No Real Limitations on Tasers Used for Minor Infractions or Just Because

Activist Post – by Amanda Warren

The Atlantic recently did a piece highlighting the use of tasers by law enforcement and the National Park Service on people for light infractions. The darkly comedic or disturbing title is: Zap! Should the State Keep Shocking Citizens to Enforce Minor Laws? A rhetorical question with this possible answer: “WTF, No!” The url words are also notable: “modest-limits-on-when-the-state-can-electrocute-americans.”

It centers around Californian Gary Hesterberg jogging with his unleashed terrier which he then leashed. It ended with a National Park Service woman deploying taser barbs in his back and calling for backup. The twists and turns are well written in depth and are interesting. But…   

Bottom line: he just barely won his case. BARELY. It really isn’t encouraging. Ironically, it actually sets more uncomfortable precedents about the use of tasers by the National Park Service, especially if you read the entire thing. But the point is – why should jogging with your obedient dog ever, ever land a taser in your face to begin with?
Furthermore, something that never entered the case was that he informed the Park Service woman he had a heart problem, but she still shot him in the back. His charges were based on that little interaction, not the one where she originally saw his dog off a leash – a minor infraction. Again, the dog was leashed at this point. She was only supposed to go out and give verbal warnings about it. But the paranoia and Hershberg’s mistrust that she wouldn’t identify her authority led to a crazy tasing incident. She perceives more disobedience when he won’t simply roll over after five seconds of a paralyzing jolt. She takes more action after kindly checking his vital signs.

Speaking of which, often left from the argument of police shooting innocent Americans, is the use of deadly force with so-called non-lethal weapons like tasers. See Joe Wright’s in-depth article on wrongful taser deaths here . Even NBC News asks: Are Tasers too deadly to be called ‘non-lethal’?

Here’s one statistic:
According to Amnesty International, more than 330 Americans have died after being “Tasered” and at least one pregnant mother has lost her unborn child since 2001. From 2002 to 2005, 211 children were shocked with Tasers in the United States and one 14-year-old boy in a Chicago children’s home had a heart attack after police used a Taser on him.

The Taser delivers a paralyzing 50,000 volt shock to the body through metal probes attached to 21-foot wires that are fired from the Taser using a nitrogen propellant. When police fire the device, the probes penetrate the skin or up to 1″ of clothing per probe to deliver a shock. (source)
If you look at the video compilation on The Atlantic – a startling yet not exhaustive one if you’ve been anywhere on YouTube in the last few years – you’ll see that many of the officers are deploying the tasers multiple times, in one of them causing cardiac arrest . They are shooting people square in the chest or back.

You don’t really see pending threats in those videos, either. Either the person is already detained or is doing something that doesn’t warrant a ticket. And that is the point – stop cattle prodding people into submission. And stop cattle prodding after submission. After handcuffs. And maybe stop injuring (kicking, kicking, kicking) someone after they are paralyzed from shock.

Imagine seeing someone shock their kids into submission for every disobeyed command. Yet, this is happening all too often to non-threatening adults. And the elderly, and pregnant women and children – again, from law enforcement. Like this 10-year-old kid who didn’t want to wash an officer’s car . Or this 10-year-old kid at day care.

This guy was crying on the side of the road. This firefighter waved at a police officer who said he tased him because he thought the guy flipped him the bird. Oh, well in that case…

I’m sorry, would even flipping the bird be considered a threat to…anyone? Enough to warrant 50,000 volts of electricity? And tasers were “intended” to prevent the use of deadly force when there’s a threat – we see how that has turned out. Statistics for American deaths after getting shot by police have gone POOF! But to watch the news interview about a waving firefighter it becomes a “he said, he said” trying to figure out did he actually flip the bird? Did he?? Please…

It’s really important to always bring back the frame of the argument to the use of weapons – yes, deadly weapons – on innocent people. And never by any means simply “get used to it” or rationalize the (irrational) reasoning behind it.




3 thoughts on “No Real Limitations on Tasers Used for Minor Infractions or Just Because

  1. I remember when these Tazers first came out.
    They were touted as a “less” lethal alternative to firearms – that are lethal. Duh.
    Every single LE officer should be asked:
    “Did the incident justify the use of lethal force IF you didn’t have a Tazer?”
    “Provide the justification for making that claim.”
    If it did not it is assault and the cop should be prosecuted every single time.
    Every LE officer should be required to carry a Tazer at all times on duty. Otherwise, they’ll just leave it at home and go straight to the sidearm.

    One other suggestion is as follows.
    If have seen LE training where they get tazed. I don’t know if this is a demo or if they all get to go through the experience.
    If its not all of them, then it should be a requirement.
    And, none of this rubber mat and buddies helping you gently to the ground.
    There need to be thinly padded hard obstacles like cars, curbs, fire hydrants, etc. that they would be at risk if hitting if they don’t “fall properly”and “obey instructions”.
    Given what seems to be a frequent occurrence these days, they should also be cuffed with hands behind the back. So no breaking the fall!
    Also they should follow all commands immediately. If they don’t, more current through the already energy depleted muscles. Keep shocking until they follow commands. The severe lactic acid build up will give them something to remember. Maybe limit it to 2-3 shocks in the name of safety (or not) just so they might understand why people can’t function and “follow orders” after being tazed. Plus it might, in a few cases, allow some humane empathy to emerge when they use it appropriately.
    Perhaps that sounds harsh, but these are just some suggestions.
    Obviously, Tazers are not being used in the manner they were initially intended and designed for.

  2. Why do the American tax payers keep what they have as police in America. They beat people for even speaking to them. They need be all put on foot patrol. That would end a lot of it. If they had to get out and walk the area knowing what they are and how they are thought of. They would change. Were I live the police walk quit a lot in there area. They are respected here. They have 1 cop per 1000 tax payers. They solve 80% of the crimes that happen here. They have public suport here as well. In America you have 3 cops per 1000 of tax payers and they can only solve 5% of the crimes that happen. I see a problem there. What good is a cop people will not go near? What good is a cop locked in his car and afraid to step out of it with out back up? It is a police problem in America.

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