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No more Tasers for you!
April 16, 2010 12:22 PM   Subscribe

BART Police stripped of Tasers. After a sergeant attempted to taser a 13 year old boy, fleeing on bicycle, BART has decided to remove Tasers from the BART Police force. “What are you going to do about Tasers? What are you going to do with officer who does something silly like shoot their Taser out of a window at the victim?” asked Sweet. “BART does not have enough insurance to pay for some of the things we do.” Previously.
posted by yeloson (62 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
I'm having a hard time understanding why transit cops would need a weapon of any kind.
posted by contessa at 12:25 PM on April 16, 2010


contessa, we have robberies and rape on our fine Metro system in DC.
posted by MrMoonPie at 12:26 PM on April 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


What are you going to do with officer who does something silly like shoot their Taser out of a window at the victim?

Fire them? Is that not an option?
posted by kanata at 12:27 PM on April 16, 2010 [12 favorites]


"Complete the following: Tasers are to MetaFilter as Steampunk is to ________________"

that was on a test I took to get into grad school... I'm pretty certain it was
posted by HuronBob at 12:28 PM on April 16, 2010


Fire them? Is that not an option?

Firing the cop isn't necessarily enough to prevent a lawsuit, which could cost BART plenty just in legal fees. Better to keep these things from happening in the first place, by taking away the tasers...
posted by vorfeed at 12:31 PM on April 16, 2010


Looks like they will get them back shortly, after some training and a switch to the non-gun side of their Bat Belt.
posted by kuujjuarapik at 12:35 PM on April 16, 2010


So what did happen with the cop who shot Oscar Grant in the back with an actual gun?
posted by cashman at 12:37 PM on April 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


These cops, I respect them but they are not the goddamn Batman. Nor should we equip them as if they were.
posted by 2bucksplus at 12:37 PM on April 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Oh yes, I agree. Take away the tasers for sure but just the way he phrased that seemed to be saying "Oh, these silly transit cops. What won't they think of next? Aren't they cute?!"
posted by kanata at 12:43 PM on April 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm having a hard time understanding why transit cops would need a weapon of any kind.

I used to ride BART every day. Once or twice, I saw cops "BART SWAT TEAM" on their uniforms.

One of my first thoughts was, "maybe taking BART isn't such a good idea."
posted by zippy at 12:44 PM on April 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


That would be interesting to see, how many robberies and rapes are stopped by armed police officers in the DC Metro system. Estimates?
posted by adipocere at 12:45 PM on April 16, 2010


Wasn't it a BART cop that shot that kid in Oakland last year? His excuse for shooting the kid with a gun was he thought he had his taser in hand instead.
posted by birdherder at 12:45 PM on April 16, 2010


“What are you going to do about Tasers? What are you going to do with an officer who does something silly like shoot their Taser out of a window at the victim?” asked Sweet.

De-taze him, bro.
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 12:47 PM on April 16, 2010


BART Police stripped of Tasers.

Somehow I read that as: BART Police Stripped and Tasered, which sounded a bit extreme.

contessa, we have robberies and rape on our fine Metro system in DC.

I'm not sure robberies on the system constitute a justification for posession of deadly weapons, and the likelyhood of aprehending a rapist in the system in the act is pretty low. We also have DCPD and dozens of other weapon-weilding law enforcement agencies with jurisdiction over the Metro system as well. Seriously, if you need weapons, why not just call the PGC PD? They'd be glad to come beat somebody down.
posted by Pollomacho at 1:01 PM on April 16, 2010


I'm not arguing that any cops should have tasers, to be clear. Quite the opposite, really. But if any cops have them, transit cops should, too, due to the high likelihood of needing to use (near) deadly force in a crowd situation.

But, again, to be clear, I don't think cops need them at all. Far too often, they're used in situations where they aren't warranted.
posted by MrMoonPie at 1:07 PM on April 16, 2010


"Complete the following: Tasers are to MetaFilter as Steampunk is to ________________"

MetaFilter?
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 1:08 PM on April 16, 2010 [8 favorites]


I would rather police have tasers instead of firearms, and use them only when they would have used the firearms.

