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Let's Talk About Tasers
The Taser and Men’s Rights
August 11, 2009 permalink
Tasers are not life-saving alternatives to deadly force, but are routinely used as portable torture devices to enforce instant compliance with police orders. Two articles enclosed.
Published on Tuesday, August 11, 2009 by Salon.com
Let's Talk About Tasers
Like Glenn, I write a lot about civil liberties, which have been at the heart of the national conversation since the beginning of the War On Terror and the expansion of the national security state. But my interest in civil liberties predates 9/11 and until then was usually pointed at the far more prosaic issues of police and prosecutorial misconduct (and the inevitable conclusions any study of those things brings to the issue of the death penalty). Nowadays, the theme of civil liberties seem to be a sub-plot to a James Bond flick rather than "To Kill A Mockingbird." And yet, I think the two are intertwined much more closely that we think. In our apparent acceptance of torture as a legal method of interrogation, the bar of civilized official behavior has been lowered to the point where we are accepting torture in everyday life as if it's nothing. Indeed, we are using it as a form of entertainment.
I'm speaking of the ever more common use of the Taser, an electrical device used by police and other authorities to drop its victims to the ground and coerce instant compliance. The videos of various incidents make the rounds on the internet and you can see by the comments at the YouTube site that a large number of Americans find tasering to be a sort of slapstick comedy, the equivalent of someone slipping on a banana peel, with a touch of that authoritarian cruelty that always seems to amuse a certain kind of person. "Don't tase me bro" is a national catch phrase.
Tasers aren't benign however. They kill people. Nobody knows exactly why some people die from being tasered, and they certainly don't know how to tell in advance which ones are at risk. But there have been hundreds of deaths similar to the one below, which nobody can adequately explain:
A Detroit teenager who police say fled a traffic stop Friday died after being subdued with a Taser. He is the second Michigan teen to die following a Taser stun in less than a month. Warren Police say they don't know why the 15-year-old bailed out of a Dodge Stratus he was riding in during the stop on Eight Mile near Schoenherr, leading officers on a half-block chase that ended in an abandoned house on Pelkey in Detroit. The car was stopped for having an expired license plate. In the scuffle, officers shocked the teen one time with a Taser, police said. Shortly after, he became unresponsive and died.
Taser International has successfully defended themselves in lawsuits by attributing the deaths to drug use and if that doesn't work do to the fact that drugs were not present in the victim, they rely on an unrecognized medical condition called "excited delirium", a disease that only afflicts people who die in police custody. Juries apparently find this convincing. Taser has only lost one case.
But that isn't the real problem, although it may eventually be the path by which tasers are banned for use in civilized countries. As awful as the possibility of death is, tasers would be a blight on any free people even if they weren't so often deadly. Tasers were sold to the public as a tool for law enforcement to be used in lieu of deadly force. Presumably, this means situations in which officers would have previously had to use their firearms. It's hard to argue with that, and I can't think of a single civil libertarian who would say that this would be a truly civilized advance in policing. Nobody wants to see more death and if police have a weapon they can employ instead of a gun, in self defense or to stop someone from hurting others, I think we all can agree that's a good thing.
But that's not what's happening. Tasers are routinely used by police to torture innocent people who have not broken any law and whose only crime is being disrespectful toward their authority or failing to understand their "orders." There is ample evidence that police often take no more than 30 seconds to talk to citizens before employing the taser, they use them while people are already handcuffed and thus present no danger, and are used often against the mentally ill and handicapped. It is becoming a barbaric tool of authoritarian, social control.
Last week there were three taser episodes that made the rounds on the internet. (There may have been more, but these were the three most discussed.) The first was of a drunken, belligerent man at a baseball game who after 41 seconds of discussion was tasered while sitting in his seat. Indeed, the video shows that the taser threw him down onto the cement steps where he rolled down several. Since this scene must have happened literally thousands of times over the years, you have to wonder what they must have done in the past. Somehow I doubt they pulled out a gun and shot them.
