Colleen (Miyose-Wallis), you sent a letter in to this paper with an article titled “Use Tasers instead of guns” published on June 25. I would submit to you that Tasers like any other weapon or come along device are not a solution to all the problems. I was a police officer for 41 years in a large metropolitan agency in California, and I can tell you right now that many of these panaceas are not solutions at all.
When I started police work I was 22 years old, 5 feet, 10 inches tall, and 165 pounds. All the other officers called me “Kid,” or “Shorty.” We had to buy everything except the hat badge, and needless to say my pistol was the cheapest one available. I bought a Billy Club, as we could use them, but I was very cautious about using it because it could be taken away from you and used against you. I always thought, “if I only had a Jawara stick, I could keep it in tight, and I wouldn’t have to worry about losing it in a fight.” Then, I found out that it worked on one person and not the next. Some people just grunted when you put a hold on them with it. I quickly found out people do not react to pain the same.
Then, I bought a tear gas pen thinking this should really take care of any person I would have trouble with. Wrong, one night a local agency was having a lot of trouble with a big mean drunk, so I drove over and popped him in the chest with the tear gas pen. It agitated him even more, officers trying to get him under control got a whiff of the gas, and it was also an older type called CS. It was highly contaminating, and not easy to remove. It contaminated the suspect, it contaminated the officers handling him, and the squad car smelled of CS gas for weeks. A couple of officers used the Iron Claw, which was also a very good tool for compliance, so I got one. The first time I used it, I was trying to get a man out of a car, and he was so drunk he never even felt it. I had to get it off before it broke his wrist. The department a bit later came out with a general order forbidding the use of the claw. Soon Billy clubs were banned, and we were issued batons. Again, I found that not everyone feels pain the same, what works well on one person can be a complete flop on another.
As I rose through the ranks, I got sent to special schools put on by the state, and the federal government. They showed many new devices, and told us which ones were a complete flop, and which ones were better, but it was always stressed not everyone reacted the same to the device.
Shooting someone is a last resort, and should be treated as such. Many times I pulled my weapon, and pointed at a person because they were a threat, or I thought they were. I never shot anyone in those 41 years, but would not have hesitated if myself, a fellow officer, or a member of the general public were in grave danger. Luckily, I never had to shoot anyone, and I am very grateful for that but, pushed into the right position, I certainly would have.
The local officers here use Tasers, a solution of the problem. Wrong again, if you are interested I can show you a video of two state troopers trying to get a huge drunk driver into custody and they are using the Taser, and the man is on the ground. He is still kicking and squirming, and eventually gets one of the barbs out, jumps up and runs to his car. He comes back with a gun and shoots both officers. The officers in our jurisdiction do use Tasers, and in many cases it will work fine. It has a range of several feet, and if a person is armed and out of that range, you are up the proverbial creek.
I found and many times it worked for me is a bit of courtesy on your initial contact, and a lot of people will go along with what you want them to do. But again not everyone, is going to cooperate, and you may be pushed into resolving the situation a bit harsher there is no simple solution.
Ronald Cole is a resident of Kailua-Kona and a retired law enforcement officer and Korean War veteran.