The video released of police officers punching and Tasering a man lying on the ground speaks for itself. Once you give a weapon like this to the British police it will be used and abused as a weapon of punishment and torture. It seems only a matter of time before one of the hot–headed thugs – that now seem to constitute the majority of officers on the street – kills someone who is "resisting arrest", like this man in Nottingham.
There is an investigation into this incident yet nothing seems likely to shake the Home Office's faith in these lethal weapons, which – it is claimed – have killed 334 people between 2001 and August 2008 in the US. Last year that apology for a home secretary, Jacqui Smith, sanctioned the purchase of 5,000 Taser stun guns at a cost of £4m. It is the first instalment of 10,000 Tasers ordered from Taser International, the American company that manufacturers the 50,000-volt weapon.
The police were quick to see its potential. Last January officers in Llandudno, North Wales, fired the weapon at an 89-year-old war veteran who had gone missing from his care home and threatened to cut his throat with a piece of glass. Police said they took the decision to stun him for his own safety, which suggests that none of the officers present was man enough to remove the piece of glass from the feeble grip of a very old man.
The following description from Johann Hari's column last year gives an idea of the sort of pain involved and the abuse that was already current before the mass distribution of these weapons. The quote comes from Daniel Sylvester, the 46-year-old owner of a security firm, who was walking down the street when a police van screeched to a halt.
He didn't know what they wanted, but obeyed when they told him to approach slowly. 'I then had this incredible jolt of pain on the back of my head,' he explains. The electricity made him spasm; as he fell to the ground, he felt his teeth scatter on the tarmac and his bowels open. Then they shot me again in the head. I can't describe the pain.' (Another victim says it is like someone reached into my body to rip my muscles apart with a fork.') The police then saw he was not the person they were looking for, said he was free to go, and drove off.
Tasers kill, as is evident in this disturbing footage of a Polish man being shot at Vancouver airport by officers of the Canadian Royal Mounted Police(RCMP). Amnesty International says that 25 Canadians have been killed by Tasers, Canada has now restricted use of the Taser gun and disallowed deployment for "excited delirium".
What is striking is the similarity in the behaviour of the officers in Nottingham and that of the RCMP. In fact a large number of films to be found on YouTube show the same total lack of concern for people who are already on the ground and are no threat. A red mist seems to descend in the officers.
Or is it merely panic? Certainly the shooting of the war veteran in Wales would seem to indicate that police officers are so imbued with the doctrines of health and safety that they think nothing of hurting some innocent member of the public rather than risking their own safety.
Many believe that this is the right way round and point to an increase in violent crime. But I would argue that when there are British police officers under investigation for water torture and numerous complaints about the violent policing of the G20 demonstrations it seems only sensible that the new home secretary suspends the weapon until a full review has been completed. The Taser is bad for the police and bad for the public and it should be banned in all but exceptional circumstances.
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