Wednesday, November 07, 2007


These mornings, with the TV right at the foot of my bed in the hotel, I find myself watching about an hour of Fox and Friends before I head to class, more or less. Sometimes they sound reasonably intelligent when talking about issues of the day... and sometimes my jaw drops with disbelief at how moronic or rampantly irresponsible the things they say are.

Such is my feeling about all television news shows. I think the worst part about them is that the majority of the TV news audience thinks that it's getting actual news. Let me digress from my original point for a minute:

I have a Baccalaureate of the Arts in Journalism; yes... journalism. I took one broadcast journalism class in college because I was having such a great time at my volunteer DJ gig at Radio K and wanted to focus on radio journalism. Everyone else in my class wanted to do TV news and that was the focus, scripts, teleprompters, presentation, etc. That class was full of some of the most vapid, empty-headed sheep I've ever met in my life. All good-looking, but not a brain among them.

I was actually on Fox and Friends a few months ago - Brian Kilmeade came to Mayport and a bunch of us from different commands went to stand on the USS MCINERNEY flight deck behind him all morning in our whites for background and for him to call on us randomly about the various stuff they were talking about on the show. One story was about how oldest children are the smartest, so before the folks in the studio in New York started talking about it, Brian asked which of us were oldest children. I, of course, raised my hand.

"Would you say you're smart?" he asked.

"IT'S A TRAP!" shouted Admiral Ackbar from somewhere in the back of my mind.

"I guess so," I said.

So the studio goes to him and he shoves the microphone right in my face and asks the same questions again, but then:

"Why do you think you're the smartest?"

Nothing going on in my head, camera pointing at me, microphone touching my lips... "I went to graduate school..."

"Are you smarter than your siblings?"

Oh God. They're watching. "Oh yeah."

Hahaha. "Do you have to dumb down the dinner conversation?" Crap.

"Yeah." Not the whole truth, but we're talking about someone for whom 30 seconds is a long time.

"What's the biggest word you know?" Crickets chirping in my skull.

"Ah... sesquipedalian."

"What's it mean?" I've got nothing.

"Er... I forgot." As soon as the mic leaves my lips and short-attention-span man walks away having a chuckle at my expense, I'm thinking, "Uses long words!" I had the irony right in the palm of my hand!

Later, the folks in studio looked it up and reminded me on camera that it means "given to the overuse of long words."

I am theorizing that even for these TV professionals, the microphone/camera combo has strange magical ability to suck the brain clean of thought. Anyhow, I've strayed from my point...

This morning on Fox and Friends, the trio was discussing the recent cases where police used TASERs to subdue a violent 14-year-old trick-or-treater and a deranged 82-year-old hammer-wielding grandmother. There also have been cases of smaller children being 'tased' in the last couple years.

There also is growing concern over TASER-related deaths as Silja J.A. Talvi writes in In These Times, a Chicago publication "dedicated to informing and analyzing popular movements for social, environmental and economic justice; to providing a forum for discussing the politics that shape our lives; and to producing a magazine that is read by the broadest and most diverse audience possible." That was their mission statement; the column is obviously biased against TASER, Inc., but it's well written and interesting. Believe it or not, it is difficult to find unbiased reference material on this topic.

I was agape, yet unsurprised, that Hot Blond Chick on Fox and Friends this morning said there should definitely be an age limit on who police can 'tase'. Let's think about this for a second. Aside from the obvious physical differences between, say, children and adults and the elderly, what are cops supposed to do? Card the person to ensure they are age-appropriate for 'tasing'? For a program that supposedly courts a conservative audience, I definitely raised my eyebrows at the suggestion of making police officers' jobs yet more difficult. No wonder we have Marines and soldiers being shipped back here to the states to stand trial for doing their job.

Here's the thing: if a police officer is telling you to stop doing something, the wisest thing to do is cease doing whatever it is. All law enforcement officers are trained to a "Use of Force Continuum" which are levels of steady increasing force used to apprehend or subdue a subject. A typical one goes something like:

1. Presence (using the effect of the presence of an authority figure on a subject)
2. Verbalization (commanding a subject)
3. Empty hand control (using empty hands to search, relieve weapons, immobilize, or otherwise control a subject)
4. Intermediate weapons (using non-lethal chemical, electronic or impact weapons on a subject)
5. Deadly Force (using any force likely to cause permanent injury or death to a subject)

So by the time the officer tells you to do something, he's already working his way up. Persisting in your foolish course of action will cause the levels of force to increase.

OK, does an old woman with dementia know this? Probably not in any meaningful way, but if there comes a point where the officer has to decide whether to continue allowing this crazy lady to come at him with a hammer, allowing himself or a bystander to get seriously injured, or subdue her in a way comparable to the force he is encountering from her, the officer is going to 'tase' her. What's he going to do, whip out his baton and beat on her? He's sure as hell not going to shoot her.

But what about the children, you say? I say if the officer judges that they are a danger to themselves or others, then respond on an equal level, which is how the police (and we in the military, by the way) are trained. That includes a violent six-year-old, or 14-year-old in handcuffs if the situation warrants. Just like the military, nothing ever happens to a police officer the way it happened when they were training. Nothing ever happens by the book.

Now, based on some of the stories I've been finding on the Intarwebs that have taken place over the last three or four years, it does seem to me that the use of the TASER has become liberal amongst law enforcement officials. I don't think that it is always appropriate to 'tase' a child, but it certainly could be warranted. With use of force training, you are always instructed to use the lowest level of force necessary to control the individual and if you can get the job done safely without using a TASER, then don't use the TASER.

Law enforcement officers have seconds to decide whether and how much force to use in a given situation. A moment's hesitation can quickly lead to a situation getting out of control and result in the officer or the offender getting more seriously injured. Adding a step between lethal force and soft or hard control saves peoples lives, usually ones who aren't putting other people in danger, so why should it be more difficult for the police to use that option?

I hesitate to second-guess a cop in the line of duty, because when things happen you have act quickly - it's the same with me as tactical action officer on a ship in the Persian Gulf. If I'm lucky, I'll have 10 seconds to respond to an imminent attack. It's important to look at this stuff with a critical eye, but give these guys the benefit of the doubt.

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Blogger Bloviating Zeppelin bloody well said...

That's the force continuum that most agencies still train and in that fashion. That does not preclude any officer from jumping immediately into one level, as opposed to having tried and exhausted each level by itself and in its order first. And I don't even want to get into positional asphyxia and excited delirium with regards to Tazers and other applications of force and/or restraint.


08 November, 2007 14:58  

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