Thursday, August 2, 2012

We're the police and we're here to help

He was acting strangely. His hair was wet. His eyes were "big." He told the clerk at the hotel he needed help.  He wouldn't come in and he wouldn't leave.

The clerk was worried. She called 911.

Paramedics from the Houston Fire Department arrived shortly thereafter. He refused their help. Then the police officers arrived. We're told he began to fight.

So one officer decided it was a good idea to pull out his Taser to subdue the man. Nevermind that he wasn't accused of any crime. He clearly needed help. But one man in blue thought the best way to help him was to shoot him with a Taser and send a jolt of electricity through his body.

Nobody refuses an offer of help from a paramedic - and lives to tell the tale.

By now you should have guessed what happened to our protagonist. He was taken to a nearby hospital where he died.

The Taser has been promoted as a way of avoiding the use of deadly force. Instead of pulling out a gun and shooting a person with a live bullet, the officer can incapacitate that person with a strong jolt of electricity. There is, admittedly, the one little complication that strong jolts of electricity and heart conditions don't usually end well. And the corollary that at the time the officer pulls the trigger on the Taser he doesn't know whether the target of his less-than-lethal show of force has a heart condition.

We don't know if the victim had a heart condition before he was tased. What we do know is that he needed some type of help - either medical or psychological. He didn't need to be involved in a confrontation with the police.

The police are taught to fight crime and, if necessary, to subdue suspects. They aren't trained mental health professionals. Their's is a very different tool kit. You see, police officers don't like it when someone tells them no. An officer is used to having people answer "how high?" when asked to jump. Any other response is considered a provocation.

Is it an ego thing? A macho thing? Or is it what happens when you give a man a gun and a badge and turn him loose?

Now a man is dead for no reason.

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