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Hullabaloo


Friday, July 25, 2014

 
Tasers are part of the problem not the solution

by digby

My piece in Salon today discusses those two choke hold incidents this week and the Police Commissioner's promise to look into more taser use. Those who have been following this blog and my writing on tasers will be unsurprised that I am not in favor.
The viral video incidents this week in New York, the first of which resulted in death and the second a beating in the face as well as the illegal choke holds were about suspicion of selling untaxed cigarettes in the first case and jumping a subway turnstile in the second. These were not people who were suspected of a violent crime requiring that the police spare no energy in protecting the public. Indeed, it appears that the violent acts against these two suspects were entirely based upon the “crime” of failing to instantly obey a police officer. Have we decided that this crime is worthy of beating, torture and possibly death? Because that’s what’s happening all over the country. It’s happening to children, it’s happening to the mentally ill, it’s happening to the elderly and the sick, it’s happening to average citizens who merely assert their rights and it can happen to you too. (It even happens to NFL players.)

Police officers have a tough job. And they deserve the perks they get such as early retirement and generous pensions. That’s the deal we, as a society, make with them because they put themselves at risk and have to deal with very unsavory people and sometimes that requires brute force and violence. I don’t think anyone disputes that. But over the years we’ve also recognized that they do not have the right to physically hurt citizens with impunity or endanger their lives without a very good reason and a whole body of law was developed to prevent police brutality. Somewhere along the line in the last few years, however, perhaps as more police agencies have militarized and come to see themselves as fighting a war with the American public rather than “protecting and serving” the idea that they have ultimate authority on the streets of our cities and towns and that this authority grants them the right to expect instant compliance from every citizen lest they risk being shot through with electricity, choked or beaten.

Read on. The thrust of this piece is the fact that too many police officers are losing their common sense. A good cop will know when to exert her authority and will understand that it's not necessary in every interaction. It's not the only thing they have to work with --- psychology, patience and compassion are also necessary tools in their arsenal. The militarization of police departments --- this us against them attitude --- is turning them from public servants into occupying soldiers. It's a problem.

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