How hard can it be to tell the difference between a samurai sword and a white cane? Relatedly, how difficult is to be accepted as the kind of person qualified to serve as a member of the Lancashire police?
The news that a 61-year old blind man was tasered by police searching for a “suspect” seen carrying a samurai sword through the wild and mean streets of Chorley, Lancashire should surprise no-one. Colin Farmer, the victim of this assault, is fortunate to be alive. Granted, the police officer responsible for tasering him could not know Mr Farmer had twice suffered strokes but how hard can it really be to avoid tasering an old man?
Plenty hard, apparently. The specifics of this particular case are appalling but they should not astonish anyone. On the contrary, it is the entirely predictable consequence of arming the police with these weapons.
A Taser has already been implicated in at least one death in Britain while in the United States, where their use is, of course, much more common they have been linked, in one fashion or another, to no fewer than 500 deaths. Non-lethal force turns out to be surprisingly lethal.
Taser use in England increased by 45% last year and we may expect that figure to be repeated this year. And since the Police Federation want to treble the number of officers armed with these weapons it is only a matter of time before the police kill more people. It’s when not if.
The police, as usual, have apologised to Mr Farmer and promised an “urgent investigation” to “understand what lessons can be learned“. Bully for them. We should expect that the results of this investigation will be the usual nonsense focusing on training and guidelines and how tasers are deployed.
But the problem – and it is a problem – is not how tasers are used by the police but that they are used at all. It is a further example of the increasing paramilitarisation of the police and if the UK lags some long way behind the Americans in this regard we are nevertheless inching our way along the same, sorry, lethal road.
I hope Mr Farmer sues Lancashire police and that he takes them for as much as he can.
Previous taser-related commentary collated here. If readers with an interest in these matters felt like emailing me when they discover local examples of taser abuse and police brutality I’d be most grateful. (As always: email is alexmassieATgmail.com)