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First Person Shooter
April 5, 2013 12:43 PM   Subscribe

When it hits you, no matter how much you expect it, it comes as a surprise — a literal shock, like a baseball bat swung hard and squarely into the small of your back. That sensation — which is actually two sharp steel barbs piercing your skin and shooting electricity into your central nervous system — is followed by the harshest, most violent charlie horse you can imagine coursing through your entire body. With the pain comes the terrifying awareness that you are completely helpless. You cannot move. You lose control of almost everything and the only place you can go is down, face first to the floor. That’s what it feels like to be hit with a Taser.
posted by Horace Rumpole (74 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
When a friend of mine was in the LAPD academy, they got tased as part of their training. The instructor tells you that it will last for 5 seconds, but you can stop it at any time by calling out 'stop!'.

Well, as soon as it starts you immediately try to stop it, but you have to spend the first 3 seconds trying to get your brain to work through the pain in order to send the message to your mouth to do something about it.

After everyone goes through it, the instructor asks (as a joke) if anyone wants round two. Every class has a joker who volunteers to go again. That guy (it's usually a guy) gets to do it again, except this time the instructor ignores the safe word in order to teach him that no one likes a smart-ass :-)
posted by sideshow at 12:50 PM on April 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


sideshow: "except this time the instructor ignores the safe word in order to teach him that no one likes a smart-ass :-)"

So, LAPD instructors are basically sadistic liars? Somehow that doesn't surprise me.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 12:55 PM on April 5, 2013 [37 favorites]


A buddy of mine did this at some convention where the Taser guys had a booth and this is exactly how he describes it. He was pretty macho going in and silent for a long, long time afterwards. I guess when all your swagger gets demolished in 5 seconds of pain, it's pretty painful, both physically and ego-ly.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 12:55 PM on April 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


Maybe it's my ADHD acting up, but I've seen this article referenced from several places today and I've been completely unable to read through more than the first section. It feels very much like it's several different articles pasted together with just enough continuity to make you think they belong together.

Is that just me?
posted by ElDiabloConQueso at 12:55 PM on April 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


Obligatory Rick Sanchez.
posted by Strange Interlude at 12:59 PM on April 5, 2013


The first thing I thought of when I read the description of being tased was an "I've been in fandom too long" moment: CRUCIO.
posted by immlass at 1:01 PM on April 5, 2013 [11 favorites]


I want to know what it feels like, but I don't want to be that guy with the surprise heart condition. Or feel very uncomfortable at all, actually.
posted by michaelh at 1:02 PM on April 5, 2013 [6 favorites]


Is that just me?

I wouldn't go that far, but I get what you mean. It's basically an article about the new Taser/camera combo that will supposedly help the police defend against lawsuits, plus some background on the company, and this incredibly compelling lede that I couldn't help quote in my post, although it's not the main thrust of the article.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 1:02 PM on April 5, 2013


I had lunch with five police officers last week, and we were talking about tasers. Their department had undergone training where everybody got tased, and one of them showed a hilarious iPhone video of somebody volunteering all macho and "This is how it's done, boys," then suddenly being hit, and...well, his physical reaction was like watching Looney Tunes.

I asked the officer (who showed me the video) if he had been pepper-sprayed, which he had, and then I asked which he would rather experience. He didn't even pause. He said he would rather go through the forty minutes of agony from pepper spray. He said being tased was the worst pain he's ever experienced. Some guys stay standing "but I don't know how," he said. And this officer was a big, tough-looking guy.
posted by cribcage at 1:04 PM on April 5, 2013


Is the cop-cam related to tasers at all except for being cop equipment sold under the same brandname?
posted by Artw at 1:07 PM on April 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


What is the incidence of bladder/bowel release in these tests and/or the wild?

Thanks, I'll take my answer off the air.
posted by RolandOfEld at 1:09 PM on April 5, 2013 [5 favorites]


except this time the instructor ignores the safe word in order to teach him that no one likes a smart-ass :-)

The instructor has just demonstrated that he's not fit to hold power. In both senses.
posted by jaduncan at 1:10 PM on April 5, 2013 [12 favorites]


The problem I have with the Taser is that it was envisioned as a less-lethal replacement for the pistol, but it is actually used as a replacement for the baton.
posted by ob1quixote at 1:27 PM on April 5, 2013 [70 favorites]


The problem I have with the Taser is that it was envisioned as a less-lethal replacement for the pistol, but it is actually used as a replacement for the baton.

Exactly.
posted by maudlin at 1:32 PM on April 5, 2013


The problem I have with the Taser is that it was envisioned as a less-lethal replacement for the pistol, but it is actually used as a replacement for the baton.

