Thursday, June 12, 2008

More Tasers for NYC

Yesterday, the NYPD placed approximately 3000 Taser M-26 devices onto the belts of sergeants throughout the city. These are in addition to the 400-500 taser s already in use by the NYPD. Make no mistake though, commissioner Kelly wants the devices on all of NYC's police:
"While smaller departments have opted to equip all of their patrol officers with them, we have been more cautious before authorizing up to 30,000 officers on patrol to have them," Kelly told reporters Monday.
The decision to arm more NYPD officers was apparently based on a study (The NYCLU's take is here, and the Village Voice notes that the study ignored race!) by the Rand Corporation that found that 25 out of 455 shootings might have been prevented if tasers had been used:
In 25 of the 455 shootings, the RAND group found that officers might have been able to end confrontations more quickly by using a less lethal device — like a Taser, which uses jolts of electricity to disable an assailant — before those encounters escalated to a point where more deadly force was necessary. The police killed someone in 3 of the 25 cases.
Other less-than-lethal methods those cops could having tried? Talking, physical restraint, a baton maybe. But here in NYC, after Sean Bell's tragic death, we know better than to hope for a balanced, metered response from our police. Too harsh? Tell it to Sean's family.

Never mind that tasers aren't as "less-than-lethal" as advertised (or see here and here). Never mind that huge increases in taser use aren't corresponding with decreases in police firearm usage. Never mind that tasers are being used disproportionately on minorities. Never mind that tasers are being used without standardized usage policies and without scrutiny on the devices or the officers using them.

Forget all of that because the NYPD needs some shockers! And you can bet that it won't be affluent white Manhattanites twitching at the ends of the wires.

As a sad prelude to the NYPD's taser arm-up, a Brooklyn man died yesterday in Long Island:

Long Island authorities Wednesday are probing the death of Brooklyn man who collapsed soon after he was zapped by a cop with a Taser.

The death of Tony Curtius Bradway, 26, came just after the NYPD announced it is considering expanding its use of the controversial weapon.

Bradway had swallowed a bag of cocaine Monday just before he was Tasered by Southampton police.

He suffered seizures and died eight hours later, at 7:15 p.m. Monday, at Peconic Bay Medical Center on Long Island.

Authorities said the officer shocked Bradway with the Taser in an attempt to keep him from swallowing the drugs.

After two shocks, Bradway was nonetheless able to walk into police headquarters and later was able to tell hospital staff that he had swallowed between five and six grams of cocaine, authorities said.

Get that? He didn't get tased for coming at the police with a knife, taking a swing at a cop, or even for running. He was tased because he was swallowing! Smell the freedom.

Tasers should never be used to punish or to force the compliance of a nonviolent suspect. Period.

The NYCLU's contact information is here. NYC residents can find their council members here.