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Take a shower or get tasered, these are your options, kid.
November 19, 2009 7:49 AM   Subscribe

We've talked about tasers on Mefi before. We've all heard about the tasing of mouthy grandmothers, recalcitrant students, and diabetics. But as a method of controlling a 10 year old's temper tantrum? Stanford University [PDF] released a report saying that tasers should only be used in situations where the suspect is dangerous, and should not be used on children. However, there seems to be a trend where the taser is being used as a threat and a disciplinary tool, rather than as a tool to protect officers.
posted by dejah420 (91 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
Perhaps we're going the wrong direction. Perhaps we need to equip officers with only the deadliest of equipment, something that would be 100% and instantly fatal the moment it was employed. No more giving them this (apparently) fun to use bully-bait.

Really make that officer think before they grab whatever toy is strapped their utility belts.
posted by sourwookie at 8:01 AM on November 19, 2009 [8 favorites]


Kids these days have it easy. In my day, all my mom had was a handgun. And let me tell you, those things hurt!
posted by LordSludge at 8:01 AM on November 19, 2009 [6 favorites]


The most used piece of gear on an officer should be their ball-point.
posted by sourwookie at 8:02 AM on November 19, 2009 [12 favorites]


Perhaps we need to equip officers with only the deadliest of equipment, something that would be 100% and instantly fatal the moment it was employed.

Yay!! Death penalty for parking violation and jaywalking!
posted by Balisong at 8:03 AM on November 19, 2009


I am still unclear what exactly taters are.
posted by gman at 8:07 AM on November 19, 2009 [5 favorites]


My take-away from this: Get a saltwater crocodile as a pet. "Sure, Mr. Police Officer, you can taser me all you want, but you taser Betsy here and you're just going to make her angry. You don't want to see her angry."
posted by dellsolace at 8:09 AM on November 19, 2009


Really make that officer think before they grab whatever toy is strapped their utility belts.

No, we need to go farther in the same direction. Completely disarm officers. This will eliminate the "just in time" theory of crime prevention that requires extraordinary force to change things at the last moment. Prevent (most) crime by fixing society's problems.
posted by DU at 8:10 AM on November 19, 2009 [11 favorites]


Note that the 10 year old girl is the one facing charges from this.

Jail for the cop, jail for the mom, for gross child abuse and assault. If there's some kind of "assault on a minor" charge that could be added, all the better. For fuck's sake. Tasers need to be banned completely.
posted by rusty at 8:11 AM on November 19, 2009 [11 favorites]


Why don't we just give everyone in the country a free taser, to be used at their own discretion. Stop all this civilized pretending - just taser the fuck out of anyone that annoys you or is acting out in any way. Let's even the playing field and see who's left standing at the end.
posted by spicynuts at 8:11 AM on November 19, 2009 [5 favorites]


All that cop had to do was tell the mother to let her daughter sleep off her tantrum and go home. Getting right in the middle of the fight like that shows that he's pretty ignorant of how to de-escalate situations. He just wanted absolute compliance. I'm not sure if you can train this out of the rank and file cop, though.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:12 AM on November 19, 2009 [4 favorites]


Why don't we just give everyone in the country a free taser, to be used at their own discretion. Stop all this civilized pretending - just taser the fuck out of anyone that annoys you or is acting out in any way. Let's even the playing field and see who's left standing at the end.

Flagged for needs-a-tasin'
posted by davejay at 8:14 AM on November 19, 2009 [4 favorites]


No, we need to go farther in the same direction. Completely disarm officers. This will eliminate the "just in time" theory of crime prevention that requires extraordinary force to change things at the last moment. Prevent (most) crime by fixing society's problems.

Hooo! I just spit coffee all over my screen! Golly! That was funny! Oh man! people are all starin' at me and stuff - just... wow, makes me howl, that kind of humor. Just busted a gut here. Ahhhh- man. I better get to the bathroom before the weeping kicks in...
posted by From Bklyn at 8:14 AM on November 19, 2009 [2 favorites]


I'm not saying there haven't been times when I've wanted a taser around my kids...
posted by Pollomacho at 8:15 AM on November 19, 2009 [3 favorites]


Arthur Silber - The Angriest Man on the Internet - places taser abuse in an even larger context of American militarism.
posted by Joe Beese at 8:16 AM on November 19, 2009 [3 favorites]


The trouble, I think, is that the primary function of police is control. Any device you give them is going to be used for that function. And part of the way many cops define social control is "You do what I say"; when you don't, they feel like they're in an uncontrolled situtation, which, for police, is always understood as something that can turn dangerous very quickly, and they will take extreme efforts to control the situation, sometimes in a panic.

Well, that leads to all sorts of mission creep. Suddenly, they aren't just tasing deaf people for not obeying them anymore, which is what used to be the problem. Now, the taser is no longer the last line of defense before going to a gun, it's the first line of defense after issuing an order. Order disobeyed or questioned, out comes the taser. Back talk? Out comes the taser. Angry look? Out comes the taser. It tends to be only a small percentage of cops who do this, but that doesn't mean its not a real problem. It happens in prisons as well, where disciplinary techniques get used overly broadly, from isolation to that creepy chair they strap you in. If you refuse to leave your cell, there is a good chance they will rush in, tase AND pepperspray you, and then strap you to a chair with a bag over your head. Overkill? Oh my goodness, yes, but non-lethal tools of control tend toward overkill, because they have so instant and dramatic an effect of restoring control to the officer or prison guard.
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:16 AM on November 19, 2009 [15 favorites]


"If you can't pick the kid up and take her to your car, handcuff her, then I don't think you need to be an officer."

