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Tazers: 50,000V crap shoot with death

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

By now you've seen the video of the UCLA campus police tazering a young man who refused to show ID when asked. He sat down and went limp in the tradition of many who've practiced civil disobedience before him. For this protest, the UCLA campus police repeatedly shocked him with a Tazer, an allegedly non-lethal form of submission of an unruly arrestee.

The cops in question brought out the Nuremberg defense -- we were only following orders. Now, courtesy of AMERICABlog, we find that they weren't kidding (emphasis mine):
301.24 PAIN COMPLIANCE TECHNIQUES
Pain compliance techniques may be very effective in controlling a passive or actively resisting individual. Officers may only apply those pain compliance techniques for which the officer has received Departmentally approved training and only when the officer reasonably believes that the use of such a technique appears necessary to further a legitimate law enforcement purpose. Officers utilizing any pain compliance technique should consider the totality of the circumstance including, but not limited to:

(a) The potential for injury to the officer(s) or others if the technique is not used,
(b) The potential risk of serious injury to the individual being controlled,
(c) The degree to which the pain compliance technique may be controlled in application according to the level of resistance,
(d) The nature of the offense involved,
(e) The level of resistance of the individual(s) involved,
(f) The need for prompt resolution of the situation,
(g) If time permits (e.g. passive demonstrators), other reasonable alternatives.

The application of any pain compliance technique shall be discontinued once the officer determines that full compliance has been achieved.
OK, first off, this tazer issue is one that's near and dear to us in Stumptown. We've had a high profile case of a 42-year-old schizophrenic man named James Chassee Jr. One of my friends, Don DuPay, is a former Portland police officer who ran for county sheriff last election, made elimination of tazers one of his campaign platforms, and with only $420 and no name recognition to run against the incumbent's $60,000 war chest, he garnered about half as many votes. We don't like tazers out here in Little Beirut.

The problem, you see, is that the tazer is a crap shoot with 50,000V behind it. If you have a heart defect, a pacemaker, poor health, or are wacked out on amphetamines, a tazer can very likely kill you. Aside from that, it is also incredibly painful -- I know, my cousins are cops and I asked them to tazer me so I could know what it feels like. Lesson learned: don't ask anyone to tazer you unless you love pain and have a change of underwear.

What I fail to see is how a student offering passive civil disobedience deserves to be tazered. He wasn't a danger to the officers (point a above), there's no way they could have known whether or not the tazer would kill him and certain that it would hurt him (b), there's little control over tazer-applied pain (c), the kid wasn't behaving violently or harming property (d), he didn't resist arrest at all (e), there was no big rush to get the library closed (f), and there were two of them who could've easily carried him away (g).

This is the natural result of our emphasis on violence and torture. It is too easy for the tactics that we use on evil terrorists to slip down into the realm of disagreeable students. Tazers should be outlawed!