Saturday, September 29, 2007

More Police Taser Brutality

Heidi Gill TaserCBS carries shocking videos of Hannah Storm's solid interview of a Taser© victim on the Early Show last week. Heidi Gill was tased until unconscious by a power drunk uniformed thug who must outweigh her by 100 pounds. Heidi, celebrating after a wedding with friends, left a bar when asked to do so after a verbal confrontation with a bar employee. She was seated in a vehicle waiting for a ride home when jumped by taser - wielding Warren, Ohio, police officer Richard Kovachs. Police cruiser video shows him repeatedly tasing his terrified, uncomprehending, and unresisting victim. Interview video shows twenty to thirty marks from taser discharge burned into the white slacks she wore that evening.

A taser is a gas-powered handgun. It fires barbed darts with enough force to penetrate an inch of clothing and embed themselves in your flesh like fishhooks. A pull on the trigger sends a 50,000 volt shock through wires and into the darts for five seconds- or until the battery is drained, if the aggressor holds the trigger down. The shock interrupts muscular control, and you fall. It's incredibly painful.

Police agencies discuss the use of physical tactics along a Force Continuum graduated from mild (the mere presence of police) to severe. When introduced, tasers were considered one step below shooting someone. In six years they've slipped toward the bottom of that scale and displaced much milder forms of control. If you doubt this, search YouTube using the term taser, and prepare to be disgusted. Leaving decisions about the use of force to street cops has allowed tasing to creep from a rare to an almost everyday event.

Department policy in Warren, Ohio states that a taser may be used when someone physically assaults or threatens to assault an officer, physically tries to defeat an officer trying to gain control, or tells the officer of intent to resist. Heidi did none of those things. In another Hannah Storm interview on CBS you can watch Gregory Hicks, Warren's Law Director and Chief Prosecutor squirm as he tries to distance the city and its police department from this incident. Officer Kovachs remains on administrative leave pending the outcome of an investigation.

Tasers are now used by 11,000 agencies in 44 countries. According to the manufacturer's own press kit, tasers are used about 100,000 times each year. The risk is not from death in a single use, but from the growing unwarranted use against citizens by police across the country. We never hear about most taser use because it doesn't involve premium newscast material like attractive, white, blond, articulate 38-year-old single mother Heidi Gill.