How about if you need the police to come help deal with your crying child, you don't need to be a parent.
posted by InfidelZombie at 8:22 AM on November 19, 2009 [12 favorites]


All of you taser nay-sayers should just be happy that he didn't use his gun!

Thank goodness we've finally managed to crack down on the bedtime problem, without the past horrors of bloodshed.
posted by Theta States at 8:24 AM on November 19, 2009 [4 favorites]


jail for the mom, for gross child abuse and assault

I wonder if jailing the mom is really the best course of action. You then need someone to watch the kid and someone to watch the mom. It seems like it would be more effective and efficient to show people how to interact with and teach their children Super Nanny style.
posted by scrutiny at 8:24 AM on November 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


Well, the 10-year-old did kick the officer in the groin. How many male-type-people can resist massive retaliation when kicked in the 'nads?
posted by Fennel B. at 8:25 AM on November 19, 2009


How about if you need the police to come help deal with your crying child, you don't need to be a parent.

I have a suspicion that this is not an ordinary ten-year-old having an ordinary tantrum.

Not that I'm pro-tasing of children. Just that I suspect there is something going on with that kid that goes beyond what most of deal with as parents.
posted by not that girl at 8:27 AM on November 19, 2009 [2 favorites]


There is a fairly simple solution to the taser problem that I've suggested in the past; any time an officer uses their taser, it should be treated and investigated in the exact same way as if they had discharged their firearm.

If there is any kind of impropriety found by the internal affairs investigation, that officer is disciplined and if necessary, removed from the force, and in extreme cases, charged with aggravated assault.

This is one of those "the genie is out of the bottle" situations where the technology exists and isn't going away. The only way to fix it is to loudly demand a change in the tolerance for use. Because it's only going to get worse from here if people let it.
posted by quin at 8:27 AM on November 19, 2009 [11 favorites]


How many male-type-people can resist massive retaliation when kicked in the 'nads?

Well, I can -- but, then again, I'm not seething with inner rage.
posted by LordSludge at 8:28 AM on November 19, 2009 [7 favorites]


"Mr Noggle said the girl will face disorderly conduct charges as a juvenile."

I'm sure the juvenile court judges are itching to get their hands on this one. Make her an example to ten-year-olds everywhere that don't feel like taking a shower.
posted by Mountain Goatse at 8:30 AM on November 19, 2009


quin:
There is a fairly simple solution to the taser problem that I've suggested in the past; any time an officer uses their taser, it should be treated and investigated in the exact same way as if they had discharged their firearm.


If what you mean is that they treat the tasering as though it were a firearm discharge, I can fully get behind this.
posted by shakespeherian at 8:32 AM on November 19, 2009 [4 favorites]


It seems to me (with my non-existent mental health credentials, and reading 2 paragraphs about her) that the 11 year old wasn't having a temper tantrum, but possibly suffering from psychosis. Lack of hygiene is a classic warning sign. It's sad that a trained officer was unable to recognize this, even sadder that her own mother couldn't either.
posted by fontophilic at 8:33 AM on November 19, 2009


Just that I suspect there is something going on with that kid that goes beyond what most of deal with as parents.

Right, most of us don't deal with children who have a mother who would authorize a police officer to electrocute them. If you think she hasn't taken all kinds of other weapons to that child, well, we disagree.
posted by palliser at 8:41 AM on November 19, 2009


I remember being terrified of cops at 10. Psychosis seems a good way to explain the practically suicidal kicking of the officer's groin.

That or a parent who has bred into the child an impressive distrust of authority...
posted by cbecker333 at 8:42 AM on November 19, 2009


The most used piece of gear on an officer should be their ball-point.

I prefer to have the police officer use my pen, thank you very much!
posted by cjorgensen at 8:45 AM on November 19, 2009 [22 favorites]


Yeah, but tantrums and lack of hygiene without parental enforcement are also classic warning signs of, you know, being an average kid.

I wouldn't expect the average city cop to recognize signs of potential psychosis in children, though. That's a little much. But the officer should probably have recognized that this was a bizarre and ridiculous situation in which to be involved, and that tasing a kid, even with parental permission (oh hay wtf) is probably not a good idea.
posted by elizardbits at 8:46 AM on November 19, 2009 [2 favorites]


I was amazed that this happened not in Florida but Arkansas, but close enough. This is how we do it in the south, where we lead the league in unarmed children and mentally ill people shot, tazed, bean-bagged or pepper-sprayed by cops, after family members/school administrators call and say, "s/he's gone berzerker! come do something!" We have a saying in our family: "unless it needs shooting, don't call a cop."
also he drive-stunned her which may or may not be appropriate with an obstreperous large adult male drunk but good Lord! for a child.
posted by toodleydoodley at 8:50 AM on November 19, 2009 [5 favorites]


(From a police officer) Fire that man. Being hit with one of those things was the worst pain I have ever felt. Also, take action against that department for improper training. You never use a taser against a kid. By using this weapon, he pretty much communicated that he could not extricate himself from the situation, could not exercise discretion, and could not physically subdue a combative child (if that was even a civilized option).
posted by prototype_octavius at 8:55 AM on November 19, 2009 [18 favorites]


also he drive-stunned her which may or may not be appropriate with an obstreperous large adult male drunk but good Lord! for a child.

true, a drive stun isn't going to hurt nearly as much; it is supposed to be the option if the cartridge is fired and misses the target though, not the option for annoying child.
posted by prototype_octavius at 8:59 AM on November 19, 2009


Ozark police were called to the home Nov. 11 after the girl's mother couldn't get the child to take a shower.