Or in some cases just talking.
posted by Artw at 1:32 PM on April 5, 2013 [32 favorites]


[Can we please not turn everything ever into a discussion about rape? Thanks. ]
posted by restless_nomad at 1:33 PM on April 5, 2013 [5 favorites]


I'll take the dogs with a side of baton.
posted by Mr. Yuck at 1:46 PM on April 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


"Less lethal weapons" were meant to mean that cops shot less people with real guns, when the cop or their charge's life or limb was in danger. Improving compliance with a cop who legitimately fears for his/her/charges life or limb - without the cop immediately going to Murder Mode - is a legitimate thing for society to want.

This might have worked - and it probably has, a little. Instead, the vast majority of taser use has become a tool for a more general 'compliance', where compliance means "any time that a suspect doesn't do exactly what I say, for whatever reason, I get to electrocute them", or sometimes even "because I felt like tasering him" with virtually no chance of the cop's judgement being called for what it is which is a form of tortuous pain-filled assault.

The insidious effect of this of course, is to widen the fear of cops, and the state in general, knowing that you can be tasered for no reason at all.

On preview, others said it more succinctly..
posted by lalochezia at 1:51 PM on April 5, 2013 [6 favorites]


Well at least the cop-cams will provide a clear unbiased record of what happened in such cases so that oh god who am I kidding.
posted by Artw at 1:53 PM on April 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


On preview, others said it more succinctly..

The irony of "don't Tazer me bro" for unacceptable speech at a public political meeting pretty much said everything that needed to be said.
posted by jaduncan at 1:54 PM on April 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


So, LAPD instructors are basically sadistic liars?

That's a pretty broad brush you're painting with Partner...
posted by HuronBob at 1:57 PM on April 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


From the article: "If an officer is inclined to be discourteous to a person that they're having an interaction with, they could just leave the device off"

It could be on all the time.
posted by Mr. Yuck at 2:08 PM on April 5, 2013


That's a pretty broad brush you're painting with Partner...

Yes but the lines are very far apart.
posted by goethean at 2:10 PM on April 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


I've never been tased but I have shorted a 15,000 volt CRT power supply into my hand. It made my arm fell weirdly cooked for a week or so.

I've also been though boot camp where they put you in a dark room full of tear gas and smoke.

I'd too would take the tear gas again over the electrocuting.
posted by Confess, Fletch at 2:15 PM on April 5, 2013


It could be on all the time.

They seem to be promoting to 30 sec history to avoid people's privacy concerns, although it seems that the camera records all the time. They are citing a 180 day archive of all footage apart from segments tagged as evidence, which are kept longer.
posted by arcticseal at 2:18 PM on April 5, 2013


Always-on cameras attached to police cruisers and the like seem to have an uncommonly high "failure" rate, judging from the results when people try to subpoena their footage.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 2:20 PM on April 5, 2013 [9 favorites]


The problem I have with the Taser is that it was envisioned as a less-lethal replacement for the pistol, but it is actually used as a replacement for the baton.

Since when was being struck with a baton such a wonderful thing? People have this weird idea that physically subduing somebody is just like a friendly wrassling match with your brother or something. In even quite mundane, non-lethal physical altercations people regularly do long-lasting or permanent physical damage to themselves or to the people they are trying to subdue. The pain of the Taser might be incredibly unpleasant, but I'd much rather have transient pain that, in the vast majority of cases, leaves no permanent injury, than be left with some permanent or even long-lasting disability as a result of being subdued by a burly cop with a baton.

This is not to condone abuse with Tasers or using them too readily or what have you; those are all obviously real and serious problems (though coupling Taser use with automatic video recording is a damn good way of addressing that)--but if we are going to ask people to wade in and physically subdue unruly people I think it's kinda weird to think that the only time they should resort to a Taser is when they would otherwise resort to lethal force.
posted by yoink at 2:23 PM on April 5, 2013 [8 favorites]


Am I the only one who was reminded of being in labour after reading the description of being tased? Although labour pains are localized. Still, I wonder what kind of metric that is...
posted by kitcat at 2:23 PM on April 5, 2013


I wish it were possible to create a circuit woven into clothes that would deflect the shock from a taser. There are some anti-taser options, but of course, they don't sell them to civilians.

I think the potential for tasers to be abused has clearly been shown to be the norm over the past decade. That there's now some record of the event doesn't lessen it's brutality. How many people will get tased and the police departments will 'lose' the evidence? We've seen this happen again and again, yet, somehow it'll be ok because look, the cops have Google Glass now!
posted by Catblack at 2:26 PM on April 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


I don't understand how the court having evidence of police action and citizen action is going to hurt anything. Laymen go on and on about a "blue wall" then scream privacy when a solution is found.

