Thursday, 25 August 2011

Newsflash! Tasers Are Lethal, But Knives Are Harmless!

Concerns have been raised over extreme techniques used by police to arrest suspects after the deaths of three people in custody during the past eight days.
Raised, that is, by the sort of people who have never had to face the job of arresting and securing a person who doesn’t want to have that happen to him or her.
…Great Manchester Police officers were forced to use a Taser to subdue Philip Hulmes, a 53-year-old truck driver from Bolton, who had locked himself in his house. Mr Hulmes had reportedly begun stabbing himself in the stomach when police broke into his house; they stunned him because he was still violent, they said. He later died in hospital.
Should they have just waited until he bled out, then?

I guess the usual suspects would have been A-OK with that?
Sophie Khan, a London-based lawyer with GT Stewart Solicitors, told The Independent: "I believe Tasers are being used far too readily by police forces. There needs to be a recognition that Tasers are a lethal weapon and should only be used in very limited circumstances, if at all."
I’d have thought subduing a struggling self-harmer without further injury to himself or others certainly qualified, but what do I know..?
A spokeswoman for Amnesty said yesterday. "The tragic death of Philip Hulmes which has occurred just days after Dale Burns died after being shocked by a Taser reaffirms Amnesty International's concerns that these weapons are potentially lethal."
Well, yes. They are termed ‘less lethal’ for a good reason.

But hey, anonymous spokewoman, if you would prefer they just shot him with a real gun instead, please let us know…

Update: Shocker, eh? Or maybe not.

30 comments:

AndrewWS said...

Yet another reason for not supporting Amnesty, which used to be all about political prisoners and freedom of speech, but is now about everything and therefore nothing.

Michael Fowke said...

Three dead in eight days? I'm glad we don't have the death penalty.

SBC said...

"stabbing himself in the stomach when police broke into his house; they stunned him because he was still violent,"

Thing is...

...I have a horrible suspicion that...

...that the policey men didn't taser him to subdue him and save his life. It's more likely they tasered him for knife crime. I mean , for fucks sake- he had a KNIFE!!!111 and was prepared to use it.

And we all know how scared our *Snork* brave *snork* policeymen are of anyone carying anything more dangerous than a plastic potato peeler.

SBC said...

" Yet another reason for not supporting Amnesty"

Did we need anymore reasons not to? I stopped supporting them about the time Boy George was number one.

Ranter said...

I'm not quite sure what the old bill were meant to do? Are they supposed to try and deal with a clearly mentally disturbed nut job with a knife and risk injury? That's what the Taser is for? Maybe Sophie should have been called out and shown them how to deal with him?
The usual howling rubbish from Amnesty and yet no post-mortem details to show a cause of death.

Span Ows said...

I 'like' the middle death:

"On Monday, a 25-year-old amateur rugby enthusiast, Jacob Michael, collapsed and died after he was hit in the face with pepper spray and later subdued by up to 11 officers as he tried to avoid arrest for affray."

One imagines (having had experiences of Police teams): ...the game ended in a draw but Jacob collapsed soon afterward.

Uncle Badger said...

For once I disagree. I don't believe the average cop is competent to use a weapon as deadly as a Taser.

In fact I suspect vanishingly few of them are sufficiently competent to handle a tea strainer and because they think the Taser is pretty harmless, they are far more inclined to use one.

Moreover the refusal of the unelected, unccountable, private company ACPO to restrain their use is just further evidence that our police are out of control.

Knives are not new. British policemen have been dealing with them for decades.

allcoppedout said...

I worry more about cops not doing their jobs than incidents like this. The enquiry should be short.

Ringmer said...

Perhaps the police should subcontract these difficult to handle cases to Amnesty's lawyers as they're such 'kin experts.

Perhaps put it on pay-per-view, personally I'd shell out to watch Shami and her ilk go hand to hand with some of her future income stream.

Bertie Bassett said...

Police should be familiar with proper control and restraint techniques. When you have superior numbers or time on your side, or both, police should be able to deal with situations in the way they did before technology provided a Taser.

Ranter said...

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-manchester-14661544

A man from Greater Manchester who stabbed himself and was then Tasered by police died from stab wounds, a post-mortem examination has found.

The IPCC said, because of the findings of the post-mortem examination, it would not be carrying out its own investigation.

The matter was handed back to the GMP Professional Standards Branch, who determined the officers had faced an extremely dangerous and difficult situation and tried to safely resolve the incident.

Sorry Sophie - perhaps, as a lawyer if not a normal person, you should get your facts right before jumping on the bandwagon.

MTG said...

@ Ranter

Back in your time on the beat and long before the advent of Taser, what was your favourite instrument of torture? (poor oral hygiene aside.)

Captain Haddock said...

"Great Manchester Police officers were forced to use a Taser to subdue Philip Hulmes, a 53-year-old truck driver from Bolton, who had locked himself in his house. Mr Hulmes had reportedly begun stabbing himself in the stomach when police broke into his house; they stunned him because he was still violent, they said. He later died in hospital" ...


Errmm ..

Since suicide & attempted suicide are no longer criminal offences, I wonder by what right Police interferred with someone engaged in a perfecly lawful activity ?

Provided that it was only himself he was stabbing, they ought to have ensured that the door remained locked, to prevent him coming into contact with anyone else and left him to get on with it ..

Either way, the end result would have been the same ..

All they've succeeded in doing is shooting (or Tasering) themselves in the foot ..

Ranter said...

A small Huddersfield group concerned with promoting equality, justice and the preservation of civil liberty.

Just you then Melv and maybe your imaginary friend if you haven't bored him to death.

dr cromarty said...

'Tragic death'

Tragic in the Greek sense one assumes, where his own stupid action leads to his own demise.

Maybe Sophie should have been called out and shown them how to deal with him?

I imagine it would cost an awful lot of money to call Sophie out. Her advice were she to deign to give it would be very expensive. As well as ****ing useless.

John Pickworth said...

Sorry Julia but I think you're very wrong on this one....

I believe there have been 200 odd deaths in the USA where TASERS were a contributory factor and in many cases, the direct cause. In Canada there have been 20 such incidents, including the case of Robert Dziekanski

A 40-year-old Polish immigrant who spoke no English, Dziekanski became distraught when he couldn't connect with his mother at the Vancouver International Airport. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police arrived on the scene and, after only 20 seconds and with no attempt to investigate the situation, began TASING him. Even after he had fallen to the ground and was restrained, police continued to TASE him, resulting in his death.

These devices are classed as firearms and members of the public are forbidden to carry them. The UN labelled their use a 'mild form of torture'. Yet the police say they are safe: "The use of TASER weapons is carefully scrutinised" according to the Association of Chief Police Officers - who, as we know, are a kind of cops Star Chamber.

The plain fact is, these weapons are not safe. The cops say they are a less lethal (and therefore safer) alternative to traditional firearms... but they are increasing being used in situations where firearms would NEVER have been used.

The two recent deaths in Cumbria and Bolton were remarkable in that TASERS were used in the victims own homes...

Originally the police said TASERS would be used ONLY where members of the public were being threatened by someone with a weapon. However: On the 9th of April 2008 on BBC 1, the program “Traffic Cops” showed police surprising a pedestrian by shooting him with a TASER without warning, before arresting him on suspicion of theft. The suspect had no weapon and was talking with a bystander and posed no threat, when officers leapt out of a car and TASERED him. The suspect was later found to be an innocent pedestrian. The police maintained that it is lawful to make use of the TASER before making an arrest, in case the suspect is not cooperative. Now, excuse me, but 'cooperative' used to mean quietly accompanying an Office down the local Police Station. Sadly these days the Police seem to think it means laying face down on a pavement with a busted nose, broken jaw and foaming at the mouth while practising your best epileptic fit impressions.

I simply do not trust the police to carry these weapons. They've demonstrated a trigger happy attitude that is deeply worrying. Moreover while in many countries they're seen by the authorities as a way to decrease the Police's use of regular firearms, I believe they're being used here for precisely the opposite reason - as a way to arm the police by the back door.

Then there is the Raoul Moat case. A crazed gunman holding a gun to his own head shoots himself. "At some point around the time of the fatal shot two West Yorkshire firearms officers armed with TASERS discharged their weapons at Mr Moat." The question everyone is left asking is did the TASERS cause Moat to 'twitch' on the trigger? "Oh no" say the Police "we definitely fired after he did."

