City Council meeting last night

Last night’s City Council meeting, although long and painful, did get interesting at times. I had the chance to address the council at the beginning of the meeting, which was simply me giving a few comments on how the Citizens Police Review Board has been operating and recommending that the Council amend the ordinance to mandate that appellants have an opportunity to directly address the board, as Angela Bacca and Ed Rosenthal were unable to do two weeks ago. For video of my statement, click here and then click on “1. Spencer Pearson: Citizens Police Review Board”.

The big issue last night (besides discussing the 2011 budget proposals) was the pending taser ban brought about by petitions from the People for a Taser-Free Columbia. The ban would prevent anyone, citizens or police, from using or threatening to use a taser or other conducted electrical devices. The council heard public comment on the issue from many citizens, most in support of the ban. One man claimed the ban was unconstitutional, citing the second amendment, but of course not only are there limits on the scope of the second amendment, but the right to bear arms applies to firearms, and a taser is not a firearm. One of the city council members expressed worry that by banning “other conducted electrical devices” we would in fact be making it a misdemeanor to use medical defibrillators. Let me address this absurd statement right now: First off, no one in their right mind would arrest an EMT for using a defibrillator to save a life. Secondly, the language in the taser ban is very clear that it would be unlawful to “use or threaten to use a taser or other conducted electrical device against a person.” I add the emphasis to the word “against” because I believe it is important in ruling out defibrillators from the ban. A defibrillator is never used against someone, it’s used for someone in a medical setting. Tasers, however, are designed to be used against people to control or subdue or otherwise hurt them. This argument is an idiotic scare tactic that sadly might lose some voters who are unable to see past it. The most common argument against the taser ban was an interesting one, namely that there are officers who are smaller than the criminals they must sometimes subdue, so they deserve this taser tool because they’re small. This seems at first a legitimate argument, until you realize that there have been small police officers for centuries, but tasers have only been used by Columbia police for 5 years. In that 5 years, officers have proven multiple times that they are incapable of following protocol, including giving citizens mandatory warnings before firing. Officers have pepper spray, night sticks, handcuffs and handguns. They don’t need another torture device in their arsenal, and the main reason I support the taser ban is this: Tasers have been branded as non-lethal, yet tasers can and do kill people. Cops find it too easy to tase tomeone, but they’re forced to think twice before pulling the trigger of a gun. Since City Council defeated the ballot measure, it’s up to Columbia’s voters to decide whether to ban taser use in our town. This means that this November, you have no excuse not to vote. Vote yes on the taser ban this November!

For video of the taser issue being discussed, including the public comment, visit the link above and scroll down to “4. B191-10 Amending Chapter 16 of the City Code to add a new section pertaining to tasers and other conducted electrical devices.”

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