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Theodore A. Hoppe


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The Criminal Misuse of Tasers by the Pollice

Incidents such as this are becoming more frequent:

"After wandering away from a Montana veterans home, 77-year-old Korean War Veteran Stanley L. Downen, who suffered from severe Alzheimer’s, fell and hit his face on the pavement after being tasered by police, resulting in his death three weeks later, according to a lawsuit filed by Downen's granddaughter."


As the article indicates there are other stories of this nature.

"Other incidents of extreme overreaction and police abuse with tasers like Downen's have been seen across the country. Last year, A Chicago woman who was 8-months pregnant was tasered by police over a parking violation. Police in New Mexico tasered a 10-year-old boy after he allegedly refused to wash an officer’s patrol car. A 50-year-old Texas man who was having a seizure was tasered by police, causing a heart attack and permanent brain damage."

Vermont is currently holding hearings regarding a statewide policy on taser use by the police and state police. Legislators saw a need for such a law after an individual with a history of mental illness died after being tased by the state police.

What are your thoughts? Is the use of tasers by the police against vulnerable populations a growing concern? Do police overreact or escalate a situation? How could situations be handled better?


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    Apr 17 2013: I have not researched this issue to know if it is getting worse, but I believe fear, stress, and the need, or perception of need, to act rapidly may be at the root of bad judgments and actions of all kinds. Abuses and preventing them are likely linked to 1)criteria for selection of street officers, 2)training of those officers, and 3)working conditions. These, then, are logical levers for addressing problems related to use of excessive force and other abuses by police.
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      Apr 17 2013: I do not want to give them impression that I am unsympathetic to the police. They are given the authority to use the weapons we give them, to do a job that they perceive we want them to do. In Vermont, legislators considered this and understood that a uniform training policy might provide a greater sense of who the vulnerable population is and what the option are for dealing with them.

      Still, policing is a stressful occupation, and my feeling is that we as a society do not understand the implications of this stress. Cops can suffer from the same kinds of traumatic stress soldiers experience, as well as other psychological issues associated with the job.

      Phillip Stinson of Bowling Green University stated, "Research that provides information on arrested officers, their victims, and the context surrounding these crimes could help to develop more effective user guidelines and training to prevent future events." Unfortunately, the police resist scholarly examination of their conduct. Some too much change.
      The bottom line is that if police use tactics such as excessive force it is we and not them that must somehow address it.
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        Apr 18 2013: I did not take your question as indicating you were unsympathetic to police. I was thinking of precisely what you described in your second paragraph about stress. I cannot imagine choosing such a job and am not at all sure that those who choose that line of work understand what they are getting into.

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