Monday, January 31, 2005

Stun guns: bird flu's evil twin?

What do stun guns like the Taser (other posts here, here and here) and bird flu have in common? Nothing really, except an interesting mirror image relationship in the ages at risk. Bird flu mainly strikes teenagers and young adults, in contrast to the usual endemic human influenza that kills the very young and very old. Stun guns are designed to be used on teenagers and young adults but now are being used on the very young and the very old.

  • Police in Rock Hill, South Carolina used a Taser on a 75 year old woman in a nursing home when the woman, a distraught visitor who couldn't find her sick friend, refused to leave. The woman was further charged with trespass and resisting arrest (LA Times).
  • In Palm City, Florida, a 40 year old man was charged with domestic battery after he used a stun gun (reportedly not a Taser) on his 14 year old son for not obeying him to stop wrestling with his brothers (AP via ABC News).
Haven't had enough?
  • In Florida Miami-Dade County police used a Taser on a 6 year old emotionally disturbed first grader who broke some glass and was threatening to hurt himself with it (via Prison Planet).
"I couldn't imagine why a police officer would use that kind of device on a child," said Marvin Dunn, a psychology professor at Florida International University who was formerly a principal at an alternative school. "I can restrain a 6-year-old with one hand. I don't get it." [snip]

Miami-Dade police policy prohibits the use of Tasers only against pregnant women. Before the officer used the stun gun on the boy, Miami-Dade Officer Yolanda Rivera, who was on the scene, called a sergeant and verified its use was within department policy.

Rossman said the department's administration was reviewing its Taser policy.

Dunn said there are methods of physically restraining children and dealing with emotionally disturbed children. Clearing the room and having just one person speaking calmly to the child could have been one option, he said.

"You simply escalate the situation when you bring more adults into the picture," Dunn said.
Well it wasn't lethal force.