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Apr. 16 2010 - 3:40 am | 506 views | 1 recommendation | 6 comments

BART strips officers of tasers

Police issue X26 TASER

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The BART Police Department has decided to strip officers of tasers following an incident involving a sergeant firing an electric gun at a 13-year-old boy fleeing from cops on his bicycle.

Butler said the suspension of the Taser program would allow the department to do training that integrates rulings by the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that have already prompted changes at agencies around the Bay Area.

The most pivotal ruling came in December, when the court said a man could sue a Coronado (San Diego County) police officer who had stunned him with a Taser to gain compliance after pulling him over for failing to wear a seat belt. The man was “yelling gibberish and hitting his thighs,” the court said, but did not pose an immediate threat to the officer.

Yelling gibberish and hitting one’s own thighs are not yet crimes punishable by electrocution. Nor is fleeing from cops on a bike.

Butler said BART’s Taser policy has always barred officers from using the devices to stop fleeing suspects, and will continue to do so. He said the new policy forbids using a Taser on a minor “unless there’s some exigent circumstances.”

“Let’s say,” he said, “you had a 17-year-old who was 6-foot-4 and 200 pounds and was pounding on an officer and the officer couldn’t escape. The officer could use a Taser.”

Hypothetical angry mutant teenagers aside, the far more likely scenario is the 13-year-old boy on bicycle one, or any scenario involving epileptics, feisty motoristsstudent protesters, the deaf and/or mentally ill, and children.

Cops are taught tasering is the “safe” alternative to deadly force as if those are the only two options at their disposal. This kind of rationale is a slippery slope. Of course, most police don’t wake up every morning wondering how many innocent civilians they can kill, but they’re fed the “tasers are safe” propaganda until it seems normal to use these weapons during altercations that could usually be resolved without any need for physical force — like dealing with a bicycling child.

BART made the right call here. They have to denormalize the use of tasers and retrain officers to understand they too are deadly weapons.


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  1. collapse expand

    Superb training in the use of tasers indeed is the key element in whether law enforcement officers should be equipped with the weapons.

    Apart from my T/S blog on the criminal justice system, my book writing and my magazine freelancing, I serve on a city commission with the authority to rule on complaints against the police department. I am trying to sort out my feelings about tasers because quite likely the new nine-member commission, appointed by the city council, will rule on a complaint sometime.

    I used to think the tasers could serve as an alternative to guns in some situations. But the evidence seems to point to the reality that tasers are rarely if ever the weapon of choice when a law enforcement officer believes deadly force is necessary. So, I have a lot to learn before I can feel confident that I’m thinking clearly about taser use.

    • collapse expand

      Tasers should be issued in lieu of firearms to prevent deadly harm in crowd situations where gun fire is already prohibited by procedure. It should be given the same priority in training and use as firearms, and restricted to situations where the officer is in danger of bodily harm and not for the purposes of simple compliance in situations where the suspect is in flight, in restraints, or reasonably subdued.
      Seems rather simple.

      In response to another comment. See in context »
  2. collapse expand

    I guess they will just use guns now like they did down here a while back when a cop shot a 19 year old 8 times in the back…..and the DA and sheriff called it proper police procedure…..

    Of course the kid was white, so jesse jackson didn’t rush down here.

  3. collapse expand

    The problem with Tasers is that they were over sold by the company as ultra safe before independent testing. Officers were told they could use the Taser multiple times on one person. There are many people walking around with irregular heartbeats, pacemakers, etc. Bart did the right thing.

  4. collapse expand

    I don’t think we should equate a mere suspension of their use with being “stripped” of tasers. BART’s tasers are merely being holstered until they complete new training.

    Taser use, like all things legislated or regulated, begins and ends with corporate propaganda, lobbying, and profit–in this case, of Taser International. For 4 years, its board of directors included Bernie Kerik (NYPD Commissioner, Homeland Security nominee, Iraqi minister, convict).

    There is a good (if biased) blog which tries to accumulate data, reports, and articles about the use of tasers. If it’s not to your taste, it links to dozens of others: http://www.excited-delirium.com/

    • collapse expand

      I think you’re playing with semantics here. BART officers were indeed stripped of their weapons. I really can’t think of a better description for the act of taking weapons from officers following a botched procedure.

      Other than that, I completely agree with your mention of Taser Intl’s propaganda, and I have check out http://www.excited-delirium.com, and find it’s a valuable resource. I also have my Google Alert set to email me whenever “taser” pops up in the news. I could probably post eight or nine blogs a day about tasers, and their misuse, by officers.

      In response to another comment. See in context »
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