NY cops misuse Tasers; would it be different here?


In New York State, cops are routinely misusing Tasers, zapping suspects who are laready handcuffed, zapping people in the chest, zapping people who aren't menacing or carrying any weapon ... pretty much, it seems, zapping away at will.

This is the problem with so-called non-lethal weapons, and it's why I get worried when SFPD Chief Greg Suhr talks about how he'd love to have the little zappers in his armory.  See, in theory, you can stun someone who has, say, a box cutter -- which is, yeah, a lethal weapon, in theory, but maybe the person holding it didn't have to die. So Suhr thinks if the officer had a stun gun, she could have zapped him and he'd still be alive.  (Actually, I wasn't there, but I would think a professional law-enforcement officer with a nightstick and even basic self-defense training might have been able to keep the box-cutter guy at bay until backup arrived.)

I get it, the cops would rather not have to kill people -- but it turns out, at least according the the NY ACLU, that once there's another less-lethal alternative, it just gets used in a lot of situations where there was no need to shoot anyone with anything. Turns out, according the the ACLU, that if you give a cop a Taser and say it's a weapon that won't kill anyone, there's less reason to use discretion.

So Tasers in SF are on hold for a while, but Suhr ought to take heed: If he wants Tasers, their use should be limited to the same situations where firearms are authorized, that is, to protect the life of an officer or another person -- and not, for example, to subdue someone who's resisting arrest.