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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Releasing the inner Jack Bauer 

It has become apparent that police aren't using Tasers instead of guns; they're using Tasers instead of yelling at people.
Naomi Klein writes about Toronto police buying 3,000 Tasers:
Few would argue with an officer's right to use an electroshock weapon when lives are in danger and the only alternative is a gun. Many Toronto police officers, particularly those on the Emergency Task Force, clearly use them with restraint.
Yet there is also plenty of evidence that some officers get hooked on shock. In Edmonton, in 2001, reports of taserings averaged less than once a week. Three years later, they were coming in daily. In another part of the country, a mother in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia called police when she and her 17-year-old daughter were having an argument. Three officers showed up and tasered the teen in her own bed. In a recent court ruling, the judge called these actions 'very disturbing and disconcerting.'
Control is the name of the game. Not officer safety.
But there's something deeper going on here, too. Something darker. By causing pain without physical contact, Tasers provide an unique way for the weak to control the strong and for the strong to bully the weak. By causing pain without wounds, the Taser appear defensive when they are actually aggressive. And for the first time, the Taser offers the average person the opportunity to release their inner Jack Bauer without apparent personal risk. They're coming soon to a neighbourhood near you:
It may well be possible to prevent shock-happy policing with tighter controls. Yet, despite repeated calls for stricter regulations for police, Taser International is racing to get its devices in the hands of civilians, marketing the product as not just safe but fun. In the United States the company has been aggressively pushing its line of C2 "personal protectors" — available in pink, leopard print, and in holsters with built-in MP3 players. (The weapon is nicknamed the "iTaser.") Tupperware-style taser parties are springing up in the suburbs of Arizona.
Taser International is a company whose executives present themselves as serious experts in public safety. Yet it has launched this foray into fashion at the very moment when the safety of its devices is being questioned on multiple fronts. Valentine's Day is coming and Taser's website is busily hawking the C2 in flaming red. "Love her? Protect her," goes the slogan.
This is what corporations do: whatever they can get away with to sell more product.
And next we'll hear about teenagers dying on the streets because they've been tased by their enemies . . . or by their friends.

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