They should be an alternative to lethal force, not a complement to it.
posted by Fraxas at 1:11 PM on April 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


So there's significant mis-use of Tasers in the BART system, including one accidental shooting death, but the "last straw" is the cost of insurance? How callous can you get?
posted by meowzilla at 1:11 PM on April 16, 2010 [4 favorites]


how many robberies and rapes are stopped by armed police officers in the DC Metro system.

How many robbers and rapists choose another location to commit a crime knowing that transit police are armed with guns and tasers? Estimates?

See, two can play that game and it gets us nowhere.
posted by peeedro at 1:14 PM on April 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Again, it isn't the last straw. From the article:
"Because of various appellate court and circuit court opinions on the use of Tasers, we've decided to have one last training session and -- at that time -- issue the weak-hand draw holsters."
Tasers will be back before you know it.
posted by kuujjuarapik at 1:15 PM on April 16, 2010


An authoritative force demonstrating a shocking defenestration…
posted by Jeremy at 1:16 PM on April 16, 2010


I saw cops "BART SWAT TEAM" on their uniforms.

We could have really done without Daryl Gates' help in militarizing the civilan police forces in the US.
posted by mikelieman at 1:17 PM on April 16, 2010


I take BART through Oakland every day, and the idea of deadly force is very concerning to me. But the idea of police with nothing but stern words also worries me. But what is the middle ground? Better trained officers?
posted by chatongriffes at 1:19 PM on April 16, 2010


[may ____ forgive me for this one)

"Complete the following: Tasers are to MetaFilter as Steampunk is to ________________"


favela chic?







*runs, fast, slaloms to avoid tasers*
posted by infini at 1:23 PM on April 16, 2010


i say this in every taser thread-- TASER's are a less-lethal substitute for deadly force. Cops should never use them unless they would have ordinarily used a gun in that situation.

Using it to torture someone into compliance just because you're lazy should be a crime.
posted by empath at 1:23 PM on April 16, 2010 [22 favorites]


I don't understand why any cops get anything more than a nightstick. Even that seems a little much.
posted by ged at 1:27 PM on April 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


I totally agree with your stance, but the problem with issuing TASERs is that people plainly do misuse them time and again. That TASERs should be a less-lethal substitute for guns does not mean that they are.
posted by howfar at 1:27 PM on April 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


As I have said in other threads, I work for BART. Before we get on a derail that BART police are not "real" police officers, I would like to say that they are in fact fully-sworn police officers. They pass all the same tests and do all the same training as other area police and we have many officers who have made a lateral transfer from local police forces (Oakland, Alameda County Sheriff, etc.). You can get some details here. Our officers go through psychological testing and are required to have at least two years of college.

Please, say all you like about one individual's action--but try to restrain yourself from sweeping generalizations. I know, that is asking a lot of some of you. It's much easier to paint a group with the same brush.

The bulk of the BART police officers that I interact with are mature, thoughtful individuals who care about our passengers and their safety. They carry weapons because we have 200 sworn officers to police over 150,000 people a day. These people mostly just want to get from point a to point b, but just like in any city of a similar size, some want to act out in deadly or dangerous ways and our officers need to defend themselves and our passengers.

We have SWAT teams, canine teams, an anti-terrorist task force (subways are a major terrorist target), etc.

I'm not going to comment on this specific incident or any other, but I regreted not saying something in the earlier Oscar Grant thread and felt I wanted to speak up here.
posted by agatha_magatha at 1:29 PM on April 16, 2010 [19 favorites]


My steampunk TASER is the compromise solution. It is safer than a gun but the time and effort required cranking up a charge makes it unlikely to be used unless they really need it.
posted by Babblesort at 1:30 PM on April 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


There's obviously a real need for some extensive retraining of BART police in the use of tasers - the fact that they are using them as offensive weapons rather than a defensive method to subdue suspects seems to me to be a bad attitude that may be hard to change. The very idea of a BART police supervisor thinking that it's in any way ok to attempt to take down a 13 year old fleeing on a bicycle by shooting him with a taser from the window of a moving car is the perfect example of this attitude issue. The lack of concern for the safety of a suspect is frightening. Tasers aren't supposed to be used as weapons. Somehow they've forgotten this, along with the right of a suspect to not be put in danger in such a cavalier way.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 1:34 PM on April 16, 2010 [4 favorites]


MrMoonPie: “contessa, we have robberies and rape on our fine Metro system in DC.”

