Wednesday, December 17, 2008

How Decency Could Win

Given Taser International's team of lawyers and America's corporate-friendly love of tort reform and deregulation, making Tasers too much trouble for officers on the back-end might be an effective way to reduce taser abuse. There seems to be evidence of that happening organically now in Canada:
EDMONTON - Some Edmonton police officers have chosen not to carry Tasers because of the controversy the weapons attract, despite believing the devices are valuable tools. ...

In April 2004, Wasylyshen helped arrest a suspect after a lengthy car chase. While two other officers face disciplinary charges for using their Tasers that night, Wasylyshen chose not to use his.

"I had some bad luck with a Taser incident in 2002, to be honest," the officer said when asked why he didn't draw the Taser he had that night.

"Using it would have been practical, it would have been justified. I just didn't utilize it. It would be a hassle for me to use it."

Wasylyshen said he has since turned in his Taser and has not requested another one.

In October 2002, Wasylyshen used a Taser to wake up Randy Fryingpan, 16, who was passed out in a car.

The incident was heavily criticized and a judge later threw out a charge against Fryingpan.

Const. Darryl Fox, one of the officers facing a disciplinary charge for using excessive force, said he agrees with his fellow officers' opinions, even though he supports the Taser itself. It is the debate after its use that makes him wary.

"The Taser is an effective, life-saving tool that is beneficial to law enforcement," Fox testified.

"However, I concur with Const. Wasylyshen in that I will likely never carry one again."

The two officers are not alone. Others avoid carrying Tasers to eliminate possible public complaints or disciplinary hearings that can shadow an officer's career for years.

Of course, for this to happen in the States, America would first need to have police departments that answer directly to taxpayers. Unfortunately, that's not the case in many places, including NYC. Still, the paragraphs above are among the most hopeful (taser-related) things I've read lately.