It’s hard for cops, especially street cops, to watch TV news programs when the public is misunderstanding police procedures, and commenting based on a particular video snippet of an incident. This is especially frustrating when it comes from folks normally friendly to police.
Yes, I do have an example, since you were probably wondering what I was getting to. Last night while watching Hannity on FOX News Channel, Sean had three guests on his Great American Panel. One of those guests was the Wall Street Journal’s James Taranto, one of my favorite political writers.
Sean showed footage of an incident in which an older, uncooperative male suspect compelled officers to use force against him by being uncooperative, in this case police used a taser. I can only comment on the very brief portion of the video I saw, but it appeared to be a standard and valid use of force based upon a judgment call by the officer at the scene.
People have to remember, the taser is applied not only as a “less-lethal” (no one is expected to die from an application)alternative to lethal force, but also as an alternative to any greater physical response from the police.
It’s also important to know that a taser application used specifically as an alternative to lethal force must only be done if the taser officer has lethal cover, an officer covering the suspect, with a gun.
While taser applications never look good, no police arrest where force is used is likely to look good, the alternative can cause significant injury to the resisting subject. Think of the alternatives the officers had. Joint manipulation techniques and impact weapons, could cause serious injury, in this case to the older gentleman, should he continue or increase his resistance.
It’s not uncommon for a suspect to sustain an injury from a joint manipulation technique or impact from an officer’s hand, foot, or baton. However, following a taser application, which I’ll admit often looks downright medieval, there is normally no residual pain or injury to the suspect.
Both James and Sean, after having provided brief disclaimers regarding their normal support for the police, both expressed they thought the action was extreme. This is difficult for good officers to accept. It seems that if police supporters as enthusiastic as these two gentleman can get it wrong, and aren’t afraid to say so on national TV, then how much chance do the police stand with their critics?
The answer: The police need to get better at educating the public about what they do…and why. And People need to educate themselves about what the police do…and why.