Enough is enough

I like cops. I count many many cops among my friends, and I’ve always enjoyed working with them, especially their relatively sick sense of humor. They do a difficult job that I could never in a million years do, and would not want to do (mostly because I can’t stand the people you have to deal with as a cop). For the most part, they’re decent folks who work hard and have a strong, if at times misplaced, sense of loyalty and duty. It’s difficult to fault people like that.

I also like the Taser. It saves lives. I’ve been around enough that I have first-hand knowledge of at least a dozen cases where people got Tasered; without it, these guys would have gotten shot. And it’s a lot more fun to pull prongs out of some yo’s clothes or skin than bullets out of the body (though not being a pathologist, you shouldn’t consider that an authoritative statement). But I have a problem with the Taser, and it goes something like this: Before the Taser came along, cops had two options — “talk” and “kill.” But now there’s a third option — call it “maim” — that isn’t nearly as much work as “talk”ing, and isn’t nearly as awful as “kill”ing, so it gets used more often. This is a hilariously simplistic explanation, and yet I see people who’ve been Tasered for no apparent reason whatsoever. Obviously its use is always a judgment call, and I’m sure no cop goes out planning to Taser anyone, but I’m skeptical of the need for it to be employed as much as it is.

One of the worst moments of my professional life over the past couple of years was watching a drunk belligent guy get Tasered in front of me. It’s really hard to describe — there’s a loud bang, a lot of snapping, and then somebody’s screaming very loudly, and then someone else is yelling. I say it was one of the worst moments because I feel as though I could have prevented it, if I’d been more assertive and more definitive about how I wanted to manage the whole situation. The cops involved were friends, and that makes this an especially troubling event for me. (The guy was fine. He was an asshole, but he was fine.) Was it necessary? At the time, it could be justified. But there’s a nagging sense that if we’d tried to talk him down, worked harder on the communication thing, it might not have gone quite as far.

On the other hand, I distinctly remember a case where a guy had shot at the cops, tried to run one of them over, and then threatened the ERT boys with a big pipe. I’m impressed with, and thankful for, the fact that he was only Tasered and ended up with dog bites to his face, rather than four rounds center mass.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that I have very mixed feelings about the Taser as a law enforcement tool. Part of me says, “yeah, great”; part of me says, “hey, hold on a second.” It has its uses. It also has its misuses. It’s like any other technology out there, I guess, with the big difference that I have to deal with the aftermath of its use.

Nothing in this story has caused me to change my mind about this device. Nothing at all.