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back to article Home Sec: Tasers could become standard police kit

The UK Home Secretary has said Taser electric shock stunguns "could become standard equipment" for British police officers. Speaking to Jane's Police Review (subscription only) last week, Ms Smith said: I have talked to some of the police officers I work most closely with and it is pretty clear... using a baton on someone is …

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Coat

Shocking...

What a reVolting idea.

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Stop

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

Tasers are a much better way of taking down a suspect than a gun. No question: police training says that if you shoot at someone you are expecting them to be dead afterwards. But they're not nearly as well understood as batons are. The evidence they leave is much more difficult for autopsy to untangle from other factors. Batons leave contusions, fractures and abrasions. Tasers don't.

So we need to be assured that there will be a good way for the Boys in Blue to be held to account over their usage of these weapons so that they aren't used inappropriately. And we need to be assured that the training that every copper who gets one of these things is at least as rigorous as to rules and methods of engagement as the training they receive in baton use and unarmed combat and reastraint (and, of course, that these training levels are adequate to the task).

Currently I'm not assured of any of these things, and adding TASER to the armamentarium of the beat copper (and Community Support Officer?) does not reassure me that the streets will be any safer.

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Evidence

Unlike the truncheon, tazers leave no evidence that you've been 'helping the police with their enquiries' involuntarily.

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What's better...

Being beaten to death or being electrocuted to death? Enquiring minds want to know.

They also want to know whether I should've used "inquiring".

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Coat

@Peter

shirley you mean "WATT a reVolting idea"

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Pirate

Mis-used in the USA

These are being mis-used by police who have been given them in the states, and the same will undoubtably happen here when they are given to the average untrained plod faced with a difficult situation. People have died as a result of the inappropriate use of them.

Imagine if the electrodes were just on the end of a stick rather than being fired into people....i.e. the police carrying around electric cattle prods to force people into compliance.

Cheers, Blears.

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Ash

Good god no...

That's it, i'm wearing a chainmail vest under my clothes.

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the next step towards the fascist police state

biometric ID cards, forced home inspections with the excuse of council tax assessments, 90 days detention without charge, increased rights to force entry into private homes for bailiffs, thought crimes, CCTV everywhere, limitations of demonstration rights, enslavement of the majority of the population by the banks throught debt (by pushing up house prices through easy credit), satellite tracking of all cars with the excuse of UK wide congestion charging, and now tasers for every potentially trigger happy police man?

When will you all wake up and say NO loud and clear?

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Anonymous Coward

Taser needs an audit trail

"Even so, many argue that Tasering is easier and more attractive to malevolent police officers than administering an unjustified beating, pressure-point hold, kick to the groin, etc, and thus that the weapon encourages brutality and torture."

It's being used IN PLACE OF SPEAKING, if you watch a few of the Taser videos, the officers are using it instead of arguing with the person. It's used to end the verbal argument, in some cases it's used even before a discussion has begun.

An electric STFU that sometimes kills people.

The claim, that it's used instead of bullets, is silly, since nobody would fire a bullet to end a conversation, neither would they baton the guy, and they're being issued to unarmed officers, who could never use it in place of a gun they don't have.

The claim that it's used to prevent alternate harm also doesn't fit with the non-violent nature of some of these videos. There's one where the officer is angry that his order isn't complied with so he tasers the man for arguing with the officer.

Same way you'd cattle prod a stubborn bull. The guy was not doing harm to anyone, he was simply arguing his rights (and he was right to).

What's needed is an audit trail, batons leave bruises, Tasers need to take a digital record of every use, how many times and what charge was fired.

You need to be aware of any officer whose taser happy. You need to have a record of any officer that gives multiple jolts to the same guy.

There should be a compensation available for people who are unjustly tasered, and a law that tasering is only used to prevent further violence, so arguing with an officer should not itself result in a tasering.

They also need to be safer, they're supposed to be non lethal, but they're not. If the officers gun occasionally exploded in his hand, they'd be a product recall. The police would not tolerate occasional deaths of their people from faulty equipment, so how is this any different? A non lethal weapon has caused many deaths, they should quit making excuses for the manufacturers and get it fixed.

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Never mind AA...

Never mind Amnesty - this very site reports the UN considers them 'an instrument of torture' : http://www.theregister.co.uk/2007/11/26/un_taser_verdict/

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Syd

Aren't Tasers "One Shot"?

What happens if there are TWO wrong-uns? Especially when the second assumes you've just killed the first?

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"the weapon encourages brutality and torture."

Precisely.

If tasers go out, then they must be limited to a SINGLE, safe discharge and an infallible logging system that requires accountability -- proof that their use was absolutely necessary and not vindictive.

The problem is that elsewhere they have very obviously and very publicly been used as a form of punishment and intimidation, rather than just a form of restraint.

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@Quis custodiet ipsos custodes

I'm sorry but assurances from liars just would not cut it for me. I do not trust the powers that be or the systems in place in this country to be at all honest, straight forward, clear or truthful about anything which would paint them in a poor light.

Just like every other death in custody and death during arrest in this country, if the cover up fails, no one will be to blame and no one will be prosecuted.

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expect more death-by-police

yes indeed. now that it's been clearly shown that:

- police abuse these things, and can't wait to 'assert their authority' with them.

- they kill people

- they will be given to un-trained people who may easily 'administer multiple shocks'

- police misusing these or 'accidentally' murdering people will not be held to account.

- police will lie about the circumstances and amount of shocks administered. they've be caught out lying like this.

we can expect more 'death-by-police'. not the first time i've said this.

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Anonymous Coward

so crazy

in an already stressed situation you give someone 50kV of electro-torture, the mind/body does not have any innate response for this, unlike a beating/blow. As pack animals we know to submit, curl-up, flee or retaliate. the problem with multiple tazering is because the cops don't want the big guy to "come round" - he is disoriented, spitting mad, highly charged, and with a will to rip them all limb from limb, the cops get scared, and rightly so.

can't you just talk them down guys?

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Black Helicopters

I'm stunned!

...just when the rest of the world is proving how dangerous / stupid arming plod with these thing really is, crappy old blighty leaps up squeaking "me too!"

What on earth are the morons thinking?

@WC: "Tasers are a much better way of taking down a suspect than a gun..."

...the clue to your error lies in your 7th and 8th words. Please think before spouting mindless drivel.

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Fair play, the forces of darkness can have their tasers

So long as I am allowed a bren gun to defend myself from the taser toting police. The asinine idea that we should arm our police with anything more lethal than a stick so that they can, for example; stop you demonstating about an issue in our 'democracy', get on a tube train without being white or arrest you as a terrorist for being anywhere in London is a joke.

The police do not need more weapons, they need fewer laws that constitute a police state and make their jobs impossible. In the meantime we who pay for them need effective means of defence against the tools of government repression that the police have become.

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Flame

So are we opting out of Human Rights these days?

Since the UN officially decided that Tasers are a form of torture, does that mean that the UK is going to opt out of human rights and deport these a-holes that come over, break the law and then get given a house because it would be "against their human rights" to send them back to their own country.

TBH I cant see what is wrong with the old pepperspray and baton approach, a good example would be in Nottingham a couple of weeks ago, the police tasered some guy for shouting and "looking" offensive, in the good old days a whack in the leg with a baton would have been used, if that was ineffective a quick squirt of pepper spray would have him immobilised. Instead the police preferred to endanger his life by shocking him.

He could have a weak heart, pacemaker or other condition that could have killed him from the taser shock!

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Linux

Not foil

"The Shaped Pulse is comprised of two pulse phases. The first phase, called the “Arc Phase” is optimized to generate a very high voltage to penetrate clothing, skin or other barriers. The “Arc Phase” is a very high voltage short duration pulse that can arc through up to 2 cumulative inches of clothing or barriers, or one inch per probe."

I was thinking of a heavy winter coat which might work, unfourtunately the best method would be some of the cheaper bullet proof or stab proof vests as the arc phase would be stopped quite easily by them. On the internet they are around £50 for lightly used and £200 for a ultralight new generation one. Seeing the fascination all generations of yoof have for guns; a bullet proof vest has to be "cool" and a bad side effect for the police.

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Less than fatal

Tasers are described as "less than fatal" a lot, but the fact is in certain circumstances they do kill people.

In the UK you cant use a stinger on a 3 wheel car unless you are prepared to use deadly force.

Same should apply to a taser. No zapping unless your prepared to kill the person.

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Tasers are an alternative to guns, not a baton

The police is here to protect the public, not to stun them to death. Any death which is caused by a Taser is unacceptable.

I fear the day when our police force turns into a US style Taser wielding bullying squad. Tasers are not to stun people to keep quiet for a bit, they should be a last resort and an alternative to the gun. The government should realise this and severely restrict Taser use instead of potentially considering it as standard equipment.

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Training idea

Also,

If an officer is to be issued with a taser, I think one of their colleagues should have to "tase" them first.

Will give them an idea what its like and hopefully stop them getting to trigger happy.

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Silver badge

@When will you all wake up and say NO loud and clear?

That would carry more weight if it were not from an anonymous contributor. You can hardly stand up and be counted when hiding.

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USA Dave

TASER SAVES LIVES EVERYDAY

Nobody has ever died from being Tasered. Tasers have been deployed over 600,000 times.

Liberal Weenies hate Tasers because they want criminals to have a chance at a fair fight with "da man". Tasers take the fight out of thugs.

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Time for body armour

I imagine protesters, scared of police brutality, will start wearing body armour to protect themselves. At which point the police will stop aiming for the chest and aim for their 'nads.

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Police in North America are immune to prosecution anyway

but tasers give them utter freedom to "give back" to the community when they feel like a suspect has given them a hard time...or when they are in a bad mood.

Since tasers are (officially) non-lethal, an officer can always says that he was just trying to "calm down" the suspect and no harm was intended.

Of course, most officers have never had a significant electrical shock, let alone a taser shot. Certainly not the three-times-in-a-row-and-in-handcuffs version they offer to the public.

Yes, police need to use force at times. Tasers are used for fun and for revenge.

In Canada, we have more civilians killed by police tasers than were killed by police guns previously. Of course the deaths can't be directly attributed to the kilovolts administered.

Death by coincidence, no?

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Oh you'll live.

I've been zapped by a taser many times, ok, it hurts quite a bit, and its tricky to move afterwards, but is it more dangerous than a nightstick?

People argue that police with tasers is a recipe for heart attacks, and that tase the wrong guy and you've killed him. Ok, that may be true, hit the wrong person in the right spot and yes, you could probably stop their heart. Still, hit somebody in the wrong place with a nightstick, and you can just as easily kill them, leave them with a concussion, or simply break a few bones.

I've been hit with tasers, I've been twatted with nightsticks, I'll take the taser any day. Its quick, and relativly painless when compared with being belted around by what is essentially a steel bar (ok it's not steel, its hardened plastic, but how much give is there in hardened plastic?).

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@USA Dave

No Dave, its because the police do use unnecessary violence against protesters. If I thought they would be used to defend the lives of police officers then I'd be all for it. But the reality will be they'll zap first to avoid confrontation.

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@USA DAVE Not true

@USA DAVE:-

>> Nobody has ever died from being Tasered. Tasers have been deployed over 600,000 times.

False:- figures from 2001-2006 total 152 known identified taser deaths. http://www.amnesty.org.uk/news_details.asp?NewsID=16906

Nice try though.

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Ongoing Training

Perhaps an extension of the training idea would be a compulsory course before being issued with the devices. This would have to be repeated every year and of course would include the demonstration of the effects on the officer undergoing training. In other words all officers should be "Tasered" themselves on an annual basis just to ensure they are aware of what they are doing to other people. It might be interesting to see if there were any unfortunate deaths with a presumed greater incidence of controlled use during training.

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Baton is more painful and worse?

OK, so which would the PC wish to give me in an altercation? A baton or a taser?

What was that? Baton? Why? Are you a masochist, wanting MORE PAIN???

No, a taser means that you don't have to think about how to defuse the situation or risk getting your noggin knocked. Don't bother defusing the situation and zap 'em!

The first officer to use it on me will find me waiting outside his home one night with a few friends to discuss how people ought to be nicer to each other, because the alternative is going to be people being nasty to each other.

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Stop

@Oh you'll live.

Congratulations on getting lucky. I have been plugged into the mains many times and been fine. Other people get one 240v zap and drop down dead.

From personal experience I can conclude that mains electric is safe, or from data I can conclude that it's dangerous. There is an analogy here.

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Laughable myths in the comments so far...

1) Tasers are non-lethal "officially". No they are less-lethal.

2) The UN designated them as torture instruments. Which is true of anything at all. A glass of water could be used as an instrument of torture. The UN actually said (paraphrasing) that Portugals laws on torture would not include the use of the Taser as they require 'physical harm' to happen to the subject, which the Taser doesn't cause. The law needs to be updated to include Tasers. That does not mean the UN considers Tasers to be exclusively torture implements as implied by some.

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Ignorance and bliss

@Ed Pearson: The problem with tasers isn't just the health risk, it is the fact that use of them tends to be seen as more acceptable than use of a nightstick. If a police officer deploys a taser over something quite minor and the victim doesn't die then it's seen as a non-incident, how ever if that same officer beat them sufficiently to break bones with a night stick for something minor it'd be a major incident.

The way I see it, if my actions justify being hit with a night stick I deserve what I get. If my actions didn't require a physical response by the police I would rather they used a nightstick (because they're more likely to get away with using a taser).

@USA Dave: Nice work enforcing the generally negative view Brits have of Americans. I'd hate to see facts get in the way of the rubbish your spouting.

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Silver badge
Stop

Give it to the politicians first

I assume that primary legislation would be required in Parliament before Tasers could be rolled out to the rank and file. As part of the debate, all MPs and Lords should be subjected to a tasering! And not just a single jolt when surrounded by helpful plods to catch them or mats to cushion their fall, but multiple rounds, in the street with no prior warning.

This will also make an excellent case study on how safe taser are for use on a varied cross section of ages, races, genders and medical conditions.

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Anonymous Coward

@less-lethal

So you're accepting that these things are lethal. It's a play on words, less lethal is still lethal.

"The UN actually said (paraphrasing) that Portugals laws on torture would not include the use of the Taser as they require 'physical harm' to happen to the subject, which the Taser doesn't cause."

Again, great, so you're accepting that Tasers are weapons of torture, whether they are 'exclusively' weapons of torture is a moot point. A gun isn't a killing weapon if you use it for Olympic target shooting for instance. 'exclusive' is meaningless. As to whether they cause physical harm, you already accepted they can be lethal, is that not harm?

And you're accepting that they don't leave evidence of their torture, again this is exactly the point of making them record details of each discharge.

So lawyer words, but it looks like you're accepting the substance of the problem. It comes down to how to fix it.

I'd prefer, audit trail of times its been fired, a limiter on the discharge cycles, training and clear laws saying when it can be used and when not and training so the officer is clear on when it should be used and when not.

Is that too much to ask?

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Anonymous Coward

Counting Taser applications

When you see a video (with audio) of someone being Tasered, listen carefully...

Tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick

~pause~

Tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick

Does that count as two applications, or twelve?

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Anonymous Coward

Dr. Dung4Brains

http://www.cbc.ca/health/story/2007/11/30/taser-conference.html

'Safer than Tylenol' my ass.

The owners of the trademarked brand name Tylenol should sue this moron into the ground for linking their fine product to an instrument of torture.

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Paris Hilton

Pff

@people who took USA dave seriously - don't feed the trolls, nabs.

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Pain Compliance Tool

There’s only one way I would trust the British Police to have Tazers – and that’s if every cop is fitted with compulsory audio\video “personal video recoders”, and where deployment of the Tazer (or other firearm) automatically means said A\V is audited by an independent commission and made available to the victim unedited.

In fact, I’d rather see British cops with guns before I see them with Tazers.

Why? They’re much less likely to massively misuse the gun than the Tazer.

I was a Martial Arts instructor for 10 years, and I have trained with quite a few cops in my time. Most are OK, but there are some out there who would be itching to pull that trigger and “give someone a ride on a Tazer”, to quote a US cop from a YouTube video.

As an instructor – I’ve watched pretty much all of the YouTube Tazer videos and thought “if they were my students, what would I tell them”. Simple – most of them have been about losing control of the situation and using the Tazer as a means of pain compliance, not in a defensive or even quasi-defensive mode. Basically, human cattle prods.

No different from giving a wayward beast a jolt to get it to do what you want it to do.

