Saturday, November 24, 2007

Don't Know What to Say...

about this topic we've been discussing. We've had two or three taser deaths of people detained by the police here in the Phoenix area over the last few years. Just recently, an intoxicated and disturbed woman was detained at the Phoenix airport. She was left alone and shackled in a holding cell, where she became entangled in her chains while trying to get free and managed to strangle herself to death. She had become hysterical when she missed her flight to Tucson, where she was going to check herself into rehab. Her wealthy New York family is suing the airport police for leaving her alone.

It's tough to be a police officer. They put their lives on the line every day, and bad guys really are out to get them, and they continually deal with the worst of the dregs of humanity. I'd think it'd be easy to become paranoid and way too trigger-happy, and entirely too prone to assume the worst of anyone they come in contact with. If you lie down with dogs you get up with fleas. It's like Charles' quote from The Untouchables.

I well remember when the police were "pigs" and could do no right. I was really afraid we were headed for a police state. The government was intruding into the lives of citizens in the most alarming way. (No comment about the current state of affairs.) I was involved in many a protest, because I was scared of what was happening, but I was plenty scared of being hosed or truncheoned or dog bit, too. Nothing of the sort ever happened to me, but I still get palpitations when I think of it. Yet you have to try to do something, to say something. What else can you do? Wait until they come for you?

In this day of cel phone cameras and ubiquitous media, it's harder and harder for the police, or the bad guys, either, to be able to get away with brutality. I think that having the actions of the RCMPs at the Vancouver airport splattered all over tv for the world to see and deplore is going to have a chilling effect on any other law officer who has to decide whether or not to Taser someone.

I just finished reading Vickie's In The Shadow of the Glacier. Her small-town Canadian police officer became a cop following the violent death of her fiance, much to the dismay of her ex-hippie, draft-dodging, ex-pat American parents. She did a great job of creating thoughtful people who made the best choices they could at the time they were faced with them.

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