Wouldn't that be a good reason to post actual cops? I mean, isn't there a difference between the BART / Transit police and the city police? Or am I way off here?
posted by koeselitz at 1:36 PM on April 16, 2010


Thanks for explaining that, agatha_magatha.
posted by contessa at 1:36 PM on April 16, 2010


Heh. Last time I comment without reading. Yeah, thanks, agatha_magatha.
posted by koeselitz at 1:38 PM on April 16, 2010


I mean, isn't there a difference between the BART / Transit police and the city police? Or am I way off here?

From what agatha_magatha said above, it sounds like you're way off here.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 1:48 PM on April 16, 2010


whoa dude, sorry, i previewed and still missed your retraction. my bad.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 1:49 PM on April 16, 2010


I always thought the purpose of the taser was a less physical damaging version of the nightstick. We all know how that defense tool of the police was often times abused. Although the taser is less likely to break bones and leave bruising, it should still be used as a defensive weapon of last resort. It all really comes down to adequate training and recruiting. But that stuff costs too much money and the teabags all want to spend less on government.
posted by birdherder at 1:58 PM on April 16, 2010


Unless and until the police actually do their job and police their own ranks to get rid of the trigger happy torture addicts I think taking their toys away is a good place to start.

I'm sure agatha_magatha is correct and the majority of cops in general are nice upstanding people who don't use their government issued electrical torture device to enforce compliance or terrorize uppity people, but rather as a substitute for lethal force.

The problem is that those same "nice upstanding people" protect the psychopaths. Until that ends I see no reason why the police should be permitted to have tazers. Even the "nice" ones who don't torture for grins and giggles themselves but just protect the ones who do.

If they want their toys back they should police their own better.
posted by sotonohito at 2:04 PM on April 16, 2010 [9 favorites]


Re agatha's comment, BART police always ... uh, struck me as the same as any other genuine police force in the area.
posted by zippy at 2:07 PM on April 16, 2010


Nightsticks aren't just for staving in someone's skull, they can also serve as restraint. I think tonfas are a little better for that. Most likely, neither is used as a restraint as much as they could be.

Tasers probably have a real, valid use. We're simply not in a position where we are mature enough to use tasers, as a society, in a reasonable manner. They're being pushed by a big company, we have a cowboy society which is always excited about the use of physical force, and medical examiners being pressured to cover up Taser-related deaths. The police force bears some of this responsibility.

If we treated use of a taser in precisely the same manner as we treat use of a gun, we might get a better result. If you wouldn't shoot a six year old girl with a bullet because she was having a tantrum in class, you do not get to tase her. (I mean, really, how many times do we have to hear about the officers fearing for their lives?) A report every time you fire a taser. Oh, and maybe, just to discourage use — every time you use a taser, you have to have it used on you. This could be done at a later date, or perhaps prongs pop out of the taser and knock out the police officer at the same time, in one out of every ten instances.

Nothing like a little random reinforcement to encourage thinking about what you're doing.
posted by adipocere at 2:11 PM on April 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Tasers aren't supposed to be used as weapons.

Yeah I'm pretty sure that's incorrect.
posted by floam at 2:26 PM on April 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


They carry weapons because we have 200 sworn officers to police over 150,000 people a day.

Just to add a stat-nerd comment, BART's theoretical maximum instantaneous population is 120k (a "crush load" on every in-service car). When you've at sardine-packed standing room only capacity, this is also when you probably don't want officers using guns.

In practice, though, you'll never see this many people on BART at once. Ridership drops off precipitously outside of rush hour and the arterial route from downtown SF to Oakland.


