Sunday, November 18, 2007

The "Non-Lethal" Deception by Louis Evan Palmer

The ACLU states that a person has died every 600 times pepper spray has been used by the police. It's front page news, although not enough it appears, when people die from tasering. There are arguments about whether these so-called non-lethal weapons are non-lethal or used properly or necessary. The key premise underpinning everything is whether police forces should be allowed to kill people under any circumstances. The euphemism "use of lethal force" is a ruse to get us to avoid re-evaluating that fundamental premise. If it's not to be allowed anymore then most of the debates melt away. Anything that can be expected to kill someone would not be permitted. After that, strict usage guidelines on permitted non-lethal weapons based on independent testing must be enforced to ensure public safety.

Hospitals face irrational and violent people on a daily basis and are able to effectively deal with these people in a non-lethal, usually non-violent, way. In a democracy police forces are subject to society's control and direction. We can't allow the agenda to be usurped by weapons-makers and apologists for the new arms-length policing.

The advent of the so-called non-lethal weapons has seen an increase in police violence. It would be interesting to see if police shootings have even declined in numbers. Part of the game is to control statistics so the public can't discover the truth and draw its own conclusions. It's a certainty that many previously ordinary situations have escalated into taserings or pepper-sprayings. We read about children and the elderly being tasered. This reflects a lazy, me-first and the public-be-damned type of policing that is taking hold.

The most common police motto is "To serve and protect". That is the noble tradition to be upheld. It should have nothing to do with killing anyone and the way to make that happen is for society as whole to declare that that's the way it's going to be. Then the vast ingenuity of all our societies can become focused on truly non-lethal weapons that, in some cases, would be wielded by specialist forces with validated cause. For the rest of the situations, police should be trained and compelled to use old-fashioned approaches and techniques like talking to people and the simple & fast use of pressure points and the twisting & grappling of limbs.

Police work can be dangerous because you may be called upon to confront and deal with dangerous violent people. That doesn't mean you get carte blanche to "serve & protect" yourself or your colleagues. It's not about "us and them" or declaring war on broader and broader swaths of society. It also doesn't mean that society should allow weapons-makers to taint the testing and accreditation process and to foist weapons on the public via police forces and ex-officers turned shills. It goes without saying that any and all mercenary "for hire" type forces are strictly prohibited.

Yes, this would mean no guns, tasers or pepper spray for the police. We need a return to face-to-face hands-on policing and a new no-killing-ever philosophy. We need serious research and development into truly safe, non-lethal weapons with independent testing and non-police-affiliated oversight and transparent decision-making. This would be real progress. What we have now is a quickening descent into fascism.

The "Non-Lethal" Deception, Louis Evan Palmer, The Way It Can Be,
Copyright 2007 Louis Evan Palmer lives in Ontario Canada. His short stories have appeared in numerous publications.


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