Tazers: In the public interest?

Wednesday, 13th October 2010 at 13:26 UTC Leave a comment

We were told yesterday that it would not be in the public interest for an inquiry to be held into how police came to be using an un-licensed weapon during the Raoul Moat episode. In fact, it appears there is acknowledgement that a fire-arms offence took place, but that nothing should be done about it.

Of course, it not being in the public interest to know how this all came about means we don’t really know why its not in the public interest to be informed. If people selected by an increasingly unaccountable body like the police are going to be chosen to carry tools of violence that have a habit of killing people, it probably in the public interest to know everything we possibly can about these “less-lethal weapons” – a term that makes me feel very uneasy due to the blame-the-machine ability to kill randomly and with impunity.

Another report popped up on the BBC website today: apparently police in the Australian state of Victoria are largely using their tazers on people with mental illnesses – 85% of incidents where one was used the target had a mental illness. Over a quarter of those targeted were unarmed – removing one of the few conditions under which I think tazering someone is somehow a welcome improvement on shooting them, rather than a simple way to justify rising police usage of violence.

The fact the officer cited in the report about not sending files to the Crown Prosecution Service hints that it isn’t simply a case of lack of evidence towards a conviction implies that they know something has been done wrong. Surely its in the courts’ discretion to decide what is in the public interest? Or do the police have such a contempt for the legal system that they will take any and every opportunity to usurp it?

Whilst the police have always essentially formed the violent wing of the government in maintaining law and order, the part that ensures that the masses don’t do anything that would rock the boat too far or undermine the power and privilege of the ruling classes. They have also, perhaps thankfully, been present to commit acts that are the lesser of two violence’s – I regularly have the displeasure of watching people getting arrested for bar brawls on a Friday or Saturday night, and the last one I saw was anything but pretty.

But right now, there is a very hard swing towards a model of statehood that some call minarchism – the state as provider only of protection for wealth and the wealthy. In theory, it means protection of everyone from having their property stolen, but as libertarian economics result in fewer and fewer people living outside of destitution, it comes to pretty much a state defending the wealthy.

Tasers seem to be a key tool in achieving this: the public probably wouldn’t be too happy if weapons that are commonly connected with crime were being used, but something equally dangerous with a veneer of sophistication, even Sci-Fi mythos, will do just nicely for the task in hand – but violence is still violence, even if we are fooled into thinking it is above brute force.

I’m not really surprised at all by the statistics coming out: the police continue to reserve extra amounts of violence for the mentally ill, non-white and less educated parts of society. And whilst we’re assured that these weapons will not be deployed against protesters, they have been used in building raids to intimidate protesters both in Britain and elsewhere. Much like any other weapon, it has the effect of drawing out the worst in the person who holds it, distorting their view of the world around them.

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Entry filed under: Arms Trade, Ethics, Mental Health, News, Non-lethal weapons, Peace, Police.

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