Jesus Holy Mother of Pope Jumping WTF.
posted by marxchivist at 8:59 AM on November 19, 2009 [2 favorites]


hey, I think I just coined my username if I win the 100k raffle
posted by marxchivist at 8:59 AM on November 19, 2009 [4 favorites]


The Orlando incident, which no one is bringing up so I will (last link in the fpp) doesn't seem like an egregious case of cop bullying at all to me (which may be why no one is mentioning it, since it turns all the black and white to grey).

The 11 yo girl in Orlando pushed another child into traffic, ignored the teachers, then spit at them, and when the school resource officer tried to talk to her she pushed her (the school resource officer was also female). When the officer then tried to restrain her, the 11 yo punched her in the face so hard the woman's nose was bleeding. Tasering the girl at that point seems more like self-defense than bullying to me.

I agree that bullying cops and kids make a really bad combination. I agree that we need to educate our cops on ways to talk to people to bring them down rather than escalate the violence. But these cases are like apples and oranges and can't really be viewed in the same way.
posted by misha at 9:01 AM on November 19, 2009


If there is any kind of impropriety found by the internal affairs investigation

Hahahahahahahaha!

You're joking, right? Internal affairs not protecting their own? That'll be the day.
posted by splice at 9:02 AM on November 19, 2009 [2 favorites]


How many male-type-people can resist massive retaliation when kicked in the 'nads?

I can't, but if you flee the area sometime in the week between the time you kick me in the nuts and the time I'm able to stand up, you should be OK.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 9:03 AM on November 19, 2009 [2 favorites]


true, a drive stun isn't going to hurt nearly as much; it is supposed to be the option if the cartridge is fired and misses the target though, not the option for annoying child.

It is also meant to be used as an alternative to firing the cartridge, much in the same way more common stun devices are used.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:04 AM on November 19, 2009


Why don't we just give everyone in the country a free taser, to be used at their own discretion. Stop all this civilized pretending - just taser the fuck out of anyone that annoys you or is acting out in any way. Let's even the playing field and see who's left standing at the end.

Simultaneously the best and the worst anecdote about a party I ever heard was the Mutually Assured Destruction Party, where all participants were given a can of pepper spray at the door.
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:04 AM on November 19, 2009 [14 favorites]


Mr Noggle said the girl will face disorderly conduct charges as a juvenile.

Unbelievable. This is some staggeringly lazy (not to mention chickenshit) police work, but you shouldn't expect anything different right in the heart of failed, dead end America, where the only options left are selling drugs or working at the prison.
posted by porn in the woods at 9:05 AM on November 19, 2009


But these cases are like apples and oranges and can't really be viewed in the same way.

I just don't think we have enough information about the current case to know that. The father said that the girl had signs of emotional trouble; I would be interested to know more about her history and her mother's. Perhaps the two cases are in fact apples and apples. Having had acquaintances who more than once called the police on their child (a teenager, not a 10-year-old) perhaps makes me more inclined to think that there's a lot of history leading up to this incident.

Still not pro-taser.
posted by not that girl at 9:07 AM on November 19, 2009


I'm fairly certain punching a cop in the face should at least warrant a spanking.

It's not like there's an officer hiding in the bushes at the local elementary school tasing everything that walks off the playground here.
posted by djsparkydog at 9:21 AM on November 19, 2009 [2 favorites]


Punishment is not the job of the police, dude.
posted by kathrineg at 9:24 AM on November 19, 2009 [12 favorites]


It's not like there's an officer hiding in the bushes at the local elementary school tasing everything that walks off the playground here.

Quiet you! There are lots of people looking for jobs and we don't need to give police departments any ides.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:24 AM on November 19, 2009


As a parent of a child with serious and intractable mental health issues and who has been transported three times now to in-patient psychiatric hospitalization with the aid of police, I must say I see a whole different side of this story. If I were asked, I would not authorize law enforcement to use a taser. That said, I have seen first hand how difficult it can be for 200-lb police officers to restrain a psychotic 10-yo and keep everyone in the vicinity safe, most particularly the child. The amount of trivialization I see here, without knowing the full facts of the case, is truly saddening.

In probably the most dramatic of these incidents, I watched my own 10-yo be handcuffed and carried out of a school classroom face down by 4 officers--one for each limb. A newspaper write-up in the vein of the linked stories might have claimed this all happened because she "refused to put away a set of pencil grips she was playing with when asked by a teacher." But the deeper truth is that despite the teacher's calmly following the step-by-step intervention plan already worked out during numerous team meetings for dealing with such "incidents," my daughter continued to escalate and spiral out of control for over 20 minutes until she was throwing chairs and desks across the room.

Unless you've had to deal with something similar yourself, you can't imagine how awful it is, or understand that as a parent you are not all-powerful to Just Make It Stop--Nanny 911 or no.

