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Volume 72, Issue 68, Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Opinion

Taser use becoming excessive

Reid Midgett 
Opinion Columnist

Houston has had its fair share of less-than-stellar sports teams. The Oilers moved to a different state. The Rockets continue their downward spiral into mediocrity. And over the past two years, the Texans have proven they have what it takes to carry the torch for our city. 

But maybe the Texans have had a little help in their quest to destroy our hope for a good football team. Our local police force has been helpful in demolishing the Texans' good name.

Police officers decided to stun Texans lineman Fred Weary with a Taser for being argumentative and verbally abusive. 

Tasers are used on those who pose a threat to the police but are not dangerous enough to warrant the use of a handgun. But police across the country are getting trigger-happy with Tasers, using them when an electric shock is not necessary.

Weary told the media he did nothing to provoke the attack. Court documents said Weary shook the police off and backed them into traffic. Officers administered a shock, and Weary was incapacitated. But the evidence showed that he did not do enough to justify the use of the Taser.

Another incident, far worse than a large football player being shot with a Taser, took place in Los Angeles. A UCLA student was shot with a Taser on the university's campus. The student had done nothing but refuse to show a student identification card to the officer. The officer took this as a threat from the Middle Eastern student and shocked him repeatedly. The student was a passive resister, and as a result, he received shocks that in some cases have proved fatal.

This excessive use of Tasers is frightening. Officers are using Tasers as a way to subdue suspects even if suspects pose no threat. Trading real weapons for Tasers has only increased the number of incidents where officers wrongfully incapacitate innocent citizens, creating the opposite effect intended by this change in policy. 

The type of weapon used by officers will not change the actions of the officers. They will take every opportunity to use whatever they are given to live above the law. 

A change in policy will not change the attitudes of the police officers; it will only give them more loopholes to exploit. 

Tasers are not nearly as fatal as handguns, so officers will use them more frequently because they know they can get away with it.

At least officers armed only with handguns will practice some restraint for fear of killing an innocent person. Police in this country take certain liberties with their jobs to get away with things normal people can't. Things will not change until officers' attitudes change. 

You can change guns to Tasers or Tasers to clubs. Officers will use them forcefully and increasingly if they feel they can get away with it.

Midgett, a communication junior, 
can be reached via dccampus@mail.uh.edu

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