Also, the Taser is better than a gunshot wound to center mass. And every cop who uses the Taser must be tazed with it first. Same with pepper spray.
posted by Ironmouth at 2:39 PM on April 5, 2013


I favor integral trigger activated weapon cams for LEOs, but the key reform is making sure that citizen police oversight boards have powers of audit and review to all footage from use of lethal and non-lethal weapons. If you don't have that oversight/review ability, then weapon cams are merely another inflationary puff for the already bloated security-industrial complex.
posted by LeRoienJaune at 2:39 PM on April 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


I favor integral trigger activated weapon cams for LEOs

Honestly, a better solution would be that the camera switches on when the weapon is drawn, not fired. Otherwise i don't really think you'd often get enough context.
posted by emptythought at 2:41 PM on April 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


I favor integral trigger activated weapon cams for LEOs, but the key reform is making sure that citizen police oversight boards have powers of audit and review to all footage from use of lethal and non-lethal weapons. If you don't have that oversight/review ability, then weapon cams are merely another inflationary puff for the already bloated security-industrial complex.

The boards have full power to see any evidence out there.
posted by Ironmouth at 2:41 PM on April 5, 2013


Am I the only one who was reminded of being in labour after reading the description of being tased?

Well, I was wondering how it compared to a kidney stone, which, according to the rare woman who has had one, is about the same order of pain as giving birth.
posted by benito.strauss at 2:44 PM on April 5, 2013


And yet, every officer-involved shooting in my area recently has gone down like so:

"We tased the suspect multiple times but he kept advancing at the officers so they shot him."

What are these people, superhuman?
posted by mr_crash_davis at 2:48 PM on April 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


When he heard that a man had been electrocuted but not killed by a downed power line....

Wrong wrong wrong wrong wrong.
posted by mudpuppie at 2:55 PM on April 5, 2013


"We tased the suspect multiple times but he kept advancing at the officers so they shot him."

What are these people, superhuman?


My wife has an e-collar she uses for (hunting) dog training, and on a whim I thought I'd let her try it on me. It's got 42 settings, from lowest to highest and number 3 was basically as described in the FPP. So far, she's never needed to go above 3-4 on the dogs; she does a lot of work with them, so that the e-collar is basically just for reinforcement - and besides, even that much should get their attention.

Now, our GSP was at a training day a few weeks ago, and it's spring and his first day on birds in the field and he was pretty well jazzed just to be there. As he's working the field, he busts out a rabbit and takes off after it. My wife had to hit him with the highest, just to get his attention - He shrugged off all the lower jolts. As she was running up to where he had the rabbit pinned, she could see his neck muscles twitching.

The rabbit lived, and he's been much better about heeling when hes got the collar on though.

Anyway, I would bet that with the right combination of motivation and adrenaline the taser might be of limited effectiveness.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 3:02 PM on April 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


I find it interesting that the Taser company is headquartered in Scottsdale, Arizona, home of "America's toughest sheriff".
posted by TedW at 3:03 PM on April 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


I maintain that the solution to police violence will be a continued stream of videos of them overstepping their bounds.

They can't possibly stop all the people from filming them, and cameras are beyond ubiquitous nowadays. The more people see the violence, the more they will realize that this is unacceptable.

Hopefully, it'll be solved peacefully by Internal Affairs/ Federal enforcement type groups; but as we've seen how frequently that system fails; I suspect that there is a real chance that it might take a few riots and burning cars to really bring the point home to the law enforcement community, and what's worse, I think we are closer to that than some people might believe.

Someone once said that the police have basically become an occupying military force in our country. If they keep acting that way, there really can only be one end result.
posted by quin at 3:09 PM on April 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Anyway, I would bet that with the right combination of motivation and adrenaline the taser might be of limited effectiveness.

Ish. Electricity will cause your muscles to throw you off balance if there's enough shock and cause considerable disruption to the nerves. You can't stop that spasm with mere determination as the connection to the brain is part of what is disrupted.
posted by jaduncan at 3:15 PM on April 5, 2013


Catblack: "There are some anti-taser options, but of course, they don't sell them to civilians."

I think the lesson there is that if you're going to taze a cop, just taze them right in the fucking face.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 3:49 PM on April 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


"We tased the suspect multiple times but he kept advancing at the officers so they shot him."

