Saturday, July 28, 2007

The Power of the Vermont Pigs

It’s obv to me that Sam Hemingway is pro-taser. Check out his shoddy inaccurate reporting in today's Free Press. Why doesn’t that paper's copy editor do his job?

He reports on an incident this past week involving a tasering of two "pro-environment protesters" in Brattleboro. Labeling these individuals the way he does gives the article a political slant, and shows his bias. As opposed to anti-environment protesters? Why not just write two persons, or two environment protesters?

Agenda or not, the implication is that they deserved to be tasered. In a story that was supposed to be 'just the facts.

In it's coverage, the Brattleboro Reformer calls the individuals non-violent protesters.

The Boston Globe just identifies them as two protesters

The man and the woman were planting flowers to protest the development of a truck stop on the Putney Road.

Another inaccuracy -

CBS News reported in 2004 that 70 people have died as a result of being zapped by Taser guns.

Huh, CBS News?!? That’s an outdated stat. Again, Hemingway gives a lower number to minimize the seriousness of the deaths. No where does he indicate that the numbers have increased. Amnesty International has identified over 150 taser deaths since 2001.

Sixty-one people died in 2005 after being shocked by law enforcement agency TASERs, a 27 percent increase from 2004's tally of 48 deaths, finds an Amnesty International study released today. Including 10 TASER-related deaths through mid-February of this year, at least 152 people have died in the United States since June 2001 after being shocked with the weapons.

"Despite a lack of independent research on TASER safety, police officers are using these weapons as a routine force tool -- rather than as a weapon of last resort," said Dr. William F. Schulz, Executive Director of Amnesty International USA (AIUSA). "These weapons have a record that's growing longer each week -- and it's not a good one. The increasingly frequent TASER-related deaths underscore the need for an independent, rigorous and impartial inquiry into their use."

Burlington Police are thrilled with 'em:
"It's the most effective new tool to come along in the police community in the last 25 years," Burlington Police Chief Tom Tremblay said. "We have significantly reduced injuries to officers and the number of confrontations with offenders by utilizing this tool."

First off, Chief Tremblay, it's not a tool. It kills, it's a weapon. So, because the po-lice are pro-taser, there’s no debate. Actually, there was never a debate in Burlington. BPD just started using them without public discussion. Tasers are dangerous, but the false sense of safety has caused the police to use them too freely. So much for the effects of NPA community PR: TASER use replaces the humanity and compassion that good officers develop, which make it unnecessary to endanger the public with.

I wrote last November, Last summer, Burlington Police obtained tasers to use on citizens here. Seven Days newspaper reported an incident last June where a taser gun was used on a dog. No protests were made by the Humane Society, of course.
The voice of the experts?
"The times where a Taser can cause harm are very, very, very rare," said Dr. Wendy James, an emergency room doctor at Fletcher Allen Health Care hospital who has helped Burlington develop its policies for using Tasers. "I'd much rather someone be Tased than have a bullet hole in them."

Taser International claims tasers are safe, "non-lethal" or "less lethal" They even sell a consumer version (keep your family safe), with the same effective zap as the po-lice kind. (I love these euphemisms!)

Is Dr James an expert on “non-lethal” weapons? How does Heminway know this fact? How much compensation did she receive from the BPD?

Hemingway’s story does not mention that the USDOJ is studying TASER use.

Nor does he mention Tasers new "tool". From New Scientist - Taser unveils long-range and 'scatter' weapons - there's the new XREP:
The new projectile, known as XREP can be fired from a standard shotgun. A barbed electrode sticks to the target on impact. The rest of the projectile then falls away on a short tether and another spiked electrode makes a second contact point on the target. This ensures that the two electrodes are sufficiently spaced out to affect the entire body.
But Neil Davison, head of non-lethal weapons research within the peace studies department at Bradford University, UK, points to potential hazards of XREP. "It combines the well-known dangers of impact projectiles – inaccuracy, potential for serious injury – with a Taser shock four times longer than usual, which also carries an increased risk to the health of the victim," Davison says.
Davison sees a risk that targets may be hit more than once. "My overall concern with all three developments is that they would further remove the process of human interaction, negotiation and reasoning from the decision by police to use force," he says.