The second incident was this sad tale of a man who allegedly refused to come out of a store restroom. Police blew pepper spray under the door, kicked it open and instantly tasered the man. It was only afterward that they discovered he was deaf. Police tried to book the man anyway, but the magistrate refused to accept the charges.
It was the third incident, however, that should get civil libertarians' serious attention. It featured an Idaho man on a bicycle who happened to ride past a police stop in progress on the side of the road. He had nothing to do with the stop, but was pulled over by the police and told to produce his ID. He said, correctly, that he had no legal obligation to produce ID and the police insisted he must. The situation escalated and he demanded that they call a supervisor to the scene when the police said they were going to arrest him. He ended up being tasered seven times -- you can hear him moaning in pain on the tape at the end. (In an especially creepy moment, the police try to confiscate the tape of the incident.) (DeLoyd Scott).
Now, many people will say that he should have just showed his ID, that it's stupid to confront police, that like Henry Louis Gates you get what you deserve if you mouth off to the cops. And on a pragmatic level this is certainly true (although I would reiterate what I wrote here about a free people not being required to view the police in the same way they view a criminal street gang, which is to say in fear.) But the fact remains that there is no law against riding a bicycle without ID, and there is no law against mouthing off to the police. Certainly, there can be no rationale behind using a weapon designed to replace deadly force seven times against someone under these circumstances.
These are just three incidents that happened last week. There's nothing special about them. They happen every day. Even this horrific scene, which is so shockingly authoritarian (excuse the pun) that it makes you feel sick, is not unusual:
A former Southern Virginia University and Brigham Young University adjunct professor of political philosophy and jurisprudence, Dr. Lowery entered the Utah Third District courtroom alone on November 22, 2004, to make oral argument before Judge Anthony Quinn. Two Salt Lake County Deputy Sheriffs sat at the back of the courtroom, one on each side of the door. Other deputies were in the foyer of the courtroom. No members of the public were present.
Dr. Lowery suffered from major depression, bipolar disorder, paranoia disorder, delusional disorder, and psychotic disorder. Judge Quinn granted one of Dr. Lowery's motions made under the Americans with Disabilities Act, Title II, which allowed for reasonable modifications of court rules, policies, or practices in order to accommodate Dr. Lowery's multiple mental disabilities.
Near the end of his oral argument, the traumatic content of the argument moved Dr. Lowery into moderate mania, and he characterized a previous crabbed ruling by Quinn as "bullshit."
Impatient for the speech to end, Judge Quinn took that as an opportunity to order the bailiffs to take the professor into custody and cool him off.
The plaintiff's state of agitation was caused by his mental disabilities. The deputy sheriffs' approach only caused the situation to escalate. As five or more Salt Lake County deputy sheriffs/bailiffs seized Lowery from behind, he shouted, "I am cooled off; I deserve to be heard. I deserve to be heard, your Honor, and you are violating my access to due process at this very moment. I am not violent and --"
Judge Quinn interrupted him with ordering the bailiffs to take Dr. Lowery to a holding cell. A split second later -- unclear whether following the judge's orders or acting on his own accord, a bailiff sent 50,000 volts of incapacitating electricity into the lower back of the unsuspecting professor. As the courtroom video shows, nothing in Dr. Lowery's behavior suggests that the bailiffs had any reasonable motive to believe they or the judge were in physical danger.
Yet the taser gun fired more than once.
The repeated electric shocks blew Dr. Lowery over the podium, and he landed face down on the floor, with two bailiffs on his back. The electric blasts caused Dr. Lowery's bowels to empty twice. He screamed, "Help me!" while he complied with a bailiff's order to stay on his belly, neither capable nor willing to offer resistance. Then, suddenly, he went unconscious.
Remembering they were still on camera, the bailiffs shouted at Dr. Lowery to not resist again (though his resistance was only instinctive) and threatened him with more electrocution. When they realized that he could no longer hear them, they dragged the man across the floor, put him in a chair, and massaged his heart. One bailiff called for paramedics. [...]