My schizophrenic son was tasered four or five times in front of me, my husband, and several firemen who were the first responders. After the first hit the policeman shoved me out of the door because I was yelling at him to stop, my husband was yelling at my son to release the metal walking cane he was holding in front of his face. The second and the third taser shots missed, the fourth hit John but he did not release the cane. But that time the cop was in total panic, I was yelling, my husband was yelling, the firemen were yelling at the policeman. Finally one fireman walked up to John while the policeman was firing: the dart hit John and he was whimpering, but the young fireman was able to convince John to release the cane. He was then taken to the ER and admitted to the psychiatric ward. He really was incapable of understanding what was going on at that time, he would not have been able to obey.

The day after the captain of the mental health unit and that policeman came by to apologize: it was his first solo response to a mental health crisis and he panicked. I still have moments of total hatred, mixed in attempts of trying to put myself in that policeman shoes.

On the other hand, that young fireman is my hero!
posted by francesca too at 4:20 PM on April 5, 2013 [7 favorites]


Ironmouth: every cop who uses the Taser must be tazed with it first. Same with pepperspray.

So it's ok if they use the taser or pepper spray on someone who's a 120 lb person with a chronic illness and severe asthma or heart disease. "Well, it didn't hurt the 24-yo very fit cop. What's the problem?" You're a lawyer, isn't there a slim chance you could see some problems with this scenario?

Check out the Braidwood Inquiry into the death of Robert Dziekański for an outstanding example. After watching the video, I contend that he died because he recovered from multiple taserings with a 200 lb cop sitting on his chest and suffocated. But whatever the cause, the police used the taser to fuck him up, and then lied about it afterward. "He came at us with a stapler!"

This is the wrong tool for the job. It increases the risk to every member of the public who encounters a cop, whether or not they've done anything wrong.
posted by sneebler at 4:25 PM on April 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


Video: Illinois Police Taser Pregnant Woman In Best Buy Parking Lot
posted by homunculus at 4:35 PM on April 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


"He came at us with a stapler!"

This strikes me as a basic wrongness about their thought process as well. In that cops will use potentially deadly force(or lets be honest here, often just straight deadly force and i'm not talking about tazers) to prevent themselves from sustaining injury or being assaulted in a non life threatening manner.

Someone trying to staple you in the face shouldn't even be a reason to taze them. MAYBE if they're about to staple a baby in the face or something, but come on. This case is a great example, but there's many others. I've seen guys staple gun things to their chests to be "macho" and go chug a beer afterwards. It's drifting dangerously close to beating someone down for slapping you in the face territory.

Illinois Police Taser Pregnant Woman In Best Buy Parking Lot

I clicked through this betting myself essentially infinity that she wouldn't be white. How is this so easy?
posted by emptythought at 4:42 PM on April 5, 2013 [5 favorites]


So it's ok if they use the taser or pepper spray on someone who's a 120 lb person with a chronic illness and severe asthma or heart disease.

How's this for an analogy of this (drearily familiar) argumentive tactic:

"It's crazy that we allow people to drive cars; it's so dangerous!"

"Well, they do have to go through a driving test and a licensing process."

"So you are saying that it is perfectly alright for some teenager to get drunk and drive his car over a group of children, then? You are saying that such a thing would in no way disturb you and that in fact it kinda gets you hot. You disgust me with all the disgusting things that I am completely and utterly imagining you saying and which, in fact, bear no relation whatsoever to what you said."
posted by yoink at 4:46 PM on April 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


The process of being willingly tased to demonstrate its effects is not in any way shape or form analogous to a driving exam. Just...no.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 4:53 PM on April 5, 2013


Someone trying to staple you in the face shouldn't even be a reason to taze them.

Someone who is trying to put a staple in someone else's face against their will should be stopped. If you don't want them to use a Taser to achieve that end, perhaps you'd like to explain exactly what technique they should use. Then you might like to do a little research into the injury and mortality rates associated with that technique (for both the cops and the non-cops) and how they compare with injury and fatality rates for Tasers. Once you are in the game of physically preventing one person from injuring another person, there really aren't all that many risk-free options.
posted by yoink at 4:53 PM on April 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


Yoink, i feel like that does a disservice to the discussion almost to the level of people comparing rape to property crimes. Especially with how much hyperbole you added on there.(And i'm aware of the irony of the hyperbole i kinda just threw in there)

One is saying that it's a bad idea to use a weapon that could potentially kill someone unless there's absolutely no other choice besides that or definitely killing them. And that in addition, there's no way of knowing beforehand that there may be complicating factors that make it more likely for it to end their life.

The other is blatantly jackhammering a crater for their narrative, which involves a wild run of imagination about someone doing things that there are already multiple safeguards against.

Part of the reason the tazer thing is such a huge issue is that it's being treated by law enforcement as if it's already being used properly when it's not. The only way your drunk driving analogy would hold water was if we were talking about the police chiefs son in some small town walking away after doing that, or something.

I get how at a glance it can seem like some kind of awful bad faith argument, or overly hyperbolic in presentation... but when you really think about the specifics of whats being presented it becomes a lot more reasonable. And it especially doesn't come off as bearing no relation whatsoever to what was said.
posted by emptythought at 4:55 PM on April 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


The process of being willingly tased to demonstrate its effects is not in any way shape or form analogous to a driving exam. Just...no.

That is wonderfully irrelevant. The point is that Ironmouth did not say "the fact that cops have to undergo the experience themselves means that any and all uses of the Taser are obviously justified and it is impossible to cite a single example of abuse." I'm pointing out an error in argumentive logic, not trying to draw some kind of procedural parallel between learning to drive and using a Taser.
posted by yoink at 4:56 PM on April 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


but when you really think about the specifics of whats being presented it becomes a lot more reasonable. And it especially doesn't come off as bearing no relation whatsoever to what was said.

Where, precisely, did Ironmouth say that because the police get Tased themselves there is no such thing as misuse of Tasers?

I'm not saying that the case sneebler linked to is or isn't an example of an abusive use of the Taser, I'm saying that the "so you're saying it's o.k..." form of argument that sneebler uses is a shitty one that attributes a ridiculously false position to another person who clearly said no such thing.
posted by yoink at 5:00 PM on April 5, 2013


Intelligent people can disagree about a lot of things, including the deployment of force by police. But if you're saying with a straight face that only "maybe" should a taser be an available option to stop a person who is trying to staple a baby in the face, then I'd respectuflly submit that your opinion—which is valid, and you're entitled to—is so far removed from any serious discussion about this issue that there may not be enough common ground for conversation.
posted by cribcage at 5:01 PM on April 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Maybe if cops were tased an equal number of times to the times they tase civilians I'd be more impressed.
posted by Artw at 5:02 PM on April 5, 2013 [6 favorites]


Oh, and since i realize it's not somewhat ambiguous, i was responding to your first post... not the direct reply to me.

Someone who is trying to put a staple in someone else's face against their will should be stopped.

I wasn't disagreeing with this at all.

If you don't want them to use a Taser to achieve that end, perhaps you'd like to explain exactly what technique they should use. Then you might like to do a little research into the injury and mortality rates associated with that technique (for both the cops and the non-cops) and how they compare with injury and fatality rates for Tasers.

Well, it seemed like things were chugging along quite nicely before tazers existed in this department. Since the choice was either subdue them somehow, or kill them which was a pretty drastic step to jump to that was generally avoided. I don't even know where i'd begin to gather that data, but a stapler isn't exactly a bladed weapon someone can brandish. Aforementioned 24 year old cop in good shape should just be putting this guy in an arm bar. If he gets stapled in the arm doing it, that's still better than potentially killing someone with a tazer.

Obviously i am not a licensed trained professional with law enforcement experience or anything, but i've broken up several fights where people were brandishing stupid things like staplers, or large possibly heavy objects with pointy corners. I didn't once think of drawing any sort of weapon to defend myself.

What the hell happened to just tackling the guy or hitting him the arm or leg with a truncheon? jesus. It's barely a step up from tazing someone swinging a metal clipboard with pointy edges or something.

But if you're saying with a straight face that only "maybe" should a taser be an available option to stop a person who is trying to staple a baby in the face, then I'd respectuflly submit that your opinion—which is valid, and you're entitled to—is so far removed from any serious discussion about this issue that there may not be enough common ground for conversation.

I may have worded my post poorly, which i realized after the edit window. That was not my point at all. I was simply saying that there would have to be something complicating the situation or raising the stakes for it to not be a bit ridiculous for police to taze someone brandishing a stapler.

I'll admit that was a poor and a bit exaggerated example of a potential situation.
posted by emptythought at 5:06 PM on April 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


Since when was being struck with a baton such a wonderful thing?

Well, for one, a baton won't fry my pacemaker and trigger my arrhythmia condition.
posted by ymgve at 6:31 PM on April 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah, but for everybody with a pacemaker there's someone who's health is going to suffer inordinately from a broken leg if they get smacked by a baton. It's apples and oranges, but both are less lethal weapons, there's not really any such thing as a non lethal weapon.
posted by BrotherCaine at 6:35 PM on April 5, 2013


I apparently lead the sort of life where I electrocute myself on a regular basis. I've done it all, from high amperage/low voltage to high voltage/high amperage and managed to survive. The most memorable one to me was when I managed to redirect the spark from a modern four stroke engine into my body and then into the puddle I was standing in. I had to sit down for a while after that one...

