Why Are Cops Tasering Grandmothers, Pregnant Women and Kids?
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Technology is a double-edged sword, the cliche goes. It can save and even extend your life, but it can also kill you in new and unpredictable ways. In the several years since the Arizona-based Taser International has deployed its terminologically challenging Electronic Control Devices (ECDs), colloquially known as stun guns or simply tasers, what started out as a midrange law enforcement weapon has turned into a surreal nightmare that has gone viral from streets to screens. It's now to the point that only a hyperreal comedian like Stephen Colbert can make sense of it.
"Nation, our gun rights are always under attack from the bleeding hearts," he cracked in late July, "and not just the hearts bleeding from a gunshot wound. Thankfully, there's the taser. It's the perfect weapon for when you really want to shoot someone, but killing them just seems like overkill."
Of course, Colbert milked the footage of accidental and purposeful taser victims, the latter being media and law enforcement members who signed up for shock therapy and provided the world with no shortage of hilarious video. But his point was well-taken: Thanks to the taser's wildfire deployment, classification as non-lethal weaponry and pop-cultural appeal in films, television, comics and even cartoons, cops have nearly lost their minds using it on everyone from children, the elderly, and pregnant mothers to the mentally unstable and physically disabled.
Or have their lost their spines? After all, the police are public servants, and were even once referred to as peace officers, charged with resolving disputes, defusing danger and, when necessary, applying lethal force to keep the public safe. But lately, and thanks partially to the taser's alleged safety, they have been leaving peace behind in favor of brutalizing innocent civilians with accelerating lunacy. That kind of unarmed diplomacy takes real work, and involves much more than simply firing off electrified darts and wires. But rarely is there a day that goes by without another news entry doesn't stun, pardon the pun, the senses.
The latest case, as of this writing at least, involves a Syracuse mother who was pulled out her car during a routine traffic stop. She was summarily tasered, cuffed and arrested in front of her kids by an officer who left them behind, alone in their car, while he took her to the station and charged her for resisting arrest, driving five miles over the speeding limit, and disorderly conduct -- the diaphanous charge controversially leveled on Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates, Jr. earlier this year.
There's plenty more where that came from. Did you hear the one about the pregnant woman who was tasered because she wouldn't sign her speeding ticket, or the pregnant woman who was tasered at a baptism party thrown by her father, a bible-study teacher who was charged with public intoxication in his own backyard and whose wife and son were also tasered? How about the officer who tasered a pregnant woman while inside the police department?
Or the cop who tasered a girl, no lie, in the brain, because he couldn't chase her down on foot? Or the one that shoved a taser up a man's ass in Idaho? Or those who tasered and pepper-sprayed an umbrella-wielding man in a Dollar Store bathroom, and after finding out that he was both mentally disabled and deaf still decided to charge him with resisting arrest, failure to obey a police officer and (of course) disorderly conduct, charges which the on-duty magistrate refused to accept? And don't forget the belligerent baseball fan, the 72-year old grandmother, the bride and groom tasered at their wedding, the bicyclists who were tased after cops tried to run them off the road. And what about that guy who burst into flames? What about the six-year-old who was tasered after threatening to cut his own leg with a glass? (That'll teach him!)