We had a very spirited discussion in the office last week about the Utah tasing incident. I was very sure that the officer had acted wrongly--until I got the perspective from some of my co-workers. I have decided though, that I think that, although it may have still come to it, the officer acted rashly and prematurely in the use of his taser. Did he have to arrest the individual because he wouldn't sign the citation? (I don't know what the law is, so I'm just asking...) It appears (the video conversation was somewhat muffled by passing traffic) that the officer did not answer in good faith the questions of the motorist. The motorist was accompanied by his pregnant wife, so it's hard to imagine that he was dangerous. The officer made no attempt to report the unexpected behavior to dispatch. He made no attempt to explain to the motorist that signing the citation was no admission of guilt. The man had turned and walked away before he was tased--he clearly was not a danger to the officer at that point.
So why does it seem that tasers are being used so frequently these days?
Op-Ed News reported the following recently:
Bernard Kerik, [Rudy] Giuliani's [former] driver , is behind the sudden advancement of tasers. The phenominal rise of tasers is mainly due to the efforts of Rudy Giuliani. In 2001, Taser International developed its "Advanced Taser Electro-Muscular Disruption" system and became a publicly traded company ("Taser"). In 2000, Giuliani installed Kerik as the New York City police commissioner. In 2002, Kerik, a senior vice president at Giuliani Partners and CEO of Giuliani-Kerik LLC, became Taser's director.On the Liberty Roundtable this morning, Sam and Curt (MP3 archive) discussed their opinion that law enforcement officers are being trained to be combative with the public. I don't know if this is true, but it wouldn't surprise me considering the specific dangers that face law enforcement personnel in 2007 America. But it also wouldn't surprise me if...
With Kerik at the steering wheel, Taser's profits grew ten times in two years, to $68 million in 2004, up from just under $7 million in 2001. By the way, sales have been helped along by police officers who have received payments and/or stock options from Taser to serve as instructors and trainers.
In 2003, Taser received weapons orders from Homeland Security. In 2004 Bush, lobbied by Giuliani, nominated Kerik as Secretary of Homeland Security. The same year, Kerik made more than $6 million from Taser.
The movies and TV shows that are available to us seem to have far exceeded reality, specifically regarding the frequency of crime occurrences, as well as the graphic nature of such crimes. If law enforcement officials are watching CSI, Cops, and Law and Order on a regular basis, they may begin to develop--even if subliminally--the expectation that every member of the public is a potential adversary. Which may cause them to expect to need to use their tasers more often than they otherwise would.
So what do you think? Is there a taser problem?