Wednesday, July 23, 2008

On Non-Lethal Weapons

Giving a weapon that reputation may actually make it lethal. Take tasers:

Winnipeg police say a 17-year-old male who died after being hit with a taser stun gun was brandishing a knife when he was confronted.

Police say they asked him several times to drop the knife before the taser was deployed. They joined two local citizens who flagged down a police car while pursuing the man after receiving a call related to a theft from a car.

The Winnipeg Police Service confirmed the details Wednesday at a press conference.

The teen was taken to hospital in critical condition and later pronounced dead. The cause of death has yet to be determined pending an autopsy.

That was in Canada. In Louisiana the tasered man was lying on the ground and in handcuffs. He was still given nine shocks:

Louisiana authorities are awaiting the results of a state police report before deciding whether to file criminal charges in the Taser death of a handcuffed man.

Baron "Scooter" Pikes, 21, was shocked nine times by officer Scott Nugent after being arrested on a cocaine charge in Winnfield earlier this year, CNN reported Wednesday.

You should read Rorschach's personal story about taser use by the police, too. It will make your hair rise up for all sorts of reasons, especially racism.

It's hard to know how common taser deaths are, because to measure that we'd need to know how often tasers are used and how often they are used in extreme ways. But my guess is that the very idea of tasers as non-lethal is likely to encourage over-use.