Fire the Taser…

24 11 2008

Whilst on my way to work today, I was listening to an interesting discussion on the new Taser related idea spring forth from the mouth of Jacqui. The discussion (on Radio 2 – meaning I’m becoming more like my parents) highlighted well both sides of the argument and raised some interesting questions.

Having listened to the discussion, I came away thinking I was probably more in favour of the idea than against it. For me, the argument hinged on the asp vs taser aspect. For those who don’t know, the asp is basically an extendable truncheon designed to beat down the criminal. This, in itself, has the potential to cause a great deal of damage to the criminal, depending on where it strikes. Being hit by a metal pole cannot be comfortable for the victim. In addition to this the policeman has to be within range to make his strike, meaning that he is potentially at risk from a swinging knife, or bottle, or something similar. One slip and the police officer could be facing huge problems.

On the other hand, the taser removes this problem of proximity, as the officer can afford to be much further away and still strike his opponent well enough to render the criminal immobile. I can fully understand why the police would, based solely upon this, think that the taser is a good idea. Taser’s are cleaner, quicker and leave less lasting impact upon the criminal.

There is though, one small problem, they will kill people with dodgy hearts. Maybe even some without. Tasers have the potential to do something that the asp does not (unless used incorrectly). They could be fired at someone without knowing that they have a bad heart, and leave them dead. This then, gives the criminal the advantage, “I have a bad heart” would be a common excuse, and would buy the criminal time as the officer works out whether the criminal is telling the truth. It would only take one mistake for the police force to come under intense media scrutiny, inevitably costing the one unlucky officer his or her job. Tasers carry a risk.

The counter argument to this is that the fault would lie at the feet of the criminals in the first place. The police attempt to always defuse a situation with words primarily. Only when the situation has got out of hand are more forceful methods employed. If the criminal has got to this stage, then, so the argument goes, they get what is coming to them. If they know they have a dodgy heart, perhaps it wouldn’t be worthwhile pushing the officer too far. I think I agree with this line of thinking. There is a need to remember that criminals are just that. They have done something wrong, and must have done something very wrong for force to be considered an option. Tasers are a significant step down from guns, can we imagine where the country would be if Jean Charles De Menezes had been tasered rather than shot? Tasers are a much more preferable option to killing someone, I’m sure most would agree. Yes, they carry a risk, but what method of force doesn’t? Sometimes force is required to stop someone, tasers, with the capacity to incapacitate someone, are, I think, a real option in the world of crime fighting, and one which should be used.

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One response

25 11 2008
brigidjones

I agree.

(Although may I pedantically point out that no one is a criminal until tried in a court of law and found guilty; unitl then they are merely a suspect.)

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