Sunday, July 06, 2008

Thank You Mr. Downing

In a letter to the NY Times, the ACLU's National Coordinator of their Campaign Against Racial Profiling, King Downing, concisely says just about everything that needs to be said about taser use:

Re “The Police and Tasers[I wrote about the piece here] (editorial, June 24):

You are correct in calling for caution in the New York Police Department’s plan to arm officers with Tasers. Tasers are unsafe, misused and a vehicle for racial profiling.

Troubled kids, the mentally ill and political protesters have all received their 50,000-volt shock with disastrous results.

Taser proponents rely upon the myth that these are nonlethal. Amnesty International says more than 300 people have died from Taser injuries.

In practice, Tasers are not used as a deadly force alternative but as a compliance tool against nonviolent persons, without the strict limitations, supervision and accountability we require for deadly force. The United Nations Committee Against Torture concluded that Taser use may amount to torture.

Little attention is being paid to the unfair burden Tasers will place on communities of color. The disproportionate number of people of color stopped, searched and interrogated by New York police will likely lead to more abuse by this potentially lethal weapon especially as the N.Y.P.D. moves Tasers from car trunks to the gun belts of thousands of sergeants.

Studies in five major cities have already found racial disparities in Taser deployment. Given the questions surrounding Tasers and the life-or-death risks Tasers carry, we strongly call on the N.Y.P.D. to rethink its use of these lethal weapons.