Kiwi Polemicist

September 2, 2008

The police can’t be trusted with Tasers

Filed under: Justice/Police — Tags: , , , , , — Kiwi Polemicist @ 6:00 am

The police have released a report saying the the Taser trial was successful and that the staff were “overwhelmingly supportive” of Taser use. What else was it going to say? “We really don’t like watching disobedient punks writhing on the ground in agony”? I believe that the use of Tasers will follow the path that the use of pepper spray has taken.

There was a case a few years ago where a man was pepper sprayed while lying on the ground in handcuffs; you may recall the pictures of that one. If my memory serves, it was that case that prompted a cop to say that they would spray someone if they thought that the suspect was going to spit on a cop. Then there’s this article from the NZ Herald, which I will quote in full:

Pepper spray gets escaper out of toilet

Pepper spray was used to encourage a court house escaper to come out of the office toilet where he had locked himself, after he bolted from Christchurch’s main police court.

The 35-year-old unemployed man was appearing before Judge John Strettell in Christchurch District Court just before lunch on charges of possession of an offensive weapon, a drug robbery of five people using a knife as a weapon, assaulting a men to avoid detection for disqualified driving, two burglaries, and disqualified driving.

As he was being led from the cells into the dock, he sprinted out of the No 1 District Court, along the corridor and out the main doors.

He had been meant to make an application for bail. “Well, he won’t be getting bail now,” Judge Strettell commented as the defendant disappeared.

Police court escort officers and court security staff chased him across Durham Street and into an office building where he was cornered in a toilet.

He locked himself in and would not come out until the police encouraged him with pepper spray under the cubicle door.

He then emerged struggling and shouting to be escorted back across the road to the Court House about 15min after the bid for freedom began.

It was believed he would make an appearance before Judge Strettell this afternoon charged with escaping from custody but when his name was called the police said he would remain in custody overnight and be brought before the court tomorrow morning

Note that the journalist trivialises State use of force with the word ‘encouraging’.

If the police had not had pepper spray, they would have had to use the old police technique of cordon, contain and negotiate, which our police still pay lip service to. Note the duration; the man was only free for 15 minutes. Basically the man has refused to comply, and the police have quickly moved to use of force (the police consider use of pepper spray to be use of force). Your average cop is a long way from being a rocket scientist, and it’s a lot easier to use brawn rather than brains to resolve an incident.

In the Hansard record I linked to, Annette King, Minister of Police says:

In fact, the use of pepper spray has been a very important tool in being able to apprehend people who are violent or causing injury either to the police or to the public.

King implies that the use of spray is in response to violence, but the man in the cubicle definitely wasn’t being violent or causing injury when he was sprayed. If the police broke into the cubicle and the man resisted, then he is arguably being violent or causing injury. The police are clearly using pepper spray to prevent violence or injury in this and other cases, which is an unacceptable use of force by the State, and is putting the punishment before the crime.

To put it another way, the police are using pepper spray to make their job easier. It is human nature to complete a job using the least work possible, and if a cop can stand back and Tase someone into submission they will do so, just like the cops using pepper spray to get the escaper out of the toilet cubicle.

Pepper spray is bad enough, but what’s it going to be like when the police are resolving incidents like this with Tasers? I’m sure that no one will be thanking the police for the health benefits of having 50,000 volts running through their brain.

In this totalitarian country the public haven’t had a say about the introduction of Tasers, which will clearly be routinely carried by every cop sooner rather than later.

Your average cop prefers brawn over brains, and many cops like the power of the job (how many other jobs can you get that legalise the use of violence and detention?). The police are currently using pepper spray to prevent violence, which is an unacceptable use of force by the State. I’m not soft on law and order, but for these reasons I conclude that the police cannot be trusted with Tasers.

**********

* The articles found here and here are worth reading

* for the police report they interviewed 57 officers who had used the Tasers. 22 of the 57 could not identify any risks or disadvantages having Tasers available to police officers. These guys are not in touch with reality, and they’re not going to hesitate to use Tasers if that is their belief

* why does the police report find it necessary to detail the race of those who have been Tased? This information has no useful purpose outside the fantasy world of political correctness

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