TASERs

I joined the Seattle Police Department in 1965. At 5-10 I was one of the smallest people in Academy Class 49. It was a new experience for me, being the short guy. We had a couple of females in the class but they were to become Police Women, a different civil service designation whose job description was to deal with children, females, and generally assist Police Officers when requested.

Police officers had minimum physical size requirements because we were expected to intimidate suspects and win fights. In the bad old days when the First Avenue beat had a dozen and a half bars and taverns, half "Indian" taverns, the old beat cops expected a least a couple of fights every night and, far as I know, won them all. Being "pre-grand jury" days and the statute of limitations has long run, I can say that beat cops were expected were expected to down two shots in every bar on every shift. Some old timers, I think I never saw sober. Rumor was that some sobered up after they retired, when they had to pay for their drinks. The point is that they won their fights, didn't have to shoot suspects, and TASERs had not been invented.

I was a terrible fighter, hated getting physical, and never lost a fight that I could recall, though over 30 years several suspects escaped. How come? Because I hardly ever got into a fight. I was big enough and ugly enough to look like a "real" cop . . . and Chinatown was a peaceful place one you got to know the people. Back in the bad old pre-grand jury days it was safe to walk downtown at midnight but now it is questionable at noon. What happened?

Four things happened: The Civil Rights Act of 1964, the grand jury investigation, the invention of electronic camaras, and Watts. In the bad old days your sergeant would say, "You have a problem on your beat. You handle it and I'll handle the heat." Bet you that no sergeant has said THAT in 20 years. Some people only understand pain. Back then, you could drag someone into an alley and convince them in a non-lethal way to leave your district. Now days, touch any person for any reason and it could be on the news in full color.

Then there is "equal opportunity." A five foot, 100 pound lady cop could be a black belt karate champ but a 6 foot, 250 pound drunk will have to see for himself. And if she isn't a black belt champ? She gets creamed. Read your local newspaper. Note the gender of injured police officers.

And law suits. Our new national sport is suing your local police department. In the bad old days the police officer's goal was to go home at least as healthy as when he started the shift. We now add, "and don't get sued." The best way to NOT get sued is to NOT do anything, specifically, NOT get physical. Better to spend two hours writing a report that explains why fighting wasn't appropriate than to spend two minutes fighting. And one can't drink coffee while fighting. And now that the officer PAYS for his coffee . . .

So as long as the courts hold that TASERs are non-lethal and a situation looks like it is getting physical . . . . I have read that the Washington State Patrol now instructs its people to TASER before laying a hand on anyone.

Share this

This is what law enforcement does nowadays

It's dangerous and increasingly illegal to go after actual bad guys, but law enforcers still have plenty to do, such as to arrest 10 year old boys who bring politically incorrect toys to school.

The latest case of zero-tolerance at the public schools has a 10-year-old student sadder and wiser, and facing expulsion and long-term juvenile detention. And it has his mother worried that his punishment has already been harsher than the offense demands.

"I think I shouldn't have brought a gun to school in the first place," said the student, Alandis Ford, sitting at home Thursday night with his mother, Tosha Ford, at his side.

Alandis' gun was a "cap gun," a toy cowboy six-shooter that his mother bought for him.

"We got it from Wal-Mart for $5.96," Tosha Ford said, "in the toy section right next to the cowboy hats. That's what he wanted because it was just like the ones he was studying for the Civil War" in his fifth-grade class at Fairview Elementary School.

Too bad about the false confession. The boy said, "I think I shouldn't have brought a gun to school in the first place," thereby confessing to having brought a gun. That was a false confession. He did not bring a gun. He brought a toy. It is no more a gun than a barbie doll is a woman.

Safe law enforcement

As mentioned, it is dangerous and increasingly illegal to go after actual bad guys, but prostitutes are pretty harmless, so it's reasonably safe to arrest them, and 12 year old girls doing a household chore for their daddy are even safer to arrest than prostitutes.

