Tasers Are No Magic Bullet - Top 10 Reasons to Say NO to Berkeley Police with Tasers
After each mishap or tragedy that occurs these days in Berkeley, we are told that it could have been averted “if only” the police had been issued tasers. The mayor of Berkeley made this claim after six Berkeley police killed a mentally ill transgender woman in her own home last year. BPD officers made the same claim again when a mentally ill man stabbed himself several times. This week, Chris Stines of the Berkeley Police Association (BPA) went to great pains to spread the notion that if a Berkeley police officer had had a taser this past week, he wouldn’t have been assaulted. It is regrettable that the BPA uses these incidents as nothing more than a way to win political points. The issue of how to protect officers as well as the human rights of the citizenry is far more complex than simply giving cops more hardware on their belts.
Of course, these kinds of statements can never be proven. No one can know whether a taser would have prevented the confrontation in which the officer was involved in a fistfight with a suspect who was believed to be mentally ill. The BPA continues to apply steady political pressure to our local politicians and insists that somehow, real safety resides in our ability to meet suspects with electric shocks. At Berkeley Copwatch, we disagree. We believe that it is the duty of the officers to place the well being of the community at the forefront of their efforts. We believe that mentally ill people have a right to treatment and should not be subjected to torture because of a condition which they do not control. It is time for the City of Berkeley to return to the humane approaches for which it was once famous and reject the militarization of care which has overtaken our approach to community health and safety.
Top Ten Reasons to say NO to Tasers
1. Tasers are a “sometimes lethal” weapon. There have been at least 547 deaths related to the use of tasers by law enforcement since 2001, according to the human rights agency Amnesty International. It is also reported that 90% of those who died were unarmed. TASER International, the main manufacturer of tasers, has begin issuing on its website a new warning to law enforcement, stating that its conducted electrical weapon “can cause death or serious injury.” Tasers used on most people harbor few long-term effects, but they are deadly for a small minority. Their use should be considered potentially lethal and limited to only those situations in which lethal force would have been justified.
2. Police already have an alternative. They can use their pepper spray. In 1997, the Berkeley Police made a campaign to obtain pepper spray. This they claimed was the best alternative to deadly force. If this was true, then why are we now being asked to finance yet another round of the latest torture technology? Why can’t we invest in longer term, more humane approaches to community safety? According to Chris Stines, police only needed to use their pepper spray three times last year. If so, then is it worth spending a few hundred thousand dollars to equip a department for three incidents a year?
3. Cops can’t tell if there are underlying medical conditions. Studies by the American Medical Association confirm that tasers CAN cause heart attacks. Taser International also warns that tasers should not be used on people who are pregnant, on drugs, have asthma or who have heart problems. How can officers know if there is an underlying medical condition? They can’t. That is the problem. They are playing a lethal game of chance each time they use them.
4. Not a substitute for critical analysis of police strategies and training. While we are glad that Berkeley officer Jeff Shannon is recovering from his encounter last week, we do not see how a taser would have saved him. For some unknown reason, the officer went to this call alone. It is rare that a traffic stop in Berkeley attracts less than 2-4 officers. Why did officer Shannon answer this call alone? His attacker surprised him and having a taser would not have changed that. According to press reports, the attacker was attempting to ignite a liquid. A taser blast on a flammable liquid could ignite (and has in the past) causing an even greater risk to the officer, the suspect and the public.
5. The city increases its liability exposure. TASER International knows that this is a lethal weapon. They are covering themselves legally by issuing warnings about the lethal capacity of these weapons. In one month alone in 2013, five law enforcement agencies in North Texas announced they had discontinued using Tasers or were reviewing their policy regarding the weapons. The city of San Francisco declined to adopt tasers and opted to seek a truly non-lethal alternative. Across the country, agencies are reviewing their policies or seeking alternatives as a way of reducing their exposure to lawsuits.
6. Mentally ill people are 2-4 times more likely to be tasered. A study by the New York Civil Liberties Union found that 30% of the people tasered in New York were identified as being mentally ill. How does the Berkeley Police department treat the mentally ill? With a desperate lack of emergency mental health services, police are often called upon to deal with emergency situations. At this point, our police chief sanctions the inhumane practice of hooding of mentally ill individuals and allows officers to engage in this practice without even have a policy on the use of such hoods. We fear that this lack of regard for the human rights of the mentally ill would extend to the way officers are empowered to use tasers.
