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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Tasers Are No Answer

By Ted Lang

The occupation of a police officer is more a profession than it is an "on the job" routine, as so often is described by both police and their TV counterparts. What makes it a profession is the demanding work schedule, the stress of life-and-death realities not experienced by the public, and the ever-present realization that any day might be one's last. Spit-second life-and-death decisions are a daily concern.n such split-second decisions must be made, and an officer may have to resort to use of a sidearm -- either to protect another life or his/her own -- we are all in agreement that the police officer should win in these situations. The use of deadly force is never an easy decision, and if a police officer is either under-armed or outnumbered, the chances for his survival are poor.

A classic and very tragic case of the loss of a brave police officer was the brutal shooting and murder of New Jersey State Trooper Philip Lamonaco in 1981. Lamonaco was outgunned by a felon armed with a 9 mm semiautomatic military-style handgun.

At the time of his murder, virtually all police departments across the nation were using six-shot revolvers, holdovers from the days of the Old West's Colt "six-guns." Semiautomatic pistols hold more than twice the capacity of the old police service revolvers.

Today, it's hard to find either a law enforcement entity, or a law enforcement officer, who doesn't carry a semiautomatic sidearm. The larger capacity and rapid-fire capability of the semiautomatics have caused split-second life-or-death situations to occasionally become horrific cases of overkill. This happens mostly in cases where police are undercover and working in teams. The horrible examples are the multi-shot one-sided gun battles that undercover police have had with unarmed alleged perpetrators.

Examples in New York City are the fatal shootings of Sean Bell (50 shots fired) and Amadou Diallo (41 shots fired).

There is legislation now being considered in Trenton that would give New Jersey state, county and municipal police the option to use Taser electric torture devices on otherwise non-threatening, law-abiding citizens on the pretense that these "non-lethal" weapons will actually save lives. The bipartisan legislation is sponsored by state Sen. Anthony R. Bucco, R-Boonton, and state Sen. John A. Girgenti, D-Passaic. Officially, it is Senate Bill S182, and it would amend New Jersey Statute, 2C:39-3, "Prohibited Weapons and Devices."

The fallacy being overlooked by the good senators is that more than 300 people have been Tasered to death by these weapons.

They have not been adequately tested on humans relative to varying body chemistries, meals and liquids consumed before Taser torture, clothing and footgear being worn, and so on. No consideration is offered at all relative to the age and metabolic variations in humans.

Another fallacy is that police will substitute the use of the Taser electric pistol, which shoots a double-spiked prod attached to two wires connected to the gun, into the target. But common sense offers that in a life-or-death split-second crisis, a police officer still will rely upon his/her regular firearm.

More often than not, Tasers are being used dangerously by increasing numbers of police. There is the case of the Utah Highway Patrol officer Tasering a motorist for a minor traffic infraction in front of his wife and screaming 5-year-old son on an isolated road. There is the incident of four Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers Tasering a large, strapping man at the Vancouver airport for the crime of not being able to speak or understand English.

Then there is the case of 56-year-old Emily Delafield, a woman in Florida who uses a wheelchair. She was Tasered 10 times over a three minute period. Of course, she died.

Taser International, the biggest distributor of these deadly weapons, had financial connections to disgraced former New York City Police Department Commissioner, Bernard Kerik. They have an extremely aggressive sales and lobbying team, not to mention a "dream team" of lawyers who have beaten back the multitude of mounting lawsuits against the company and its horrible product.

And they also have the attention of Bucco and Girgenti. And that's a shame


March 26, 2008 © Theodore E. Lang 3/23/08 All rights reserved. Ted Lang is a political analyst and freelance writer.

Posted here: http://www.dailyrecord.com

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