Tuesday, May 13, 2008

More news on Tasers

Posted By on Tue, May 13, 2008 at 12:29 PM

Two recent columns by yours truly about the use of Tasers by police brought passionate responses from readers on both sides of the issue. The most passionate were readers who interpreted the columns as blanket slams of the police force, as if criticizing the apparent over-use of Tasers amounted to being "a cop hater." By that same thought process, if I criticize the New York Yankees management for not acquiring good pitchers, then I must be a baseball hater. Frankly, there's not much anyone can do for that kind of logic dysfunction, so I won't bother.

I exchanged e-mails with several readers who were concerned about whether our police are employing Tasers as a tool of convenience rather than a last resort before using a gun. Those readers wanted more information. I recommend an article that ran in the Canadian magazine Tyee, and which is reprinted today by Alternet. In the article, a journalist wants to be Tased by the Royal Canadian police; they agree, but then are overruled by supervisors in the Department of Justice. The bottom line,  according to the police, was that "we really don't fully understand and know the risks." The author concludes, "Trouble is, nobody fully knows the risks, and until we do, the controversies surrounding this weapon are bound to continue."

There are still many doubts about the safety of Tasers, and so much more to learn from ongoing research. To say the least, tasers are controversial weapons and are becoming more controversial all the time as injuries, deaths, misuse and lawsuits pile up. Add to that the cold hard fact that more than 300 people in North America have died after being tasered since the weapon was introduced in 1999, and my proposal seems relatively mild. So, I still suggest that the city of Charlotte should stop the use of Tasers by police until more definitive research is concluded about the weapon's full effects and possible complications. This proposal seems far more reasonable, to my way of thinking, than continuing the use of a weapon that has "accidentally" killed so many people.

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