“Personal [and public] protection can be both fashionable and functionable”

Mick had noted Newton Emerson’s hope that the deployment of Tasers “shocks our elected politicians out of their entrenched positions” – and on the same day that the Belfast Telegraph’s Chris Thornton reported that the Chief Constable “has received legal advice that says he has the power to deploy tasers [] in a matter of days” [Next week apparently – Ed]. Now, whilst I wouldn’t dream of thinking I could tell the police what to do on every single issue.. but with the Tasers potentially on view up to ten times a day, perhaps, as reminded by the Professor, if the police budget could stretch to the new MP3-playing iTaser in fetching leopard print..

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  • joeCanuck

    The type of incidents where the PSNI could use their new 50,000 volt stun guns happen nearly 10 times every day, police say.

    Given that we are being told that the Tasers will be used only in cases where the only alternative is deadly force, that figure of 10 times every day is either very scary or else an outright lie.
    It implies that the PSNI are drawing their guns with intent to possibly kill every day and I find that hard to believe.

  • joeCanuck

    That should read, of course, “…to possibly kill 10 times every day”….

  • Pancho’s Horse

    Will there be varying strengths of voltage for indigenous Irish and colonists?

  • Pete Baker


    “It implies that the PSNI are drawing their guns with intent to possibly kill every day..”

    Not quite.

    The figure refers to “cases where people threaten themselves or others with a weapon”.

    In other words, where the police, currently, have to decide whether or not to use lethal force.

    You could argue that the taser option will be more readily accessed in those circumstances than a more drawn out negotiation with an armed assailant.. or that the taser option presents an opportunity to resolve the situation quickly in a non-lethal way – freeing up police resources to deal with other crimes.

    It’s a judgement call by officers on the ground for which they will be accountable through the Police Ombudsman.. or, as hinted at, not just an argument about what’s the fashionable position to take on tasers..


    One size fits all..

  • DM

    Shocking stuff eh? I wonder if Orde will do a volt-face, etc.

    Interesting figures there. As Pete says, presumably that means that decisions are being taken on the use of lethal force up to ten times a day, as opposed to guns being drawn with the same frequency. Better I suppose to have the option available of stunning someone in such an instance.

  • what armed conflict

    Belfast will be BUZZZZZing!!!!!

  • joeCanuck

    I don’t understand how what you are saying is different from what I am; unless you are saying that the 10 includes those threatening suicide by gun and, in that case the police may draw guns as a precaution and wouldn’t shoot the person. I would count having to make a decision on whether or not to use lethal force to be the same as drawing guns. In fact, if they don’t draw their guns while pondering the decision, I would argue that they are being derelict in their duty.
    But still, they confront an armed person 10 times a day? I just don’t believe it.
    BTW, I am in favour of them having Tasers; I just don’t want them lying to me.

  • Pete Baker


    Armed doesn’t necessarily mean with a gun.

    And being confronted by an armed assailant doesn’t mean that the police officers involved actually draw their weapons – only that they have to make that decision.

    Regardless of the frequency of such situations, the options now include the use of tasers.

    iPod and Leopard-print optional.

  • susan

    I would never trust myself with an iTaser. The possibility that I might serenade someone with a song when what I needed was to laser them in the nuts — or vice versa — seems all too real.

    Perhaps it should be offered in Leopard print, Fashion pink, Hot Red, or Bipolar.

  • nonono

    NO NO NO TASERS CAN and will kill people who maybe just hit a bad patch Canada has had a few deaths last year in that catagory.
    Wonder how long it will take for one our officers to bottle out and kill someone.Oh not my fault weak heart i really felt threatened etc.

  • joeCanuck

    It’s unlikely to happen to me but if it was, I’d rather be tasered than given a dose of lead.

  • nonono

    It’s unlikely to happen to me but if it was, I’d rather be tasered than given a dose of lead.

