The Court House News Service released a story yesterday about a New Mexico state policeman tasering a ten-year-old boy.
In our present state of cultural decline, it is not hard to imagine a scenario where a cop would be doing a child this age a favor. If the child had a handgun, for example, and the cop had no choice, he would be acting heroically to use a taser and try to stop the boy while minimizing his injury.
But, according to the lawsuit being filed against the state policeman that is not what happened.
Instead of a place where a cop might fear violence, this incident is alleged to have happened on the school playground, according to a lawsuit filed on the boy’s behalf. It was career day at Tularosa New Mexico Intermediate School. Officer Chris Webb asked a group of boys which one of them would like to clean his car. When the ten-year-old boy, who weighted less than a hundred pounds, said he didn’t want to clean the policeman’s car, Webb pulled out his taser and pointed it at the boy. “Let me show you what happens to people who do not listen to the police,” he said. Then Webb fired his taser.
The two points of the wires went through the boy’s shirt, delivering a fifty-thousand-volt shock that made him pass out. Webb pulled out the barbed points, causing scarring and leaving burn marks that were like cigarette burns. Instead of taking the boy to the emergency room, he merely carried him to the principal’s office. The lawsuit claims that the boy now suffers post-traumatic stress syndrome, and wakes up at night in fear clutching his chest where he was wounded.
This all sounds unbelievable… except it is all too believable in the context of a stream of stories that keep coming up on the internet about abusive cops and especially abusive cops with Taser guns. While we don’t know yet, if Webb was simply trying to scare the child by pointing it at him, or if he actually used the taser consciously as a means of punishing the child, if the plaintiff’s version of the facts is even close to the truth, we have a real problem on our hands.
Remember, a story about a bad cop is rarely only about a bad cop. It is also a story about whether or not the authorities who hired him are actually checking the character and background of those who apply. It shouldn’t take a genius to figure out that people who want to get paid to carry weapons and wield public authority might be the last people who should be hired for such a job! Was Webb so lacking in basic sanity and self-control? Had he never acted out of line before?
Also, can we please reconsider equipping law enforcement with tasers? I realize that it seemed to make sense on humanitarian grounds to give cops “stun guns” that were not nearly as lethal as handguns. But the fact that they are less lethal does not mean that they are really safe. The most charitable interpretation that can be put on the actions of cops all around the nation is that they find the taser too tempting to use—and thus it gets overused.
Finally, we need somehow to recover a sense that policemen are simply being paid to do as “watchmen” what we all are empowered to do as citizens. Police are not “soldiers” and the rest of us are not “civilians” compared to them. They are not an occupying army. They are supposed to protect us, not threaten and hurt us.
Somehow that attitude has been lost, and even our children are suffering for it.