their tasers when left to their own devices:
"Just having them on the holsters has been a huge deterrent," said Trooper Blain Hertzog, spokesman for Lancaster state police. "They're bright yellow, and, when people just see them, they become very cooperative."...

State police officers have used their Tasers 144 times over the past six months, according to Miller.

Hertzog said that statistic includes some uses by troopers in Lancaster County, but he did not know how many times Tasers have been used here.

That last bit doesn't bode well at all. Statistics on taser use will continue to be difficult to come by as long as law enforcement isn't required to keep and release records. It's become obvious that scrutiny of taser usage is required and that transparency and usage reporting will need to be enforced. As recently seen in NYC, the police prefer to act in secrecy when allowed.

And forget about any real guidelines for PA state police on how they use their tasers. They'll be using them freestyle:

"The response from troopers in the field has been completely positive," Miller said. "One of the key reasons is that using Tasers means it's much less likely that an officer will become involved in a physical confrontation that could result in injuries to the suspect or the officer." ...

"It is a weapon they can use if they feel they need to," she said.

The state police training, Quinn said, instructs troopers to avoid using the Tasers on people who might be at risk from the electric charge, such as pregnant women, children and the elderly.

But, she said, if someone isn't following a trooper's instructions and the officer feels threatened, the trooper is allowed to use the Taser. ...

While police training requires all state troopers who carry pepper spray to have it sprayed on them so they know what it feels like, Quinn said troopers do not have to get shot with a Taser during training.

"Some of them take a hit voluntarily, but it's not a requirement," she said.

Again, the message is, "listen to the police or be subject to a potentially lethal device." I'll repeat something I've said a few times: if you know, or even suspect, that a device is potentially lethal to a person, and with alternatives available, you use that device on them, your moral high ground and claim to the title of "good guy" instantly vanish. That's true no matter how distasteful taser fans find your suspect.