I have spent much of today reading the back articles on Popehat about police and the terrible things they do sometimes. After a few hours of reading about cops beating the snot out of people who photograph them, tasering people who are just standing around being strange, and outright being criminals because they will get covered for I am in a mood to hate all of humanity. I suppose I shouldn't really let anecdotal data decide my positions on political issues, particularly when it is anecdotal data from another country, but all that reading has totally changed my mind about tasers.
When I first heard about tasers I thought they were a great idea. The theory goes like this: Cops shooting people is bad. If cops have tasers, they can use tasers to stun people who are wielding bats, knives, or guns and avoid shooting said people. This seems like a great thing because although tasers can be dangerous they are a hell of a lot less dangerous than a gun. Who could argue with cops getting better tools to take down armed criminals safely?
Unfortunately tasers end up exacerbating the issue with cops having guns at all; when they have ready access to non diplomatic solutions they end up using them. When all you have is a gun you had better be sure that it is worth killing someone if you pull it out. A taser though is something you can just fire at anybody anytime you like because it shouldn't do permanent damage. So giving a cop a gun and a taser tends to mean that they simply choose which tool is appropriate for the job and forget that it is by far better to use neither.
Not that cops set out to be jackasses or thugs by and large. The trouble is that when you get in a tense situation and things are getting heated you tend to not have the wherewithal to make reasoned judgements. Having that weapon on hand means it gets used even if in retrospect it wasn't a good idea. Obviously there have to be SWAT type cops that have access to serious weaponry when it becomes necessary but the great majority of police interactions need no weapons at all. Moreover in those normal reactions police will see more genuine respect and less fear if people know they are enforcing the law through authority and reason and not immediate threat of force.