The Israel Police makes excessive use of taser stun guns. As Yaniv Kubovich reported in yesterday's Haaretz, documents recently submitted to a court show that one stun gun alone was used some 300 times in just two months.
The police have more than 150 such devices, and at least some of them are used hundreds of times a month. In some cases, policemen have used their tasers against people who were already bound. One policeman is suspected of regularly abusing detainees with it.
The police force did well when it decided two years ago to equip itself with this nonlethal weapon, which is widely used in dozens of countries worldwide. But despite orders stipulating that the stun gun can be used only when either policemen or suspects are in real danger, police make excessive use of the gun, which in rare cases can even endanger human life.
It seems unlikely, for instance, that the left-wing demonstrator in Jerusalem's Ras al-Amud neighborhood who was photographed last week with a policeman holding a taser to his head met the above criteria. Yet the policeman nonetheless shot him with taser needles, which cause temporary paralysis and electric shocks.
In contrast, when there are good reasons to use the taser or some other nonlethal weapon, police often fail to do so. Just last Tuesday, witnesses say, a policewoman and police volunteer stood idly by while a Nesher resident stabbed his former girlfriend's partner to death before their very eyes.
The Israel Police has been tainted in recent years by the use of excessive force against the citizenry. In too many cases, citizens have emerged injured and bleeding from their encounters with the law enforcers. The inordinate use of taser guns is an example of this.
Tasers do not usually kill and cause only moderate injury. Hence they should be used, but only in line with the clear, strict instructions issued by the police. Any deviation from the rules must be dealt with severely by the police brass and the Justice Ministry's department for investigating policemen.
The taser must not be used to harm suspects or innocent citizens unnecessarily. It is, after all, a weapon, not a toy.
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