I’m sure there are plenty of instances where someone has had a knife or broken bottle, and a cop has taken him down rather than shoot him. Then again, I’ve trained with plenty of cops who’ve regularly taken down guys with knives – and only with the trusty baton, or even with nothing more than calm word and few ideas of what life behind bars is like.

I’ve seen close up a 5’5” slightly built female cop take down a raving madman of 6’3 who had gotten the better of 2 of her larger male colleagues…with a swift and low sweep of a “tonfa” nightstick to the back of his leg. Arrest made without the young lady even saying a word, and the guy won’t have had so much as a bruise since it was a “sweep” takedown rather than a full on crashing blow.

Here’s the rub. Give the average good cop a Tazer – and he’ll use it sparingly. Give it to the significant minority of “bad” cops and they’ll abuse it. That’s been demonstrated time and time again in the US, and now Canada.

Of course, we won’t see any cops in the UK with PVRs – as apparently that would “contravene their human rights”. Funny how we can have cameras everywhere, except on the guys who can legally get away with pumping dum-dums into the head of a Tube passenger, or into the back of an old guy walking home with a table leg and “sounding a bit Irish”.

***Oh, and before anyone thinks of correcting me saying the Tazer isn’t a firearm – it is classified as such under English\Scots law. Get caught with one as a civve, and legally speaking you’ll do the same time as being caught with a 9mm Glock.

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Gates Horns

This may be a bit controversial but…

So we have a society where some where the people in power feel that the Police Force need another weapon in their arsenal. Yet we also live in a society where punishment of minors is not only frowned upon, the punishment often gets the parent or adult in trouble.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not talking about extremes here, I'm talking about a good old fashioned clip around the ear, a sending to bed without dinner, a smacked bottom. Nothing life threatening but a clear signal that bad behavior won't be tolerated.

No doubt, the more liberal of you will find this shocking. But, consider this:

Despite our abilities with technology, in many, many ways we are STILL very close to chimps. Like it or not!

How does a cartload of chimps deal with individuals that misbehave? All the other chimps express displeasure. Sometimes with gestures, sometimes with violence. The point is driven home to the individual that his/her actions are not to be tolerated.

As humans, our sense of community (our version of a chimp cartload) has diminished. We don't need to rely on others in the community, the state provides because they tax us.

Somehow people think that society absolves them or prevents them from administering a punishment on their sprogs.

It's about time we forget about morons like Dr. Spock (not the Vulcan). Sure, nurture the child, but don't ever let them forget who's boss.

You want a society where police don't get tazers? How about you take responsibility for your children and listen when your neighbors complain?

Rant over.

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Alert

Tazer PVR

There are actually some districts in the US that are carrying a taser that has been modified to have a digital video recorder, as well as recording the number of times discharged and timestamps, to match with the video. As soon as the taser clears the holster, the recorder kicks on. You don't get the footage of just before the taser is drawn, but from the instant that it is drawn until it is secured back in the holster again, you have a video tape and a log of everything that taser does.

Same idea used in how a some US police departments handle their car cameras. Instead of hours of meaningless footage, they simply record a one minute loop, that, when the sirens go on, or when activated by their home office, gets dumped to permanent storage, along with everything that follows, until a certain time limit (which varies) AFTER the sirens and such go off. The big difference is that the car mounted ones actually have useful details from shortly before the problem starts, while the taser only gets from when it is drawn.

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Substitute

"However, in the US where Tasers are in widespread use, there have been cases of death following the use of the weapons, attracting much negative coverage. Thus far, nobody has managed to prove that any given death was attributable to a victim/suspect being Tasered, or that the stunguns are associated with a higher death rate than other methods of restraint."

Substitute the word 'automobile' for the words 'Taser' and 'stungun' and you'd have to change the assertion made in the statement.

Now, for all of the usual El Reg professional whingers, please re-read the last sentence in the first paragraph above. ",,,,nobody has managed to prove any given death was attributable........etc."

As for you lot who are content to do nothing about anything except sit around and make daft statements about police states and fascists, try this: Try enlisting in the police force (let's imagine, for a moment that they waive all physical and psychological minimum requirements), do your training and then go out on the streets. Once you've spent a year dealing with drunks, punks, armed yardies, mad knifers (and their equally mad girl-or-boyfriends), crazed domestics and happy slappers, c'mon back on to El Reg and tell us all how much you don't want anything other than a truncheon to do your job.