Worse, the TASERS being at the above incident were long range (100 foot plus) 'wireless' devices which were UNTESTED and UNAPPROVED for use by the Home Office.

Its a disgrace!

Angry Exile said...

Possibly an example of when tasers are the right tool for the job, but all the same I have serious concerns about their use. Not the whole 'less lethal' bullshit - it's unarguably preferable to being shot and until the likes of Amnesty can refute that simple point their witterings really ought to stop getting so much press. No, the problem I have is that police tasers all seem to have what I've come to think of as a cattle-prod mode, and plenty of cops have used it that way just to encourage obedience through the repeated application of non-lethal pain. Coupled with various YouTube clips of British cops bullying photographers and other for bullshit reasons I can't help but worry about tasers that have this cattle prod mode. Frankly I prefer cops to be armed with a proper gun, something with likely consequences that force them think good and hard before using it on someone. And if they end up shooting someone who's stabbing himself in the guts what's the problem given that he was, well, stabbing himself in the guts?

JuliaM said...

"Yet another reason for not supporting Amnesty..."

Indeed. I didn't really need one, but good of them to provide it anyway.

"Three dead in eight days? I'm glad we don't have the death penalty."

We don't. We have suicide, even sometimes by cop.

"I'm not quite sure what the old bill were meant to do?"

Me neither.

"One imagines (having had experiences of Police teams): ...the game ended in a draw but Jacob collapsed soon afterward."

Heh!

JuliaM said...

"...because they think the Taser is pretty harmless, they are far more inclined to use one."

Possibly, but if they think it's harmless, then there's a BIG flaw in their training.

And yes, police have been dealing with knives for a long time, but back when we had a much more severe judiciary, a profound respect for the police and no ambulance-chasing lawyers.

When the game changes, the equipment and tactics has to change too.

After all, in this occasion, he was stabbing himself. The next guy might be this guy.

"The enquiry should be short."

See my update. One will be.

"Perhaps the police should subcontract these difficult to handle cases to Amnesty's lawyers as they're such 'kin experts."

I too would pay to see that!

"Police should be familiar with proper control and restraint techniques. When you have superior numbers or time on your side, or both, police should be able to deal with situations in the way they did before technology provided a Taser."

What about harm reduction to themselves or the suspect?

JuliaM said...

"Since suicide & attempted suicide are no longer criminal offences, I wonder by what right Police interferred with someone engaged in a perfecly lawful activity ?"

There's a reason I tagged this one with 'damned if they do, damned if they don't'...

"Tragic in the Greek sense one assumes, where his own stupid action leads to his own demise."

Spot on!

"Sorry Julia but I think you're very wrong on this one...."

I'm used to that ;)

"I believe there have been 200 odd deaths in the USA where TASERS were a contributory factor..."

Oh yes. They're LESS lethal, not NOT lethal, as I pointed out.

But given the alternative, what would you have them do? I'd be happy if they just shot the cretins, but I don't think anyone else would, would they?

These people have to be stopped and/or arrested. They don't want to go quietly, whether through drink, drugs, mental illness or just cussedness. Yet go they have to.

JuliaM said...

"The two recent deaths in Cumbria and Bolton were remarkable in that TASERS were used in the victims own homes..."

So what? Are they supposed to back off and let a siege situation develop? With all the inherent difficulties that causes for the neighbours, and the potential that the suspect will burn the house down?

In at least one of those cases, they'd tried pepper spray and it hadn't been effective.

I know that the papers are full of 'tributes' and descriptions of them as 'loving family men', but their own actions tell a rather different story, wouldn't you say?

JuliaM said...

"Then there is the Raoul Moat case. A crazed gunman holding a gun to his own head shoots himself."

Hey, if it was me, I'd open up a big bag of popcorn and wait safely out of range.

But the police have orders to preserve life at all costs, even life not worth preserving.

They gambled, maybe. They lost, maybe. No harm done to anyone who hadn't already written his own ending.

JuliaM said...

"No, the problem I have is that police tasers all seem to have what I've come to think of as a cattle-prod mode, and plenty of cops have used it that way just to encourage obedience through the repeated application of non-lethal pain."

That's the 'drive stun' option that you see referenced in US stories, isn't it? I don't know if the ones issued over here have that option.

