By Robin Washington
The Marshall Project
In the new cop drama, “APB” (Monday nights on Fox), an Elon Musk-type billionaire engineer buys a beleaguered Chicago police precinct to avenge his buddy’s murder. He re-outfits the station with wizardry including drones, a biometric interrogation chair and Tasers that instantly (and nonlethally) stop bad guys with the range and accuracy of a gun.
We’ll leave it to the lawyers to argue whether or not a civilian could buy a precinct. As for the tech stuff, especially the pimped-out Taser, the question is timely: Given the recent high-profile fatal police shootings of civilians — roughly 1,000 a year — it makes sense that law enforcement officials and victim advocates alike are on a continuing search for a device that can neutralize a threat without causing permanent harm.
“It’s shout or shoot. There aren’t a lot of intermediate options,” says Sid Heal, a retired Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department commander who consults internationally on the use of force. And since most police department protocols allow officers to respond to threats by using a higher level of force than they’re confronting, an officer who faces off against a foe carrying a deadly weapon— which could be a hammer or baseball bat — is almost certainly going to respond with the service revolver.
For 800 years, the only effective way to stop an adversary has been gun, set to kill. But the quest for a nonlethal alternative has never been more urgent.
What, then, about the Taser? Isn’t that the solution — a weapon that can shock a subject into submission, leaving no lasting harm?
Picture: 72stormer (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons