There's been some interesting comments on the last taser post I made.
I understand that police have a difficult time arresting resisting subjects, but it's seems really difficult not to conclude that tasers are being used more for convenience than to actually prevent harm to police officers.
In this example, a man is given a speeding infringement notice. He asks the police officer to tell him how fast he was going, and refuses to sign without being told that information. He also says he wants to go look at the speed limit sign, which he believes he did not exceed. When he refuses to sign, the officer doesn't answer him, but purports to arrest him (it doesn't appear that he was told either that he was being arrested or why). When he refuses to turn around with his hands behind his back, he is shot in the back with a taser. This causes great distress to him (obviously), but also his pregnant wife.
I can't comment on whether this was a legitimate arrest – my feeling is that generally people have a right to know what they've been accused of, but mainly it seems as if he was arrested for not complying with police orders (did he have a right not to?) – it doesn't appear that he was legitimately arrested here, but I could be wrong. My concern is that this video shows how easy it is just to taser someone rather than take positive steps to calm a situation down. The man wasn't aggressive, he was disobedient. A good police officer should try talking rather than resorting almost immediately to extremely painful force.
The question here isn't whether tasers are justified in some circumstances. The question is whether tasers are being used too readily; whether there are adequate guidelines and training in place for their use; and whether we are going to sanction their use as a means of quelling dissent rather than avoiding harm to officers or the public. Faced with a question as to whether you have the right to arrest someone, and whether you've followed the correct procedures, should you answer them or simply taser them and arrest them for disobedience?
Edit: the incident is under 'expedited' review. Utah Patrol spokesperson Trooper Roden says that “Troopers can use a Taser if someone is a threat to themselves, or others, and other means of control are unreasonable” (emphasis added).
Edit (thanks to Dale for examples):
Here's a link to a story a few days ago where another man was killed after being hit by a taser.