Wednesday, December 2, 2009

10-year-old girl "tased" in rural Arkansas

Law enforcement’s improper use of a taser is a concern that occasionally gains media-wide attention. For example, when a police officer used a taser on a 72-year-old great-grandmother during a traffic stop in May, both CNN and Fox News covered the story.

Recently, in rural Arkansas, a police officer tasered a 10-year-old girl. This story also attracted a considerable amount of media attention, including that of Fox News. The officer was dispatched to the rural home after the mother of the child reported a domestic disturbance. The mother reported that the girl screamed, kicked, and resisted when she attempted to get the child into the shower before bed. When the police officer arrived, the child kicked the officer in the groin. At the urging of the child’s mother, the officer then delivered a brief taser to subdue the child. The police report described the taser usage as a “very, very brief stun.” As of last report, the girl was not injured and is being held at the Western Arkansas Youth Center in Cecil, Arkansas.

The opinions of the town’s citizens concerning the incident differ dramatically. Police Chief, Jim Noggle explained the department’s actions and stated, "We didn't use the Taser to punish the child — just to bring the child under control so she wouldn't hurt herself or somebody else." Additionally, he supported the decision of the officer in question. However, the father of the child is outraged the incident occurred. He told the media, "My daughter does not deserve to be tased and be treated like an animal.” Further, the town’s mayor is now calling for either the Arkansas State Police or the FBI to investigate the incident.

Steve Tuttle, a spokesman for Taser, Incorporated defended the use of taser guns and said, “In some cases, a Taser presents the safer response to resistance compared with the alternatives such as fists, kicks, baton strikes, bean bag guns, chemical agents, or canine response”

To me, this story poses a lot of interesting questions. First of all, it seems strange that an unruly child would result in a mother calling law enforcement to her home. Additionally, why did the officer even attempt to subdue a child in the home after he learned of the nature of the “domestic” disturbance? Also, how did the incident escalate to the mother requesting the officer to taser her child; and, why did the officer comply? It seems there is something missing from this story concerning the relationship between the officer and the family. It seems at least possible that an officer would respond in such a manner as a result of his knowledge of the family. At the very least, lack of anonymity could have contributed to this shocking incident.

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