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Why is there a Taser debate?

Original post made by Silver Bullet, Midtown, on Mar 29, 2007

I have a question:
Why is there a debate around equipping our police officers with Tasers? No doubt, a Taser cannot be classified as completely benign. Without a doubt, it isn't even comparable to a firearm in lethality. It seems that the risk of someone dying by being "Tasered" is quite small. I advance this theory - a Taser is probably not much more likely to kill someone than a police officer using their own body or a baton to restrain someone. In life, there are "eggshell" people that are just more easily injured or killed by things which might not permanently harm someone else. In fact - what is the statistical comparison between the likelyhood of anyone in the community being killed or injred in an accident with a police patrol car?
What do Taser opponents suggest a police officer do when confronting a potentially dangerous non-compliant person? A cop has the authority to stop someone who they believe (an articulable suspicion) might be dangerous. That is well established. It is necessary for us as citizens to defer to their judgement, otherwise, they may as well quit. Their judgement can be attacked after the fact, but on the street, they don't really have time to convene a panel of citizen judges to make a decision in regards to a person's potential danger to others. When they act, they have the authority to stop them, restrain them and search them. If they don't find anything, they can send them on their way.
So, if they do need to stop someone they feel is dangerous, and that person refuses - what should they do? Let them go? That sends a message to potential criminals they the police are nothing more than a doormat. How about shooting them? That places many more people in danger. If a policer officer has to use their own body or a baton, they are forced to get very close with someone who may be armed with a knife or gun, or could be very strong and quick. Not a very attractive option for the cop.
Please - as a citizen concerned about the safety of our community: give the cops the tools they need to do their jobs. If it looks like those tools are really being abused, then we'll talk.

Comments (31)

Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 29, 2007 at 1:23 pm

Palo Alto police officers mostly do a fine job. In the aggregate, they have largely contributed to keepig our city the safe place that it is.

Our police officers are professionals; new technology has been put in place (cameras) that monitor police work to almost the Nth degree.

Recently, I've asked police officers here and in other cities what they think about Tasers. Universally, what I hear is that Tasers should be considered one more tool in an arsenal of tools that can save lives, but when used improperly, can create harm.

Universally, what I hear from police officers is that they would rather use a taser, rather than more violent means, to subdue someone who is resisting arrest, or is a danger to themselves of others.

There can be no denying that tasers have occasionally been abused by poiklce personnel in other places. This is also true of batons, various joint-locking techniques, tear gas, and service revolvers.

Should we keep weapons or technique away from the police, who are sworn to uphold the peace, just because some miniscule fraction of police personnel misuse them? I hope not.

Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 29, 2007 at 1:35 pm

Mike for mayor.

Posted by Dave
a resident of Meadow Park
on Mar 29, 2007 at 4:41 pm


But almost as important, Tasers save money everyday. Dramatic reductions in injured officers, suspects. Lower workman's comp rates and fewer lawsuits.

Posted by Rudy G.
a resident of Community Center
on Mar 29, 2007 at 9:12 pm

Sounds like you boys are tough on crime, like me. However, I never knew lethality was a word. That's neat. I was wonderin' if I could use it in my upcoming presidential campaign. You fellas are swell. America is safer with men like yourselves helping keep our cops up dated with the finest weaponry that technology can create. Without an adequately armed police force, how can we keep this nation safe. Keep up the fine work. Vote for Rudy!

Posted by Dick
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 29, 2007 at 10:08 pm

Tasers are another weapon that the police can use and then say they didn't know or intend to kill the person. If they had them when the elderly black person was dragged from his car they could have easily killed him and then said we had no intention of killing him. He was just setting in his car doing nothing illegal. How many elderly people ,over 75, has this been tested on? How many parents or grandparents of police officers have volinteered to be tasered maybe 5 or 10 times to see what effect it had on them. Everyone who supportsd tasers should be the first to volinteer to be "tasered"

Posted by Eduardo
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 29, 2007 at 11:11 pm

Hey Dick, are you for real?? THat is why policies are set into place. Do you see doctors giving infants drug doses for adults? of course not! There are guidelines set by the company and if the police go outside the guidelines and their department policy, then they should be held liable.

All those that oppose Tasers...are you worried that it will be used against YOU?? Do YOU plan on being anything less of a law-abiding citizen? Unless you are threatening the police with physical harm, why do you care?? I rather see a cop be safe and go home at night, than a criminal get away and maybe kill the next person they run into....

