What’s missing from the following headline: “Fort Worth Man Dead After Police Use Taser”?
The missing word, of course, is “killed” — as in the phrase, “killed by police.”
The parents of Michael Jacobs, Jr., a 24-year-old man who suffers from schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, called the police for assistance last Saturday when their son went off his medication and became difficult to control. When the officers arrived they briefly tried to convince Jacobs to go to a local hospital.
Then, according to the official account, the situation “escalated,” resulting in the use of Johnny Law’s favorite lethal toy, the taser.
Details of this atrocity are sketchy, but Jacobs’ parents insist that the police needlessly employed lethal force.
“He was laying flat on his stomach like that, shaking, and he was foaming out the mouth,” recalled Charlotte Jacobs, describing the fatal assault on her son. “I came out and said, ‘Ya’ll are killing him.’”
According to the distraught parents, the police were as lax in seeking medical attention for their son as they were eager to deploy the taser.
“They didn’t work fast enough,” Charlotte Jacobs insists. “They let him lay there 20 or 30 minutes before they called the ambulance back.”
When it was first made available to police over a decade ago, the taser was described as a non-lethal alternative to a firearm. Most police departments have official policies specifying that tasers are to be used only in those circumstances in which the use of firearms would also be appropriate.
In practice, however, police increasingly use tasers as instruments of “pain compliance,” even in situations that don’t involve criminal suspects.
The officers who killed Michael Jacobs — a troubled young man never accused of a crime — are on paid vacation (aka “administrative leave”) while their department and the compliant local press find a way to package this act of criminal homicide as a tragic but necessary use of force.
One brief but necessary post-script:
Unless you’re prepared to deal with a similar tragedy, never, never, never call the police for help.3:10 pm on April 20, 2009 Email William Norman Grigg