Friday, September 25, 2009

Tasering Senior Citizens

by Jean Henry Mead

Tasering by police has become almost epidemic, even in a small rural town not far from where I live. Residents of Glenrock, Wyoming, held a town meeting to protest the tasering of 76-year-old man who had been driving a tractor in the annual Deer Creek Days Parade on August 1 of this year.

Riding on the tractor with him was a nine-year-old boy.

When Bud Grose decided to take a short cut on his tractor following the parade, failing to follow the traffic directions of police officer Michael Kavenius, he was tasered five times, although he reportedly has a heart condition. The ancient tractor, which doesn’t have the best breaking system, ran into a pursuing patrol car driven by Sgt. Paul Brown, which pulled across in front of the tractor before it could stop. Grose was then repeatedly tasered by both officers.

After local residents held a town meeting, the two officers were placed on paid administrative leave and the case was reviewed by the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation. Despite the uproar from local residents, the county attorney’s office refused to file charges. However, both police officers have since been fired.

The officers’ attorney issued a statement that his clients will appeal the decision to fire them and that they’re grateful for the widespread support they’ve received from around the state. I seriously doubt that anyone supported the two officer’s laser attack because people in this part of the country have been angered by the tasering and I’ve even heard talk of retaliatory measures.

Police issued tasers have killed more than a few victims with the electroshock weapon which uses a current to disrupt muscle control. Taser International, which manufactures the weapon, terms the effects of its product “neuromuscular incapacitation.” Anyone struck with a taser experiences strong involuntary muscle contractions, including heart muscles.

Tasers don’t just rely on pain compliance except when used in Drive Stun mode, according to the Wikipedia. They’re preferred weapons in many law enforcement agencies over non-taser stun guns. There are currently two tasers in use, the M26 and X26, which have accessories such as laser sites and mounted digital video cameras. The company is also marketing a civilian model called the C2. This past summer Taser International introduced the X3, which is capable of subduing up to three suspects without reloading.

“Tasers were introduced as less lethal weapons to be used by police to subdue fleeing, belligerent, or potentially dangerous subjects, often when what they consider to be a more lethal weapon would have otherwise been used.” But taser use has gotten out of hand, resulting in serious injuries and death. Although they’re less lethal than other weapons, the U.N. is reportedly concerned that the use of tasers amounts to torture, and Amnesty International has reported cases that amount to "cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment which is absolutely prohibited under international law."

How long will it be before there is widespread use of tasers by the general public as well?


Sheila Deeth said...

Now that's a scary thought.

Mark W. Danielson said...

What a stunning report, Jean. It seems there was little consideration to what was appropriate in this case.

Jean Henry Mead said...

I know, Mark. It's hard to believe that anyone would taser an old man even once who was sitting with a 9-year-old boy on an ancient tractor because he didn't follow directions. There are, unfortunately, many similar incidents out there that are never reported in the media.

And, yes, Sheila, it's very scary.

Helen Ginger said...

We had an incident that made the news - an older woman was tasered during a traffic stop. But, if you watched the full tape, she was belligerent, refusing to do what the officer asked her and at one point stepped out onto the road. On the other hand, she seemed rather old to be tasered. On the third hand, I don't think age allows you to be yelling at an officer and refusing to do what he asks.

Having said all that (and having run out of hands), it sounds like this guy should not have been tasered. Jimminee, he was on a tractor for goodness sakes.

I might (but don't) carry that spray stuff, but would not carry a taser. I sort of think you should have to undergo training to use one of them. Seems to me like you'd need to know where to aim it, how to fire it and from what distance. Either that or I'd need to practice on my husband. Hmm. That's an idea.

Straight From Hel

Jean Henry Mead said...

I neglected to add that the 76-year-old man was allowing the 9-year-old boy to drive the tractor while he rode along. I could understand one blast of a taser if the man were alone, but five times? Under the circumstances (and if you knew the former policemen), you would be as angry as the rest of us here on the high plains.

Btw, tasering of pregnant women has been in the news and I think that puts a whole new slant on law enforcement.