I spent some great years in America and I have lots of amazing American friends. My parents spent crucial years in America and so I have family friends that I cherish. All of which is irrelevant.
I’m deeply worried by what I see but it’s hard to get a grasp on what’s actually going on and what is the phenomenon. I suppose I’m worried specifically about violence: racial, sexual, state violence in all its forms.
This report describes the authorities in Utah considering re-introducing death by firing squads.
The beating to death of Kelly Thomas – and the subsequent police acquittal was genuinely shocking. But so in way was the voyeuristic overplay of the video content. Are we now watching the police torture people for entertainment?
It’s a deeply disturbing glimpse of state thugs acting unaccounted in shameless sustained violence as he pleads for mercy. It’s the latest in a long long line of Tazer violence films that are indefensible.
The Darrin Manning incident – when a young man was first tackled to the ground by several police and then frisked by a female officer with such ferocity that he ended up in hospital with a ruptured testicle – is another recent example. As Gary Younge writes:
Until now the emasculation of the black male at the hands of the modern American state has been just a metaphor. In this instance, however, it’s literal. The incident raises many issues. Why should wearing ski masks (which they weren’t) in the freezing cold be a police matter? If this is what happens to those who stop for the police why wouldn’t a parent advise their child to run? The mass incarceration and routine criminalisation of young black men in the US is not a statistical aberration but a systemic abomination.
There’s increasing evidence that arming the police with tazers is a serious mistake and has become commonplace – in South Dakota they were used on an 8 year old girl.
This sort of state control inevitably crosses the Atlantic. Get a hold of this stat:
So am I just guilty of being frightened by the internet? What’s the real phenomena here?
According to new data collected by Amnesty International, at least 500 people in the United States have died since 2001 after being shocked with Tasers either during their arrest or while in jail. This is real. Amnesty International recorded the largest number of deaths following the use of Tasers in California (92), followed by Florida (65), and Texas (37). The Oklahoma City Police Department led all law enforcement agencies in deaths (7) following by Las Vegas Metropolitan Police, Harris County Sheriff’s (Tx), Phoenix, Az and San Jose, Ca., all with six deaths.
“Of the hundreds who have died following police use of Tasers in the United States, dozens and possibly scores of deaths can be traced to unnecessary force being used,” said Susan Lee, Americas program director at Amnesty International. “This is unacceptable, and stricter guidelines for their use are now imperative.”
In a 2008 report, USA: Stun weapons in law enforcement, Amnesty International examined data on hundreds of deaths following Taser use, including autopsy reports in 98 cases and studies on the safety of such devices.
Among the cases reviewed, 90 percent of those who died were unarmed. Many of the victims were subjected to multiple shocks.
“Even if deaths directly from Taser shocks are relatively rare, adverse effects can happen very quickly, without warning, and be impossible to reverse,” said Lee. “Given this risk, such weapons should always be used with great caution, in situations where lesser alternatives are unavailable.”
There are continuing reports of police officers using multiple or prolonged shocks, despite warnings that such usage may increase the risk of adverse effects on the heart or respiratory system.
Deaths in the past year include Allen Kephart, 43, who died in May after he was stopped by police for an alleged traffic violation in San Bernardino County, Ca. He died after three officers shocked him up to 16 times. The officers were later cleared of wrongdoing.
Last November, Roger Anthony fell off his bicycle and died after a police officer in North Carolina shot him with a stun gun. The officer reportedly shocked Anthony – who had a disability and hearing problems – because he did not respond to an order to pull over.
Neither man was armed when police shocked them.
“What is most disturbing about the police use of Tasers is that the majority of those who later died were not a serious threat when they were shocked by police,” said Lee.
Jordan Begley died last year in Manchester aged only 23. He is the seventh person to die after being shot with a Taser since they were introduced in Britain in 2003. Three months ago a man in Plymouth, who was doused in a flammable liquid, died when he burst into flames after being stunned by officers.
Am I being paranoid?