Tuesday, September 1, 2009


A police officer, whom I consider a friend, recently pointed me to a taser that also records all incidents. See here for more on the Taser Axon. Although the Taser Axon is a step in the right direction, I dislike the ease with which the public has allowed these weapons to the police. We can argue about whether the taser is a potentially lethal device--many police officers will tell you that the taser only kills people who are on drugs or who have serious pre-existing conditions; however, tasers can and have killed people, making it a deadly device. After all, just because you shoot someone in the leg with a gun doesn't mean a gun is non-lethal, right?

Some people might argue that even if tasers and guns are both potentially lethal, it is clearly better for officers to use tasers instead of guns. I am not sure I agree. It is too tempting to resort to taser use instead of less violent means to subdue someone. Most human beings, when given an easier way to do a task, will take the easier route. That's the basis behind most innovation--making hard tasks easier. For example, once you get a washing machine, you won't wash clothes by hand, even if hand-washing will prolong the clothes' durability. By the same token, the taser makes subduing people much easier and much quicker. In the past, an officer might have tried to talk someone out of doing something or tried to explain why he was doing something, but now, there is no need. At the first sign of trouble, the officer can claim someone is resisting arrest and then use the taser.

Opinions on tasers vary, but perhaps we can analyze the issue through a few questions:

1. If the taser isn't an option, how should an officer react when someone fails to obey his/her commands immediately?

2. How did officers control and subdue people who disobeyed them pre-taser days? Has there been a significant change in officer safety since the introduction of the taser? What about citizen safety?

I think the answers to the questions above dictate how we feel about tasers.

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