Friday, August 14, 2009


Police officers have been issued tasers as non-lethal weapons. They are supposed to be used only to subdue an unruly subject who cannot be controlled otherwise. The idea was to reduce, if not eliminate, the need to use deadly weapons under such circumstances.

Unfortunately, there have been a number of instances in which persons with certain medical conditions have died after having been tasered.

Just as unfortunate, there have been numerous misuses of tasers by police officers. The latest example, which has just come to light, is that of a mother being tasered in front of her kids by a deputy sheriff in New York state. The dashboard camera doesn’t justify the tasering. Another incident occurred last June in Texas when a Travis County deputy constable tasered a 72-year-old foul-mouthed woman. While I did not think the constable acted improperly, the general consensus was that he did.

The problem, as I see it, is that it’s just too damn easy to resort to the use of a taser. An officer would be much more reluctant to use deadly force than to use a taser. It appears that this non-lethal weapon is being used way too often by a pissed-off cop to dispense some "roadside justice."

I suspect that tasers have not really done much to reduce the police use of deadly force. If I am correct, it may be time to reconsider whether or not to issue these devices to our cops.

About the latest reported misuse of tasers, maybe the officer was just having a bad day, but he sure comes across like a cop who takes offense to having his authority questioned. Here is part of the story from The Post-Standard, a Syracuse newspaper:

Camera captures deputy's rough roadside arrest
By John O’Brien

The Post-Standard
August 13, 2009

In January, an Onondaga County sheriff's deputy pulled over Audra Harmon, who had two of her kids with her in her minivan. A routine traffic stop escalated quickly.

The deputy, Sean Andrews, accused her of talking on her cell phone. She said she could prove him wrong.

He said she was speeding. She denied it and got out of the van. He told her to get back in. She did, then he ordered her back out.

He yanked her out by the arm, knocked her down with two Taser shots and charged her with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest. His rationale on the disorderly conduct charge: She obstructed traffic when she got out of the van. The speeding accusation: going 50 mph in a 45-mph zone.

The scene along Hopkins Road in Salina on the afternoon of Jan. 31 was captured by a camera on the dashboard of Andrews' patrol car. Harmon, 38, says the video is proof of police brutality.

She plans to sue the sheriff's office today, claiming Andrews was improperly trained in the use of his Taser. It's not supposed to be used to take down people who pose no threat, she said.

Andrews, 37, a deputy for four years, was taken off road patrol after the arrest and will remain in a new assignment until an internal affairs investigation is finished, Sheriff Kevin Walsh said. Walsh declined to comment because the case is under litigation. Andrews also would not comment. He makes $49,095 a year.

Harmon was charged with disorderly conduct, resisting arrest and going 50 in a 45 mph zone. The district attorney's office dismissed the charges a month later -- after watching the videotape, said her lawyer, Terrance Hoffmann. The prosecutor could not be reached for comment.

In his report on the arrest, Andrews makes no mention of Harmon threatening him or using foul language. He said she refused his request to get back in her van, then refused to get out when he said she was under arrest, the report said. Harmon refused to comply with his commands to put her hands behind her back to be cuffed, Andrews wrote.

Here's Harmon's description of that day:

Harmon, a school bus driver for 11 years, was returning home from shopping and picking up her son Casey, 15, from wrestling practice. He was in the front passenger seat. Harmon's daughter Brandi, 5, was in the back seat.

Harmon was driving on Electronics Parkway in the left lane and had to slow down to get into the right lane behind Andrews' patrol car so she could turn onto Hopkins.

Andrews made the turn ahead of her, then immediately pulled off to the side of Hopkins Road and let Harmon pass. He quickly turned on his flashing lights and pulled her over.

Andrews told Harmon he'd seen her using her cell phone while she was driving. In the video, he makes a phone gesture with his hand. She told him she'd been driving with her right hand on her cheek, but that she hadn't talked on the phone for at least two hours. She says she offered to let him look at the phone to see for himself. He declined.

Andrews said he also clocked her going 50 mph in a 45 mph zone. No way, Harmon recalls telling him.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: I have omitted the remaining part of this report whereby Harmon goes on in great detail with her version of this incident.] 

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