By the way, not just in these two cases but in many other cases commented on here and elsewhere there's a clear pattern that emerges: if these stories are representative then this stuff happens almost exclusively to blacks, even though blacks constitute a small fraction of the population.

Less street Justice is the problem?

Am I reading this correctly? Increased Police accountability is a bad thing, Law Enforcement Officers are intimidating enough, and drunks aren't beaten enough?

TASERS are overused, without a doubt, but I think this has much to do with with the dangers of their use being downplayed and the attitude that some Law Enforcement types have about TASERS being submission tools instead of an alternative to lethal force.

Goes against the grain

Increased Police accountability is a bad thing, Law Enforcement Officers are intimidating enough, and drunks aren't beaten enough?

That does go against the grain of the blog. But the problem is neither "not enough police accountability" nor "too much police accountability." For starters, it's not just police who are increasingly constrained in stupid ways by the multiplication of new bad law and the castration of good law and by the possibility of lawsuits. It's people generally who are having to cover their asses more fiercely and being less able to do what it takes to solve problems, gun control being one aspect of this.

The law (good law) needs to be enforced. The enforcement of good law is rough stuff, because it targets scum. Both the cops and private citizens are increasingly restrained from doing what it takes to enforce it. Inevitably, mistakes are made. Those mistakes need to be accommodated well enough not to paralyze law enforcement. The possibility of mistakes has been in various ways used to cut the legs out from under law enforcement, for example by gun control. The possibility of a mistake (e.g. a child playing with a gun and it going off, injuring or killling someone) is played up, and so laws are passed which makes it more difficult to legally obtain a gun, which makes it harder for law-abiding citizenry to arm themselves, and this, in turn, makes life easier for criminals. Cops and ex-cops can be expected to overestimate the degree to which they need, deserve, and can handle a free hand, but that doesn't mean that when they complain about the constraints, they don't have a point.

The enforcement of bad law is more safe (to the enforcer) and less messy, because the targets are mostly harmless citizens minding their own business. Paradoxically, cops are given a freer hand when it comes to the enforcement of bad law such as drug law, possibly because bad law has active political backing which greases the wheels.

Problem vs/.Solution

I agree that there are many, many bad laws, and that people should be able to defend (or pay someone else to defend) their person or property.

Where I take issue, however, that the glorification of violence, and the separate moral category for police vs. citizenry is wrong (it would be wrong for me to become a drunken vigilante). I also maintain that the increased use of TASERS has more to do with them moving from being considered a last resort before shooting someone to an alternative to attempting to restrain (or even talking down) someone, than it does with police having to be more careful or legally restrained.

Big cities can not be policed under the Constitution

Been thinking about this for 40 years and have concluded that big cities can not be policed under the Constitution. The Constitution was designed for a civilized and intelligent population who wanted to be good neighbors. Until Lincoln's War, the uncivilized people could go west where they could plunder the Indian People and terrorize each other. The civilized people could live on the east coast in relative peace. The general population was kept in check by a social contract that included the concepts of shame and honor.

After Lincoln's War the western lands became claimed and fenced. The outlaws realized it was much easier to hide in a big city than a small town. Prohibition enabled the mobs to take over the cities.

Since the Hippy Revolution and the VietNam War we have a new social contract under which every slime bag brat is told he needs self esteem and pride in his evil deeds. There is no longer a sense of shame for any personal decision thus the high percentage of bastard children. When's the last time anyone has heard that phrase? No such thing anymore.

When I came to Seattle in 1962 we had a red light district centered on First Avenue and Pike Street. It was run by the police department. Everyone knew it was there. No one had to go there. The police were trusted to only thump on the people who needed thumping on and they very seldom made a misjudgment of character. Then came the grand jury investigation and the city went to hell. Now days the Seattle Police Department is squeaky clean, the downtown area is plagued with winos and bums, the school system is in a shambles . . . .

For the last 20 years the SPD has been below strength because no one wanted the job. Thanks to the latest contract that problem is temporarially solved. Who wouldn't want to make 90 grand for not doing police work?