7. People of color are more likely to be tasered. African Americans are only 13.6% of the total population, yet represent 45% of the 2009-2014 taser-related deaths in America. In Albany, New York, 28% of the population is African American, yet they are 68% of those Tasered. Racial profiling exists. Sadly, Berkeley Police don’t even keep data on the race/ethnicity of people they stop so we can’t even track the degree to which policies are implemented in racist ways.
8. We have a crisis of accountability for police. “Well, if a Berkeley officer acts out of line, why not just file a complaint?” you might ask. At this time, police accountability in this city (and state) is almost non-existent. Due to a California Supreme Court decision in the mid 1990’s called Copley Press vs. The City of San Diego, civilian review was severely limited, and in the city of Berkeley, it was decimated. These days, it is a minor miracle when an officer actually has a complaint sustained against him or her. If we put tasers into the hands of police, we will be powerless to even know whether or not they are being misused by police, let alone to actually punish an officer who deliberately misuses a taser.
9. The Berkeley Police Association has conducted a misleading, high profile campaign. The BPA touts a “survey” claiming to show that 83 percent of Berkeley residents support investigating the use of tasers to restrain violent individuals. It is useful to note that the survey was given to a select group of people from the BPA over email. The very biased questions yielded the desired results, but did nothing to help us build a community wide approach to emergency mental health services.
10. If someone dies from taser exposure, the DA won’t necessarily investigate because they only investigate firearms deaths. The employees in the District Attorney’s office explained this strange policy to us when we asked why the death of Kayla Moore was not being investigated. We know that there will be no justice for those who are wrongly tased and die as a result. It is sad, but it is the truth of the matter.
From our perspective, tasers only make sense if they are identified as lethal force and their use is limited to those situations in which lethal force would be justified. The problem is that far too often, tasers are used to overcome resistance to officer commands. It is common to read about officers who used tasers on people in cars, people who didn’t act quickly enough, or on people who asked “why?” one too many times. They have been used on children as young as eight and old people into their 80’s. They are known to be lethal.
We must raise the standard of what we consider to be real community safety and work to ensure that the safety of everyone in our community is of importance.
“Each and every one of us has the capacity to be an oppressor. I want to encourage each and every one of us to interrogate how we might be an oppressor, and how we might be able to become liberators for ourselves and each other.”—Laverne Cox, at the GLAAD Media Awards
Three people were reported dead on Sunday in a possible anti-Semitic shooting attack at two buildings serving the Jewish community near Kansas City.
A gunman opened fired in the parking lot of the Overland Park Jewish Community Center and the nearby Village Shalom retirement home, both in the Kansas City suburb.
"At around 1 p.m. today, Overland Park police received multiple calls regarding a shooting on the campus of the Jewish Community Center, 5801 W. 115th Street. Additional calls were received by police of another shooting at the Village Shalom Retirement Community, 5500 W. 123rd," according to the Overland Park Police Department.
“Three victims are confirmed deceased. A person of interest has been taken into custody at this time,” the police spokesman said.
CNN reported that the deceased included a teenager and an elderly woman.
During the initial developing story, a spokeswoman for Overland Park Regional Medical Center said the hospital was treating a 14-year-old male who suffered a gunshot wound and who was in critical condition.
The gunman fired toward a total of five people, three of whom were confirmed dead, authorities investigating the incident said at a press briefing.
Overland Park Police Chief John Douglass said it was too early to label the attacks as anything other than “vicious acts of violence.”
He stated that two males were killed outside the Jewish Community Center of Greater Kansas and one female at the nearby Shalom Village retirement home.
He confirmed that police had a white male in his 70s in custody for questioning. He added that the man was unknown to police until today.
The Jewish Community Center of Greater Kansas City said on Facebook that no shooting had occurred inside its campus, and it had released home all the participants of its programming. Overland Park, the second biggest city in Kansas, is a short drive away from the state’s main Jewish concentration in Kansas City.
According to Kansas’s KSHB 41 Action News, police were holding one suspect in custody, who was reported as yelling “heil Hitler” as he was being detained.
The entire JCC campus was locked down.
One witness was quoted by KSHB 41 Action News as saying that a man, presumably the shooter, had aimed a gun at him before shooting the windows of his vehicle.
US Federal Bureau of Investigation officials were helping local authorities investigate the two shootings, CNN cited FBI spokesman Joel Sealer as saying.
The JCC of Greater Kansas City announced that it would be closed on Monday.
“We will post more information following a debriefing at the Overland Park Police Command Center and a 5:00 pm press conference, which will be carried live,” the JCC said on Facebook.
The Jerusalem Post was unable to reach the Jewish Federation of Greater Kansas City for further comment.