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Anonymous Coward

@John A. Blackley

It's not the "drunks, punks, armed yardies, mad knifers..., crazed domestics and happy slappers" that we're worried about. Well - not as much anyway...

It's the frustrated Polish immigrant, it's the Grade 6 girl, it's the middle-class motorist with a perfectly-reasonable question, it's the 70-year old man trying to protect someone, it's the comatose diabetic, it's the innocent people that are being TORTURED or KILLED.

These are the sort of people THAT COULD BE YOU OR ME. Thus the Golden Rule (treat others...etc.) mandates that we have to take this human-cattle prod away until such time as 'The Man' learns to control himself (ie. never, they've had 400 years and some of them are obviously still pigs...).

And the fact that Taser International Inc. is in the middle of a huge PR blitz / con-job / cover-up regarding the potentially LETHAL nature of the device is cause for major concern.

The only solution is to take away the toys and sue Taser International Inc into the next galaxy. Sue their quasi-scientific sock-puppets too. Sue the engineering department. Sue them all.

Teach the police proper martial arts. They should be able to wrap up the perp into an Akido ball in 3 seconds. Then they'll be heros again, not minimum wage Taser Operators / thugs.

The lawsuits will eventually stick. There are lawyers better than Taser's.

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Pirate

Seriously.

You can all stop whining now.

If you are worried about 152 persons, don't go out driving on the motorways - hundreds of thousands around the globe die every year on the highways.

If you are worried about 152 persons, don't go swimming at the beach. Thousands die from drowning every year.

If you are worried about 152 persons, don't go out and eat at your favorite restaurant. The dish you order may set off a food allergy and you could be in full arrest and shortly very dead before EMS can even get there. (hence no more peanuts on airplanes...)

If you are worried about 152 persons then don't fight with the cops. Just do what they say, the interaction should be over shortly, and you can go back to your life.

For those of you that are concerned about the potentially lethal nature of the Tazer, I carry two pens in my pocket all day long. Either one of them could be used as a dangerous instrument, causing serious bodily harm or maybe even death if used appropriately. However, I don't see anyone quoting death stats about the ball point pen. Because it isn't used that way. Tazers are designed to be used as a pain compliance tool, not as a "torture" device. I could use the transformer brick off of your laptop as a "torture" device, and thats certainly not what it is made for.

Seriously, stop whining.

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UK cops...

I know how much so many of you hate them "the met shoot people blah blah blah". Whilst I am not sure about wether they should have TASER's, I do trust them alot more than the US cops. From watching TV (I know that may not be fair but it is all I have to go one) US cops seem to be alot more lax about the value of a life, and have a beleife that "Im following this person so they deserve to die".

This may just be editing, but I am inclined to beleave it baised on the US view of the death penalty and the treatment of people at Gitmo.

I do feel that given the training US cops get with Guns and cars compaird to UK cops, that UK cops will be better trained etc.

Finaly befor I get attacked by people, no I wouldent want to be TASER'ed as a test etc, but I also woulden't want to face down a Police batton charge, but do feel it is a needed tactic.

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Bronze badge

@Seriously

This is why we have a crime named Causing Death by Dangerous Driving. This is why there are strict controls on nuts in prepared food. This is why we have signs warning of hazardous locations at the beach. All we're asking for is controls on the use of tasers in inappropriate circumstances.

Not fighting the police doesn't work. We can say 100% that the man in a diabetic coma wasn't fighting police, nor was the man stuck up a tree who is now paraplegic after being tasered and falling on his head. Nor was the woman who had a stillbirth 12 hours after being tasered from behind (still not proven caused by the taser if you believe the PR bull)

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Flame

Gestapo

I personally carry my standard anti-police kit consisting of a .45 automatic pistol with frangible hollow points, and a Remington 870 combat shotgun loaded with flechette darts that will saw the nosey bastards in half. Heaven help the mouthy cop or agent that attempts to get in my face. I can, have, and will use them!

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Go

Tasers are a lethal weapon

The police will continue using this new weapon as they will not give up their new technological device and power to use it as they deem appropriate for your safety.

We' re living in a post 911 anti terrorist world folks. Happy holidays in the NEW WORLD ORDER.

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