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Jan 22

Tasers, Or Ohm’s Law As Applied To Government

Comments (5) 10:30 PM posted by admin |

As reported earlier by the Ann Arbor News, on January 18th, Ypsilanti City Council voted to authorize the purchase of 43 X-26 Tasers. The Ypsilanti Police Department received $24,971 from the Justice Assistance Grant Program to help offset the purchase price.

The vote was 6 to 1.

If you haven’t figured it out yet, I was the lone, dissenting vote.

Tasers are controversial. There is still a lot of debate in the medical community as to how safe they are. According to Amnesty International, they have documented over 290 deaths they attribute to Taser use. Taser International attributes those deaths to a state of “excited delerium” caused by subjects being high on some form of drug.

It should be noted there is no accepted medical definition for “excited delerium“.

Anyway.

I voted no for one simple reason: I did not have the information I needed to make what I thought was an educated decision.

At the December 4th City Council meeting, I was able to get the same item tabled. At the time, I asked for statistics on Taser use from surrounding communities that already had them. I also asked for workers compensation figures because part of the presentation given to Council was that Tasers would make officers safer and reduce injuries. Finally, I wanted to see the YPD’s policy on Taser use.

In the 45 days that led up to the January 18th Council meeting, I received information regarding the number of incidents over the past 5 years that would have warranted the use of a Taser.

I received the remaining information, including a draft of the Taser policy just after 9PM (one and a half hours after the meeting began). This was the first time that anyone on Council had seen the policy yet we were being asked to approve the purchase of Tasers. Without the necessary votes to table the resolution and with insufficient time to read the information and compare it to other Taser policies across the country, I voted no.

In the end, the core issue was not about Tasers or support of the police. What the rest of Council failed to understand is that this was about the flow of information. A Council Member made a very specific request for information from City officials and he did not receive it.

That should totally unnerve the residents of Ypsilanti.

5 Comments »

  1. Comment by Amy Doyle
    January 23, 2008 @ 1:21 pm


    You got the information AFTER the meeting began?? You’ve got to be kidding.

    Unnerved? Sure. But also bewildered, as to why you alone thought the information was necessary.

    What was the big rush for the vote, anyway?

    Does it help to know that others share your sense of incredulity?

    Don’t let them wear you down.

  2. Comment by WTF
    January 23, 2008 @ 7:49 pm


    I don’t see what the big deal is. Don’t we have insurance for those kind of police brutality deaths?

  3. Comment by Paul Schreiber
    January 24, 2008 @ 7:50 pm


    CM brobb:

    The TASER information sent to city council on December 14, 2007, contained contacts and TASER usage information from the Washtenaw County Sheriff, the city of Ann Arbor, Pittsfield Twp., the Michigan State Police Post 26, Canton Twp., Westland, Brighton, and Belleville.

    Chief Harshberger distributed the Ypsilanti TASER policy to city council the night of the vote because police policies in general are not public information.

    Paul Schreiber

  4. Comment by Bongo
    January 25, 2008 @ 10:43 pm


    Besides reducing injuries to police and citizens, the use of tasers makes some funny videos.

  5. Comment by Joe
    January 26, 2008 @ 11:20 am


    Mr. Schreiber – I think you are missing the point. The issue is the availability of all information on a timely basis as requested by members of council. There is no reason information requested in December needs to be presented during a meeting to council members. “Policy” should never be a rationale to prevent information flowing to the fellow council members or the public.

    Even if the “police policies” are legitimately not available to the public for one or more of the very specific reasons under the FOIA Act of 1976 (and in reviewing the Act I do not see anything which would prohibit the disclosure of this policy – http://www.legislature.mi.gov/(S(d14idtumddgl5r45tk03ed45))/mileg.aspx?page=getObject&objectName=mcl-15-243) then the information could easily have been made available to all members of council prior to the meeting with the notation that it is confidential per FOIA requirements and not to be distributed publicly. I get attorney-client priviledge information regularly in distributions prior to my meetings with the Dexter Village Council.

    I find myself wondering, “If Paul Schreiber, instead of CM Robb, had made the request for this information, or had doubts about the issue at hand, would the information have been available to all council members prior to the meeting?” Something tells me the answer is an unequivocal, “Yes.” THAT is the issue.

    Joe Semifero

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