Tasers were sold to the public as a tool for law enforcement to be used in lieu of deadly force. Presumably, this means situations in which officers would have previously had to use their firearms. It's hard to argue with that, and I can't think of a single civil libertarian who would say that this would be a truly civilized advance in policing. Nobody wants to see more death and if police have a weapon they can employ instead of a gun, in self defense or to stop someone from hurting others, I think we all can agree that's a good thing.
But that's not what's happening. Tasers are routinely used by police to torture innocent people who have not broken any law and whose only crime is being disrespectful toward their authority or failing to understand their "orders." There is ample evidence that police often take no more than 30 seconds to talk to citizens before employing the taser, they use them while people are already handcuffed and thus present no danger, and are used often against the mentally ill and handicapped. It is becoming a barbaric tool of authoritarian, social control . . .
America's torture problem is much bigger than Gitmo or the CIA or the waterboarding of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. The government is torturing people every day and killing some of them. Then videos of the torture wind up on Youtube where sadists laugh and jeer at the victims. It's the sign of profound cultural illness.
Actually, there are a number of "profound cultural illnesses" at work in the tasing phenomenon. Above everything else, there is racism and the contemporary workings of racism. African-American bloggers like African-American Political Pundit follow police abuse of tasers very closely and find a great deal of racism in the abuse. In my own blogging, I've explored the idea that tasing represents a generalization of the police treatment of African-Americans to the whole population. Another sickness is the close association of freedom with the exercise of authority in the U. S. Even after the election of Barack Obama, the most important images of American freedom are not authority figures like the police and the military as opposed to dissenters like Martin Luther King. In this context, tasing is a manifestation of the kind of police freedom that is widely admired in American society. Finally, tasing is yet another manifestation of the paramilitarization of American policing. Cops like the Boston racist Justin Barrett are just like the contras or Columbian paramilitaries in viewing themselves as judge, jury, and executioner for any behavior they don't like. In this way, tasing is just another way for the police to mete out summary justice.