I don't like tasers and I don't believe they have any business in New Paltz. I told Toni Hokanson that I think approving the use of even one of these devices by our police is her Hurricane Katrina - and that her vote may have been different if she weren't coming off an unopposed election.
I volunteered to be tased to prove a point - that our police and government officials wouldn't use this device on an ordinary citizen in a demonstration for liability reasons, any more than they would demonstrate how to stop someone with a gun. I've had friends in the law enforcement community, and other trained in a variety of martial arts, demonstrate any number of disabling techniques on me safely, but guns and tasers can't be demonstrated safely. My offer was ignored because the Town Council understands that they couldn't have agreed without making community taser opposition more visible.
Through a variety of lively debates I've explored this issue with people in law enforcement, who generally support their use because it minimizes danger to the officers. I'm all for keeping our cops alive and well - they keep graffiti off my house, muggers away from my person and generally exist to make sure we treat each other with some level of respect, even if we don't want to that day.
What concerns me was confirmed in the Phillies taser attack - a rowdy fan was running around the field and got tased for being an idiot. In the past, this type of fan has been wrestled to the ground and arrested. According to the story, "the Police Department's internal affairs unit would open an investigation to determine if the firing 'was proper use of the equipment.'"
Good for them - because it wasn't. The only reason a taser was used in this case is because the cop had one. No indication that the officer would have been in danger, just an indication that it was just too difficult to chase after the punk. The taser, once equipped, is a very easy piece of technology to use.
I'm amazed that we spend so much time debating relatively minor issues like who's smoking where and how noisy they are when doing it, while blithely letting our police get armed with a device that has been documented in its use for torture and can also be fatal. Those college kids who are so noisy will be quieter if they're twitching on the ground, I'm sure; likewise the middle schoolers will think twice about sneaking a taste of a hookah if they know what the consequences may be. I'm not saying that any of our individual officers are likely to use this device in an intentionally harmful way, but in the heat of the moment it sure is an easy solution to reach for.
Police Chief Snyder is proud of his new black-and-white police cruisers, because of the "old time" feel they have. They evoke feelings of community policing, which he claims to support. I'm not sure how well tasers fit in with friendly officered fellows who put a scare into troublemakers and make sure runaways make it home safely, but they definitely fit with our police force's paramilitary-style uniforms and AR-15 rifles.
I guess it depends on what kind of community you think you're policing. If you believe that New Paltz is not a community that needs tasing, join the Facebook group or just stand up and say something.