Howard County Maryland Blog

Local Politics and Current Events

Judge, Jury and Executioner- Death Penalty for Contempt of Cop?

Posted by bsflag2007 on Sunday, November 25, 2007

I don’t generally have problems with police, or any authority figure for that matter. When I was younger I even had occasion to be “arrested” by a very nice police officer who chose not to handcuff me, and made me sit in the corner (instead of in a cell) at the police station while I waited for the also very nice bail bondsman the nice policeman had called. He was so polite and considerate at one point he actually felt the need to say “you realize you are under arrest don’t you?”. (minor traffic ticket snafu – nothing really serious) It would seem I am so obviously harmless I don’t even scare squirrels, rabbits or groundhogs out of my path while walking my dogs. —- the dogs are apparently not very intimidating either.

I will also mention that I have had particularly positive encounters with the Howard County police. Though I have not actually been arrested by them, I have had many contacts with several who have been just lovely – apparently conscientious and competent.

I mention all this because I am probably not likely to be tasered anytime soon. So when I say that I am horrified by the tidal wave of taser deaths and injuries it is not because I am a cop hating anarchist or criminal.

I can see how this tool (the taser) could be a life saving implement under the right circumstances and in the right hands. But like any tool – it can be deadly and must be very carefully and judiciously utilized.

In light of the mounting body of data from “real life” in the field use of this weapon – I hope our own Howard County government and police officials are continuously evaluating our community’s procedures and policies to make sure we do not have the same tragic results which are becoming all too common.

I am troubled to learn that it is permissible for HoCo police officers to “pepper spray” subjects for “verbal aggression” (talking back) —- surely this is only a matter of providing police with an opportunity to exact punishment for the “crime” of “contempt of cop”. What other crime does the cop on the street get to indict, try, judge, and execute sentence for personally? But at least pepper spray does not routinely kill people.

Tasers, on the other hand, have been killing people on a fairly regular basis. What a shock! [no pun intended;)]. Shocking someone with tens of thousands of volts of electricity – often in the direct areas of the heart — it is hard to imagine it can come as a surprise when people die of heart beat problems.

In cases where a traditional gun shot would truly have been used if not for the availability of the taser – then that is a risk our community can reasonably take (imho) —- but for anything short of the true need for potentially lethal force we should have very strong policies against the use of the tasers.

Look at the recent death in Frederick County of the 20 year old man. He was shot with the taser by an officer “trying to break up a fight”. Can it seriously be argued that had the officer not had the taser that he would have been forced to shoot the fighters with his gun? Is that how we want HoCo police to respond to a fight?

Bottom line – I sincerely hope HoCo officials maintain an ongoing vigilance regarding the policies and procedures for the appropriate use of these taser weapons. As much as I respect our police force – I do not believe it is appropriate for the power to pass judgment and inflict punishment to rest in one set of hands…. particularly when the crime can be “talking back” and the punishment can be death.

cindy v


5 Responses to “Judge, Jury and Executioner- Death Penalty for Contempt of Cop?”

  1. Well said. Welcome back! You have been missed.

  2. John G. Boyle said

    I’d be interested to see what HCPD PR/CR office has to say about the PD’s stance on taser use.

    When their use in HC was being debated a year or two ago, I came away with the impression that while they were nasty – their lethality was almost a non-issue. It seemed like a good middle ground between a batons for melees and guns for high-risk situations.

  3. timactual said

    Breaking up fights is not as easy as it might seem. Police officers have died doing it. To break up a fight you need to physically restrain or separate the participants. If you are close enough to do that, so is your gun, and in spite of all the fancy holsters and such, people have been known to grab an officer’s pistol and use it. Not to mention fists, knees, knives, teeth, etc. The taser seemed like the lesser of the evils, safe for all parties. I guess it’s back to batons and choke holds, now.

  4. cynthia vaillancourt said

    Fights, domestic disputes, even the seemingly innocent traffic stop — those are statistically the most dangerous things police encounter. All of “our” police officers deserve the very best training to keep them and the rest of us safe. Ultimately, it is the training not the tools that do the job. I’m very sympathetic to the officers involved when they respond as they have been trained – and something awful happens that THEY will then have to live with. Like – how must the officer who killed the young man in Frederick feel? Taking a life is a big deal – whether the officer “followed policy” or not.

    It is for the “protection” of the police officers (as well as the public) that the policies, training and use of tasers (or guns or anything else) needs to be based on the best possible information…. which now clearly tells us that tasers are not really non-lethal weapons.
    Do you think if he had it to do again the Frederick police officer would have used his taser in that situation? Or maybe he would have waited for back up and billy clubs? Would you rather hear that a young man in a fight was hit with a billy club and suffered a broken arm…. or that an otherwise unremarkable fight ended in death?
    Cindy V

  5. cynthia vaillancourt said

    A new wrinkle in the taser debate—

    House parties to sell individual civilians (particularly women) taser weapons for personal protection.

    I’m all for the “freedom” to own weapons – even these weapons. Just like I am “ok” with the police etc having them in their arsenals.

    However – it is very worrisome to me that folks who would not otherwise wish to carry or use a weapon that may result in death are buying these things.

    It is not that one should not be entitled to use lethal force for self protection — but like with the police or other authorities …. it is VERY important that the REAL dangers and effects of these weapons are understood by those using them as it may well make a difference in how or when they are used.

    Frankly – when it comes to self defense, I’m ok with a potential rapist, mugger, car jacker getting tased in the act by the victim— and if death is the result, so be it. I feel the same way about a gun.

    But as my grandfather used to say – don’t carry a gun unless you are prepared to use it to kill someone.

    Same thing goes for the taser.

    Cindy V.

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