My local paper had a letter to the editor today taking the police to task for tasering an individual who subsequently died. It's a complicated story which the letter-writer simplified into something like oatmeal without raisins. A taser is one of those hand-held jobs that shoots barbs into you and then jolts you with about 750,000 volts (or something in there) so that you don't want to fight any more.
The letter writer was, fairly predictably, upset that the brutal cops had used the taser on a guy who had committed no crime except to get naked and go crazy. Some points:
1) The taser was developed as a humane way to control out-of-control people. It was seen as a much better alternative to beating the skull in with a truncheon or shooting holes in people. It serves another purpose; it keeps the cops from being kicked, punched, scratched, bitten, spit upon (or worse), bled on, or stabbed as they arrest someone totally out of control.
2) The taser has been remarkably effective in doing what it was designed to do. It has saved countless lives (both perps and cops) in tense standoffs.
3) The notion of "humane" is a moving target. That is, the definition changes, as it has for instance, with "cruel and unusual punishment." Apparently, "humane" now means, "With no adverse affects at all on the recipient," instead of "non-lethal and with no lasting harm."
So, when the letter writer blithely sanctions the police, said writer (who has almost certainly never been in a situation where a taser is necessary), is ignoring the most important aspect of the tasering -- the context in which it takes place. The writer is saying, "You must preserve law and order, and you gotta take the bad guys in, but if anybody is going to get hurt, it should be you."
If I ever go amok, I hope that the police have the kindness to taser me instead of simply shooting me out of hand.