Monday, August 13, 2012

The Times Square shooting, and tasers

Regarding the police shooting of a knife-wielding man on 7th avenue on Saturday, WSJ reports:
As the disturbing scene played out Saturday afternoon on a busy Midtown street, police considered using a Taser to subdue the man, identified Sunday as Darrius Kennedy, 51 years old, of Hempstead, N.Y. An officer authorized to carry the non-lethal weapon was one block away when two officers fired 12 shots, striking Mr. Kennedy at least seven times, Deputy Police Commissioner Paul Browne said.
It's extremely likely, though not certain, that tasers could have prevented Kennedy's death.

The overwhelming majority of taser uses come in situations where, absent a taser, no gun would have been fired. That's the heart of the problem. But there are situations like this one, where the taser likely would have been the ideal weapon. Pepper spray is hard to try to use against someone with a knife (it was apparently tried). Trying to shoot someone in the arms or legs with a gun is hard and there are a number of reasons most police departments don't do it.

There are disadvantages to having every officer carry a taser, among them that they are likely going to get used a lot. But this case is an example of the downsides of having very limited taser access. The ideal policy may be to not have officers carry tasers regularly, but to have tasers in all the cars and have all officers taser-trained. I presume many police departments would be skeptical of this: they spent all the money on the tasers, and they want them to actually be held and used. But it might be the best answer. And even more importantly, they should have very restrictive policies on their use, where they are used only in very dangerous situations, perhaps only in situations where they would otherwise use guns. Few departments have such policies.


At 1:58 AM, Blogger Bad Decision Maker said...

Yeah even if they could (and wanted to, which often is NOT the case) perfectly accurately hit an arm or a foot with a real gun every time that is F'D UP. Seriously. Black men do not deserve to lose limbs because they have a flare up of their mental illness.

Also from this story it sure doesn't sound like he was an immediate threat. "Skipping?"

For the rare situation when someone is an immediate threat, I don't think anyone deserves to get shot. And better than tasers would be people trained in de-escalation techniques. It's pretty effective in many cases. Harder with a knife, but my guess would be maybe possible, especially in this situation where he wasn't actually threatening anyone. This was a kitchen knife (supposedly - 1 person in the story says plastic sword) not a gun. I think there are rare situations where an added physical force such as a taser might be needed when others' lives are immediately in danger - but I really think that is the minority of cases in this type of situation.

There also are/used to be mobile psych crisis units available - trained in deescalation and other things - before their budgets got slashed.

At 5:09 PM, Blogger mattio said...

Shots to the leg are the stuff of movies - I think it's wrong to expect police to treat firing guns as anything BUT using deadly force.


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