Wednesday, July 23, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

UPDATED: Don't tase me, bro! U.N.-cited torture tool coming to Philadelphia!

UPDATED: Don't tase me, bro! U.N.-cited torture tool coming to Philadelphia!

 

The Taser X26 is...Torture Tested, Torture Approved!

TASER electronic stun guns are a form of torture that can kill, a UN committee has declared after several recent deaths in North America.

"The use of these weapons causes acute pain, constituting a form of torture,'' the UN's Committee against Torture said.

More coverage
 
Philly cops buy 1,000 Tasers
 
Philly man Tasered by state cops dies

"In certain cases, they can even cause death, as has been shown by reliable studies and recent real-life events,'' the committee of 10 experts said.

And so now the cash-strapped city is spending on the order of a million bucks or so to bring them to the streets of Philadelphia! This means that after blogging frequently about torture over the last five years, it's now a local issue. That's whacked -- the thing next you'll be telling me is that the Inquirer is hiring John Yoo for its op-ed page...oh yeah, right. Anyway, here's the actual news -- notice the irony here that Obama-backed stimulus dollars (get it, "stimulus"!)  may have paid for the purchase:

Taser International, Scottsdale, Ariz., says the Philadelphia Police Department last month agreed to buy 1,000 of its Advanced Taser X26 Electronic Control Devices for shocking suspects into submission. Plus accessories.

The X26, pictured here, "can penetrate up to two cumulative inches of clothing,"  says Taser. "Philadelphia now has 1,200 X26 units," plus over 100 larger, older M26s, Taser spokesman Steve Tuttle told me.

Philadelphia's order was unusually large, he added, compared to recent purchases by Chicago and other big cities. "When we see bulk orders, this could have come from stimulus funding or grant money."

Advocates of Tasers insist they they're humane, in the sense that they allow to cops to subdue unmanageable or threatening suspects without using lethal force. In some cases that happens, but in other cases Tasers are used to restrain people who clearly could have been arrested using more conventional means, and in a few of those cases death or serious injuries have occurred. Here's what happened in the reality-based world, in Houston, when police use of Tasers increased:

Officers have used their Tasers more than 1,000 times in the past two years, but in 95 percent of those cases they were not used to defuse situations in which suspects wielded weapons and deadly force clearly would have been justified.

Instead, more than half of the Taser incidents escalated from relatively common police calls, such as traffic stops, disturbance and nuisance complaints, and reports of suspicious people.

In more than 350 cases, no crime was committed. No person was charged or the case was dropped by prosecutors or dismissed by judges and juries, according to the Houston Chronicle's analysis of the first 900 police Taser incidents, which occurred between December 2004 and August 2006.

So I guess this means you're going to be hearing this phrase -- "excited delerium" -- a lot more around Philadelphia in the months ahead. It's also a little disturbing that the city spends $1 million on such a controversial item, and the citizens learn about it not from our elected officials but through a business news release from Taser International. At least we know the devices are handled in a department run by Commissioner Charles Ramsey and its not like Ramsey has a problem with human rights issues, unless you're one of those crazies who thinks there's a problem with allegedly ordering the mass arrest of hundreds at a park protest site, including scores of innocent bystanders, after declaring that "we're going to lock them and teach them a lesson."

UPDATE: The purchase, which apparently is being paid for by "grants," was buried down deep in an Inquirer article on Nov. 1 with this riveting headline: "Phila. police sharpen their ability to intervene nonlethally."

About this blog
Will Bunch, a senior writer at the Philadelphia Daily News, blogs about his obsessions, including national and local politics and world affairs, the media, pop music, the Philadelphia Phillies, soccer and other sports, not necessarily in that order.

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