I also cannot--CANNOT--believe that the news report on the case in Orlando published the name of the 11-yo involved. My god. THAT should be criminal.
posted by SomeTrickPony at 9:30 AM on November 19, 2009 [27 favorites]


It is pretty easy for me to assume the police are being evil, and that is why I usually stay out of these discussions. You definitely gave me something to think about SomeTrickPony.
posted by marxchivist at 9:33 AM on November 19, 2009


This has been on the local news for a couple days now. Extremely messed up. The officer should be severely reprimanded or fired. That action showed a total lack of judgment.

And lord, small town Arkansas police are just doing a dandy job of painting themselves for the national media this year.
posted by Atreides at 9:34 AM on November 19, 2009


Some random thoughts from an economic point of view. This is not an endorsement of the specific tasering of a 10-year-old but wondering simply why it happens, and whether it's a nash equilibrium.

If an officer never uses his taser, then his threats aren't seen as credible. This is a problem in a lot of strategic game theory - how can a player know what kind of player he's playing against? Reputations can help. If I know I'm playing against "Police Man", who in the past has tasered an old woman and a 10-year-old, then I know he'll likely taser me if I don't do what he says. The public use of tasers may not be mere accident, in other words; it may be a kind of commitment mechanism that, by being horrific, makes all future threats more credible.

The other problem that tasers create is that they are so effective at incapacitating a suspect without causing permanent harm. Specifically they have (a) a lower probability of permanent harm to the suspect and (b) a lower probability of harm to the officer. Even trying to physically incapacitate a suspect has some probability of the officer being hurt, but with a taser that can be fired from a distance, that chance is almost zero.

What this means is that, independent of the credibility problem noted above, these technological advances in non-lethal control methods should do two things. They should lead to a substitution away from alternative methods of control (not sure what the marginal method of control is, but let's say it's physically incapacitating a suspect - which sometimes requires 2 or more officers present; with a taser only one is needed, thus making each officer more productive). And secondly, there should be an outright increase in incapacitation attempts overall (called in economic jargon the "income effect" - called such because now the officer has effectively more "income" to spend due to the fall in the relative price of an alternative method of control; this assumes that control is a normal good, but that starts to get pedantic).

Together, both the committment problems and the change in relative prices means that under uncertainty, you can expect officers to use these non-lethal weapons more often, and in situations where they arguably in hindsight were unnecessary. Part of that could be the commitment issue - the cop is signaling to all future players in this game he will definitely taser them, since he's willing to even taser a little old lady or a 10-year-old. If he'll do it to them, he'll do it to anyone, and so they are hypothetically less likely to try and play an aggressive strategy towards them. But also secondly, cops are acting under uncertainty with little information. Accidents happen, as a result. But what taser technology does is lower the cost of an accident, and thus unsurprisingly, you get more tasering in situations where probably another non-lethal form of control would've been used. The increase in cop safety associated with taser technology could be an important component in this.

The question is what exactly should society be more concerned with - more false positives or more false negatives? False positives would be situations where a person is tasered when they shouldn't have been tasered. A 10-year-old or an old grandmother is clearly a false positive use of the taser. A false negative is a situation where the cop decides not to taser but he s/he should have. Each have costs, and the appropriate policy response depends on how you weight these two outcomes. If you care more about innocent people being guilty than guilty people being innocent, then you need to raise the price of the taser use through procedural policies. But, note what you may be doing unintentionally - substituting towards other forms of control that have higher probabilities of lethality.

Just some random thoughts I had while I was reading this instead of preparing for my micro lecture, which is in 45 min.
posted by scunning at 9:46 AM on November 19, 2009 [3 favorites]


The old lady one is my favorite example, because you can see how off-balance she is when the officer starts shoving her around. Its pretty clear she lacks the agility to pose a real threat and the cop is using a taser where he should have used hand cuffs.

While balls-kicking of an officer is dumb, the 10 year old clearly could have been subdued by normal hand-to-hand methods all cops learn in the first couple weeks of training. If not able to do so alone, the officer could have called for backup.
posted by cbecker333 at 9:48 AM on November 19, 2009


How many male-type-people can resist massive retaliation when kicked in the 'nads?

Seriously? I mean, I enjoy Beavis and Butthead much more than the next guy, and my friends and I get constant laughs out of trying to imitate that "BRMMMP!" noise it made when Hans Moleman got hit by a football.

But in reality? It doesn't hurt *that* bad. It hurts a lot, sure, but this movie trope where a man gets hit in the balls by a tiny woman or a little kid and suddenly he's rolling on the ground, completely incapacitated- that's just ridiculous. Maybe if you were kicked by a martial arts master or something... but even then I don't know. In the adrenaline rush of a street fight, you have to hurt someone pretty severely to get them to just curl up in a ball and give up.
posted by drjimmy11 at 9:57 AM on November 19, 2009 [2 favorites]


There's been an update to the "grandmother gets tasered" story that didn't even make much of a blip here in the local news. The taser the cop used on her had a built in camera, and it showed that he tasered her again while he was screaming at her to put her arms behind her back and she was writhing on the ground in pain unable to move. They have decided to give her a $40,000 settlement in her lawsuit against them. (news story)

On this latest 10 year old getting tasered, we don't know the whole story, but I have to think if the mother is the sort to ask a cop to taser her daughter, there may be reasons the kid has mental problems.
posted by Orb at 10:02 AM on November 19, 2009 [4 favorites]


The alternative hypothesis to the above price theory explanation is that cops need training in self-control even more than ever precisely because ongoing advances in non-lethal technologies that have almost perfect incapacitation rates will mean they don't have to exercise as much self-control. If they lose control, so what - the worst that can happen is that they tasered them, which while bad, is definitely not as severe as shooting them.

