With all of the Taser incidents getting more media attention now, I thought I’d point out a discussion on the Diane Rehm show this morning on NPR. This is the best most thought out discourse I’ve heard on Taser incidents. Not only do they have a spokesperson from Amnesty international and an associate professor of Criminology, but they have Thomas P. Smith Co-Founder and Chairman of the board of Taser international.
Initially I expected this to either be an apologetic piece forgiving police officers for their many abuses, or a one sided slam piece against the use of Tasers. What I got though was more typical of the Diane Rhem show. This discussion very thoughtfully covered most of the issues related to Taser deployments, and really helped to frame the issues in an appropriate way. Most of the discussions I’ve heard or seen have revolved around using Tasers or not using Tasers. One of the call in guests on this show however reframed the issue as where does Taser use fall on the continuum of force? His position was that it should be used as an alternative to deadly force only, rather than as a compliance device. In many of the abuses we have seen police are deploying a Taser much sooner than they could have deployed deadly force. You can’t shoot someone for being impolite to a cop, but some officers feel it is perfectly fine to Taser them for that.
During the discussion they cite several studies that have been done on how many people have died due to Taser related incidents and what differentiates those cases from the cases where people don’t die. They also examine how many cases of Taser use resulted in a conviction. In one such study of 1,000 Taser incidents only 100 of them resulted in convictions.
Overall this was a very well done topic. If you have the time and the inclination, I highly encourage you to head over to Diane Rehm site and listen to the Taser Broadcast