Monday, April 30, 2007

taser this

Part of the whole idea of Taser stun guns is that they are supposed to save lives and decrease injuries. The theory is that, in some situations, police can use them "as a safer alternative to other uses of force," as TASER International itself puts it.

Well, yes and no. In Texas, there's been some good controversy of late over their use.

The issue got a burst of attention when Fred Weary -- who plays on the Texans football team -- was tasered in November after being pulled over for a traffic violation, under very disputed circumstances.

Then in January, the Houston Chronicle published an extensive investigation on the use of Tasers by police in Houston, finding that:
* since the introduction of Tasers, "officers have shot, wounded and killed as many people as before the widespread use of the stun guns"
* "in 95 percent of [cases] they were not used to defuse situations in which suspects wielded weapons and deadly force clearly would have been justified."
* "more than half of the Taser incidents escalated from relatively common police calls, such as traffic stops, disturbance and nuisance complaints, and reports of suspicious people."

Now, there are several bills in the Texas Legislature that would require various levels of restrictions on Taser use.

Back in Houston, the city is doing some kind of official inquiry, and the person leading the inquiry told the Chronicle last week that the initial findings show that yes, many of the Taser cases are not about avoiding using guns but about officers trying to avoid physical confrontations.


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