Friday, May 16, 2008

'Sparky ' Junior

The taser is getting a good close look in a judicial investigation that resulted from the death of a Polish visitor to Canada in Vancouver airport last fall. And the standard cast of characters is on-board to tell us all why it's such a good thing.

Just before the panel opened a high level RCMP commander permitted himself to be tasered to demonstrate that a) he could take it and b) it was perfectly harmless.

In a sop to societal sensibilities a number of police forces have introduced the concept of self-tasering in order to reassure an increasingly concerned society. But as one wag pointed out, there are some subtle differentiations. For one thing they aren't repeatedly tasered. For another, work safety requirements might include a helmet and body padding, even supportive assistants to ensure than no injuries occur. Most male policemen tend to be large individuals in fairly good health.

Needless to say the boy millionaire who thought up the actual Tommy Swift's Electric Rifle has appeared to defend his wunder-invention. His position is, 'I don't have to prove a taser is safe', I wouldn't have sold a couple of million of them if they weren't. You have to prove it's not safe'. To the boy wonder I would suggest taping the firing mechanism and inserting it rectally. The only thing more stupid, would be for police to start self-shooting.

The remarkable thing is how well these gizmos have taken-off, police wise. Every town in north America must have taser-armed peace officers by now. And for a generation raised with imaginary 'phasers set on stun', they've really sucked us in. These little gems may have increased levels of compliance, but they are the source of some significant injury and can be a cause of unintended death. Now a plethora of security people have been authorized to use them. You might just get tasered one day at the local cineplex. If they're all that shit hot, why can't they be used to discipline the kids?

Bottom line, they're not safe. They shouldn't be used by security guards and if used at all by police they should be set for a maximum of two jolts. If the police can't handle somebody when they've been tasered, the situation was probably too serious for tasering in the first place. Mind you getting tasered might just infuriate some folk, but then so might being coshed, sprayed or put in a wrestling hold. Policing has always been a risky job, that's why societies pay policemen so well and have extra protection for them in law.

A case currently in the news about the death of a non-english speaking man after a tasering by airport police on BC, begs the question. The Polish guy's mother showed up to say for him what RCMP taser agents prevented him from saying for himself. The police reacted rashly and in ignorance of the situation. The situation was the ridiculous, sadly turned into the sublime my a series of errors and bad timing. He didn't need to die and the police didn't mean for him to die, but if they'd been reasonable, and not equipped with a taser, perhaps he might still be alive. I agree with his Mother, this doesn't need to happen to someone else's son.

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