Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Lefter, Warmer's First Birthday; Police Still Brutal a Year Later

Blog-readers, I realized this afternoon, as I sat through an endless workshop on pedagogy, that it has been exactly a year since I began this thing. There was a hiatus in there between September and Thanksgiving, and then between Thanksgiving and February, when heart-break led me to blog-o-mania, but I'll call this my official blogger anniversary. I started as a way to update some of my friends and family in NY about protests during the RNC last summer, then it became an outlet for compulsive newsreading - with a mission to become a super-famous blogosphere personality. That didn't happen, but Mom, George, and other friends and family, there are a couple of people reading this who I've never seen in the flesh! That's kind of cool...and I've even gotten a spot on the Indymedia websiite. As a result of some things I wrote here, I even wound up in an email discussion about the anti-war movement with Rahul Mahajan, whose excellent blog, empire notes I haven't visited in a while. As for me? Life in my own personal non-bloggie universe is looking better and sunnier than it has in a while... although I have been recently troubled by moths. I may also now be troubled by an old allergy , because my eyes are already itching.
In my efforts to find a picture of something moth-eaten, to explain what my problems will be in a few months, due to marvelous blogosphere magic, I found this entertaining, accented blog.

And now, enough of that self-congratulation, what's in the news? As I said, I was in a meeting all day today, and a similar one all day yesterday, and the day before that it was all about homework and a pounding headache. So, three days out of the news cycle, I was surprised when I listened to the "Free Speech Radio News"and heard about how this past weekend, cops maced, tased, and sicked dogs on anti-war protesters in Pittsburgh. Guerilla News Network has some video and commentary from the organizing group. Since this video shows a woman being tased by the police while she is lying on the ground surrounded by cops, I am quite amazed that the people were able to get video of this quality. If you want more police brutality news from around the US, I recommend this website.

This recent use of tasers isn't completely exceptional, as I just found a report on Pittsburgh cops and tasers from a year ago, and this article from May '05. Even more chilling, was this episode in Florida last October, when the police were using tasers on "unruly school children." Just over a week ago, Minneapolis cops, Timothy Savior and David Mathes, were exonerated for a fatal taser attack, after the coroner determined the heart-attack following the taser use as "natural causes." Just this June, there was another taser-related death.
"Save Our Civil Liberties" notes that: HHuman rights groups say the growing popularity of Tasers is cause for alarm. Tasers are used by more than 7,000 police agencies, and blamed by Amnesty International in the deaths of more than 100 people in the U.S. and Canada since 1999. In a report released in March, Amnesty International said there were 13 Taser-related deaths in the U.S. [here's a description of one] and Canada in the first three months of this year, compared with six during the same period last year.
"There is not enough medical research that shows Tasers are safe," said Amnesty International spokesman Ed Jackson. "There needs to be more alternatives to lethal force. That Tasers are safe is fictitious."

Alternatives to lethal force...hmmm. How about not using force at all...especially when you're arresting people who are already lying on the ground??
As Peter Gorman, of the Fort Worth Weekly shows, tasers aren't used as an alternative to lethal force, but as the "bully's tool of compliance" :
Tasers occupy a strange place in the police rulebook. Law enforcement officers learn what is called a “use of force continuum” to determine what means or weapons they may use in different situations. The “continuum” begins with simple police presence, then moves up to issuing commands, then the use of open hands, and after that, pepper or other chemical sprays, closed hands (including elbows and knees and other takedown moves), the use of a hard baton, and finally, the use of lethal force.

You might think Tasers would fit somewhere near the “lethal force” end of that list, right before a gun. Instead, however, many police agencies place Tasers immediately after the “issuing commands” force level — which suggests to officers that using a Taser is less serious even than a push or pepper spray. Which also means that if an officer asks you to produce your driver’s license and you ask “Why?” rather than immediately complying with the order, there’s a chance, in some jurisdictions, that you could, within their rules, be hit with a Taser for refusing the command. That’s in part how Tasers have begun to be used, not as serious, life-threatening weapons, but as a bully’s tool of compliance, something to get people in line — with sometimes egregious consequences.
That is clearly the way the taser is being used in the video you can see from Pittsburgh.

Last, but not least, there's the Iraqi Constitution; it's the thing everyone is dying for, right?


davenoon said...

Say, you may have heard this already, but Amy Goodman mentioned the other day that a police chief in Nebraska (I think) is suing the manufactuer of Taser because he was nearly incinerated (OK, I exaggerate) in a training session.

God bless the world of podcasting.

sf_gary said...

The state use of an electric shocking device on non-compliant citizens would have been fodder for science fiction villains a generation ago, but now it's just today's episode of "Cops". Americans aren't just unknowing victims, but largely complicit sadists, willing to have whatever it takes done in their name to protect their right to drive a Hummer. Not all of us, obviously... but I think it's worth remembering that a lot of the pain we experience is just "us" doing it to "us".

We can't change the politics until we've changed "us". My ego wants to strike a blow for freedom but my heart keeps telling me to reduce the war in my own heart. Can it be that my best service to humanity is to lower the background noise of the collective consciousness? If it isn't, what is? I'm open to other answers.