April V. Taylor
Atlantic writer Robinson Meyer recently spoke about how Black people refusing to stroke police officer’s egos and even deflating their egos by asserting their own right to be treated with dignity and respect can turn out to be fatal. The death of Sandra Bland illustrates that point all to well. Bland was found dead in a Waller County, Texas jail cell after being pulled over for failing to use her turn signal when she changed lanes to get out of the officers way.
During the stop, the officer asked Bland to put her cigarette out, and when Bland questioned the officer about why she had to put the cigarette out if she was in her own car, the officer went ballistic. He ordered her from her car, and when she questioned why she was being removed from the car, the officer threatened to light her up with his Taser.
Meyer points out, “The footage [of Bland’s arrest] is disturbing, but it also reflects a common problem. Tasers are not only used by law-enforcement agents as less lethal alternatives to guns, or even as weapons for self-defense – but often as tools to get people to do what they want. Bland does not appear to endanger Encinia, but she is not complying with his order, so he threatens to tase her.”
The taser was originally designed as a non-lethal weapon that was supposed to help law enforcement officers subdue suspects without having to use more lethal force. However, many people have died after having Tasers used on them, and the circumstances under which officers often use them does not match the original intention. A report from the Guardian shows that just this year, 33 people have died after having been tased.
Using tasers to inflict pain on suspects who are not complying when they are not being combative or aggressive is a clear misuse of what is a weapon. Lead researcher in a Wake Forest study on the issue William Bozeman says that tasers are often being used as “pain-compliance tools.”
Rapper Immortal Technique recently made a statement regarding these issues to Hiphopdx.com in which he stated, “Because they obviously, in my experience, get very aggressive very quickly. They’ll arrest you just because you hurt their ego. You could break the law and they’ll let you walk away, but if you hurt their ego, they’ll arrest you or they’ll hurt you or they’ll f#$% with you.”