Thursday, March 03, 2005

Conflict Resolution... Not Electrocution

The fourth Texas death from Taser abuse occurred February 18th when Harris County Constables tazered a 52 year old man multiple times, sparking a protest last week in Houston. In response to this killing, the ACLU of Texas called for a moratorium on the use of tasers by the more than 300 agencies that use these “less than lethal” weapons statewide.

In Austin, after kicking off a petition campaign, making three appearances in front of city council and organizing a protest at the police station, city council responded to activists’ efforts by voting to "indefinitely suspend" an item to approve $75,000 to buy 90 more tasers for APD. The department has already 900 tasers in its cache, and uses them 23% of the time in use of force incidents - outrageously high compared to other cities. Fort Worth, TX, has only (approximately) a 3% taser use of force rate, and has still killed two people with the "non" lethal weapons. Chicago, a city more than four times Austin's size, has only 200 tasers and has managed to kill one person and maim another. APD is walking a tightrope.

As of Feb. 10, APD used tasers 300 times in the past year (according to an APD memo to council), disproportionately on people of color and in more than a third of those cases for no more than “verbal non-compliance,” basically regarding the tools as if they were “cattle prods.” Tasers are designed to be used in place of, or prior to, lethal force; if APD were using handguns at this rate, would the public stand for it? Since these weapons ARE actually lethal – then they should be subject to lethal use of force policy.

Austin City Council gave an already-suspect Chief Knee six weeks to come up with a 'full report' on the use of tasers so they could assess any needs for updating policy. Taser abuse opponents continue to maintain it’s not the toys, it's the boys – and their lack of proper training and discipline when policy for taser use is violated; a very routine occurrence in Austin from initial information gathered by campaigners.

On Friday, we will tell APD we want, “Conflict Resolution...not ELECTROCUTION!” and that we have already done a CITIZEN’S review of tasers and APD’s abuse thereof – we are not waiting for lip service to be paid to the issue. We demand cessation of their use NOW before another life is lost!

Where: APD headquarters, 8th St. & I-35
When: Friday, March 4th, 5:00 p.m.

Visit the Austin Spokescouncil website for more info.

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