Monday, June 22, 2009

Taser = torture

Weekend nights in Anytown UK, boys and girls roam the town centre between pubs and the kind of nightclubs where they only play chart music. Violence is in the air from drunken blokes (sometimes women too), bouncers and pumped up police.

This is the landscape of songs like I Predict a Riot by the Kaiser Chiefs (Leeds): 'Watching the people get lairy, It's not very pretty I tell thee, Walking through town is quite scary, It's not very sensible either, A friend of a friend he got beaten, He looked the wrong way at a policeman...'

Or Riot Van by The Arctic Monkeys (Sheffield): 'And up rolls the riot van, And these lads just wind the coppers up, They ask why they don't catch proper crooks, They get their address and their names took, But they couldn't care less, Got thrown in a riot van, and all the coppers kicked him in'.

But now there's a new, potentially deadly weapon on the streets. A Sunday night in Nottingham two weeks ago, an altercation by a nightclub, and the police turn up - nothing unusual, but then we enter sci-fi territory. Captured on mobile phone by a passer-by, a policeman fires a taser at a guy on the ground, delivering a 50,000 volt electric shock via two darts on the end of wires (then a colleague comes along and delivers a more traditional thumping).

Yes electric shock treatment in public, and don't believe the hype about tasers being 'non-lethal'. As Harpy Marx notes, a man died in Australia this month and there have also been recent deaths in the US and Canada. In fact Amnesty International have documented hundreds of taser-related deaths. No doubt many more are on the way in the UK, since last year the Home Secretary announced plans to fund the provision of 10,000 Taser guns nationally and training for up to 30,000 frontline officers to use them. Not all police forces are enthusiastic are so enthusiastic about increasing the use of them - possibly because they too predict a riot.

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