People ask me what being electrocuted is like, and I usually tell them it's a bit like being drunk. You wake up afterwards in strange positions and hurting in random places for reasons you can't quite remember.
posted by 1f2frfbf at 6:42 PM on April 5, 2013


Tasers should only be used where there is an immediate and tangible threat to life and limb, but does not require the use of deadly force. That's it, and that's all... but police departments around the globe seem to be incapable of adhering to that one, small standard. It's now basically a torture device the police use on people they find unpleasant.
posted by Slap*Happy at 6:59 PM on April 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


537 Taser-Related Deaths in the United States Since 2001
posted by telstar at 8:23 PM on April 5, 2013 [4 favorites]


Most police are big and muscular and it just doesn't impress me that they've received a taser hit before they ever administer one. I'd be willing to accept the general idea if, say, they watched their wife/mother/son/father - how about their grandmother? - be tased instead of themselves.

Half the problem with tasers as opposed to batons is the fact that the cop doesn't need to get close to the "bad guy" in order to taser him - there's not much chance that they're going to get scratched or bruised up themselves, and God knows that's a no-no for sure. Tasering carries the same kind of whip-it-out-and-shoot power that a gun does - and that's what appeals to the particular cops who abuse the privilege of carrying a taser. It's always about the powerful against the powerless.
posted by aryma at 10:52 PM on April 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


I've no problem with cops carrying tasers, but their directions for use ought to be only where the only other alternative is to shoot the suspect. So, yeah, use a taser where the suspect is threatening the life of someone else or they themselves have a gun. But a taser should not be a replacement for cops having to physically wrestle an unarmed subject to the ground, because the risk of harm to the subject is so much greater.
posted by modernnomad at 7:27 AM on April 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


e·lec·tro·cute
[ih-lek-truh-kyoot]
verb (used with object), e·lec·tro·cut·ed, e·lec·tro·cut·ing.
1.
to kill by electricity.
2.
to execute (a criminal) by electricity, as in an electric chair.
posted by Slinga at 8:54 AM on April 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


yoink: I'm saying that the "so you're saying it's o.k..." form of argument that sneebler uses is a shitty one that attributes a ridiculously false position to another person who clearly said no such thing.

In the context of a discussion about how badly things can and have gone wrong, someone popping their head up and saying "every cop who uses the Taser must be tazed with it first. Same with pepperspray" is offering a simplistic excuse for a whole constellation of bad behaviour and policy failure. To his credit, he also said that getting tasered is better than getting shot, which is probably true.

I thought your idea of comparing it to driving tests was off the mark as well, but maybe not: In spite of a pervasive regulatory effort, multiple levels of state and federal safety codes, and universal testing and licencing, fatalities due to automobile accidents remain very high. I'm pretty sure that road accidents are the most likely cause of death for under-50 adults. Any industrial operation with this kind of fatality rate would be regulated out of existence very quickly. But as a society we've learned to tolerate a certain level of automobile-related carnage, and to some extent that's because we can't find the collective will to either change our behaviour or implement a stricter testing regime. Plus hell, we just love cars.

Is this where we're headed with the Taser? My concern is that Taser International has a huge interest in promoting this product as being safe in the face of considerable evidence to the contrary, while relying on its appeal to police forces as an alternative to deadly force as its major selling point. The fact that every cop gets tasered during training does nothing to mitigate the risk to a distinct subset of citizens, and it's exactly the kind of lazy slogan that lets police forces and individual cops off the hook for taking responsibility for their actions.

Plus, RAY GUNS!
posted by sneebler at 8:57 AM on April 6, 2013


Is this where we're headed with the Taser?

If I had to guess, the technology will get safer. Manufacturers do have an interest in promoting their product as safe, but they also—TASER International included—have an interesting in making their product safe.

Personally, I'd like to see taser availability become more widespread. Here in Massachusetts, a private citizen can purchase pepper spray or a handgun but not a taser. Between the two options, I tend to recommend pepper spray for a variety of reasons—risk to bystanders, legal consequences of using it, etc. But pepper spray has its limits, and there are some instances where a taser makes more sense for self-defense purposes.

Whether it's self-defense or law enforcement, usually the purpose in these situations is to incapacitate. Handguns are not designed to incapacitate. They are designed to shoot holes in things. Tasers, by contrast, are designed to incapacitate. They could be better designed, training could be improved, and judgment must be exercised; but on a fundamental level it's a technology that makes more sense than handguns, for many of the purposes we use handguns for.
posted by cribcage at 10:30 AM on April 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


This strikes me as a basic wrongness about their thought process as well. In that cops will use potentially deadly force(or lets be honest here, often just straight deadly force and i'm not talking about tazers) to prevent themselves from sustaining injury or being assaulted in a non life threatening manner.

