Friday, December 14, 2007


Call to ban Tasers

Reproduced here with author's permission, originally from the Big Island Weekly:

Ban tasers

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

On Nov. 28 I attended a presentation on tasers given by Hawai`i County police officers. I was enraged; let me explain why. First off, this is not an attack on the officers who made the presentation for I believe they believe the taser is a proper tool for law enforcement. In my opinion they are incorrect; there is nothing proper about a device that has been labeled "less lethal" and yet has killed nearly 300 people. Almost every day we read about someone who has died from tasing.

We were told at the presentation that tasers are not to be used on the frail, on persons with heart conditions or diabetes, on the mentally ill and the obviously pregnant, to mention a few. With more than half the population fitting these descriptions, how do officers know beforehand who has what illness or condition? What about margin of error or the possibility of misuse if an officer has a bad day? The police say there is a tiny camera on each device that records each incident; if abuse is noted, the officer is removed from duty.

Isn't this just a little too late for those who may have lost a child or grandparent from the deadly incident?

The device shoots two darts into the skin, then imparts enough current to disempower the muscle system. Usually five seconds long, the blast gives officers time to handcuff subjects. Often additional blasts are needed. The police videos showed subjects screaming in fear and pain; they were hard to watch.

Two days before the presentation, the U.N. came out with a strong statement opposing tasers. Amnesty International has called for a full ban calling tasers an instrument of torture. There is a broad citizen effort in Canada in support of a complete ban. I gave copies of these three critiques to the presenting officer and reminded him that his original title was "Officer of the Peace," a title that carries a great responsibility to the public. He thanked me for my opinion.

I had thought it was only the old or weak who could die from tasering. Apparently I was very wrong. People in their 20s have also died, sometimes just for being too slow to cooperate. I, for one, strongly feel I would not survive a tasering.

I do not endorse criminal behavior, but this new leap forward into electric control seems to me a dark night for humanity. I'm sure I will take some heat for my stance. So be it. I must say I stand with the U.N. in wanting more studies/guidelines, but I stand more firmly with Amnesty International and our Canadian citizens in saying: "Ban tasers."

Galen Kelly


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