Once again into the breach

Those of you who dig the police violence arguments should rush on over to Safety Neal's Fireside Chat, where Neal has posted a YouTube video of a student at UCLA being repeatedly tasered by police. To repeat the point I made in comments there, one of the things that's striking about the video is that the police officers remain calm and professional throughout. The repeated taserings, as agonizingly painful as they obviously are for the subject, are mere routine for the officers. Their mandate is to enforce compliance to their orders, and they are trained to escalate their use of violence until compliance is achieved.

Now, I don't deny that there is some wisdom in this kind of procedure. A good way to win a fight, after all, is to escalate your use of violence past the point your opponent is prepared to go. What I claim is rather that reliance on this model of conflict resolution leads to a lot of avoidable violence, and that this is bad for a lot of reasons. One obvious set of reasons has to do with consequences like pain, humiliation, and death. Another reason is that we fancy our country to be a democracy, and that form of government seems to require that citizens be accorded more respect than these kinds of procedures allow.

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