There’s currently a bill in the New York State Legislature that would add transit workers to the list of New Yorkers authorized to have — and use — stun guns.
The bill was introduced by state Senator Eric Adams, a 22-year law enforcement veteran who spent six years working as an MTA cop. It’s in response to an increase in attacks on MTA workers — and a trip Adams took to China (more on that here). Oh, yeah — a little union pressure may have played a role, too.
As Adams explained to us yesterday, there certainly are a lot of pros to giving transit workers a way to protect themselves, and commuters, against dangerous thugs — he says transit workers having Tasers could even help thwart terrorist attacks, too (which may be a stretch).
As we explained to Adams yesterday, there also are a lot of cons to arming anyone with a stun gun.
Because they’re considered “non-lethal,” stun guns often are used rather liberally by law enforcement officials in situations where they don’t really need to be used — and often times there are fatal consequences.
Take the case of Marty Atencio, for example, a military veteran who died after getting Tased by several cops in Phoenix, Arizona, last year.
Atencio already was in custody when he was Tased — in fact, he was in jail and alone in a room with about a dozen cops, at the time. When he was wrestled to the ground and zapped by police, Atencio was standing with his arms crossed — in a jail, no less. In other words, he wasn’t going anywhere, and he didn’t appear to be a physical threat to anyone around him — why not just toss him in a cell and let him calm down?
Then there was the case of a 10-year-old Arkansas girl who was electrocuted by a law enforcement official after kicking a cop in the groin. If a cop needs a Taser to subdue a 10-year-old girl, he/she shouldn’t be a cop.
There’s no shortage of horror stories about overzealous law enforcement officials using Tasers — when a lot of times they didn’t need to — with fatal consequences.
As the saying goes, stun guns don’t kill people, overzealous, trigger-happy, Taser-toting cops kill people — and it often costs taxpayers more than a few bucks in lawsuits.
Of course, the vast majority of police officers don’t abuse their Tasers — and they’re used (as they should be) only as a last resort. However, some do, and it seems like arming transit workers with potentially lethal weapons could be a recipe for disaster.
We want to know what you think, though — Tasers for transit workers: recipe for disaster or necessary safety measure?
Cast your vote below.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on April 18, 2012