January 26, 2012
Over the last few years, the use of tasers by police has been the center of some controversy amongst a few members of the general public. While the devices were originally justified as a means to subdue violent criminals without using lethal force, the fact is that tasers have not replaced lethal force at all. They have, however, replaced reason and common sense.
Instead of a tool to reduce lethal contact, tasers have become nothing more than cattle prods to be deployed against anyone who does not immediately obey a police command, regardless of how illegal or ludicrous that command may be.
In an example of just this type of situation, one may look at the case of Patricia Franks-Martin, a 43-year-old schoolteacher from Galivants Ferry, South Carolina.
On January 6, 2012, Franks-Martin was riding (not driving) in her vehicle in Horry County around 10 pm when police pulled behind the truck and decided to run her license plates, which were expired. As a result, the officers pulled the vehicle over.
When the driver stopped the truck, Franks-Martin allegedly got out of the car and questioned the officers as to why they ran the plates on the vehicle, which belonged to her. Officers then demanded that she present them with her license which she allegedly refused to do. The officers claim that she then became irate and began to use profanity, even going so far as to drink a beer in front of them.
The officers then claim that they noticed two open containers in the vehicle and that Franks-Martin told them to write her a ticket for the open-container violation. The officers allege that when she was told that she was under arrest, Franks-Martin told them they were not going to arrest her and began walking away from them.
The police also claim that as she was walking away, she stated, “you’ll have to shoot me before you arrest me.”
At this point, the brave policemen immediately jumped into action, tasing Franks-Martin in the back and cuffing her when she hit the ground.
Franks-Martin has been charged with suspended vehicle license, open container of beer in a vehicle, and resisting arrest. She has also been placed on administrative leave at her job.
If the account of the officers is to be believed, (which is highly questionable in its own right considering the general level of honesty amongst the majority of police in this country) then Franks-Martin was no doubt being obnoxious.
But obnoxious behavior is not cause for tasing.
But obnoxious behavior is not cause for tasing.
Put aside, for a moment, the ridiculous nature of police that sit in wait like wild predators for citizen prey to drive by so they can “run their tags.” Put aside the fact that asking permission (in the form of a license) and paying rent (in the form of registration fees) to drive on the roads you paid to build and maintain is itself an overreach of government power. Also put aside the fact that having an open container of alcohol in your vehicle is considered a crime, or that simply walking away from an officer is considered resisting arrest.
Of course, all of these issues are relevant. However, while serving as legitimate condemnation of the officer’s behavior, are only peripheral in nature. The heart of the matter is whether the officers were justified in their use of force. In this instance, it is clear that they were not.
The fact is that walking away from the police, “not listening” to an officer, or even resisting arrest (really resisting, not just walking away or expressing opposition) is not justification for tasing someone with thousands of volts of electricity. Particularly, when there are at least two officers and the victim is one 43-year-old (allegedly) drunk woman.
Indeed, one must ask exactly what threat she actually posed to the officers? After all, one should keep in mind that she was tased in the back. This is because she was walking away from the officers – not toward them. The illegitimate use of force against Franks-Martin was a cowardly act, to say the least, not to mention a dangerous one.
Police tasers have been implicated in hundreds of deaths as reported by Amnesty International. In over 90% of those deaths, the individual was unarmed. Amnesty International tallies the taser deaths at 334 since 2001. However, an independent blog, Electronic Village, has added 164 more names to the list, raising the death toll to 515 deaths committed by police wielding tasers. The AlexanderHigginsBlog calculated that, on average, police kill one person every week with a taser.
Although the justification for the use of tasers by police has been based on the argument of self-defense, and the ability to defuse a violent situation without using lethal force, it is clear that outfitting police with these devices is an enormous hazard to public safety.
Tasers are no longer tools of non-lethal defense. Indeed, they were never used in this manner or intended for this purpose. They are merely cattle prods designed to force the citizenry to obey the dictates of their low-level controllers by means of “pain-compliance.” Tasers are, essentially, the modern version of the whip.
While any abuse by police is obviously unfortunate, behavior that once occurred only in large cities such as Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles, has now spread even to small rural communities and towns all across the country. The police officer who was once known and respected within small communities has now been replaced by largely unintelligent authoritarian goons. Thuggish police are now the norm regardless of where you travel.
For years, police have been trained to see anyone outside their brotherhood, meaning the American people, as the enemy. Training for police has become more militaristic in nature; consequently, domestic police forces have come to resemble a foreign occupying military.
In the end, tasers are only a small part of the increase in the militarization of police. However, if Americans continue to allow their local law enforcement to become more war-like, isolated, and violent, the ability to create, implement, and maintain a police state will be made all the easier for those who wish to establish authoritarian rule.
American citizens must speak out now, especially those in small towns and rural areas such as Galivants Ferry and Loris, South Carolina. Because of the size of the communities, all hope is not yet lost for reestablishing some modicum of common sense and responsibility to local law enforcement.
Do not be afraid to let your police chief, your Sheriff, and even your individual police officers know that you do not support unwarranted police violence, and that you will not tolerate it if it occurs.
If you are unsure how to get started in speaking out, feel free to contact the Horry County Sheriff’s Department and tell them how you feel about tasing women in the back for not listening to commands.
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