See my related post from June.
AI's multimedia dossier on TASERS
AI's News dossier on TASERS


  1. 'pro-environment' is truly newspeak, and they were tasered? Are the police just providing a social service by employing the poorly socialised violent authoritarians. Which is not such a good plan as they have weapons and privileges. The shotgun shell is a very bad step, they used to call shotguns with certain shells 'riot guns' will these become 'protester guns'?

  2. Spot on, RickB. All I wanna do is give that reporter a copy of Orwell's Politics and the English Language.

    Until our police forces are demilitarised and we have citizen review boards (the last mayor here disbanded them) that have power to sanction officers, police brutality will continue.

    I told a friend just now about the taser incident in Brattleboro. He reminded me that same police department shot a guy in a church who was only treatening himself with a knife. They shot him once, then a few minutes later, shot him 6 more times, then refused to call an ambulance.

    The Reformer is a far better paper than the Free Press. The BFP may be the paper of record in Vermont, but it's a fuckin' ragpaper.

  3. In all honestly, the "paper of record" does not amount to much anymore. Jon Stewart's "The Daily Show" and Stephen Colbert's "The Colbert Report" are more trusted (and proven more reliable in studies) than CNN, FOX, NBC, etc. And these are shows on Comedy Central that do not hide the fact that they are fake news...satirical programs...that still contain more facts than most news reports.

    I was talking with a new acquaintance earlier about the merits of Seven Days. This is another paper labeled as left-wing. However, it is the nature of "left-wing" papers such as the Brattleboro Reformer and Seven Days to show both sides of the story, regardless of what bent is apparent by the end of the article. I believe this is due to the fact that those who actually have a case to make will strengthen that credibility by acknowledging their opponent's argument and responding appropriately in advance.

    This is something that the Free Press OFTEN seems to be lacking, and this is very unfortunate. A progressive city such as Burlington could be much better served by honest journalism.

  4. Thanks, Jay. Unfortunately, 7 Days, as with the Free Press, their use of extremes and sensationalism sells papers and content (and well thought out arguments) suffer. They want to sell papers.


    "Until our police forces are demilitarised and we have citizen review boards (the last mayor here disbanded them) that have power to sanction officers, police brutality will continue."

    Burlington's Board of Police Commisioners (citizen review board, citizens are appointed by the City Council to serve) no longer has the sole power to suspend, demote or terminate police officers.

    The last mayor did not disband the review power of the board, the ignorant voters and the low-lifes who are too lazy to vote disbanded the power of the board.

    The vote was:

    5,049 idiot fuck heads said "YES" remove power of the citizen board into the centralized power of the chief of police.

    3,004 sain voters said "NO".

    Not even

    This was the Town Meeting Day election in 2004.

    -Owen Mulligan

  6. Suddenly, this song comes to mind.. that's the Taurus in me, what can I say. Rush is one of my fave groups --

    Nothing can survive in a vacuum
    No one can exists all alone
    We pretend things only happen to strangers
    We've all got problems of our own
    It's enough to learn to share our pleasures
    We can't soothe pain with sympathy
    All that we can do is be reminded
    We shake our heads at the tragedy

    Every day we're standing in a time capsule
    Racing down a river from the past
    Every day we're standing in a wind tunnel
    Facing down the future coming fast

    Looking at the long range forecast
    Catching all the names in the news
    Checking out the state of the nation
    Learning the environmental blues
    Truth is after all a moving target
    Hairs to split, and pieces that don't fit
    How can anybody be enlightened?
    Truth is after all so poorly lit

    It's just the age
    It's just a stage
    We disengage
    We turn the page
    Every day we're standing in a time capsule
    (It's just a stage)
    We disengage, we turn the page
    Racing down the river running fast
    Every day we're standing in a wind tunnel
    (It's just a stage)
    We disengage, we turn the page
    Facing down the future coming fast

    -- Rush: "Turn the Page"

  7. Oh, right, now I remember about the vote. It was under Clavelle, though.


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