Sunday, August 8, 2010

Tasers, 'Roid Rage and Our Culture of Violence

PHOTO: zaiusnation

Sorry I haven't posted for awhile. Summer and the job search and moving have taken up too much time. I am also traveling so posts will continue to be infrequent for another couple of weeks. Thanks for your patience.

Here is a great post by Steven D on Daily Kos (h/t digby) about tasers, a subject I have written about here, here, here, and here. Because my writing focuses on the intersection of social issues and politics, the earlier posts I have linked to discuss the influence of the hard right (Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin, et al) on the violence in our society, which permits us to (continue to?) believe that persons in authority, particularly those in uniform, can do no wrong.

As quoted by Steven D from the Aug. 5, 2010 Chicago Sun-Times,
"Chicago Police officers have nearly quadrupled their use of Tasers since the department equipped every beat car with the electric-shock weapons earlier this year, according to new figures released by the Independent Police Review Authority."

"The agency, which reviews complaints of police misconduct, tracks every use of a Taser. In the second quarter of 2010, the devices were discharged 285 times by Chicago cops -- up from 74 in the first quarter of 2010 and 39 in the fourth quarter of 2009. Only a few of those Taser discharges resulted in an allegation of police misconduct, the police oversight agency noted."

The article also notes that Chicago Alderman Anthony Beale justifies the increased use of tasers because more offenders are using drugs. As Steven D notes, hello? He then goes on to discuss the increasing use of steroids by police officers and the relationship to increased use of tasers.

Having once worked in a sports facility and experienced at first-hand what happens when a very large man has an episode of 'roid rage, and also worked with addicts and am familiar with the difficulty of the police in subduing persons under the influence of, for example, PCP, I can understand the fear experienced by the police when faced with some offenders. When faced with the need to be as strong and as fit as possible, using steroids to level the playing field is a misguided, but logical, conclusion. Access to additional tools such as tasers is of course, even better. Not.

I studied criminology, and took a course in criminal psych, but don't remember many offerings in anger management or conflict resolution. Police officers are trained in basic psychology and diffusing difficult situations, but they are also, due to budget cuts, often riding alone and faced with limited training in the finer points of anger management and, believe it or not, the law. Attitude? Tase. Getting cussed out? Tase. Pissed off because the perp fought back (even though he is now on the ground and in restraints)? Tase. High school student in the hall without a pass? Tase. Grandma upset about getting a ticket? Tase. On the shoulder in your vehicle going into insulin shock? Tase. Drunk and passing out? Tase.

Somehow, it has become okay to use force as long as it is not deadly. Tasers? Just a little shock (unless, of course, you have a heart condition which of course the user of the taser can tell by looking at you).

In our law and order society, egged on by the likes of Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck, Bill O'Reilly and Rush Limbaugh, we have developed an "us or them" mentality which makes it okay to mistreat anyone fitting into the "them" category. Somehow, police are applauded for using their tasers because they didn't use their guns, rather than being censured for using their tasers instead of their brain.

In this age of camera phones, we now know of the abuse of tasers by the police. Their response? It's now illegal to videotape the police. Clearly a subject that needs additional research and discussion, but one that ties directly to the overarching trend in our culture towards a more violent, less cohesive society.

This is one point of view. Here's another from the police perspective as an officer writes about the growing controversy in Taser Today.

Thoughts? Comments?

Thanks for stopping by. Come back soon.

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