A recent post by Winds-of-Change in another thread regarding a Sheriff's Deputy's tazing reminded me of a recent dialogue I had with a healthcare professional, a nurse with 12 years of experience, about a tazing death that had just been in the news, a college student who had an undiagnosed heart condition and a history of fighting with law enforcement before. Of course, the media had played up Tazers as dangerous, 50,000 volt death machines forcing electricity into someone with NO IDEA what health problems exist! Because of the media blitz, many local LE departments suspended use of their Tazers, with only two chiefs having the cojones
to announce they were keeping their department's Tazers in use.
I had known this nurse for a while due to an ongoing health condition, so I was able to short form the conversation, but check out how the conversation went:
Me: "So tell me, Tazers: For or against?"
Nurse: Makes an ugly face and immediately says, "I don't like the idea of pumping 50,000 volts into someone that you have no idea what health problems they may have. You can never be sure what something like that can do to a person."
Me: "A valid point. Have you ever been exposed to Tazer tactics other than what is in the media?"
Nurse: "No, we have the radio on here all day and it's usually just what comes across it."
Me: "Well, I was trained as a police officer and we were taught a principle called "Escalation of force." Basically it says I can only use one "step" of force greater than what my attacker uses against me. If he only attacks with his hands, I have to use a non-lethal weapon, like mace, or I could go to my baton if it was going badly for me."
Nurse: "Really? I never knew that..."
Me: "Well, the media is meant for entertainment, not education - remember that!"
We both laughed.
Nurse: "Okay, true, but what does that have to due with what happened to the poor college student."
Me: "The Tazer, since it's introduction, has fallen into the "step" of force right before a baton beating or firearm. When I pull a baton and start to swing, I try to strike limbs, to bring the suspect down, but in a fight, it is often hard to 'only' hit a limb, and often a face, skull or spine can be struck, permanently disabling the suspect."
Me: "well, my other option I mentioned was my firearm. Many times an officer uses a Tazer when he could legally draw his firearm and shoot the suspect. Now, as a nurse, which is easier on the body: two lead slugs half an inch across, or a two-second shot of 50,000 volts?"
Nurse: "Well, obviously the voltage..."
Me: "And that's why the Tazer was invented - to SAVE lives! But the media has made it sound like officers use it as a 21st-century torture device, not the life-saving wonder it has been. When you think of the over 4,000 people last year that were tazed that could've been shot, it makes the four or five that died a very small percentage of failure. Of course, now public pressure has forced all the local departments to stop using the Tazer, so the number of shootings will increase, but I'm sure the media will step right up to take responsibility for that."
Nurse: "Wow, I never looked at it like that."
Me: "Well, to be fair, it's never been presented like that! But be honest with me: Has this changed your mind at all about the use of Tazers as a life-SAVING device?"
Nurse: "Oh yeah! It's obvious the media has been one-sided in how they reported it. It's too bad police quit using them...do you think they'll reinstate them any time soon?"
This whole conversation took less than five minutes and completely slapped the media spin in the opposite direction. I used a popular event in the media to bring up the event and then my own training (Doesn't have to be LEO, can be any private, public or family training) to "educate" her on the proper use. I didn't go into a lot of detail - people hate to be bogged down and they have things to do at work - but if you can turn it into a little lesson-ette that they can remember and pass on to others then that is one more person that we have on our side and that will listen to the media with a little more careful ear! You might want to try it the next time you have a chance to chat with an acquaintance about recent events. I like to do this with clerks, cashiers, nurses - anyone that has a lot of contact with the public and may spread it like wildfire.