"We have a fleet of 669 cars, and nearly 90 percent are being used during the peak period."

"Seating capacity is [between 56 and 60, depending on the car type], but can carry over 200 customers in a crush load."

posted by zippy at 2:28 PM on April 16, 2010


"Complete the following: Tasers are to MetaFilter as Steampunk is to ________________"

Uhmm.... Metafilter?
posted by delmoi at 2:31 PM on April 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


When you've at sardine-packed standing room only capacity, this is also when you probably don't want officers using guns.

One day I was riding BART during rush hour and a group of 3 officers were walking along, doing a quick scan of the cars. One of the officers had a shotgun in a down, but ready position.

Because, you know, you totally want a shotgun to deal with someone in a crowded car full of bystanders.

(Is the someone the Predator? Ok, maybe. But otherwise, maybe not a good idea.)
posted by yeloson at 2:34 PM on April 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Although the taser is less likely to break bones and leave bruising, it should still be used as a defensive weapon of last resort.

The problem is that even though it doesn't leave 'marks' it can still be pretty damaging. And crazy cops use them all the time now. Can you imagine a cop seeing someone having an epileptic seizure and beating them with a knightstick? Obviously, that's pretty unlikely. But they have been tasering them (that's 5 separate incidents I found with a quick search)
posted by delmoi at 2:42 PM on April 16, 2010


I would totally pay to see BART vs Predator
posted by zippy at 2:49 PM on April 16, 2010 [4 favorites]


That would be interesting to see, how many robberies and rapes are stopped by armed police officers in the DC Metro system. Estimates?

I haven't ridden the DC Metro in about a decade, but I took it every day when DC was the official murder capitol of the world. It didn't matter what happened on the streets above, they were always perfectly safe once you were inside the wing gates. The system was, and I'm sure still is, highly survieled. Metro police were always just a few steps away from any part of a platform.

Are they not that safe anymore?
posted by clarknova at 2:52 PM on April 16, 2010


The bulk of the BART police officers that I interact with are mature, thoughtful individuals who care about our passengers and their safety.

Unless of course, you're guilty until proven innocent.
posted by Malice at 3:18 PM on April 16, 2010


Tasers are to MetaFilter as Steampunk is to ___bicycle_____

It's 'fish', isn't it. Damn.
posted by hangashore at 3:21 PM on April 16, 2010


Because, you know, you totally want a shotgun to deal with someone in a crowded car full of bystanders.

The shotgun was probably a riot gun, loaded with rubber bullets or shells loaded with tear gas. Yeah, not a good weapon choice to target a single individual, but it's understandable why a cop might carry one (not in a ready position, though). I'd rather the cop have a riot gun than an AR-15.
posted by Thoughtcrime at 3:48 PM on April 16, 2010


Tasers are not an alternative to guns. When your adversary has a gun, the current way of thinking is to get a bigger gun. This leads us down the "cops as paramilitary force" route.

I'm not saying it's right or wrong, but I'm sure as hell not going into a gunfight with a taser.
posted by meowzilla at 3:51 PM on April 16, 2010


Are they not that safe anymore?

I dunno what he's talking about. I've taken metro all over dc for the past 15 years, late at night in terrible neighborhoods, and never had a problem.
posted by empath at 3:55 PM on April 16, 2010


We could have really done without Daryl Gates' help in militarizing the civilan police forces in the US.

Strangely enough, he just died...

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/17/us/17gates.html
posted by dabug at 4:27 PM on April 16, 2010


I'd rather the cop have a riot gun than an AR-15.

I figured it was rubber bullets, but still, it's a big question why that would be the appropriate thing to bring onto a full rush hour train.

The argument, "It could have been worse" isn't really a solid one to make here: overarmed is overarmed, just because they happened to not have brought grenades, suicide vests, or mustard gas doesn't suddenly make it right.
posted by yeloson at 4:30 PM on April 16, 2010


BART: Beat, Arrest, Restrain, Taze
posted by bwg at 4:35 PM on April 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


As someone who regularly commutes on BART, I for one think this is a good thing.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 5:01 PM on April 16, 2010


Shotgun can also be used for bean bag rounds which are "less lethal." Can be an option for some things.