And yes, it's a concern. But those ASPs can crack a skull too!

At the end of the day, if you're being arrested, you go quietly or, as Chris Rock puts it 'If they have to chase you, you know they're bringing an ass-kicking with them"!'..

:)

" Frankly I prefer cops to be armed with a proper gun, something with likely consequences that force them think good and hard before using it on someone."

I think they'd like that too. I don't agree with that, not for EVERY cop on the beat.

Angry Exile said...

Yes, it is the 'drive stun' function that I'm talking about, but I call it the cattle prod mode because it's increasingly how the bastards use it. It's certainly a function of tasers used by some UK and Australian forces because there have been reports of its use, and I suspect it's probably there on all tasers because it'd obviously be easier for Taser International, who seem to have the whole law enforcement market, to make them all the same.

True, batons can crack skulls and that's kind of my point about the difference in weapons and how they are more or less likely to make a cop think about whether to use it. If a cop whacks someone over the head with an Asp or other baton there's a fair chance of hospitalising them and an outside chance of killing them outright, so much like shooting someone bashing them on the bonce is not something that is normally done lightly.

A taser's cattle prod mode, on the other hand.... zzzap -AAAAAAAARGH - "Are you gonna do what you're fuckin told now? .... Right then." zzzzap - AAAAAAAAAARGH. We know it happens, we've seen it happen. That poor bloody aborigine in East perth that I blogged about a few months back is a case in point. I'm not disputing whether he should have been nicked or whether the cops needed to strip search him, but being surrounded by half a dozen cops and repeatedly shocked for no reason besides being a passive-agressive pain in the arse is fucking disturbing. And so was all the screaming, and so was the fact that the poor bastard got the same treatment again a week later, and so was the fact that all this took place when he was already in custody. Would any of them have seriously considered drawing a pistol and pointing at him? Not in a thousand years, I'd bet, but a taser mostly leaves no lasting damage unless the cops are unlucky and the shockee is one of the handful who drop dead. That makes it too easy an option for them to just electrocute prisoners, suspects and members of the public into obedience. I wanted to believe they could be trusted to put the same amount of consideration to using a taser as using a Glock 9mm (actually still .38s round here until they get their new S&W M&P .40s, but I digress), but the number of dodgy incidents is worryingly high compared to the number of iffy shootings.

I think they'd like [being armed] too. I don't agree with that, not for EVERY cop on the beat.

Don't knock it 'til you've tried. I've never yet seen one with their gun out here or in any other state, and I find the Victorian Police little different to deal with than British cops. Mostly better, in fact, and I think at least part of the reason for that is that they have guns but not tasers, so it's always in their mind that the big thing on their belt is fucking lethal and they need to bloody think about it before using it.

richard said...

It's 450 deaths in the USA and Julia is wrong about this one. Tasers were supposed to be issued to firearms officers only. They aren't safe to use on the public to incapacitate a suspect and there seems to be no comeback if someone dies. What are the police doing with something which will get you or me a 10 year stretch and why therefore are we persuaded that it is a humane option?

Mr Ecks said...

Very wrong about this one Julia

American coppers give the example. The list of their fun-filled Taser antics is a long one indeed. Look it up on the net, you will find plenty.

Your pro-cop stance is wrong.

There are plain-clothes scum and there are scum in monkey-suits. The states gang--they have no real interest in protecting you, just in ensuring that you jump (and handover the tax money) when they or their masters shout frog. Most of the people tasered got it because their would not "obey" the bluebottles orders not because they were doing terrible harm to others (the guy stabbing himself is none of their business unless he tries to stab others).
Remember, throwing their weight about with the working and middle class(those not paid for by the state and with something to lose) is the bluebottles favourite sport. The day is coming when anyone, anyone like YOU Julia, who upsets a copper in the slightest degree (the septics are already arresting folk for "passive resistence to arrest" ie doing or saying anything the copper doesn't like including having an expression on your face that bluebottle boy doesn't care for)will be tasered.

To deal with scum we need guns and proper rights to self-defence and micro-camera/sound systems that show exactly what went on. The right to self-defence should also include the right to physically fight with plod if you have film of him/her throwing their weight around. You tell them "No sorry, Constable, you are out of order" and if they try to "subdue" you, you have the right to deal with this as an assault on your person.
That might encourage them to behave in a civil manner.