Then the question becomes, how much assault should a police officer be expected to sustain before defending him or herself?

And how good are they (or anyone) at determining just how powerful an attacker will ultimately be?

One of the complicated things about this is that police officers ARE carrying weapons. It is absolutely potentially deadly for them to allow themselves to get into tussles with unpredictable people.

I guess we have to remember to make the disctinction between the police officers who follow the rules and those who don't when we make the rules. How much danger do we want to put the honest police officers in because of the percentage of them that don't follow rules or are simply outright murderers?

There are plenty of bad cops out there, but we should work toward weeding them out, rather than putting restrictions on the good cops who just want to do their job and go home at night.
posted by gjc at 11:46 AM on April 6, 2013


There are plenty of bad cops out there, but we should work toward weeding them out, rather than putting restrictions on the good cops who are in the best position to weed out the bad ones yet somehow don't.
posted by jaduncan at 12:21 PM on April 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


how much assault should a police officer be expected to sustain before defending him or herself?

And this is definitely a question about which people disagree. Most will agree that a person aiming a gun at someone is an appropriate target for lethal force, while a person merely wearing a gun in a holster isn't. If we define the wide gray area between those two actions as "brandishing," where does the line fall? What if it's not a gun, but a pair of scissors? Does it matter whether the officer is alone, or whether there are bystanders?

The fact that officers carry weapons is indeed a complicating factor. A different but related factor is budgeting. As a society, we make decisions about how to equip our police; we typically give an officer a handgun and impose continued training requirements for it. Do we consider that sufficient, or do we also provide continued training in disarming, defense, takedowns, martial combat, etc? If not, then we are implying a societal decision about how and when he should use his gun.

It would be nice if every police officer could be held to the standards we see exhibited by Navy SEALS in Hollywood movies. But we don't screen police officers that carefully, and we don't train them as extensively. These are our decisions as a society, and it's unfair to pretend otherwise when holding police to a particular standard.
posted by cribcage at 12:26 PM on April 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Then the question becomes, how much assault should a police officer be expected to sustain before defending him or herself?

Well, for one I think the same rules that apply to having a concealed carry permit, or a lot of stand your ground/self defense laws should apply. In that you don't get to escalate the amount of force being used.

Pretty much that you don't get to shortcut levels of violence by shooting someone who's swinging a chair around. This seems like a pretty basic concept.

There's exceptions to this of course. if other people are in danger, if you feel you have no other way of de-escalating the situation.

I pretty much think tazers should only be used in a situation where they can either get a head start on someone who acting like theyre about to pull out a projectile weapon or are close in with a bladed weapon, or something else along those lines.

Half the problem with tasers as opposed to batons is the fact that the cop doesn't need to get close to the "bad guy" in order to taser him

This, if they're used correctly is also the point. It's a double edged sword for sure because of the exact reasons you state a second later. But they do have an awesome place in situations where cops would otherwise shoot someone. Ie someone pulling out a knife or obviously(or hell, im willing to concede, reasonably looking like) they're reaching for or drawing a gun. When someone is at a distance with a potentially deadly weapon, or appears to be preparing to use one... Bam, tazer. It's actually fucking awesome that these people aren't just in an "ok you're going to get shot" position now, and it's instead "you have a 90% chance of living without being injured much" or something like that. This is a marked improvement in the justice system IMO, especially when it comes to mentally ill or intoxicated people who might not even have fully understood, nor had the capabilities to understand what they were doing. I'm not against the concept of tazers even with the level of danger they have, just some of the usage scenarios.

<>there's not much chance that they're going to get scratched or bruised up themselves, and God knows that's a no-no for sure. Tasering carries the same kind of whip-it-out-and-shoot power that a gun does - and that's what appeals to the particular cops who abuse the privilege of carrying a taser. It's always about the powerful against the powerless.

This was kinda the crux of my point, and what really disgusted me. It's also where I agree with gjc that the question becomes what he asked.

At which point I also agree, opinions will diverge.

I'm pretty much of the opinion that these types of situations are being approached in completely the wrong way. The police treat themselves like some untouchable group like aryma said, when really they should be approaching more as a cross between bodyguards and camp counselors for society. You can use force against someone who puts another person, or other people in direct danger. You can also defend your own well being to a reasonable extent.

To an extent I think beyond seriously dangerous weapons or people obviously on pcp or something, you don't get to tazer some guy swinging a chair around unless he's swinging it at another person like his partner or child.

I think there should be an expectation of at least the potential of mild injury to prevent using actual weapons against your average citizen, as there is with most bouncers/security guards/etc. these types of rules apply to seriously everyone else, including people who's jobs are very similar in the sense that they're pretty much wherever they are to de escalate situations, defend people, and intervene in conflicts.