And yet another possibility is that the officers tasering are qualitatively different - some of them are the "marginal cop." It's like imagine that for all of human history, the only way husbands settled arguments with wives was with guns. Then someone invents "the fist." Not only will some shooting husbands substitute towards punching their wives, but additional attacks will come from those husbands who before wouldn't have resorted to shooting their wives. The availability of a cheaper, less costly, way of dealing with their anger leads them to attack.

I suspect all of these are going on. But the latter one - the marginal cop hypothesis - is something that probably could be addressed through more training methods of how to handle oneself in the field under various situations. They may need training directed at control that keeps the taser at bay. Some of the youtubes I've seen of cops using tasers on citizens seem like situations where the officer interpreted the situation incorrectly and was offended by something the victim was doing or said. They almost immediately seemed to regret their action (at least in one video I'm thinking of where the officer tasered a motorist whose pregnant wife was in the car, all over something silly about whether a sign showing the speed limit was posted somewhere or not). It's the ease of availability of this non-lethal option that almost causes them to relax their self-control.

Maybe self-control is not fixed, in other words - maybe it's something you are forced to exercise because the other options are so costly. Make cheaper options available, and maybe self-control falls.
posted by scunning at 10:03 AM on November 19, 2009


scunning : If you care more about innocent people being guilty than guilty people being innocent, then you need to raise the price of the taser use through procedural policies. But, note what you may be doing unintentionally - substituting towards other forms of control that have higher probabilities of lethality.

I think the capriciousness of the current way of doing things, where we allow officers to use tasers as a compliance tool, is far more dangerous and corrosive to people's perceptions of law enforcement than any microscopically incremental increase in lethality from using other techniques might be.

Besides, it's not like the police are going to stop using tasers, particularly when the situation warrants it, they just need to be held responsible in the exact same way that they are when they fire their weapon.

Pair this kind of policy with an honest effort at the federal level to make sure that investigations are thorough and you will quickly identify the bullies and thugs wearing uniforms.
posted by quin at 10:14 AM on November 19, 2009


quin: I think the capriciousness of the current way of doing things, where we allow officers to use tasers as a compliance tool, is far more dangerous and corrosive to people's perceptions of law enforcement than any microscopically incremental increase in lethality from using other techniques might be.

The magnitude of the substitution is another question entirely. One would have to know a lot more information about the actual demand for these various methods of control among a population of officers to know just how large of a substitution towards lethality would occur, if there was any substitution at all. Qualitatively, though, there might be such a thing. How you go about addressing the problem with policy needs to be careful, since the worst outcome would be to make tasers more expensive to use by officers, resulting simultaneously in both fewer control methods used overall (which may not be bad) and a substitution towards more lethal forms of control (which will in expectation result in some deaths, cops or suspects or both).

I'm leaning towards the self-control program I note in the second paragraph. That seems low cost, and fits the situation you see in youtubes of cops losing their cool in situations that seem like they needed more self-control. I'm thinking to myself, maybe I'm wrong to think of self-control as a fixed resource. Self-control is something you devote mental and emotional energy towards because a situation calls for it. Taser technology means you don't need as much self-control - the downside to tasering the wrong person is considerably lower. Simple educational campaigns within departments aimed at helping officers be vigilant in controlling themselves could address some of these problems without actually having to change the relative price of a taser's usage (which I'm still at this point nervous about screwing with, only because the lethality substitutability doesn't seem to me trivial).
posted by scunning at 10:26 AM on November 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


I have to think if the mother is the sort to ask a cop to taser her daughter, there may be reasons the kid has mental problems.

This kind of attitude is what makes life so hard for people with serious mental illnesses. Bipolar Disorder and Schizophrenia, the two most likely causes of psychosis, are considered to be largely biological. Sure there are a few areas where the behavior of others can lead to short term psychosis, but to assume she fits into that category without knowing a diagnosis is more than a little presumptuous.

What this girls parents do or don't act like will have little if any bearing on her contracting such an illness, it is like blaming a port wine birthmark on their parenting skills. "little jenny wouldn't look like that if they were better parents." Silly, isn't it.
posted by Antidisestablishmentarianist at 10:38 AM on November 19, 2009 [2 favorites]


I think the movie The Hangover pretty much summed up the police view on taser use in this country.
posted by zzazazz at 10:41 AM on November 19, 2009


I'm sorry but no, tasering an 11 year old who punched a cop in the face is not acceptable. How do we know this? Because that standard for opting to use a less-lethal option, be it bean bag gun, taser or other is this. In this situation, if I did not have access to less-lethal options would I use my firearm? If not, then you do no use a less lethal option.

Less-lethal is an alternative to firearm use. Period. It is not an alternative to any other standard police procedures, and if it is used in that way it is abuse and should be prosecuted as such.
The same report for discharging a firearm should be filled out any time less-lethal is used also.
posted by MrBobaFett at 10:49 AM on November 19, 2009 [2 favorites]


There is a fairly simple solution to the taser problem that I've suggested in the past; any time an officer uses their taser, it should be treated and investigated in the exact same way as if they had discharged their firearm.

