Friday, March 21, 2008

Another young man gone

Posted By on Fri, Mar 21, 2008 at 1:01 PM

A 17-year-old Charlottean is dead, and for no justifiable reason. Darryl Wayne Turner, a grocery store clerk who got into a rowdy argument with his manager, and then "advanced toward" a policeman, was killed yesterday by the officer. The weapon was a Taser, but it might as well have been a gun for all the difference it made to Turner. Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officers are supposed to use Tasers only in instances in which the only other recourse would be firing a gun. In other words, police are to use Tasers to prevent possible serious injury or death. Turner's case is the first fatality by a police Taser in Charlotte, but it's only the latest in a string of Taser-caused fatalities by police around the country.

Turner was angry but unarmed, and was approaching a police officer. He should have been wrestled to the ground and handcuffed — more than one officer was at the scene, after all — rather than get hit with 50,000 volts of electricity. If the officers in question don't know how to properly subdue an unarmed suspect without Tasing them, then they were either poorly trained or the training didn't stick. At the very least, they should be re-trained or fired. If it turns out the Taser use was unjustified, involuntary manslaughter charges would be in order. But this is Charlotte, where death-by-police is apparently not a prosecutable crime.

In 2005, Tasers were the focus of local controversy after two CMS students were hit with Tasers. Those incidents occurred soon after a man in a Lancaster, S.C., jail died after being shocked with a Taser six times during a fight with police officers. Nationwide, critics claim that Tasers are becoming a tool of convenience rather than one of next-to-last resort.

Yes, Tasers are a valuable weapon — but only if they are used for their intended purpose, as a last resort in order to avoid having to shoot someone — not as something to be pulled out at the first sign that a suspect is aggressive. And yes, police work is hard and dirty and et cetera and so forth all day long, but that doesn't give anyone — especially not a paid public servant, let's not forget — the wherewithal to use Tasers at the drop of a hat.

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