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Down with the Taser

Leigh Maffey



In early September this year frontline police in Wellington and three areas of Auckland city will be issued with Taser guns for a ‘trial experiment’. Police are heralding this as a new ‘less lethal’ weapon for police to use in a variety of situations. People who are under the influence of mind altering drugs (e.g. marijuana), alcohol (staple student beverage), or solvents (blanket man) are all possible targets according to police guidelines. It can also be used on people who are mentally unwell (e.g. bi-polar) or “to induce compliance”. After one-year of experimenting they will most probably be introduced all over the country.
Right from the start the police are trying to deceive the public by calling the Taser “less lethal”. Currently police have pepper spray and batons. During its five years of use In the US the Taser has been responsible for over 180 deaths. How is this less lethal than batons and pepper spray?
I guess I had better explain what this weapon is. A Taser is a small hand held gun that shoots two barbed harpoons with wire running from them to the gun. The idea is that the harpoons will go into a person’s flesh or clothing and deliver a 50000 volt shock for as long (or as many times) as police see fit. The harpoons will need to be surgically removed if imbedded in the skin. Of course there will be guidelines in regard to their use, but guidelines are easily abused when people aren’t watching. There are guidelines for pepper spray, but we all saw the footage on TV3 of the man at the “fight for life” event getting pepper sprayed in the face while hand cuffed and on the ground… Pepper spray started out as the Taser is now, as a last resort, and is now used routinely.
I have heard people say that the Taser is a good idea as it is better then shooting a person with a gun. I would agree that I would rather be shot with a Taser harpoon then a bullet, but that does not mean that our front line police need them. The front line police don’t need to shoot anyone with anything. I think the Taser is a great alternative for the armed offenders squad who are called in for really serious situations (as in the UK) but not for front line police. The Police should be a group that the community can trust and depend on. They should be given better training in diplomacy and tact rather than weapons for power tripping. In the not-too-distant past people liked the police, but that is not the case now. Nowadays we see police (even at the highest levels) being charged with rape, fraud, theft and violent offences. Most people no longer like the police. Tasers will only increase the growing violent relationship we see emerging between the police and the public.
I have also heard people say that they don’t need to worry about this new weapon as they are good law abiding citizens, and it will never be used on them. One of the groups of people that the police say they are allowed to used this on is intoxicated people. Most students get intoxicated on a fairly regular basis. Even if you don’t, it may be your mate who has hit the Fanta a bit hard and looked at the guy in the pink shirt for too long, ending up in a bloody mess with Taser harpoons in his/her stomach. Or what about a family member with bi-pola disorder who is has an unfortunate episode out in the street? They are also Taserable according to police protocol. Or what about non-violent protestors? There is news footage of peaceful protesters in Rotorua being pepper sprayed in the face; in five years time will that be a Taser?
We don’t need the Taser to be introduced to front line police in New Zealand. Yes they are better then guns, but that does not mean we need them. We need cops that we can rely on to bring peace and justice without violence. That will not be achieved with Taser guns; in fact it’s a step away from the ideal. Please don’t let this issue just slide away. We don’t want to become like America or Australia with savage armed police who are not trusted worldwide.