Feeds

US study says Taser cattleprod guns are safe

Do tase me, bro, if you are so inclined

The Power of One Brief: Top reasons to choose HP BladeSystem

Originally the cattleprod pistols were to be used by UK cops only against armed opponents, a rather mad stance in some ways (only the bravest of plods could be expected to tackle a gun-toting villain with a one-shot weapon boasting effective range of three or four metres). In due course, the firearms cops were allowed to use Tasers in all situations where extreme violence seemed to be on the cards. Now, plans are underway to let police without firearms training use the weapons.

There is strong opposition to the use of Tasers, however. Campaign groups such as Amnesty International point to a long history of electroshock weapons being used as a means of torture. The group has often cited cases in America where cops have shocked people even after they had been handcuffed or otherwise restrained, in defiance of police rules. Amnesty's position is unequivocal; that Taser use should be suspended:

"Amnesty International called on all US police departments and authorities to suspend their deployment of tasers pending a rigorous, independent inquiry... For those departments who continue to deploy tasers, Amnesty International has called for their use to be strictly limited to situations where there is an immediate threat of death or serious injury, which cannot be contained by lesser means, and where a police officer would otherwise resort to firearms to protect life."

The Justice Department study doesn't seem to have been independent enough for Amnesty, as the Guardian reports today that the organisation remains opposed to the UK cops' plan for wider Taser issue.

It's quite possible to argue that Tasers encourage police to mistreat people, as it is easier to shock someone than - for instance - administer a pressure-point hold, thumblock etc. (which may or may not be equally painful, but is certainly excruciating and just as unlikely to leave marks).

One might just as well suggest, however, that coppers mistreating suspects is not just a Taser-related issue. Quite apart from plods having a fair quotient of bad apples among them, only the best of us - having perhaps been punched, bitten, kicked, spat on, vomited on etc. during the course of an arrest - would be completely free of any urge for retribution in the aftermath.

Tasers, in fact, would seem to offer more chances to detect and punish abuses by enraged or simply malevolent plods, not less. The latest models have options for data logging of every shock administered, and they also scatter unique barcoded confetti markers every time they get fired. If a copper goes wrong with a Taser, it may be possible to bring him to justice as a result. If on the other hand he indulges in some old-school torture - for instance an unjustified flick with a truncheon to the groin area, insufficient to bruise but sufficient to agonise - well, you'll struggle to prove that afterwards.

Perhaps a Taser-cam recording system might be a good idea, too - or simply one attached to the policeman. Such things are already available, in fact, and have led to successful prosecutions (pdf).(But not yet of any policemen.)

But hey - new technology's always bad, right? It was better in the old days, when it was the copper's often-fabricated word against yours and all he had was a fist, a boot, a club - or a gun.®

*Many British police forces had height requirements for recruits into the 1990s. These were found especially troublesome in the modern era as they effectively acted as ethnic barriers.

Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications

More from The Register

next story
Arrr: Freetard-bothering Digital Economy Act tied up, thrown in the hold
Ministry of Fun confirms: Yes, we're busy doing nothing
ONE EMAIL costs mining company $300 MEEELION
Environmental activist walks free after hoax sent share price over a cliff
'Blow it up': Plods pop round for chat with Commonwealth Games tweeter
You'd better not be talking about the council's housing plans
Help yourself to anyone's photos FOR FREE, suggests UK.gov
Copyright law reforms will keep m'learned friends busy
Apple smacked with privacy sueball over Location Services
Class action launched on behalf of 100 million iPhone owners
UK government officially adopts Open Document Format
Microsoft insurgency fails, earns snarky remark from UK digital services head
You! Pirate! Stop pirating, or we shall admonish you politely. Repeatedly, if necessary
And we shall go about telling people you smell. No, not really
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Securing Web Applications Made Simple and Scalable
Learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.