Monday, May 12, 2008

[Wall of Text] crits you for 8288 electrical damage. You die.

I don't get the recent fuss about tasers. Tasers aren't the problem. The problem is with the perception of tasers. A certain segment of the population (including, apparently, a large number of police officers) seem to regard tasers as what I'm going to call a "crisis resolution option," specifically one that leaves the person on the receiving end of the tasing stunned and helpless but basically unharmed. In other words, these people think that using a taser is like when Captain Kirk says "set phasers on stun," and the Klingons fall down stunned and helpless but basically unharmed. That would be great, and I think we could all get behind a technology that actually worked like that.

Unfortunately that's not what a taser does. Instead, it zaps its target with high-voltage electricity intended to disrupt the nervous system. If the target has a "dicky heart" or other such vulnerability that can be fatal, as can falling awkwardly after suddenly losing muscle control. There is just no way that this weapon - and it is a weapon - can ever be 100% safe. The very prospect is ridiculous.

What *IS* true about tasers is that being tased is less dangerous than getting shot. The distinction lies in exactly how much less dangerous it is, and what circumstances dictate using a taser versus a firearm versus a baton versus plain old fisticuffs. From what I've seen in the media recently, cops are using tasers as an alternative to getting physically engaged with a suspect, or even as an alternative to HARSH LANGUAGE, instead of as an alternative to their firearms.

And there's the problem. Policy surrounding this "new" technology isn't properly spelled out. Cops, governments, and citizens need to get a handle on exactly where tasers fall in the lethality spectrum of police equipment, and react accordingly. When an octegenarian confined to a hospital bed won't relenquish the knife he's holding, tasing him - repeatedly - is not appropriate. When a driver walks slowly AWAY from both his vehicle and the arresting officer at a traffic stop, tasing him without warning is not appropriate. When a man who clearly doesn't speak English is rampaging in an airport terminal, tasing him may very well be appropriate. The latter situation, in particular, I feel has had many details squirreled away by the participants such that the general public will never know what actually happened.

Anyway. My point is that virtually every taser-related news story I've heard, read or seen, anywhere, could be boiled down to "cop overreacts to situation." Blaming these incidents on the EXISTENCE of tasers is deliberately misleading. Asserting that tasers are torture devices is equally dishonest. Protesting that tasers are not being used for their intended purpose - that being, to serve as a LESS-lethal and not NON-lethal alternative to firearms - is entirely justified given the rash of recent reports, and I'd like to see governments start looking into that.