    Thats what that poor polish guy at the airport probably thought joe until he ended up on a slab.OOPS MORTUARY SLAB in canada.

  • joeCanuck

    I’m well aware of that case, nonono. It was very sad.
    Still, I’d rather be tasered.

  • From yesterday’s Miami Herald:

    Man dies after police Taser him near UM

    A man in his 20s died after a Coral Gables police officer Tasered him on Friday morning in Coral Gables.

    Miami-Dade Detective Carlos Maura said the man had been disruptive at a party and resisted arrest.

    About 2 a.m., police officers responded to a call about a scuffle at University Inn Condominium, 1280 S. Alahambra Cir., near the University of Miami.

    After the man became disruptive inside the apartment, a security guard attempted to remove him from the property. The confrontation spilled outside.

    Maura said the man was being belligerent, so a police officer used a Taser stun gun to restrain him prior to arrest.

    After the shock discharge, the man became unresponsive, and police took him to Doctor’s Hospital in Coral Gables, where he was pronounced dead.

    The investigation by Coral Gables and Miami-Dade police closed an area of U.S. 1 between Satona Street and South Alhambra Circle until 7 a.m.

    Police said there are two men in custody and the investigation continues.

  • Shore Road Resident

    Didn’t that guy in Canada get Tasered five times in quick succession? And why is this the only case opponents of Tasers can cite when they claim “270 deaths”?

  • Shore Road Resident @ 01:10 PM:

    … is this the only case opponents of Tasers can cite when they claim “270 deaths”?

    By no means, as any Google search would show. Try, also, the Amnesty International site.

    I have not the latest, but there is a pretty impressive graphic from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, dated as far back as 2004, showing the location of the then 78 deaths across the US and Canada, and the age distribution and the increase in deaths, since “the new line of stun guns” had been introduced in 2000.

  • DM

    Malcolm – according to this article the victim in that case was high on drugs at the time. The second link you provided explains that being tasered while under the influence of narcotics can heighten the risk of a heart attack. Simple message – don’t take drugs and act violently.

  • DM on Jan 12, 2008 @ 08:04 PM:

    Is the answer, then, to enquire whether the “subject” has been on drugs, medication, or has a heart-condition, before the weapon is used? Otherwise an extra-judicial death-sentence seems a bit extreme for drug-taking or having a dodgy aorta.

    Please note that I have at no point expressed any view about whether use of the Taser is legitimate or not.

    However, I have qualms about using the weapon on non-violent subjects:

    Things turned ugly at an Oct. 9 [2006] protest in Pittsburgh, when demonstrators converged to protest Florida Governor Jeb Bush’s attendance at a fundraiser for Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) Protesters cornered Bush, chanting, “We don’t want you here.” Though the protesters were entirely nonviolent, police responded by using Tasers on two of them.

    The company which makes the weapon likes to describe it as “non lethal” (which, self-evidently is untrue): significantly, the term generally used is “less lethal” (see Defense Review and the South Yorkshire Police for examples).

    The promotional material suggests other uses for the gun: taping the probes to the backs of “subjects” or using the weapon in “drive mode” (which means as a very high-powered cattle prod).

    At $400 each, an M-18 is a steal. You can even pick them up second-hand on ebay. In 2003 the Observer managed successfully to mail-order one:

    The Observer placed an order and received a 200,000-volt stun gun and a 25ml CS gas spray. Both items were delivered in a matter of days, even though they are prohibited in the UK. The stun gun we received is four times more powerful than the Taser models currently on trial with British police forces.

    You can even build your own from a capacitor from a flash camera.

    It all makes me feel easy about walking home at nights.

  • DM

    By ‘subject’ I take it you mean ‘violent offender’? If someone wished to commit violent acts then it is of no concern to me what their medical history is or what they have been sticking up their nose; police will make a decision based on the person’s own safety and the safety of others.

    This is the real world, and the taser is a weapon designed to be deployed in real situations against people who put themselves or others at risk. If someone wishes to do a line and then start brandishing a knife – they should accept the consequences of their actions.