MTG said...

Creating the impression of having just 'sold out' provides JuliaM's passport with a visa to proceed to a certain police blog.

Fair then, that both camps should share in the expense of one foot in either?

JuliaM said...

"True, batons can crack skulls and that's kind of my point about the difference in weapons and how they are more or less likely to make a cop think about whether to use it."

It's a possibility, but surely those few cops likely to misuse the Taser are ALSO the ones likely to misuse pepper spray, handcuffs, batons..?

"Your pro-cop stance is wrong."

I should be anti-cop? Pro-vigilante? What?

The fact remains we have the rule of law and order in our democracy (however debased) for a reason.

I wouldn't want to go back to anything else...

"Creating the impression of having just 'sold out' provides JuliaM's passport with a visa to proceed to a certain police blog. "

Sometimes, Melvin, you make a lot of sense, more so than anyone else.

But it was not this day.

I comment quite regularly at Insp Gadget, and I've never needed a passport.

JuliaM said...

" They aren't safe to use on the public to incapacitate a suspect and there seems to be no comeback if someone dies."

Nothing is 'safe' - at least, not 100% - and if the subject is violently resisting arrest (or has self-harmed) then I wouldn't expect there to be any 'comebacks'.

Angry Exile said...

"True, batons can crack skulls and that's kind of my point about the difference..."

It's a possibility, but surely those few cops likely to misuse the Taser are ALSO the ones likely to misuse pepper spray, handcuffs, batons..?


Not really, since what I'm getting at is that the cattle prod mode is practically misuse by design. In other words using it correctly is misusing it. As far as using the taser in its original way to shoot darts into someone and incapacitate them I'd agree that the kind of cop who'd do that unnecessarily is the same kind who'd bash someone over the head unnecessarily, and because of that I wouldn't lose a wink of sleep if that was all tasers could do and every single cop on the planet had one. The decision to fire spiky objects into someone's body which will then electrocute them will not be one taken lightly. (I'd be interested to if there are any psychological studies into whether the fact it looks, feels and operates a bit gun-like makes the decision to use it that way much closer to the point at which a gun would be used.)

But the cattle prod mode, which seems not to stun so much as cause pain while in contact (which is why I think the term 'drive stun' is a misnomer and 'cattle prod' more descriptive of its use), which almost invariably does no lasting harm and I imagine doesn't even always leave a mark (stand to be corrected on that point if anyone knows of a ref for it), is different. The decision to use it is one that is almost always going to be taken much, much earlier, and since its raison d'être is to simply to use pain and the threat of further pain to force obedience it's going to be used for that as sure as night follows day.

That's not something I'm comfortable with in the hands of a police officer who is supposedly upholding the law by Peelian Principles. If they've got an out of control suspect who needs to be incapacitated to be arrested then fine, taser out, stand back and give him an electric dart in each arse cheek. No worries there at all. Hell, you already know I'm quite comfortable with all cops being armed, so it goes without saying that I'm comfortable with them getting guns out and even shooting if they have to.

But let's not kid ourselves that they're going use the so-called 'drive stun' to make that sort of arrest. It's a cattle prod, and you don't use a cattle prod on a bull that's already gone wild because getting that close isn't a good idea. In fact Kevin Spratt, the aborigine I mentioned earlier, is again a good example since he was arrested again a couple of days ago. Spratt 'caused a disturbance' (whatever that means in practice) at a petrol station, was approached by an off duty cop, and ended up grabbing a fuel pump nozzle and a lighter and threatening to set him and another man on fire, after which he took his belt off and began swinging the buckle end at them. Nobody was going to taser him in a petrol station of course, but had he been in a car park would anyone have used the so-called 'drive stun' on him? No, of course not - too dangerous. They'd have tasered him with the darts or got out a gun. But the same guy has extensive experience of 'drive stun' for just being a bloody-minded pain in the arse. On those occasions he wasn't being subdued for arrest as he'd already been subdued, arrested and taken into custody - he was inside the nick, FFS. He was just having intense pain inflicted on him until he obeyed, and I'm not sure that's misuse because it did what it was designed to do. Not really a bug but a feature, and one which I don't believe sits well with policing by Peelian Principles.