Seconded. Paperwork, investigation, justification in writing about how a potentially-deadly force was needed in the situation, the whole second-guessing deal associated with LEO firearm use.

Tasers can cause permanent disability. Tasers have killed people.

Many police forces claim their officers only use tasers when their only other choice would be a firearm, but story after story shows that they use them a lot more than that, and without any of the ramifications.

Quin's suggestion (treat it like a firearm) would force them to mean what they say.
posted by rokusan at 11:02 AM on November 19, 2009 [2 favorites]


scunning, have you heard of the Stanford Prison Experiment or aikido? Either of these may be a more useful lens for understanding the situation than price theory.
posted by sebastienbailard at 11:16 AM on November 19, 2009


I think quin is correct, but we should log every time the taser is removed from its holster. Menacing with a weapon can be just as corrosive to society as using it.
posted by sebastienbailard at 11:17 AM on November 19, 2009


Why don't we just give everyone in the country a free taser, to be used at their own discretion?

We can't give everyone a taser because tasers are illegal to possess in the US. They are far too dangerous.

Guns, on the other hand, are legal to possess in the US. They are apparently not as dangerous as tasers.

So to sum up: non-lethal weapons are too dangerous to own, while lethal weapons are not too dangerous to own. This makes perfect sense.
posted by flarbuse at 11:27 AM on November 19, 2009 [4 favorites]


That'll teach Granny McWiseass to shut her pie hole and do as the Man says.
posted by VicNebulous at 11:32 AM on November 19, 2009


We can't give everyone a taser because tasers are illegal to possess in the US. They are far too dangerous.

State laws vary, but you can by a consumer model of the famed Taser. It's certainly a lightweight compared to the monstrosity available to law enforcement, but it will still deliver the same nasty shock from across the room.
posted by Burhanistan at 11:37 AM on November 19, 2009


Sure there are a few areas where the behavior of others can lead to short term psychosis, but to assume she fits into that category without knowing a diagnosis is more than a little presumptuous. What this girls parents do or don't act like will have little if any bearing on her contracting such an illness

It's extremely rare for a child to have a psychotic illness like schizophrenia. Far more rare than child abuse. And it is also common -- not just in "a few areas" -- for child abuse to severely damage a child's psyche and cause all kinds of behavioral problems.

Authorizing a tazing of your ten-year-old child is abuse, and it's not at all presumptuous to make the connection between that horrible act of public abuse and the possibility that the child is regularly treated like this. To be honest, I think it's your kind of attitude -- the kid must be crazy to act like that -- that makes it hard to protect children from abuse by their caregivers.

I highly recommend a book co-written by MeFite Maias, The Boy Who Was Raised As A Dog, for case studies of children whose response to abuse looked very much like -- and was sometimes misdiagnosed as -- a psychiatric disorder.
posted by palliser at 11:38 AM on November 19, 2009


Guy let a 10 year old kick him in the g’nads? Here’s a thought when facing an individual– turn your hips slightly to narrow their target and allow you greater lateral movement. Oh, sure, sounds bizarre, how could your body be harder to hit if you present less of a target and are able to move more quickly at an angle? But I know a guy who took a martial arts class once.
I’ve said this before as well – most people who get hit are hit because of their expectations, not the physical situation. So cop vs. 10 year old, on paper looks easy – but kids and women are harder to handle for most folks precisely because they don’t fight/resist in a traditional (that is ‘expected’) manner.

It’s mindset that got him kicked and it’s mindset that led him to use the taser. Hammer/problem = nail, all that.

What was the objective from a policing standpoint here? Getting the kid to take a shower? Don’t think so. Looks to me like it’s a family in a crisis situation (given the givens) so what’s needed, more than likely, is a counselor. There’s your backup. The police officer getting hit changes the situation from a kid and a parent who need some help to a criminal matter.
This will teach the child – what, exactly?

Unfortunately many police departments and towns, counties and states don’t have the resources or the time to adequately address these things the way they need to be addressed.
Which is stupid really because the taxpayer is still going to pay to house the kid in a detention center, so it’s going to come out of people’s pockets either way. And for the most part, probably costing more for something like this. Not even counting a potential lawsuit (which would be dumb, but isn’t beyond the sphere of possible outcomes here) – simply incarcerating the kid isn’t going to help things long term and most likely will make things worse.
posted by Smedleyman at 11:39 AM on November 19, 2009


TASER® electronic control devices are not considered firearms and are legal to carry in most states without permits (including California). Restricted from citizen use in MA, RI, NY, NJ, WI, MI, HI, and certain cities and counties.
posted by Burhanistan at 11:39 AM on November 19, 2009


State laws vary, but you can by a consumer model of the famed Taser.