    Incidentally, of course you can order them in to the UK; people have been at that sort of thing for years now, same with the portable extendable batons that the police use – illegal here, but common enough among criminals. What’s your point though?

    By the by, the situation you refer to above is rather more complex than the article you link to makes out. Jeb Bush, a male security guard and a female aide bumped into a crowd of 50 or so protestors in the street, by chance, before the rally. He attempted to leave the area, and was followed by the group into a nearby subway station, where he was then cornered by the group. Officers from the Port Authority (not the police) then arrived with a canine unit and used their Tasers on two protestors who would not back off. Not ideal circumstances but had I been the one cornered by an angry mob of protestors I wouldn’t have been complaining.

  • DM @ 11:32 PM:

    My point? I suppose it is that Tasers are nasty things; and I for one don’t like them out there in the wild. There is too much anecdotal and actual evidence that they are misused by the good guys, let alone by the others.

    “Subject” is the term the advertising material for the Taser company uses. And, no, just because a Taser is used does not prove that the “subject” is a violent offender.

    The incident in Pittsburgh, where Jeb Bush was shoved into the cupboard, apparently involved Tasers being used as cattle prods: nice. The contemporary account in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette does not bear the tone you gave it. It was so serious that “No arrests were made and no citations were issued.” Apart from that, do we have common ground?

    I am unhappy about the weapon being tested on psychiatric patients strapped in chairs, or used on prisoners already strapped down, on those suffering from diabetic shock, on individuals suffering from delusions or seizures, on prisoners asleep in cells, or with surprising frequency necessarily applied by male users to women’s breasts: all of which are well documented. I believe San Francisco is one of the few (the only one of?) police departments in the US to proscribe the Taser for use on pregnant women. There’s a really-uplifting YouTube of a demonstrator (Andrew Meyer by name), already held on the ground by some eight security/police being Tasered: enjoy if that’s your bag.

    I don’t think they should be employed, in North London, in a normal police stop, and then used perhaps eight times on a subject who “later proved to be unarmed and innocent”. And, no, just because a Taser is used does not prove that the “subject” is a violent offender.

    The same article, by the way, suggests there is a propensity for The Met Police to use the Taser disproportionately on Black “subjects”. Curiously, the same thing seems true about Houston, TX, and elsewhere. What should one make of that?

  • Gum

    This is a very worrying development. We’d be much better at forcing the police to tackle vigilante justice such as that seen seen on the Shankill road this past week instead of giving them a vicious wespon that is not required in Ulster.

    For me, this is the latest product of American paranoia and fear of their neighbour that has been imported by New Labour.

  • DM

    Malcolm, how does tasers being available ‘in the wild’ have anything to do with the police being able to use them though? It might point to the general nastiness of tasers, but that’s not what we’re discussing, is it? By the way, civilian tasers come with less safeguards and a bigger, longer shock than police models.

    Again you’re missing the point – the taser should only be used on violent offenders is what I’m saying. Do you think I’m writing here trying to justify any of the various examples you have given above? And where did I say that use of the taser implies guilt? I’m talking about incidents when people act violently and get tasered for it. Use your head.

    So 2/3s of people tasered in London have been black. Once again, what’s your point – such statistics are useless without more detail; nature of any offence committed, for example, or circumstances of arrest. As the police have been running Operation Trident for some time now, they will also be having more and more contact with people who deal in violent crime and illegal arms.

    By the way, that article quotes one officer who described the incident with Jeb Bush as “a very tense situation. They were very close to the governor and shouting on top of him.” One protestor happy to be quoted in the article seems proud of the fact that the crowd were “tailing” him and growing “louder and louder.”

    Also worth noting: the two protestors were “asked to leave but did not go”, after the crowd had “repeatedly been asked to disperse”. And: “The tasers he said were empty of the cartridges that supply a more powerful charge.”