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Friday, December 10, 2004

Human Rights Day

Just over a week ago, I appeared on local TV because the station wanted someone to explain Amnesty International's (AI) position on police department acquisition of taser weapons.

As the campus faculty sponsor of the student organization, I agreed to appear and explain the policy.

In honor of Human Rights Day, let me quote from an Amnesty press release:
Many US police agencies routinely use tasers to subdue unarmed, non-compliant individuals who do not pose a serious danger to themselves or others. For example, police have used tasers against unruly schoolchildren; mentally disabled and elderly people; and people who simply argue with officers. Often, individuals have been subjected to repeated shocks, sometimes while in restraints...

AI is calling on the US state, federal and local authorities to suspend all use of tasers and other electro-shock weapons pending a rigorous, independent inquiry into their use and effects.

Where US agencies refuse to suspend tasers, the organization urges that they limit their use of tasers strictly to situations where the alternative under international law would be use of deadly force, with strict guidelines and monitoring.
Sometimes, suspects have mysteriously died in police custody after the use of a taser.

In my college debate days, I researched and often presented a case on the police use of deadly force. Often, in those days, departments could shoot at "fleeing felons," effectively acting as judge, juror and executioner. Hundreds of suspects died annually from police use of deadly force and a disproportionate number were minorities.

It is my understanding that policies have mostly changed to reflect what was then the FBI policy (also employed in NYC and some other localities). Police can now use force in self defense, or to defend others directly threatened by a suspect.

Hey, that's kind of like like international law on military force!

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