Thursday, November 22, 2007

Moment of reflection on our finest

All right folks, I admit Ottawa Beige is not an ideal soapbox to comment on the burning...pardon me, electrifying, issues of the day, and that I rarely wade into debate that has something to do with the police.

I've been a spectator to the Taser use controversy just like most of us have been. I do not have background in crime prevention or crowd control although I know enough kung fu to seriously disable an unarmed attacker. I also do not buy into the 'cop-hating' subculture that's rife out there, in some communities, especially south of the 49th and in the demi-monde of gangsta hip-hop - nor do I have frequent fantasies of being some kind of a Judge Dredd figure. Never been unfairly arrested or had an altercation with the cops and only spent one evening at a station, years ago for a suspected DUI...and got released, with an apology and a cab fare home. So, my opinions are the regular white dude opinions.

In order to have a balanced discussion on this hot-button topic, I say let's get a few facts straight and establish a couple of baseline conditions.

One, police officers of all stripes need adequate protection and response capability. Too many RCMPs and other officers have been dying in line of duty lately. Overwhelming response to a threatening situation is actually one of the longest-standing principles of police intervention - subdue or take down a person who is threatening or uncooperative, or who might have a weapon. It's been happening for ages.

Two, electrocuting people is never a 'safe' alternative to firing an actual gun. Yes, it might have much lower odds of actually killing someone than if you fire a bullet into them, but to send a strong electric current through someone is a potentially lethal action, only a step or two away from inducing a heart attack. Countless studies have been done on what the odds are in supposedly 'responsible' Taser use but no one has come forward with figures of what happens when policemen use a stun gun repeatedly on someone, and especially on someone who already has a condition that makes them susceptible to a heart attack.

Three, one can be trigger-happy with a Taser or a similar weapon just as they can be trigger-happy with the real deal. It is not the weapon, it is the person wielding it who is responsible for over-reacting. The old service revolver gets issued with the precaution that it should be fired only when absolutely necessary, when the officer's life is in danger. I wonder what the rules are for electric stun guns and how they compare.

Fourth, when a bunch of RCMPs acting like cowboy extras on the set of a spaghetti western end up killing a distraught, not-quite mentally stable, non-English speaking immigrant, you bet Canada is not going to be in Poland's good books. Not for quite some time. I saw the Polish ambassador at an event this Tuesday...and he is pissed off (as dignified as he might seem), according to reliable sources. If this happened to a Canadian at the Krakow airport, we'd be up in arms, too.

Last but not least, our country's popular image of the RCMP is changing. Not for the better. The innocence we used to collectively have about 'our finest'

So, these are the baseline conditions. I invite our readers to form their own conclusions and theories.

No comments: