Just as Vermont cuts the budget at the expense of our Vets, Teachers, Seniors, the less fortunate and especially the middle class (corporations get away tax-free), they’re sinking a lot of money into tasers, drones, surveillance cameras and vans, and two new armories. Why?
Are they expecting massive civil disobedience, or unrest? Are they mishandling Vermont’s finances so badly up in Montpelier, that they need to set the police on unarmed, peaceful demonstrators in Burlington?
What do they know, that they’re not telling us?
What can you do? Contact your State rep and senator and demand to know why! Contact them and demand a moratorium on police taser usage in Vermont. Contact your Selectmen and demand an ordinance against police taser usage in your town.
And sign the petition for a statewide moratorium.
A question that I’m asking, is WHY my elected representatives stood idly by, did and said NOTHING. Fire them in November: there are anti-corporate candidates for Liberty in Vermont. Candidates such as Dick Tracy, Paul Dame, Dexter Lefavour, Tim Ryan & Tom Burditt. They will be featured in these pages as the 2012 election progresses.
I bring you an article by Morgan Brown who publishes Vermont Watch and has led the fight against tasers and for Vermont’s disabled & homeless people. The original may be found here.
Taser Myths and a False Dichotomy
Over the course of the weeks that have past since the Tasering of MacAdam Mason by Vermont State Police officers and his death having occurred immediately afterwards (Wednesday, June 20, 2012), I have engaged in plenty of deep reflection while pondering about communicating with Governor Peter Shumlin and members of his administration regarding serious problems and major concerns in relation to statements or positions he and others within his administration have made or taken as well as then repeated over and over in one form or another regarding these and related matters.
Among these problems and concerns regard certain stock myths heard elsewhere before and that are being regurgitated (read: echoed) and fostered by Governor Shumlin and some members of his administration as if these were indeed true, including that somehow Tasers result in the lessening of the use of lethal force or so goes particular arguments or positions being offered, as well as the false dichotomy constantly hyped of there being only a choice between Tasers or guns and bullets.
As I understand it, the myth that Tasers equals less use of lethal force by police has been both refuted as well as documented, including within the 2011 Montpelier Taser Committee report (pages to read include: iii, 13 & 14), here.
It should also be noted about how Tasers are not a substitute for the use of other means or forms of lethal force, nor have they ever been, either.
Then, there is the problem of what in truth is nothing more than a false dichotomy being cited by Governor Shumlin and members of his administration that this is somehow only a choice between using guns and bullets or Tasers, when it is not. There are indeed many other viable options and alternatives available than either he appears to believe or would have the citizens of the state believe.
The fact is, and this gets to what appears to be the main justification along the lines of what Governor Shumlin has most often cited as the apparent reasoning behind his stated belief for police officers needing and using these potentially lethal weapons (and the following point is also documented elsewhere within the above mentioned and linked to report as well), rather than being used by police instead of employing other weapons or forms of lethal force, Tasers are more often used against certain populations, groups or types of persons in instances and circumstances when using firearms or even other potentially lethal weapons, tactics or means would not otherwise be justifiable.
This should not be acceptable or allowed to be tolerated, by either the citizens of state or by its governor. To do otherwise not only gives the appearance of being an act of deliberate indifference, but as one person who posted a comment to an earlier vtdigger article on the subject had suggested (here), this could also easily be considered — in effect — as “green-lighting the casual use of tasers” (emphasis mine: i.e., as posed in its intended or proper context; screenshot):
In addition, as the Tasering of MacAdam Mason as well as numbers of other persons across the nation tragically illustrate, depending on various factors including these potentially lethal weapons not being used according to Taser International’s own guidelines (which also then leaves the municipality, county or state wide open to face an ever growing liability on its own), deaths occur after Taser use and, therefore, are among those weapons, tactics and means used by police with the potential of resulting in lethal force.
Despite what Governor Shumlin appears to have argued before the press to the contrary (during his regular press conference held on June 27th; view below embedded video clip), albeit without having said such in so many words — yet the meaning was clear enough, I am certainly not alone in my belief that the death of MacAdam Mason was both needless and preventable.
Vermont as a state can and must do better and differently as well as sooner rather than later.
The 2011 Montpelier Taser Committee report also includes certain more viable options, alternatives and approaches worth considering as well as employing, some of which are called for within the Taser Moratorium statement signed onto and issued by various civil rights and disability/mental health advocates as well as concerned citizens, here.
View related video:
Although there is much more that could be stated along these and related lines, one final point I am compelled to make is about how one of the many other pathetic arguments used in a rather dismissive fashion by some within the administration is that the call for the moratorium was a “knee-jerk reaction”. Not only are dismissive arguments and tactics like these highly insulting, including to one’s intelligence, but they are also conveniently self-serving as well as being blatantly false. It is quite disappointing and disturbing to consider about how Governor Shumlin’s administration would stoop to this level of callous and defensive tactics and strategy, particularly when people’s quality of life and actual lives are at stake.
The fact is, as is usual when either such letters or statements are developed and later issued by those of us who chose to be involved, this one was well thought out and very carefully crafted by those who were involved as part of the core group prior to the usual process of agreeing to sign onto the Taser moratorium statement of June 27th (2012).
However, rather than argue these points and matters with Governor Shumlin or his administration any further if it is at all possible to do so, it has been hoped and continues to be hoped that meetings can be arranged to work these matters through much better than has been the case thus far and that any such meetings occur in the manner as is needed with all stakeholders at the table and not simply a token few of those of us who had not been well represented enough in other meetings or forums concerning these matters that might have been held previously.
Having stated the aforementioned grievances, it is also worth noting about how under Governor Peter Shumlin’s astute leadership the administration has done what had been sorely needed along these sort of lines concerning homelessness and providing essential housing (here and, here) as well as, when it was even more uncertain how things might evolve, addressing the problems and unmet needs that had long existed for decades within the mental health system and the state hospital. Governor Shumlin set the standard for what his administration could continue to follow upon those earlier examples and also actions he had undertaken when other problems as well as relating urgent needs had previously arisen.
In terms of establishing an agreeable process and then attempting to find a mutual resolution with which to help the entire state move forward from here on out, and even if it might not be simple or easy to accomplish, there is no reason to believe that what now appears to be an expanding impasse concerning Tasers and related matters can not likewise be surmounted.
That said however, prior to doing so, it might be good to consider having a smaller meeting held that includes certain members of the administration (as well as others who should also be there) and those who have been calling for a moratorium on the use of Tasers by police across the state until certain statewide policies and procedures as well as more extensive training of police than is currently available is put in place.
All that said, it should be kept in mind that — as always — I am merely speaking for myself as a concerned citizen and for none other.
If you have not already signed onto the online petition urging the following, please consider doing so (read the petition as well as the description found on the page and, if you are so inclined, sign on, here):
The undersigned petitioners urge Governor Peter Shumlin to call for an immediate moratorium on the use of Tasers by the Vermont State Police as well as all other law enforcement agencies across the state. This moratorium should remain in place until standardized statewide policies are put into practice that will reduce the risks posed by the use of Tasers, as well as, until all officers across the state whom are armed with Tasers receive standardized, state-approved, training in the use of Tasers, including more extensive, standardized, state-wide and state-approved training for dealing with people in a mental health crisis than is already currently available to police officers.
Posted by Morgan W. Brown. “Although I blog about many things in general, because my life experiences include having lived homeless off and on over several years in many of its various forms, as well as formerly having been on the receiving end of the public mental health system, these and related matters *sometimes* find their way into certain blog posts in one fashion or another. My online access is gained via public sites, computers of friends and allies, as well as a donated laptop with wireless Internet capability.”