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(en) US, Phoenix, Anarchist journal, Fires Never Extinguished - TASERS AND TORTURE: TECHNOLOGY AND THE EXPANSION OF POLICE POWER

Date Thu, 03 Jun 2010 10:43:41 +0300


Hardly a news cycle goes by these days without two seemingly contradictory things happening: a police officer praises the “less lethal” TASER as his savior in a tight spot; and, someone gets killed or seriously injured by a TASER. It isn't unusual for this second case to occur in circumstances that shed considerable doubt on the first case, whether because of the nature of the victim (young, old, incapacitated, restrained, etc) or because of the victim was either justified in their actions or attempting to comply with police orders. What's behind this phenomenon? ---- Police cite the TASER as a critical weapon filling a gap in their arsenal between the billy club and the handgun. Rather than engage a suspect in close combat, cops say, the TASER allows them the flexibility to take someone down at a short distance without risking serious injury to either the officer or the arrestee.

This is supposed to be more
humane than merely beating or shooting
someone, especially if there is some
doubt as to the criminality of the
victim's actions, such as when police
merely desire compliance (although
police rarely concede such doubts
publicly). Likewise, this is alleged to be
safer for the officer, who the media and
police agencies almost universally
portray as constant targets of violence.
But what's the truth of it? We can start
by debunking two notions that underlie
the case used to justify TASERs. First
of all, when we get right down to it,
policing isn't a very dangerous job.

policing isn't a very dangerous job.
When ranked by the rate of on the job deaths and injury, cops don't even rank in the top ten, showing up far below truck driver, roofer and farm worker, among others [1]. Jobs we all do every day without the benefit of TASER protection (from our boss, for instance). Indeed, a recent study cited in the New York Times showed that cops are much more likely to die by their own hand than by a so-called “criminal” [2].
Secondly, the truth is that police don't use less force when
they have TASERs. If TASERs were serving as a substitute for
other forms of violence, or as a deterrent, we would expect the
number of uses of force to drop. According to a well-
documented study by Amnesty International, however, when
police forces get TASERs, their propensity towards violence
actually increases [3]. TASERs actually increase police
violence. Indeed, Amnesty International specifically pointed
out that precisely because of the short distance attack that
TASERs make possible, police increasingly use them to
compel obedience rather than for actual law enforcement.
Why is this? It's because the police are a tool of class
oppression. They are like soldiers, only deployed here at home,
enforcing the will of a small elite that is rich and powerful. As the army does in Iraq, so do the police here at home. They are defenders
of the status quo, which happens to be one in which
folks like us don't have much power whereas the elite they are
defending have a lot of it. For instance, when the bank comes
to enforce your foreclosure or eviction, who shows up? The
police, of course, toting their TASERs and guns. But when is
the last time you saw the cops TASER a yuppie in the rich part
of town? That'll be the day!
So, since the police are really a domestic army, not public
servants, why would we expect that giving them more
weapons (i.e., TASERs) would reduce the level of violence?
That's counter-intuitive. For instance, if we gave the army a
new weapon, would we expect them
to be less violent because of it?
Clearly not. The TASER, then, is a
way for the police to increase their
ability to efficiently project their
power or, more accurately, the
power of the elite in general (the
ones who make the laws and pay for
the politicians, for example), onto
folks like us – people who want to
create our own lives and not bow
down before people who don't have
our best interests at heart. This
explains the vigorous defense of
TASERs by police agencies despite
the fact that they are used too often
and remain quite deadly in many
circumstances [4]. They're not
concerned with reducing violence.
They're concerned with projecting
their power.

Thus, it's obvious that all the rhetoric
about TASERs doesn't match up
with reality and in fact obscures a
very fundamental truth: the rich and
very fundamental truth: the rich and
powerful want to control us so that they can get richer and
more powerful. TASERs make it easier for them to do so,
especially because police can hide their violence behind the
cover of TASER's bogus claim of being less-violent (a claim
they continue to make even as the deaths mount). But, once we
see through that lie we are ourselves armed to make our
arguments against the deployment of TASERs. If we want to
be free, we must limit and ultimately challenge the ability of
the police to project power onto us. And that means opposing
TASERs and the class society they defend.
CITED:
[1] “America's most dangerous jobs”, CNN Money. com, 9
August 2007
[2] “Suicide Bigger Threat for Police Than Criminals”, New
York Times, 8 April 2008
[3] “USA: Excessive and lethal force? Amnesty International's
concerns about deaths and ill-treatment involving police use of
tasers”, 30 November 2004, accessed at http://www. amnesty.
org/en/library/info/AMR51/139/2004
[4] “Police defend use of Tasers”, Knoxville News Sentinel, 4
December 2007
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