Street police have firearms, batons, pepper spray and handcuffs on their persons to restrain offenders in a variety of situations. All are legitimate tools of the trade given the often dangerous predicaments they can find themselves in.They're trained to be cautious and show restraint. It's just a pity this doesn't seem to apply to the use of tasers. Since their introduction over a decade ago there have been numerous reports of excessive force used by cops zapping people with 50,000 volts as a display of their authority or simply to inflict pain.
A few local examples: a man was zapped after being ordered off a bus because he didn't have a ticket. And a male foreign student from Brazil was tasered about 14 times according to reports, including at times while already restained by handcuffs. The young man was shirtless, unarmed and apparently tripping on LSD - he died at the scene. But the latest tasering to make news is beyond belief. A blind man in Britain was fried after the police mistook his white cane for a samurai sword; it begs the question who was the blind one? Apparently it was a case of mistaken identity (read report here).p>
According to Amnesty International there have been over 500 deaths by taser - that's only the official figure. The proper determining factor for taser use is a given situation where firearms are neither justified or needed. This means tasers are only an alternative where use of force is required. However it appears police use tasers as an additional tool to firearms. There is international evidence that shows this attitude is becoming the norm re policing actions, with taser use often applied to force compliance and even punish the alleged offender.
Clearly Taser International makes a tidy profit from the proliferation of their device, perhaps explaining why they discourage independent tests being made on the equipment to determine their safety. Just as important in my view is the testing of police officers as to their fitness to use physical force. Policemen and women are of a type: obedient, lovers of order and predisposed to authority, a culture that's decidely conservative. Putting tasers in the hands of people who might use it as a torture tool on a bad hair day is not exactly a good idea. Governments need to review police culture ASAP.