Friday, February 09, 2007

A Little Summary Punishment on the Way

More local stuff, I'm afraid. Early this morning, as I pulled my socks on, some local TeeVeeNewsReaders were chirping happily away about this:
Allen County Sheriff Ken Fries is taking a closer look at taser guns.

The sheriff has volunteered to be tased later this month to find out for himself what a person goes through after being shot with the non-lethal alternative to stop a suspect.

According to a news release the sheriff is currently looking for funding options to offset the cost of the devices.
Now, the above is not a transcript from this morning's "news" story as read by our telegenic hair-product models, who made it clear that what Allen County's finest really need in their paws is unlimited doses of sub-lethal lightning bolts.

These things are a terrible, terrible idea. In principle, they might indeed enable a police officer to stop a miscreant who would otherwise be shot with a firearm. Much more likely, they will enable many badge-heavy goons to hand out summary punishment to any who annoy them, with little or nothing in the way of accountability or repercussions to the B-HGs. Instead, the best I can hope for is that Ryan "Jutting Jaw" Elijah, or Mary Collins the Fireproof Blonde, will be the ones who incur the wrath of some Electric Robocop who's having a bad day. It won't happen, but it's kind of a pleasant thought.


lemming said...

I read a study (a few years back) looking at taser use in another Indiana county. All of the officers had been trained in its use and all had to report when and how it was used, etc. Turned out that while all of them had used it at least once, the majority (overwhelming) of taser uses came from two cops... once of whom was being sued.

At the same time, it's still better than shooting with guns

Bartleby said...

lemming, you are of course correct in saying that it's better to get zapped than shot by a firearm. I guess I don't like seeing the proliferation of these things because I think that a valid risk analysis combines the probability of a bad event with the consequence of that event. It could usefully be thought of like this: risk = probability times consequence. A policeman putting a 9 mm in me represents a very high consequence (I'm quite apt to croak) but a rather low probability (the policeman will have to show convincingly that he needed to shoot me, or be in a lot of trouble himself). Getting tasered is much lower in consequence, but astronomically higher in probability (in the study you cited, every single cop had tasered at least one person ... what fraction of police officers ever actually shoot anyone?). On the whole, I think we're worse off with taser-equipped cops. Police forces are becoming increasingly militarized and increasingly alienated from the civilian population ... and we're hanging rather potent torture devices on their hips that they can use to hand out summary punishment with little accountability.

That's how I see it, anyway.

TW said...

I've watched a few episodes of "Cops" where they had to use tasers. From what I could tell they enabled the police to deal with some very nasty and very uncooperative characters without having to bean them in the heads with their nightsticks. At the same time they afford the officers more protection from being hurt themselves by some wacked-out druggie or drunk.

I agree the potential for their misuse is much greater since they are quite powerful, but not inherently deadly. I'm also of the opinion that there are a number of members of police forces that are on power trips and that are looking for an excuse to use such a device.

Still, I would be inclined to believe that their benefits outweigh their detriments.