Tasers: When Will It Stop

August 18, 2009

From Scott Thill at AlterNet (Thanks to Russ):

 

“The latest case, as of this writing at least, involves a Syracuse mother who was pulled out her car during a routine traffic stop. She was summarily tasered, cuffed and arrested in front of her kids by an officer who left them behind, alone in their car, while he took her to the station and charged her for resisting arrest, driving five miles over the speeding limit, and disorderly conduct — the diaphanous charge controversially leveled on Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates, Jr. earlier this year.

 

There’s plenty more where that came from. Did you hear the one about the pregnant woman who was tasered because she wouldn’t sign her speeding ticket, or the pregnant woman who was tasered at a baptism party thrown by her father, a bible-study teacher who was charged with public intoxication in his own backyard and whose wife and son were also tasered? How about the officer who tasered a pregnant woman while inside the police department?

 

Or the cop who tasered a girl, no lie, in the brain, because he couldn’t chase her down on foot? Or the one that shoved a taser up a man’s ass in Idaho? Or those who tasered and pepper-sprayed an umbrella-wielding man in a Dollar Store bathroom, and after finding out that he was both mentally disabled and deaf still decided to charge him with resisting arrest, failure to obey a police officer and (of course) disorderly conduct, charges which the on-duty magistrate refused to accept? And don’t forget the belligerent baseball fan, the 72-year old grandmother, the bride and groom tasered at their wedding, the bicyclists who were tased after cops tried to run them off the road. And what about that guy who burst into flames? What about the six-year-old who was tasered after threatening to cut his own leg with a glass? (That’ll teach him!)”

 

*****

 

The article sidesteps some important criticism.  Most importantly, the taser is billed as an alternative to lethal force.  Yet, with the exception of some crazies, few people would characterize the situations above (or, I suspect, the vast majority of tasing cases) as “requiring” anything close to the use of deadly force.  By and large, I think rational people can agree that force was generally unnecessary in these cases.

 

From the perspective of this author at least, police brutality and murder is not an aborration.  It does not constitute failure on behalf of police that they kill and beat innocent and undeserving people. [What could one do, really, to deserve summary execution or beating?]  The truth is: Cops are tools of a system that has long been in crisis.  Their basic job is to protect the colonial/capitalist/patriarchal structure that defines our social world.  Importantly, this includes creating docile subjects – no “disorderly conduct” can be accepted.

 

Viewed from this perspective, the problem with tasers is not that they may be misused by cops, but that they are being used all too well.

 

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