Howard County Maryland Blog

Local Politics and Current Events

Taser Concerns Reasonable

Posted by bsflag2007 on Monday, March 5, 2007

Howard County Police would like to include non-lethal weapons – tasers – in their peacekeeping arsenal.

Some of our Council people want to approve the Police proposal as presented, and some would like to carefully consider the policies and procedures which ought to be in place regarding the use of these very serious weapons.

I haven’t spoken to Mary Kay Sigaty or Greg Fox, so I can’t speak for them – and would not want to put words in their mouths. However, I can imagine what they may be thinking when they express supporting the Police proposal outright. They may want to be supportive of the professional police force we are fortunate to have in HoCo. They may want to give the Police Leaders the respect of assuming they know what they are doing, and will proceed with all due prudence and professionalism. They may believe we can trust our police force, that they have earned it.

I could understand that. If we didn’t feel that kind of confidence in our police leaders, it would be time for a whole lot more than a review of the proposed policies for the implementation of a new breed of weapon.

On the other hand, when Courtney Watson and the others say they “want to know more” before they approve arming HoCo Police officers with stun guns — are they micromanaging? Are they questioning the professionalism and competence of the police? Are they saying they don’t trust the police to use good judgment?

I don’t think so. Watson and Terrasa are doing their job.

They are supposed to question, and seek answers. They are doing the checking part that keeps the balance right – you know, “checks and balances”.

I have not spoken to Watson or Terrasa either – but I can imagine what they may be thinking. They may be trying to make sure everyone is “reading off the same page” and not making assumptions about how, when, why or on whom these devices may be used.

Most of us hear “non-lethal” weapon, or stun gun, and think “great, better than shooting someone with a bullet”.

But tasers are not necessarily intended as a substitute for a gun shot. They are frequently used in situations where a regular gun would not be used in any event.

That is the basis of the quite reasonable questions being asked of the HoCo Police leaders before these weapons are “approved”.

We should not allow our elected representatives to operate on assumptions about these kinds of things – no matter how much we trust and respect the police.

In fact, I doubt the police leaders will actually have much trouble putting together some reasonable guidelines.

Let’s hope our elected officials really do their homework on this one. These weapons are not the relatively friendly little devices the average person assumes.

Check out Amnesty International’s position and research on tasers and their use. Google taser/stun gun deaths.

Do a little independent research — and then use your own common sense…. how do doctors restart hearts? electric shocks. What does an electric shock do to a properly functioning heart?

Have you ever shocked yourself? Did it “calm you down”? Or did it make you want to hit something? It doesn’t seem like too much of a stretch to see how the use of tasers in certain circumstances makes a bad situation worse.

If your only argument is that even with the well documented dangers – a stun/taser/shock is better than a bullet … then great … you have the start of your policy.

If you think an electric shock that might kill a person is a legitimate punishment for “contempt of cop” — well, then call your councilperson and tell them to give the police carte blanche with no oversight.

Fox and Sigaty’s hearts are in the right place – but I’d rather go with Watson and Terrasa on this one and get the answers up front — before we have the kinds of “poor outcomes” that have happened a couple of hundred other times (probably more) that other jurisdictions have had to deal with.

Cindy Vaillancourt

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One Response to “Taser Concerns Reasonable”

  1. Laurence Jones said

    I am pleased that so many months have passed without the kinds of “poor outcomes” that other jurisdictions have had to deal with. However, can you tell me what Watson and Terresa are doing to review the taser deployments here in our county? The police have been quick to release details of how well the new weapon has been used as a deterrent. But are Watson and Terresa looking into the gentleman repeatedly stunned at a recent concert? The best way to avoid missuse is close monitoring by objective outside forces.

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