|This citizen was Tasered for refusing to lie down, and then Tasered again for refusing to get back up.
Long live the Taser!
I was asked to attend a Citizens Police School as part of our local police department's community outreach program. This program is held a couple times a year and lasts 12 weeks. Although this sort of thing wouldn't normally interest me, given the large amount of bad press the police are getting across the country I decided to sign up in order to learn more, in effect, to do some research. What I discovered left me with the strange urge to check if my passport was still valid.
This type of citizens police academy is held in many cities of all sizes across the US. My particular city is in the Midwest and has a population approaching 300,000 with a police department of 650 officers.
The first thing I noticed about the event was the number of people that attended. I expected few people to show up given that this is a minimum three hour once a week commitment for twelve consecutive weeks. I was surprised at the final count of 56 people in this class. In addition to the twelve weeks of classes, tours of the local jail and a federal prison are offered. There is an airport tour, a tour of a local large manufacturer, and two eight hour "drive-alongs" with police. When questioned about the reason for a tour of the local large equipment manufacturer, we were told it was because all of this company's security personnel attended the citizens police academy and they offered a tour of their facility in return as they maintain an "excellent security protocol". Basically, the security personnel at the company were the model we were supposed to follow.
The beginning of the class consisted of each person having their picture taken, full face, straight on, in front of the American flag. Each person then reviewed the information they provided for their background check, and then signed a statement that the info was correct. I found this interesting because the application we each filled some days previously already required our signature. Additional background checks are also required by each facility we chose to visit including the manufacturer mentioned above. Added to that is yet another background check when a prospective citizen police officer signs up for the "ride along" with a patrol officer. Food was then provided and it was quite a spread of high cholesterol, deep fried, salty snacks, fried chicken, pizza, chips etc. I managed to find a bran muffin.
Later weekly snacks are provided by the alumni association of the citizen academy and the class attendees via sign up sheets. A great deal of time was spent on figuring out who will bring what when. Pictures were continually taken during all the evening's presentations in candid fashion and at each and every weekly class or event.
Class began with the Chief of Police presenting his assistants and each of them in turn briefly discussed their areas of responsibility. Each would teach a full three hour class on their areas in due course. The second assistant chief assured us all that he and the Chief were Christians. Then the Chief gave a Power Point presentation overview of the division of police and its accomplishments. Suffice to say that if I don't hear the words "honor", "pride", and "proud" ever again it'll be fine with me.
Of the 56 people attending the class, approximately half were comprised of students of various law enforcement type majors in local colleges, security personnel of the large equipment manufacturer previously mentioned, and employees of a local company which sells police and security equipment on both a national and international basis . The rest of the class was made up of mostly retired people, the majority of which were women. To say the group is composed mostly of sycophants would be accurate and an understatement.
Each week we were asked to bring "gifts" or thank you cards to the recruits currently in training in the local real police academy because we shared their desks that they use during the day, each desk area having a name tag attached to allow us to write a card or leave a gift to the same person on a weekly basis. We were also asked to bring gifts of candy or coffee to the police instructors conducting the individual classes. I left one card the first week with a note to the effect of "measure twice and cut once". However, the amount of goodies offered up by the rest of the class participants put me to shame. Some people regularly brought decoratively wrapped items. The baskets of goodies proffered to the instructors were huge.
The purpose of the CPA (Citizens Police Academy) is clear, and was repeated throughout the course - we, the alumni of the CPA are to be the "eyes and ears" of the police in the community. We are the "concerned citizens" and since the police cannot be everywhere at once, they need us to be aware of what is going on in the community. Having completed the course and being now aware of police procedures and what is "of concern" to them, we are expected to help them in "observing" our local communities and essentially be the "friends" of the police. It frightens me as to how seriously some of the people in that class will embrace such a role.
Here is a list of the classes:
1. Welcome/Orientation /Assistant Chiefs Welcome
2. Narcotics/Vice/Drug Dogs
3. Internal affairs
4. Traffic Accidents/DUI
5. Crime Scene Investigation
6. Driver Training
7. Patrol/Building Search
8. Robbery/911 Center
9. Traffic Stops
10. Swat Team Demonstration at Firing Range
11. Use of Force
Attending the Citizen Police Academy course provides some insight into how police officers think and what they see themselves as being up against in the community, and it isn't very reassuring. It is clear to me that the Police today have an very definite "us Vs them" mentality as regard the ordinary public. Our instructor said that while police are citizens too, they are also "not citizens". He talked a lot about "potential" in the sense that the police see every citizen they come in contact with as having the "potential" to do harm to the police officer. And thus everything they do when in contact with a citizen is for their own protection and safety and for the safety and protection of the citizen. Each instructor made a point of discussing the constitutional rights of citizens, but the focus of his talk was on how citizens must conduct themselves in order to enjoy and preserve those rights and avoid legal complications. Needless to say, the word "inalienable" was not used.
I am sorry to say, but after eleven classes, it was obvious that the purpose of these classes was to highlight how great the police are, how concerned they are and how they go the extra mile in every way to ensure they cause no undue discomfort to any citizen, do not violate anyone's civil rights, and how unbelievably difficult their job is on a day to day basis. We were told that a police officer is a very special individual who undergoes rigorous training as a recruit, ongoing professional development as an officer on the job, suffers a high degree of daily stress and is under constant scrutiny from immediate supervisors to the department chiefs, to the public, watchdog groups, to the Department of Justice. Wow! Why would anyone want to do such a job for $25K a year? The answer that the course is designed to instill is that the police are "speshul" and do their dirty job for the love of others.