If there is a tactical requirement for a shotgun or an AR, then that's what the officers should be carrying. Just because shoulder arms (long guns, i.e. rifles, shotguns, subguns) make people uncomfortable, is not a good enough reason for the officers not to deploy with them when the situation demands it.
posted by wuwei at 5:23 PM on April 16, 2010


Paramilitary police don't make us safer: Misused SWAT teams provoke violence rather than prevent it
posted by homunculus at 6:43 PM on April 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


tactical, shoulder guns, deploy, situation...really?
posted by maxwelton at 8:17 PM on April 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


Soon, only outlaws will have tasers.
posted by fartknocker at 9:31 PM on April 16, 2010


The bulk of the BART police officers that I interact with are mature, thoughtful individuals who care about our passengers and their safety. They carry weapons because we have 200 sworn officers to police over 150,000 people a day. These people mostly just want to get from point a to point b, but just like in any city of a similar size, some want to act out in deadly or dangerous ways and our officers need to defend themselves and our passengers.

So what I'm hearing you saying is that there are 200 sworn police officers, and as a resident of far away New Zealand, I can still identify 1% of your force (2 officers)as using their issued weapons in a way that is not only inappropriate but also illegal. I wonder how many of those daily 150,000 riders can identify a lot more?

That says more about the BART administration than it does about the individual officers. The problem is worse than you paint it to be. Just because you work for BART does not mean you have to defend the horrible administration.

A man being held down by 4 officers while one pulls out a gun and shoots him is dead wrong. Not painting a broad enough brush has led to another abuse of power...and you still are saying "the majority are good".

2 stories(officers) told within a year...198 more to go.
posted by hal_c_on at 9:57 PM on April 16, 2010


So there's significant mis-use of Tasers in the BART system, including one accidental shooting death, but the "last straw" is the cost of insurance? How callous can you get?

Moral outrage doesn't register in business terms, but cash expenditures do. The problem with tasers is that whatever social pressures exist to prevent kinetic violence against deeply sympathetic subjects, do not exist to prevent electrical violence.

So, you don't have lots of epileptics getting beaten, but tased? Yeah.

I think there's something going on psychologically, like "if there's no blood and I didn't deliver the blows myself, it's not real".
posted by effugas at 3:46 PM on April 17, 2010


agatha_magatha, if you wish to assert the effective functioning of a force it's rather disingenous to then refuse to discuss any incident where officers have not upheld the standards you claim the force embodies. It's rather like Ford attempting to deflect criticism over the Pinto by saying that all their other cars work well; people deserve an honest discussion that includes fair consideration of flaws and the fact that you'll be disciplined for giving a balanced view but not for giving a whitewashed viewpoint is part of the problem.

"Please, say all you like about one individual's action--but try to restrain yourself from sweeping generalizations. I know, that is asking a lot of some of you. It's much easier to paint a group with the same brush."

The flaw here isn't just an individual's actions, it is the resultant actions of BART to attempt to avoid scrutiny and an apparent culture of protecting the officer over the victim even when the officer has murdered a man (and if you're uncomfortable with that word, consider what your viewpoint would be if a member of the public claimed to have accidentally shot an officer with the wrong weapon).

You must face the fact that your force has fundamental issues: it is not that an insurer cares about the moral dimension, but merely that they think that officers cannot be trusted to fulfill their duties without such excessive force that even the institutional advantages they have over their accusers in court do not make insuring you a good bet. That, in the end, is refutation on a purely actuarial basis, and given that other forces are insured it means that BART is statistically risky in comparison. If you and your colleagues are not responsible for those actions and unusually violent institutional culture, who is? It seems like you desire collective responsibility for the successes but wish to No True Scotsman the failures. That's fundamentally disingenuous, and it disgusts me because of the failure to self-examine that it represents.
posted by jaduncan at 2:37 AM on April 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


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