Since no one but the victim and the abusers were in the courtroom, this crime remained unknown to the public until recently.
(Read on if you can stomach it.)
Representatives of the government torture innocent citizens into unconsciousness, on camera, in United States courtrooms with tasers. They use them on prisoners and on motorists and on political protesters and bicycle riders, on mentally ill and handicapped people and on children And it's happening with nary a peep of protest.
America's torture problem is much bigger than Gitmo or the CIA or the waterboarding of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. The government is torturing people every day and killing some of them. Then videos of the torture wind up on Youtube where sadists laugh and jeer at the victims. It's the sign of profound cultural illness.
Source: Common Dreams
Originally on salon.com, but no longer available there.
The Taser and Men’s Rights
November 20th, 2009, By Harry Crouch
By Steven Jones, Member, National Coalition For Men, November 20, 2009
The Taser is a weapon widely used by American police without much regulation or oversight. Many widely varied ‘rights’ organizations, from the NAACP ot Amnesty International, have found reason to dislike the Taser and to demand that the Federal Government issue guidelines for its use or ban it outright. The biggest complaint is that it is aggressively marketed as ‘non-lethal’, and yet has killed over 300 people, mostly men. With each death, Taser International has offered endless excuses as to why it must have been something other than their weapon that killed the victim.
My complaint with the Taser relates to men’s rights specifically. And I have been shocked that virtually no one, including Amnesty International, has had much of anything to say about this specific issue. Taser International, in the user’s manual that comes with every Taser, states the following, “application of the Taser to the genitals is PARTICULARLY EFFECTIVE.” Taser openly encourages the use of the weapon on the groin. For the stun gun mode, or “drive stun” mode, Taser strongly encourages that it be rammed into the genitals of a person before shocking the genitals with 50,000 volts, resulting in severe burns and destruction of the tissue and nerves in most cases. Impotence is a known side-effect of the Taser due to its destruction of nerves and tissue in the penis when used as directed by Taser. In fact, a police officer sued Taser for causing his own impotence after he was shocked with a Taser while qualifying to carry one.
Even worse, Taser International, upon purchasing the patent over 10 years ago, altered the design. Originally the Taser had 1 laser site which showed where the uppermost dart would strike the victim, while the lower dart would strike approximately 8 - 12 inches below that, before shocking the victim with 20,000 volts. The darts were smooth and could be easily removed. Police complained that the weapon didn’t hurt people enough, and that the darts could be pulled out by the victim before they were incapacited.
Taser International solved all of these complaints by putting fishhook-like barbs on the speared projectile, making it very difficult to remove them without ripping flesh. The upped the voltage to 50,000 volts. And they increased the angle at which the lower projectile fires to cause it to strike before the waist and as near to the genitals as possible. But they did not add a second laser site to show the user where the lower dart will strike, making it difficult to avoid shooting the genitals if the shooter does not wish to. The vast majority of the time, when the Taser is fired at a man from the front and the laser site it focused in the area of the solar plexus just below the sternum, as instructed by Taser, the lower dart harpoons the genitals almost every time, before sending 50,000 volts through the testicles, up the spine, into every organ the nerves of the testicles are connected to, which includes the stomach, kidney and heart, and finally into the upper projectile.
In most instances, the testicles are only bruised and slightly burned. There is a little blood either from the hole it makes in the penis or the scrotum. And if the person was only Tased for the minimal 5 seconds from a single Taser gun, there is often no permanent physical damage other than burns. This, of course, says nothing as to the psychological damage of being sexually tortured in a situation in which the man is almost always unarmed and non-violent and often has his friends or family present to witness his sexual torture.
