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2007 11 16
Should All Police Have One?

The tragedy that took place in Vancouver's international airport reminds us that police are only human, and like most of us, will avoid the possibility of being injured if there is another choice. Their choice was the taser. Why risk this big, incoherent foreigner hurting one of them when it is easier to zap him with 50,000 volts? The problem is, of course, that the taser was sold to police forces and the public they represent as an alternative to deadly force. Instead of shooting someone, taser them instead. But, would the police have shot Robert Dziekanski given the same circumstances? Clearly, the answer is no.

The taser's original purpose as a life saving tool has eroded to the point that it becoming a means of social control (does the above photo of the latest long-range taser give you a sense of security?). And the public seems fine with that. Can you imagine the outcry if 17 people had been shot dead in Canada just because they were in a state of "excited delirium?" Tasering them to death, on the other hand, gets a mild shrug--until now. Paul Pritchard's chilling video showing how technology has replaced humanity in Canada's premier police service gives us pause to wonder where tasers are leading us. Using them is now the first course of action instead of the second last. The RCMP were barley inside the door before they had decided to use this weapon. On CBC news last night we heard the story of an Alberta man who was tasered by a policewoman because he would not stop taking pictures. The system is broken.

What can be done to halt the indiscriminate use of this dangerous weapon considering Toronto's police chief says he wants all his officers to have one? First, if a taser is used police services must treat it as seriously as if a gun had been discharged. Second, if the taser is shown to have been used indiscriminately--out of proportion to the risk of death--then the officer involved must be charged. If we fail to take these steps, being tasered will end up becoming part of the process of being arrested whenever there is the slightest hint of physical threat, and that is not the kind of society we want to be.
[email this story] Posted by Editor on 11/16 at 01:40 PM

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