Even available in Metallic Pink, Red Hot, Electric Blue and Desert Camo!
posted by ericb at 11:44 AM on November 19, 2009


Don't tase me, Arkanso'
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:53 AM on November 19, 2009


SomeTrickPony, my guess is the 11 y/o in Orlando is being charged with felony battery on an officer, which in Florida lets you publish her name, yea, even if she be a suckling babe in arms. I know, I think it's sick too.
Thanks for your perspective on cops and mental health. Although I see a lot of cops and emotionally challenged kids in my work as a school/sports/government reporter, I don't know that particular situation like you know it, and I'm sorry to sound cavalier.
My perspective comes from my own acquaintance with the police, both through work and from the experiences of family and friends in (euphemistic description) ethnically diverse, low-income neighborhoods and schools. I know some very good cops, but IMO they are anomalous. Even the good ones I know seem to have an outlook that skews toward cynicism and misanthropy. because of this, the best of them are coaches and mentors, and the worst of them are opportunists who like to take advantage of anyone who can't stay out of their way.
while it's probably true that nobody else can handle a mentally ill person in meltdown mode, the combined expertise of most (other than white, rich) americans says that cops are most skilled at hurting people, and I'll keep believing that no matter how much TV cop show PR you give them.
posted by toodleydoodley at 11:55 AM on November 19, 2009


sebastienbailard, I have heard of the experiment. You may be right that they are more useful. They are not mutually exclusive necessarily, though, are they? What prediction does the theories based on the findings from the Stanford experiment have for different policies that are distinct from the rational choice reasoning I was using?
posted by scunning at 12:07 PM on November 19, 2009


Palliser: My knowledge is more with how adults with serious mental illnesses are treated.

People tend to assume that there is some sort of personal or family failing that led to the disease, and for the more serious illnesses this is usually false. These situations may exacerbate but they do not cause schizophrenia and bipolar.

I wasn't excusing what the police did, but to a-priori blame a child presenting as psychotic on his or her parenting seems to be a bad practice. It would appear my idea of what is prevalent and what is not was wrong.

In the end, the poster I was responding to blamed "crazy" on parenting. I wanted to question that link.
posted by Antidisestablishmentarianist at 12:13 PM on November 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


No, I blamed curling up in a ball, screaming, and refusing to take a shower potentially on some other abuse going on in the household and wasn't at all discussing adults with mental illnesses or blaming mentally ill peoples' illnesses on bad parenting. There's a huge range of reasons a child might act that way, and not all of them involve said child being psychotic.
posted by Orb at 12:23 PM on November 19, 2009


Oh, and thanks for assuming I was assuming anything. All I said was there may be other reasons she was acting that way such as an abusive environment ... rather than automatically assuming she's psychotic.
posted by Orb at 12:26 PM on November 19, 2009


Cop suspended after Tasering 10-year-old girl.
posted by ericb at 12:27 PM on November 19, 2009


First paragraph:
"A police officer who used a stun gun on an unruly 10-year-old girl after he said her mother gave him permission has been suspended — not for using the weapon but for not having a video camera attached when he used it."
posted by ericb at 12:28 PM on November 19, 2009


They should call it what it is -- a torture device. And they should prosecute cops for using it as such.
posted by empath at 1:05 PM on November 19, 2009 [3 favorites]


The trouble, I think, is that the primary function of police is control

There's your problem right there. If you think that's the primary function, your society is fucked up.

A police service is a public force empowered to enforce the law and provide security through the legitimized use of force. "Control" is something different altogether.
posted by DreamerFi at 1:25 PM on November 19, 2009


Is there data you can get on whether police used some kind of restraint or force, including firing a weapon, in certain kinds of situations? For instance, like National Incident Based Reporting System (NIBRS)?
posted by scunning at 2:41 PM on November 19, 2009


So a friend of mine, typically a very passive, relaxed and gentle guy, goes to visit his mom's house. He's a recreational drug user, although not to excess, and he has epilepsy, so he takes meds for that.

He gets there, and (according to his mother, who is the only witness we have) my friend starts going crazy, freaking out, breaking things and threatening his mother. She calls the police. The police show up, try to get him to calm down; he won't, and keeps on breaking stuff, so the police officers present jump on him and wrestle him to the ground -- where he goes into a seizure, has heart attack and dies.

No taser, no beating up; according to his mother he was just being restrained. Doctors didn't find any recreational or epilepsy meds in his system, and nobody knows why he was behaving so violently, and so much against type. I'm sure if a newspaper article was written about it, you'd have people blaming the kid (who must have been on drugs anyway), the mom (for calling the police) and the police (for restraining him.) The truth is, you can't place the blame in any one place.

The lesson I'm trying to impart, I guess, is that without being there to see the nuance of things, and knowing that newspapers often make errors and oversimplify, we don't know what happened -- and I think it's safe to assume that it wasn't as simple as "kid won't take bath/mom calls cops/kid kicks cop/cop tazes kid." Certainly the fact that the child will be brought up on charges suggests this as well.
posted by davejay at 3:03 PM on November 19, 2009 [3 favorites]


ericb, there's a surveillance/security store less than two blocks from my office that sells that exact pink taser. I looked into getting some self-defense weapons last December because I was being stalked. I could barely believe it was real, much less that I could buy it on the spot without filling out any kind of background check paperwork.

I'm kind of not surprised, though. I mean, you can buy pink handguns, too. Still, cutesying up a serious and potentially deadly weapon is chilling. Anybody who knows a thing or two about Krav Maga should be able to restrain a recalcitrant, violent child or adult without having a weapon at all. Too bad the police aren't trained in other methods, but it may be an issue of resources, finance or other factors (but some kind of alternative training to either tazing or shooting a person SHOULD be mandatory... I hope it is in some areas, even if it's not the norm).
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 3:19 PM on November 19, 2009


Orb, you said "mental problems" not crazy. I should have double checked rather than shoot from the hip.

