Speaking of important issues, the video of Andrew Meyer being arrested and tasered is certainly disturbing and the implications for free speech and citizen safety are appalling.
My personal view is that tasers are too dangerous to be used on non-violent subjects because tasers do, from time to time, kill perfectly healthy citizens and until Taser International can explain the exact mechanism of why people are killed (and how to prevent accidental deaths), the devices should not be used on non-violent citizens.
But the free speech issue is also quite troubling. A Vanderbilt student sums up my view when they state that the actions of the police interfere with the very nature of free expression and open debate that are hallmarks of the University system.
While neither exceeding his time allotment nor ignoring line protocol, both of which Meyer seems to have done, are appropriate or respectful actions at a lecture event, his transgressions clearly pale in comparison to those of the officers.
It is clear from the video that the police escalated the nature of the conflict by forcibly grabbing a non-physically threatening Meyer as they attempted to remove him from the auditorium. His resistance was completely understandable. By the time the officers used the stun gun on him, Meyer was pinned to the ground and clearly outmanned.
Meyer was arrested for resisting an officer and disturbing the peace, giving police a more palatable way to describe Tasering a student for over-questioning a senator.|Taser incident threatens campus culture - Inside Vandy|
None of these issues are new, they've just been brought center stage by the footage of Mr. Meyer screaming like a stuck pig while he's being shocked.
A recent comment from a police chief encapsulates the law enforcement view:
"It's simple. If you do what you're told and you comply, you won't be Tased."
-Richard Leighton, police chief in St. Johnsbury, Vt., where two men who were shocked with stun guns in a 2005 incident won a $10,000 settlement after claiming police used excessive force. |Mlive.com|(emphasis added)
While law enforcement obviously takes an authoritarian stance on issues of disobeying a police officer's orders, I think law enforcement needs to exercise more judgment and discretion in determining whether a protest is political and non-violent and police should refrain from interfering with lawful dissent.
"I'm interested in changing the policy so that Tasers are not used on non-violent people, particularly protesters taking a dignified stance. I see the points police make in using Tasers as an alternative to lethal force. But it seems like they're lowering the threshold so they can use [Tasers] for a wide variety of uses."
- Jonathan Crowell, who was shot with a Taser during a peaceful demonstration in Brattleboro, Vt. |Mlive.com|(emphasis added)