Sunday, October 14, 2007

Stun Guns

The Toledo Blade today published an editorial on the use of stun guns "Stun guns a crutch for cops".

While I am sure that the full editorial will be available in a day or two, I would like to share my thoughts on the subject with you today. (I know that this contradicts my earlier posting today, but I have always been a study in contradictions.)  

I have to take exception with this Blade editorial for the conclusion that is drawn and the way that it is reached. While the writer makes on valid point at the beginning saying, "The stun gun can be a useful tool for police to subdue and individual who is dangerously out of control without resorting to standard firearms or risking injury in a fight." They then goes on to destroy their own logic and credibility in the ensuing editorial, especially when concluding, "In the old days, police used hand to hand physical force and billy clubs to bring criminal suspects under control. They need to be firmly reminded that they should still use such means before resorting to a stun gun."  

Quite frankly it is difficult to see how the conclusion can be logically drawn from the premise. Additionally one has to wonder whether such a conclusion should be drawn. While it's true that there have been accidents with the use of stun guns, and that instances of abuse of this technology could also be conceded, I fail to see how going back to billy clubs and fists will resolve this.
  • Can the writer seriously believe that fewer incidents will occur if we return to using fists or billy clubs on suspected criminals?
  • Can the writer believe that using fists or billy clubs will produce fewer or less serious injuries?
  • Can the writer believe that the reputation of the police departments will be enhanced by descriptions or pictures of subduing a suspect through the use of either fists or billy clubs?
  • If the Blade writer's conclusion is to be taken, and that primitive technology is to be the answer, perhaps the use of brass knuckles, chains, or even fist-sized rocks might also be of benefit as tools of law enforcement.
  • Does the Blade subscribe to going back to those 'bad old days' as an answer, or are they perhaps simply looking for pictures of the bruised bodies of arrested criminals to dress up a story?
Stun gun technology was developed as a safe alternative to physically beating a suspect, and in part because of videos from the past showing police beating suspects with fists and billy clubs flashing across our television screens and pictures splashed across our newspapers. It is an effective method, but like any method that involves the use of force, it carries some risks. Subduing suspects during an arrest is always going to be an difficult issue to deal with. We who have not attempted to do it have no idea how difficult it can be for those who have to deal with situations that can change in an instant. No matter how much training we provide police officers, decisions on the use of any force will come into question in these highly charged and potentially dangerous situations. We have mechanisms to evaluate the use of force in the process of arrest, and we need to trust these before returning to "Flinstone" technology to subdue criminals.


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