The shooting comes only weeks after the Anti-Defamation League released a report describing an increase in physical assaults against Jews despite an overall 19 percent decrease of anti-Semitic incidents in the United States.
In its Annual Audit of Anti-Semitic Incidents, the ADL reported that there 751 incidents in 41 states and Washington, DC — among the lowest number since 1979, when the ADL began collecting data. The number of incidents has been steadily declining for the past decade.
I am asking for my followers, Jewish and non-Jewish, to spread this like wildfire. Antisemitism isn’t often discussed in social justice circles, but I need y’all to know that hate crimes are committed against us. So far, I have only been seeing this circulate among Jews on Tumblr, but I want it to go farther than that.
I want this to lead to a larger discussion about antisemitism. I don’t want it to be derailed merely as a discussion about gun control. I don’t want people asking if the shooter had mental illness. I want people to acknowledge that the shooter is a blatant antisemite. I want people to know why we often have cop cars parked outside our synagogues. I want people to know why we are still afraid.
The Berlin Wall made news every day. From morning till night we read saw, heard: the Wall of Shame, the Wall of Infamy, the Iron Curtain…
In the end, a wall which deserved to fall, fell. But other walls sprouted and continue sprouting across the world. Though they are much larger than the one in Berlin, we rarely hear of them.
Little is said about the wall the United States is building along the Mexican border, and less is said about the barbed-wire barriers surrounding the Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla on the African coast.
Practically nothing is said about the West Bank Wall, which perpetuates the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands and will be fifteen times longer than the Berlin Wall. And nothing, nothing at all, is said about the Morocco Wall, which perpetuates the seizure of the Saharan homeland by the Kingdom of Morocco, and is sixty times the length of the Berlin Wall.
“People want the rugged authenticity of being different without actually being punished for it — and I understand why they do it. I recognize the insecurity. Just a decade ago, my peers were flinging words like “terrorist” and “faggot” to me in the halls of our high school. Now I’m “trendy” and “fierce.” Either assessment rings lonely and desperate. How they are tremendously afraid of being insignificant. How the fantasy of race that they have projected on my body makes me have some mystic power they are jealous of. They are afraid of boring. They are afraid of being nothing. They are in a constant state of falling — grasping for all of the bindis, beards, dashikis, gauges that they hold on to to feel relevant. And what hurts the most is that when they do it, it magically becomes beautiful. It becomes a beard worth $8,500 and not a beard worth five bullets. When the white body wears our scars, they finally become beautiful.
Friends and family members of victims of U.S. drone strikes in Yemen are launching a national drone victims’ organization Tuesday to support affected communities and lobby for a change in Yemeni government policy regarding the covert program.
The National Organization for Drone Victims (NODV), with the assistance of UK-based legal charity Reprieve, will conduct investigations of drone strikes and highlight the civilian impact of the U.S.’ controversial drone program in Yemen.
In the 19th century, the father of modern gynecology, J. Marion Sims, conducted his research experiments on enslaved Black women. Sims performed the invasive and torturous procedures without anesthesia. J. Marion Sims’ justification for choosing not to anesthetize his test subjects was that he did not believe Black women felt pain at all. In an 1857 lecture, he stated that it was “not painful enough to justify the trouble”.
The Tuskegee Institute and the Public Health Service began a study of the natural progression of syphilis involving 600 Black men (399 with syphilis, 201 uninfected) in 1932. The infected men involved in the study were never made aware of their condition upon diagnosis and believed they were being treated for “bad blood”. In exchange for their participation, the men received free medical examinations and burial insurance. They were never treated for the disease. These trials went on until 1972 when the study was exposed by The Associated Press. The remaining victims and their family members won a $10,000,000 reparations settlement which guaranteed them lifetime health coverage and burial insurance.
The Pellagra Incident Pellagra is an ailment commonly caused by a lack of niacin (vitamin B-13) in the human diet. The symptoms include skin lesions, sunlight sensitivity, dementia and ends in death. At the turn of the twentieth century, millions of people in the United States died from this disease. Scientists claimed that the cause of the disease was a toxin found in corn. In 1915, the U.S. Surgeon General ordered government funded experiments on Black prisoners afflicted with pellagra. Poor diet and niacin deficiency was found to be the cause. However, these life-saving findings were not released to the public until 1935 because the majority of Pellagra-induced deaths affected Black communities.
