Tasers

A story from the GT from a few weeks back:

A Halsey-area man was taken into custody Sunday after attempting to elude troopers on northbound Interstate 5 between the Santiam River and Salem, according to Oregon State Police.

That seems to happen every so often on I-5.  This part, though, gave me serious pause:

Near milepost 254, the operator attempted to drive over the dirt center median mound but became stuck. The driver got out of the vehicle and took off his shorts, leaving him naked. The man then dropped to his knees while screaming and refusing further directions from the on scene troopers.

To keep the man from running into passing traffic and to gain compliance for the troopers’ safety, a Taser was deployed. About one minute after stopping, troopers were able to handcuff the man and hold him until medical personnel arrived to initially evaluate him. The incident ended about 10:00 a.m.

Yeah….. note the language:  That simply to make sure the guy didn’t do anything unexpected, the police tasered him.  Pray tell – what would they have done in this situation before tasers?  Shoot him in the leg so he couldn’t run?  I don’t think so.

More and more, it seems like a taser is being used not as an alternative to lethal force (like a gun) but any time a police officer wants to “gain compliance.”  In my book, that’s approaching torture.  Moreover, in a situation like this, the guy could have been on drugs, and who knows how his system would have reacted to being Tasered then?  Others have died when being high and tasered.

(Oh, and the first person that suggests he would deserve it, in any form, gets banned.  Sorry folks – victim-blaming is one thing I don’t stand for.  Do it somewhere else.)

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6 Comments on “Tasers”

  1. Russ Says:

    I remember the days of PCP, and the combative patient. It would sometimes take 8-10 guys to control him. Then he would get drugged up until the PCP wore off. We would have several staff injuries, including a few broken bones over those incidents. So it also comes down to safety of the officers AND the patient. If they don’t control him quickly, absolutely he could run across traffic. However, they are police officers who could presumably, you know, stop the traffic at the same time?!

  2. Dennis Says:

    Russ, I repeat: What would they have done without Tasers? Shoot him? It seems very, very unlikely.

    This is part of a larger pattern of police using Tasers in situations where it doesn’t seem appropriate, especially since they are a lot more lethal than the company that makes them wants let on.

  3. Russ Says:

    Nope, they would have tackled him and dragged him to the car. I am agreeing this one didn’t seem necessary. Since one of the reasons they gave for tazing was for patient safety and traffic, that was easily fixed by blocking traffic. So, really no need to taze for that.

  4. Annonymous Says:

    Officers are trained in using Tasers. One of the training exercises usually has the Taser used on them, or by watching the Taser used on fellow officers.

    Most know either what it feels like, or they see their fellow officers reactions and descriptions of what it feels like.

    They cannot do the same thing with Glocks, AR-15’s, or Shotguns. That would be the difference between shooting someone in the leg with a gun and using a Taser.

    Have there been deaths attributed to Tasers, in most cases because of the interaction of an electrical shock and the in ingestion of illicit drugs? Probably.

    Officers are supposed to bring control to situations that are out of control.

    If you see the potential for things to escalate to the point of harm to others (a foot race into on coming traffic that could cause injury to others in vehicles attempting to avoid the situation), bringing harm to themselves (officers are bitten, scratched , struck, and spat at while attempting to help someone. HIV and Hepatitis is a reality and universal precaution is that everyone has it), or bringing harm to the individual—the risks have to be weighed.

    Can having the ability to use a Taser be abused? Absolutely. The use of batons, pepper spray — the use of all of these items can be abused. Have they been by most officers that carry them? I hope not.

    From the Oregon ACLU:

    Our report calls for a two-part standard in determining when an officer should consider Taser use. CEDs should be used only by authorized trained personnel to subdue or control a person whom the officer reasonably believes:

    1) Creates an immediate, credible threat to the physical safety of the officer, another person, or the individual himself/herself, and

    2) Unless prompt action is taken to immobilize the person, there is a substantial likelihood the situation could lead to the death or physical injury of the officer, another person, or the individual himself/herself. (ORS 161.015(7) provides that “‘Physical injury’ means impairment of physical condition or substantial pain.”)

  5. Russ Says:

    Wow, long article! Most of the specific examples given in the article involved people with drugs/alcohol in their systems while assaulting someone or armed with a weapon. People on meth/cocaine, etc. are much more likely to be impulsive and dangerous, but also more likely to have bad outcomes from electricity.

    Amnesty International acknowleged this and stated:

    “For those departments who continue to deploy Tasers, Amnesty International has called for their use to be strictly limited to situations where there is an immediate threat of death or serious injury, which cannot be contained by lesser means, and where a police officer would otherwise resort to firearms to protect life.”

    The situation on I-5 did not seem to meet that as I read it in the paper, but several of the cases Amnesty reported did seem to meet those qualifications. Some, however, did not. I do think Tazers have a place in a police officers force guidelines, but like everything else, can be abused. I had a patient die several years back in D.C. from a supposedly safe “beanbag round” from a shotgun. He was armed with a handgun, and the police officer was trying to disarm him. Again, cardiac arrest and cocaine involved.

    I would also like to see the number of deaths as compared to the number of times Tazers are used. I don’t like to see any deaths, but they are gonna happen with physical struggles and restraints also.


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