The phrase you did use, "mental problems" is almost synonymous to mental illness, at least a close enough cousin I got confused as to your intent. Had you been simply talking about her behavior, I would have expected a phrase that spoke less to her mental state and more to her acting out.

In any event, I don't have a dog in the fight other than to try to work against the stigma associated with mental illness, and help make the lives of the mentally ill and those that care for them easier. Mentally ill children and their parents would have been the issue here were my understanding correct.

My apologies, it appears I misunderstood your statement.
posted by Antidisestablishmentarianist at 3:21 PM on November 19, 2009


Even if they're made illegal, a fistful of 9v batteries, a soldering gun and the Internet will get you a home-made taser in a single evening.

Just saying.
posted by rokusan at 3:26 PM on November 19, 2009


Even if they're made illegal, a fistful of 9v batteries, a soldering gun and the Internet will get you a home-made taser in a single evening.

The internet will also tell you how to make something more sinister using the battery packs from AEDs.
posted by Burhanistan at 3:39 PM on November 19, 2009


Too bad the police aren't trained in other methods, but it may be an issue of resources, finance or other factors

I have to believe it's a lack of will to do it more than anything else. They are willing to throw absurd amounts of money at many departments in an effort to tach them out look like door-breaching swat ninjas, but they can't find some extra resources to provide actual practical training?

It's part and parcel with one of the other common problems in our country which is to assume that there is a technical fix for every problem. That there is a gadget that will always accomplish better than hard work.

I'd rather cops knew Akido or Krav Maga and could rely on those over using a taser, but I'm guessing that getting that actually rolled out would border on insurmountable.
posted by quin at 3:43 PM on November 19, 2009


An update from the Arkansas Times blog mentions that:

The mother of the 10-year-old, Kelly Hamlert, has been a part-time dispatcher and detention officer in the Franklin County jail for several months, Chief Deputy James Hamilton said. She does not carry a Taser in that job, Hamilton said, because the sheriff's office has none. "We wish we did, but we can't afford them."


Meanwhile, the Dad, who does not have custody, says they treated his daughter like an animal. I have to agree with that, but since he also says that the way it should have been handled is for the ten year-old to be handcuffed and carried out to the police car, I have to wonder what the standards are for keeping a child with EITHER parent at this point.

I often find myself playing devil's advocate in these threads in an interest of bringing up a different perspective, but I just can't see the Arkansas situation being warranted. Turning off the video of the tasering makes it all even scarier to me, like the Mom and the cop were conspiring or something. The entire police report for the incident, on the Smoking Gun, is less than half a page. That just seems wrong on so many levels.
posted by misha at 3:49 PM on November 19, 2009


Even if they're made illegal, a fistful of 9v batteries, a soldering gun and the Internet will get you a home-made taser in a single evening.

Just saying.


I smell a MAKE article! </boingboing>
posted by davejay at 3:49 PM on November 19, 2009


scunning: "Is there data you can get on whether police used some kind of restraint or force, including firing a weapon, in certain kinds of situations? For instance, like National Incident Based Reporting System (NIBRS)?"

I looked for something similar, but came up bupkiss. I found various locality statistics, but I couldn't find any national ones. I was looking for trend statistics, so perhaps I was just structuring my query incorrectly. But if anyone knows of usage statistics, especially usage over time, and/or usage in children on a national level, I would like to see them.
posted by dejah420 at 4:39 PM on November 19, 2009


[Context: I know, like, and have supported local PD. So please don't think I'm an anti-police kind of guy.]

So, here's The Deal:

Someone -- on MetaFilter, even -- once commented that a lot of people see the world as composed of Normal People, and Scumbags. Very binary.

The problem with tasers is that Normal People are afraid of getting shot with them.

Don't believe me?

Normal People aren't afraid of getting shot by cops. They don't do that to Normal People. Normal People aren't afraid of getting beaten up by cops. Normal People may try to talk themselves out of a ticket, or be a little challenging, but Normal People aren't going to get beaten up for that.

Normal People know if they blink funny, they're getting 50,000 volts.

And you can tell, because Normal People click on these Taser stories, causing more Taser stories to be written.

Normal People may get tased.
Normal People's friends may get tased.
Normal People's sons and daughters may get tased.
Even if they're 10.

And it's the last part that finally brings what can only be referred to as Parent Rage into the equation. Tasers will probably be illegal within five years...

...because anybody who uses a taser on a Normal Person, is a Scumbag. And it's actually aggressively unhealthy for the police to be viewed in that light.
posted by effugas at 5:37 PM on November 19, 2009 [6 favorites]


effugas: Oh, that is beautiful.

So, my conclusion then, is tasing people is a good thing. I want to see rampant abuse of tasers on all manner of citizenry.

Maybe then folks will wake up, start paying attention, and applying some effort to get the ol' USA back into proper working order. No more of this 'public master' crap.

Oh, I'm sorry. That was getting in to a flight of fancy. But this tasing, it isn't a problem. It's a symptom.
posted by Goofyy at 8:56 AM on November 20, 2009


It'd be interesting to see correlations between people's attitudes regarding the police, and taser deployments.
posted by effugas at 10:47 PM on November 22, 2009


To bring a little closure on this, the cop who tasered the 10 year old girl has been fired. Not for using his taser on a ten year old but for not turning on the taser's camera.
posted by Orb at 11:11 AM on December 17, 2009


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