Saturday, May 03, 2008

Expert Testimony Powers, Activate!

I wish to preface what I am about to say by clarifying my position on Tasers and also preface that with this disclaimer, that the other contributers to this blog may not necessairly share my views.

I think the Tazer is a good and useful technology. I think it is a wonderful substitute for a gun or pepper spray for self defense, depending on your preference. If you feel threatened but don't want to kill anyone or are intimidated by a gun, then a less-lethal taser can give you a comprible amount of self defense in its ability to incapacitate. The Taser also has advantages over pepper spray because it is relatively contained and the effect is limited to the individual hit with the wires. With pepper spray you release a cloud of fine particles that can shift with the wind, cover your clothes, and should never be discharged indoors. I have accidentally pepper sprayed myself and being just as incapacitated as the person you are attempting to flee from is a ticket to disaster town. A taser is a weapon but is not a firearm and that legal distinction makes it far more practical as a person's self defense device since you can use them in more states and carry them across more state boundaries without fear of breaking the law. They are still subject to certain restrictions though.

My problem is not with the Taser devices. My problem is with the cops and thugs that use them as a weapon for torture.

Ohio is one of the few U.S. states where a judge may overrule the county coronor as to the cause of death on a death certificate. When the Summit county medical examiner ruled that three suspects had been murdered by police and that Tasers were partly responsible for the heart failure, Taser International sent is lawyers to Ohio to get a judge to change the record. yesterday they were successful.

I am not the least bit suprised that Taser International would use every means at their disposal to protect the reputation of their flagship product. Given the nature of how the devices tend to be used, I think they would appear to be better corporate citizens if they denounced misuse of their product by pointing out these are the actions of bad people and that their device does not have discretion as to who it electrocutes.

I see two odd clashes in the public statements of Taser International. They loudly proclaim their support for law enforcement. Cases like the one above lead to the assumption that this support of law enforcement goes beyond providing a useful tool to suport a necessary public institution, and actually extends to blind support of the individuals that wear the badge. Admititadly that is a bit of a strech. But it is hard to see this case as anything other than an interference with justice.

The second clash of policy with reality I see within Taser International is what I percieve as a sympathy for the arguments of the anti-gun lobby. It is commendable that Taser International takes every step possible to insure the safety of each of their devices. The instruction manuals are concise and effective, the models for civilian use are locked with a security code so only the person who purchased them can activate the device, they even sell a camera that attaches to the device that starts recording as soon as the safety is switched to the fire position so that there is video evidence that it was necessary to fire. It is admirable that Taser Interantional has chosen to go the extra mile in providing for the safe and proper operation of their products. This intersects with reality because the company and its devices cannot control when they are used. just like a firearms company cannot control when their guns will be used or who will get their hands on them. Once an object is sold it is beyond the control of the manufacturer. So the problem here is that while Taser International is not responsible for misuse of their devices by wicked cops or juvinile thugs, they inject themselves into these instances, insisting that their inanimate device that is beyond their control is incapable of being misused. My main point here is that the Tazer is a good and useful less-lethal alternative for self defense and law enforcement but Taser International needs a more mature and consistant public relations policy.

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