Posted by Billy the Kid
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 30, 2007 at 8:35 pm

Eduardo, DICK IS FOR REAL!! You failed to notice that he wasn't simply concerned about his own safety, as you suggest people who oppose tasers must be. He stated specifically that they could be used to harm and excessively punish/kill another human being, perhaps like yourself, heaven forbid. I guess you forgot about the fact that some people in this community are concerned that about some unecessary roughness a la taser style- get it?
We are not just thinking about our self. Perhaps it a strange concept to you. But a little less machismo, and a little more compassion can go a long way. See you on the high plains...and I won't be packin' no taser.

Posted by Silver Bullet
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 30, 2007 at 8:52 pm

This should have nothing to do with machismo. If the police are out tasering when they could be talking, then they are abusing the tool. If the Taser is treated as a tool of almost last resort, then why not let them have that tool for that situation. Compassion is awesome - I firmly believe in it. Unfortunately, compassion won't stop certain agressive people from harming themselves or others.
There have been situations where police officers have abused their positions. However, I think its a serious mistake to assume those situations represent the norm in police tactics.

Posted by Billy
a resident of Community Center
on Mar 31, 2007 at 8:43 am

Silver Boy,
Let me take a wild guess. Your are a white male?

I rest my case.

Posted by Fred
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 31, 2007 at 8:44 am

How many parents or grandparents have volunteered to be shot by a handgun?, but we let the cops carry a handgun! The Taser is an awesome tool if used in the way set out by department policy. Order the Tasers, provide the training to the officers and make the town safer!! Also keep researching better ways to make the town safe. Keep up the fine work PAPD!!!

Posted by Rudy G.
a resident of Community Center
on Mar 31, 2007 at 8:57 am

Freddy, you make some fine points. I hope you will consider voting for me in '08. I am tough on crime, like you. I think awesome is a really neat word, and it really brings your brief statements together. Would you consider writing campaign speeches for me? I think that men like you and me, when combined, can really make a difference when it comes to fighting crime.

Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 31, 2007 at 10:09 am

Prediction: PAPD will have tasers within the next few months; in spite of all the dire predictions, everything will be fine.

Posted by eduardo
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 31, 2007 at 12:35 pm

Why dont we take away their guns, batons, pepper spray, oh and wait...let take away their cars too, since ANY of the above can be abused....

In the near future it will be a liability NOT to have the tasers....."Sorry ma'am, we had to shoot your son, because we didn't have tasers. If only he commited his crime in Los Altos or Mountain View, he would still be alive."

But then again a dead crook isn't a bad thing..forget the tasers, your right.

Posted by Billy
a resident of Community Center
on Mar 31, 2007 at 3:01 pm

Eduardo, you do make a good point. The fatality rate of guns is obviously much greater than tasers, and if are officers are going to use force, they might as well be able to use something that is less fatal. And, since were not going to take thier guns away, we might as well give them the option of using this weapon as well. More power to you. Billy.

Posted by Tim
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 31, 2007 at 4:13 pm

I agree with Mike. Palo Alto will get tasers. Lets see- A gun shot at me or a taser- tough choice! Or how about just doing what the police tell you to do.

Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 1, 2007 at 5:49 am

This argument is just another example ot the type of argument libs have the most trouble with. Sometimes, ALL the choices are bad, and the best you can do is try to pick the least bad.

Posted by norm
a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 1, 2007 at 9:58 pm

Police officers need tasers to do their job. Would a carpenter prefer a hammer and chisel or a pneumatic demolition tool to demolish a concrete wall? Simple choices that are meant for rare circumstances. By the way, address "cops" as police officers unless you are a "cop"...Show a little respect...

Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 2, 2007 at 8:41 am

I show my respect for cops by supporting them. To suggest the term cop is disrespectful is in itself disrespectful.

Posted by Phil Lanthrop
a resident of Community Center
on Apr 2, 2007 at 11:32 am

Show a little respect?

He could have called them much worse. Respect is shown to those who deserve it, not simply anybody who has a stinkin' badge.

If you want respect, earn it! The days of giving people the benefit of doubt are gone, my dear.

Have a lovely day.

Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 2, 2007 at 1:01 pm

Just pay the ticket, Phil.

Posted by Phil Lanthrop
a resident of Community Center
on Apr 2, 2007 at 9:59 pm

Hey Wally, is that you.

I was thinkin' the fuzz oughta give you a few of these guns-
You sound like the vigilante type.

Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 3, 2007 at 7:30 am

I do believe, contrary to the Western movie assertion that "You can't take the law into your own hands," that we dare not allow the law out of our hands. Police operate with authority granted them by the people in the interest of the people. When either the police or the people forget that, chaos follows. To the extent possible I am willing to delegate law enforcement, but not to the extent of a disarmed public where you dial 911 and die. I like for my deputies to have an alternative to blowing a miscreant away.

Posted by Phil Lanthrop
a resident of Community Center
on Apr 3, 2007 at 9:18 am

Well said, Mr. Wallis.

Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 3, 2007 at 6:40 pm

It generally is.

Posted by G Stewart
a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 5, 2007 at 11:25 am

Most big cities have lost $millions to Taser lawsuits:
"old man get up now or I'll taze you"
"give me your papers or you will be tazed"
"lie face down on the hot asphalt or I will taze you"

Posted by Ed
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 5, 2007 at 12:55 pm

I am from out of town, not Midtown, so I don't have a vote. But, just to add some fine points to the above discussion...

Tasers fall midway on the continuum of force somewhere less than guns (they are not an alternative to guns and wouldn't be used in apprehending someone armed with a gun) but greater than pepper spray, batton, mace, or bean-bags. A Taser allows stand-off distances of 15-20 feet maximum or may be used in-close with a contact stun that, in either case, reduces the probability of harm to police or resister compared with the other less-than-lethal tools mentioned.

The alledged lethality of Tasers (the risk of serious harm or death from the application of a Taser) has been overstated by activist groups and in the press. Readers should examine closely the basis for and the numbers behind those allegations before blindly accepting them as fact.

The perported ease of abuse is contradicted by the internal recording of the sequence of shocks delivered and more so if the Taser is equipped with the optional integral camera. If abuse occurs, there is ample evidence of its having happenened and the record of the action can be evaluated against standing policy and procedures - a strong deterrent to abuse that does not exist with the other less-than-lethal weapons mentioned and better than simply counting shots fired from a gun.

Posted by Reginald
a resident of Community Center
on Apr 5, 2007 at 1:25 pm

I get so tired of bruthas playing the race card. Race has nothing to do with cops protecting me. I want cops to have whatever is necesry to make my hood safe.

Posted by Phil Lanthrop
a resident of Community Center
on Apr 5, 2007 at 5:12 pm

G. Stewart...out of nowhere you make some good points....
can you add any specifics....facts relating to these would be
interesting to know.....abuse does happen.....and these certainly will be
used in abusive ways by our officers, even if the chief of police is as sweet
as ours.....thanks for the stop writing....or I'll tase you!

Posted by Bill
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Apr 14, 2007 at 7:42 pm

I'm impressed with the tone and reasonablemess of most of the comments. On so many blog sites, there is ranting, bias, unsubstantiated statements, opinions, wishful thinking and complete ignoring of facts. Thank you one and all.

Posted by anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 15, 2007 at 9:41 am

I think everyone would agree that using tasers instead of guns is a good thing. I also think that most (all?) would agree that using tasers instead of hands or billy clubs is not a good thing. So the question that faces us is how to make sure tasers are used in the first way, and not in the second one.

Why not track the Palo Alto taser use in addition to tracking gun use versus crime? An annual review of use should be published. If the total sum of gun and taser use does not exceed the historical statistics of police gun use versus crimes (with some reasonably small additional buffer of 15%-25%?), then clearly tasers are replacing guns, and that shows proper use. If the combined usage is much higher than the historical gun use, clearly tasers are replacing much more than gun use, and that is not good. In such case corrective steps should be guaranteed to be taken by the police and the city.

Any issue with that?

Posted by Ed
a resident of Downtown North
on May 24, 2007 at 5:02 pm

anon..are you kidding??? Using a taser instead of a gun??? If deadly force is presented by the bad guy, why should the police risk using a taser? A person with a knife at 21 feet can CUT you in about 2 seconds. Thats not even enough time for an officer to draw his gun and shoot 2 rounds!! And that is still not a sure thing that he/she will not get cut or the taser prongs will hit their target.

The taser is designed as a non-lethal tool. Would you risk getting in the head with a baton or getting zapped for 5 seconds? Zap me anytime!! So asking the police to use it in a lethal situation is absolutely ridiculous! I rather the police not carry them, then to put their lives at risk. They face enough risk everytime they put on that uniform.

Dont break the law and you have nothing to worry about.

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