In some instances, such as that of Tavares Browning, the genitals are left with 3rd degree burns, no nerves or feeling of any kind, and no functionality at all. Tavares was shot by 3 cops at once. The first Taser speared his testicles. The second slightly missed and speared his groin area. The third speared his wrist as his hands dropped involuntarily to his harpooned genitals and blocked the dart. 100,000 volts was passed through his genitals at the same time, dropping him helplessly to the floor. At this point, a fourth office ran over to him and rammed his Taser into Tavares groin, using the drive stun mode which produces a very wide electric flame between all points of contact and burns whatever it is touching. In Tavares case, there were 4 points of contact, all in his groin, with one inside his scrotum and 3 contacting the genitals. The result was that his entire genitalia were burned to a crisp. His abdomen, groin area, and upper tights, along with this genitals, were left with no nerves at all and thus no feeling of any kind.
This was done to Tavares because he owned $1900 in back child support, was unemployed and unable to pay, and was afraid of the police, so he hid in his room when they came to take him to jail.
Each of the 3 officers testified that they were not aiming for Tavares’ groin when firing their Tasers through his window. They simply aimed where they had been instructed, the solar plexus, and had no idea where the lower projectile was going to spear him.
When the Taser is fired at a man from a position below his chest, that is from a kneeling position or when the shooter is below the victim, the Taser will spear the genitals nearly 100 percent of the time. Also, the further away from the victim the shooter is, the higher the percentage of shots that will spear the genitals.
The Taser spears the genitals so often when fired from the front, and does enough damage, that almost all police departments which require an officer to be shot with their own Taser before being allowed to carry it, instruct the officers to turn their backs. There is a graphic example of what happens when they fail to do this here:
Federal law prohibits the use of torture. It would seem obvious that the application of electric shock, especially when combined with a projectile that literally harpoons the testicles and enables the shooter to hook a man’s testicles on the end of a line like a fish, constitutes torture, and specifically sexual torture. This should not be legal. But federal law never defines specifically what torture is. Thus, police and private citizens are free to harpoon men’s testicles and electricute them as much as they please with minimal excuse.
It isn’t widely acknowledged in the United States, although it is widely known worldwide in the medical community, but you can, in fact, kill a man by injuring his testicles. The most common cause of death is listed as “neurogenic shock.” In India there was a string of copycat spousal murders in which angry wives waited for their husbands to go to sleep and then grabbed and squeezed his testicles until he died. There are numerous documented cases of men and boys dying after having their testicles grabbed and squeezed, or kicked and ruptured, or otherwise injured. The pain is severe enough to cause shock and ultimately death. In the U.S., we have been given the impression, through movies and television, that no matter how badly a man’s testicles are injured, he cannot die. But this is a lie.
Police officers who were Tazed in the genitals described the experience as feeling as if someone had grabbed both of their testicles and began repeatedly banging them together, or repeatedly squeezing them again and again, each time the Taser pulses. They said the pain is utterly unbearable. It is my belief that many of the men who have died as a result of the Taser, died because the shock of being electrocuted through the genitals is simply unbearable. The human heart cannot withstand this in many cases.
The Taser is powerful enough to bring down any man or woman without torturing the genitals. We, as citizens, cannot allow our government or anyone to have the authority to harpoon a man’s testicles and torture them with electric shock. This is the ultimate human rights violation. It is also one step below allow castration. Further, the Taser is used without trial and in circumstances in which even the threat of deadly force is prohibited. Thus, a situation in which an officer cannot even show a handgun is a situation in which they can draw their Taser and spear and destroy a man’s genitals. Police are permitted to sexually torture and mutilate American men who are unarmed, non-violent, and may be guilty of nothing more than saying “no” to an officer, or not following the officers instructions quickly enough to satisfy the officer. Any show of resistance, including moving too slowly or not understanding what was said, is currently considering justification for police use of the Taser, and your genitals are considering not only a legal target, but a primary target.
I have been writing to my representatives asking that federal law banning the use of torture on American citizens be amended to specifically define the application of electricity to the genitals as torture, and to prohibit it. This does not outlaw Tasers or stun guns. It only outlaws the use of them on the genitals. I think this is reasonable. Further, I thin it unreasonable that it isn’t already illegal to do this.
Source: California Men's Centers