In 1945, African-American Ebb Cade, a 53-year-old truck driver, was secretly injected with plutonium, the substance used to make nuclear bombs. After breaking several of his bones in automotible accident, he was rushed to the emergency room. Unbeknownst to Ebb Cade, he was in the care of doctors that were also U.S. Atomic Agency employees. For six months, he was held in the hospital under the belief that they were treating his injuries. During that time, he was injected with more than 40 times the amount of plutonium an average person is exposed to in a lifetime. The doctors and researchers collected bone samples and extracted 15 teeth to monitor the effects of his exposure. Ebb Cade grew suspicious of his broken-bone treatments and escaped from the hospital. Unfortunately, Cade suffered from the brutal effects of intense radiation until he died from heart failure eight years later at the age of 61.
In the early 1950′s, the United States government conducted an experiment to see if mosquitoes could be weaponized. The CIA and the U.S. military released nearly a half million mosquitoes carrying yellow fever and dengue fever viruses into several Black communities in Florida. In the predominantly Black community of Avon Park, dozens of Black people became ill, eight dying as a result of this government-issued mosquito attack.
In June 1990, more than 1500 six-month old Black and Hispanic babies in Los Angeles were given what seemed to be a standard measles vaccination. The parents were not told that this particular vaccine, Edmonston Zagreb measles vaccine (EZ), was still in its research phase and not approved by the FDA. The EZ vaccine already had a reputation in Senegal, Guinea Bissau and Haiti, triggering an increased death rate among infant girls, most not living past the age of two. The Center for Disease Control would later confess that the infants were injected with an experimental vaccination without their parent’s knowledge. Presently, it is believed that many of these families are still unaware that their babies were used as guinea pigs.
In the year 2000, Federally funded researchers from John Hopkins University, the EPA, HUD, The Kennedy Krieger Institute and Department of Agriculture spread sludge from a sewage treatment plant on the lawns of nine low-income families, and a vacant lot in Baltimore and East St. Louis. The families and residents were told the sludge was safe and not informed about the toxic mixture of human and industrial waste the sludge contained. The research was conducted to see if the toxic waste absorbed into the water supply could effectively reduce lead levels in children.
In December 2012, at least 500 children in Gouro, Chad were forcibly given the MenAfriVac during school resulting in dangerous side effects including convulsions, and paralysis. Parents were not notified of any plans to vaccination their children at school and parental consent was never requested. The forced vaccinations were part of an aggressive healthcare initiative sponsored by several internationally revered organizations including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the World Health Organization and UNICEF.
Black students accounted for 18 percent of the country’s pre-K enrollment, but made up 48 percent of preschoolers with multiple out-of-school suspensions.
Black students were expelled at three times the rate of white students.
American Indian and Native-Alaskan students represented less than 1 percent of students, but 3 percent of expulsions.
Black girls were suspended at higher rates than all other girls and most boys.
American Indian and Native-Alaskan girls were suspended at higher rates than white boys or girls.
Nearly one in four boys of color, excepting Latino and Asian American students, with disabilities received an out-of-school suspension.
One in five girls of color with disabilities received an out-of-school suspension.
A quarter of the schools with the highest percentage of black and Latino students did not offer Algebra II.
A third of these schools did not offer chemistry.
Less than half of American Indian and Native-Alaskan high school students had access to the full range of math and science courses, which consists of Algebra I, Geometry, Algebra II, calculus, biology, chemistry and physics.
Black and Latino students accounted for 40 percent of enrollment at schools with gifted programs, but only represented 26 percent of students in such programs.
Black, Latino and Native American students attended schools with higher concentrations of first-year teachers (3 to 4 percent) than white students (1 percent).
Black students were more than three times as likely to attend schools where fewer than 60 percent of teachers meet all state certification and licensure requirements.
Latino students were twice as likely to attend such schools.
“To love. To be loved. To never forget your own insignificance. To never get used to the unspeakable violence and the vulgar disparity of life around you. To seek joy in the saddest places. To pursue beauty to its lair. To never simplify what is complicated or complicate what is simple. To respect strength, never power. Above all, to watch. To try and understand. To never look away. And never, never, to forget.”—
““If you blame Native American communities for their poverty, remember that the entire continent was stolen from them.
If you blame Black American communities for their relative poverty, remember that Black Americans were stolen from a continent, trafficked, and enslaved for nearly 300 years.
Tell me again about how your family ‘started from nothing’ when they immigrated. Didn’t they start from whiteness? Seems like a pretty good start.
The American Dream required dual genocides, but tell me again about fairness and equal opportunity. Tell me about democracy, modeled after the Iroquois Confederacy. Tell me your proud heritage, and I will show you the violence that made it so.”
— (via nativnuance)”—
Kim Katrin Crosby, Keynote Speaker for LGBTQ History Month at Dartmouth, on September 30, 2013