I also think that there needs to be a LOT stricter rules in place allowing people to file cases and start investigations against officers who use weapons, less deadly or not in pretty much any situation.

So I guess my answer to the "how much assault" question is pretty much, well anything above "none" is an improvement at this point. People get tazed for trying to punch cops(and I won't get in to people who have just for yelling at them). I feel like the crossover should be somewhere around "guy with baseball bat", but that's just me.

Hell, any world where the bar has been raised enough that they're not tazing pregnant women is a dramatic improvement at this point... And I never thought I'd have to say that.
posted by emptythought at 1:08 PM on April 6, 2013


I think the same rules that apply to having a concealed carry permit

Carrying a gun isn't the same as carrying a gun and a badge. A private citizen is permitted to carry a gun for his own purposes, but we give guns to police for ours. Average Joe's carry permit doesn't give him the authority to investigate or the power to arrest. A police officer has different responsibilities, as well as different powers that create different risk.

Pretty much that you don't get to shortcut levels of violence by shooting someone who's swinging a chair around. This seems like a pretty basic concept. There's exceptions to this of course. if other people are in danger, if you feel you have no other way of de-escalating the situation.

I think what you're teasing out here is that while the concept may be basic, it isn't simple. "A man is swinging around a chair. What force may you use to stop him?" We assume he's doing it in a threatening manner. Is he in your house, his own house, the middle of the street, a children's playground? Are there bystanders? How big is he, how big are you, and how big is the chair? Et cetera. You can see there are enough variables that it quickly becomes impossible to say, "You may not shoot a man swinging around a chair." Now imagine that instead of shooting him, we're talking about non-lethal force like a taser. One of the benefits is that it simplifies the calculus.

This is partly why I recommend pepper spray to many people as a self-defense option. Deciding to draw a gun is a big deal. You'd better have put thought into that decision. You'd better be able to defend it. And that's before we even address the issue of firing it. By contrast, pulling out or even using pepper spray exposes you to fewer consequences and it's a decision with a lower bar to defend. It doesn't have nearly the same "point of no return" component.

But again, that's for private citizens. If your safety is put at risk, your first responsibility is to escape. You don't have a duty to apprehend anyone, and it isn't your job to worry about what he'll do ten minutes from now, or tomorrow. We don't give police officers the option to escape. Even the decision by some jurisdictions to discontinue traffic pursuits has been tremendously controversial.
posted by cribcage at 5:37 PM on April 6, 2013


Illinois Police Taser Pregnant Woman In Best Buy Parking Lot

I'm pretty sure that legally the only relevant seconds of this video are the first few, in which her boyfriend is wrestling with a cop and she's telling the cop to let him go; although it isn't clear whether she's touching either of them, she seems to be bracing herself with her left hand and her right hand is out of sight.

As always with these discussions, I loathe to be the guy reflexively taking the side of the police, but I can't see why the real question here is NOT why a pregnant woman was trying to intervene in a scuffle/arrest involving her boyfriend, and if so, what the available law enforcement options are.

Yes, it started as a parking dispute -- mundane and comically unimportant -- but the video starts at the exact point where it became resisting and assault on an officer.

(By contrast, the LI guy who was the subject of a big settlement this week for having been shot -- with guns -- because he was on his porch drunk while holding a water hose nozzle (which he allegedly pointed at officers) is perhaps an argument for more tasers.)

Finally, of course, the elephant in the room is the crazy gun laws and ownership rates in the US.
posted by dhartung at 2:47 AM on April 7, 2013


As always with these discussions, I loathe to be the guy reflexively taking the side of the police,

Then don't.
posted by MartinWisse at 3:29 AM on April 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


The problem with cops in general is not guns, not tasers, not even all the bad apples, it's simply that they have an inherent power over normal citizens in that they can decide at a whim to arrest you or harass you and can do anything up to and including lethal force to carry out that arrest, with the only recourse a normal citizen has being court action afterwards and hoping somebody was out there video taping your wrongful arrest. Even then, the cops will be likely to get away with a slap on the wrist while you yourself may undergo even more harassement as a result of your complaint.

So the rule of thumb is to avoid cops as much as possible.
posted by MartinWisse at 3:34 AM on April 7, 2013


So the rule of thumb is to avoid cops as much as possible.

Sadly, that slowly colors their worldview into an even more antagonistic mode. Not that I blame you.
posted by BrotherCaine at 8:59 PM on April 8, 2013


Sadly, that slowly colors their worldview into an even more antagonistic mode.

It's almost like policing with the consent of the populace was fundamentally a good idea.
posted by jaduncan at 5:12 AM on April 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


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