The ongoing debate over defunding police departments has prompted many communities to rethink the role of police officers and even consider diverting some of their responsibilities to professionals with more appropriate training. But there’s an easy policy fix that could serve to eliminate one specific line-item in just about every police department’s budget in the country: Ban the Taser.
There’s no better representation of the failure of police reform — and the intransigence of the police industrial complex — than the fact that cops in nearly every police department in the U.S. have Tasers strapped to their belts. The death of Rayshard Brooks, and the degeneration of the debate over whether “non-lethal” Tasers can kill, shows us why.
Here’s a quick history of the supposedly less-than-lethal weapon: In the late 1960s, aircraft company executive Jack Cover dreamed up the Taser and spent a decade failing to sell it to law enforcement. Then came the tragedy of Eula Love: In 1979, officers with the Los Angeles Police Department killed a Black woman who threw a kitchen knife in their direction. Protests followed, along with calls for reform.