But the last night was the icing on the cake, and was to reveal another motivation completely. The last class was entitled "Use of Force". Firstly we were informed that that particular class title would no longer be used in the CPA, or by the real local police academy. From then on, the course would be called "Response to Resistance". A subtle 'switcheroo' if I ever saw one.
It was explained to us over and over last night that the police do not "use force", they merely "respond to your resistance". The instructor explained that there are two types of ways to respond to resistance. The first method, which he claimed they do not use is called "total control". Total control was demonstrated by way of a "Cops" video clip from Las Vegas.
An officer was called to a scene on a public street where two young men were reportedly engaged in a fight. When the officer arrived only one man remained. The officer instructed the young man to take his hands out of his pockets, which by the way weren't in his pockets. After asking the guy to take his hands out of his pockets three times, the dumbfounded fella stood there as the officer lunged forward and grabbed the young man by the throat with enough force that they both fell with velocity to the ground. Again, this is an example of "total control" "response to resistance", which is not used by our police, apparently.
Our police use the second method of responding to resistance known as "One Plus One". In other words, when "meeting resistance", our police just step it up one notch, using only that response required to compel the citizen to comply. And you guessed it, the preferred "One Plus One" response now in use by our local police is the Taser. When questioned by a class member, our instructor said that if the citizen does not comply to the officer's request to remove his hands from his pockets after three requests, it is acceptable to Taser the citizen, because this is the safest and most acceptable method in response to resistance. Yes, you heard that right. Currently, only about half of our local police have Tasers, our instructor informed us that by 2010, all officers will be equipped with Tasers.
Now for that icing I promised you. On that last night, our instructor informed the class repeatedly, and with a great deal of conviction, that there have been no deaths caused by the use of the Taser in the United States, ever! No law suits won, and no deaths caused by the Taser. He went on to explain that the Taser is the "safest response to resistance", safe for the officer because it stops resistance instantly and safest for the citizen because recovery is also instantaneous, and the citizen complies with the officer's requests having experienced the incredible pain of the Tasering. Everyone's happy!
We were showed a video clip from the makers of the Taser TX26, showing how it is safer than a heart defibrillator as it uses .36 joules of electric shock and the current from the Taser is only 2 milliamperes (.002). He kindly referred us to www.taser.com for further information (objective information of course!). I have looked at the Taser site and it truly is something to see. On their site Taser claims that their stun guns in no way cause heart attacks or interfere with a pacemaker should the person being Tasered have one. This claim was dutifully repeated by our instructor.
As an interesting side note, a few months ago in Nicholasville, Kentucky a police officer chanced upon two men arguing in a parking lot, and to deal with the resistance that the two men were presenting to each other, he dutifully pulled out his Taser and shot one of the men in the stomach. Unfortunately the officer had confused his pistol with his Taser and seriously wounded the man. That'll teach him for arguing in a parking lot I suppose. For their part, Taser Corp were very happy because this was one more incident that they could refuse to recognise as a Taser-related injury.
Of course, one would think that a highly trained Taser-wielding officer would notice the difference in weight between a pistol and a taser, but then again, once that adrenalin starts flowing and those fine motor skills and perceptions fade away, resistance is not just futile, its everywhere!
I chose not to confront our instructor about his claim that Tasers have not caused any deaths, mainly because it would have fallen on deaf ears, or perhaps ears that could only hear the sweet sound of lavish parties thrown by Taser Corp for Police chiefs across the country. My instructor appeared to be firmly convinced there were no deaths, ever, caused by a Taser. So I left him to his fantasy world.
After completing the course, my humble opinion is that it is just as bad as we thought - that the police have long since ceased to be a truly community police force that ordinary citizens are no longer to be protected but seen as a potential threat - "disgruntled civilians". It is very clear that at the training level, Police officers are being encouraged to harbor an "Us vs Them" mentality towards criminals and civilians alike. The line has been seriously blurred to the point of not really existing anymore. All of this taken together strongly suggests that we are moving inexorably toward a police state.
That said, I do not doubt that many members of the police forces across the USA are well-intentioned law abiding, concerned and well balanced "citizens" doing an often thankless and tough job. But I also think there are many that are the stress-filled "Christian" can-do-no-wrong "heroes" who are proudly doing the job of keeping us all safe from the current government-designated bad guys, the "terrorists", but also, and most worryingly, from ourselves. They believe this is their duty because, somehow during their training, they have been programmed to see each of us as individual actors full of potential not for good, but to do harm to others or to the police.
The conscious acceptance of the idea that everyone is a potentially violent actor is a paramoralism of the highest degree as described by Polish psychologist Andrew Lobaczewski in his book Political Ponerology. These men and women are being taught in an organized way to think differently about the very nature of other citizens and to see themselves as tasked with rooting out the latent criminal in every citizen. The problem this poses for the citizenry is that we will increasingly be forced to consider and reconsider our every thought, word and gesture if we are to avoid falling foul of these increasingly zealous, and often dangerous policing policies and practices. And the question remains: why? Who benefits and to what end?
Links to a small portion of Taser stories in the news:
Inquiry: Police are 'brainwashed' by Taser maker
Taser used as substitute for talking, inquiry hears
Police corruption panel lawyer fired after she questions Taser zap of teen
Autopsy Performed On Man Hit By Police Taser
Death in Oxford, Ohio after Taser under review
UK: Taser gun used on man in hospital
Brooklyn man dies after officer zaps him twice with Taser
Man dies in custody after Taser incident involving Ontario police
Deputies use Taser on car crash victim
Deputy uses his Taser to shock partygoers
Students Protesting Pesticide Use Tasered
Man armed with pencil killed by "non-lethal" taser
One-third of people shot by Taser need medical attention: probe
NZ Ombudsman: Taser reports "sanitised"
Medical examiner told to remove references to Taser as contributing to the deaths of three local men