Discretion is Important

One who enforces laws or guidelines, it’s important to always keep in mind that proper discretion is key to successful enforcement. This video of a young man being tasered is an example of poor assessment of a situation and lack of proper discretion by Cpl Thomas O’Connor.

The officer initiated a stop on the highway and demanded to see the driver’s license, registration and insurance. As he was getting it out, the officer escalated the situation by yelling and pointing his Taser gun at him. Then after changing orders to have the driver exit the vehicle, the officer’s abrasiveness resulted in him yelling at the driver, then electrocuting him (being Tased) to get him on the ground. From that point, the officer became belligerent and called for backup and failed to address why the driver is under arrest. You can read the news article from The Statesman.

The officer was suspended for three days from this incident. Additionally, he has been suspended before for similar behavior, as well has numerous complaints about his demeanor with citizens in his area.

I know a Taser is a non-lethal weapon, but was this application of using it necessary? I’ve been tased (not from an officer, but by friends at a party) before, and it’s very inconvenient to say the least. From a typical traffic citation to being tased on the ground, it’s certainly excessive in my opinion. I’d like to see where in Taser training videos, it stated to yell at someone and use it within 45 seconds of the interaction with a subject.

If I was the victim, I would sue this officer civilly and press charges criminally and ensure there was wide media coverage so all police departments can learn from this example. The only person that had control in the situation, was the only one who escalated it.

What happened to beating people senseless with batons or pistol whipping people? Just kidding… clearly Tasers are the new baton, and must be used appropriately.

Just for anecdotal purposes, I do a certain amount of enforcement and I continually assess and make judgments on many conflicts between users. While it’s easier to close accounts, my discretion allows me to give people a second chance to adhere to the guidelines on our service and often it’s effective.

Sometimes you just need to step back and look at the big picture to make the best judgment.

  • http://dossy.org/ Dossy Shiobara

    Kids who were school bullies grow up to be police officers. There’s a reason why civilians need to carry firearms: to protect themselves from these kinds of officers.

    Sure, there are some nice people who go into law enforcement–but, they’re not the norm. Normal, healthy people don’t seek out a job where you get a gun and a bulletproof vest the first day on the job.

    The problem with the taser is that it IS believed to be non-lethal. It’s used way too easily. Give cops guns: at least they might think twice before pulling it out and shooting someone. A taser? Too easy to abuse.

  • http://www.gunowners.org/ Junkyard Willie

    Tasers are not “non-lethal,” they are “less-lethal.” Tasers kill people all the time. What they are officially designed for and authorized for use for (at least on paper), is in an alternative to the handgun. This means that a taser’s appropriate use is in a situation where you would normally just have shot the guy, but don’t want to kill him. Tasers are grossly misused by American police, they are used as compliance tools; you know, as in cuff up or I’ll tase you, move over there or I’ll tase you. Compliance used to be enforced by physically moving the guy, my twisting an arm while on the ground to cuff him up, that sort of thing. With a taser, its impersonal. It takes a little something to mix it up with a guy and get those cuffs on, but with the taser you don’t need that little something. Obese, weak, or female cops can enforce compliance to cuff up (or compliance to do anything) with a taser; they don’t have to call for backup or chase someone down.

    Tasers are never appropriate when used as compliance tools and the use of a taser should be investigated and handled the same as a shooting. Since they’re not handled like that, cops can essentially use them with impunity- no paperwork hassle or bothersome investigations into trivial matters such as due process, justification, or human rights.

    They’re even used more frequently than just smashing someone with a PR-24- a reject working campus security can’t (and shouldn’t) get away with knocking some dude’s head into the cheap seats with a nightstick, but they’re quick to tase. Tasering leaves small, innocuous looking marks, usually doesn’t even draw blood; which makes them more psychologically “acceptable” to cops and the public- people say “well after the juice turns off they’re no worse for wear, so why not tase people? After all, if they’re not criminals the police wouldn’t be tasering them, right?”

    The victim will most likely sue, and may not get win because of that mentality of “only bad guys get tasered.” I’d be surprised if the cop gets any serious punishment and would bet money he won’t face any criminal charges. Police and DA’s are on the same team, they’re not going to hurt one of their own.

    And what of the cops that aren’t on videotape? That officer knew there was the dashboard cam recording the stop. What would have happened if he knew there was no video camera and wasn’t on a main road full of witnesses?

    Cops can and will enter your home with explosives, wearing masks and brandishing automatic weapons if a crackhead informant indicates yours is a drug house. They will bring out the tanks, the grenades, the gas, and the snipers on the flimsiest of warrants. They might even burn the place down and kill your pets, as happened in Phoenix not too long ago. There are next to no repercussions or accountability for mistaken SWAT raids, most times not even if it results in innocent people getting killed.

    Don’t take my word for it- the CATO Institute says that these raids occur 40,000 times per year on nonviolent or petty warrants. They even have an interactive map of botched SWAT raids here:


    With a system like this, who can doubt that something “minor” like abuse of tasers is going on?

  • http://www.joemanna.com Joe

    Thanks Dossy and Junkyard Willie, for your insightful comments. My error for stating “non-lethal,” indeed, Tasers are less lethal.

    Both of you have made very good points.

    ~ Joe

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    And when you watch Prison Break, it's important to exercise viewer discretion. You can tell, because at the very!