by Emmett R Smith
ABOVE Is the link to the Mankato, Minnesota, Free Press report on 27 February 2008, of the release — at last — of the Minnesota State Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) report on the December, 2006, death of rural Amboy, Minnesota, resident Mr Jeffrey Skjervold, in the course of a tragically bungled police-operation.
The report as a professional matter between police officers of different agencies and jurisdictions objectively does not assign blame to any officer involved, and it is further indicated that Mr Blue Earth County Attorney Ross Arneson will not seek charges against anyone officially involved. Personally, I am aghast to learn now what is revealed above, as I know the officer involved in the mis-deployment of the Taser in the Skjervold death, and he is a fine man and a “good cop,” and I cannot begin to imagine how badly he must feel haunted at times, by all that went so very badly to Hell that December night now just over fourteen months ago.
It is clear to me — and, I hope that you will see it too, though obviously none of this can be of any comfort whatsoever to the Skjervold heirs — that there are victims of more than one sort, in this awful business. Below is my commentary to Minnesota Public Radio (MPR), which featured a news-item today about the two Blue Earth County, Minnesota, Taser-related police-supervised deaths to occur here to “persons of interest” in just one year, from December of 2006 to December, 2007:
THE Suicide after wounding and the shooting to death at another time by Blue Earth County deputies and Mankato police, of two county and city residents in just twelve months, highlights locally a mounting body of evidence of problems with the Taser. As a “preferred” method of subduing especially distraught or mentally-ill persons, twice now in Minnesota’s Blue Earth County alone it has backfired. The subject of interest to police in both cases was only stimulated to yet further excitement and wound up either dead of a self-inflicted wound or else “needing” to be shot to death. As I know personally through my seasonal work in past years at the Mankato Salvation Army Men’s Shelter one of the officers involved in one of the instances of Taser-failure, and as he is also reputedly one of our most-experienced and finest law-officers in this jurisdiction, I submit that he as well as those killed is arguably a victim in this case, although in a different manner as a serving police officer. Specifically, I perceive that the police broadly are very possibly being misled as to the efficacy and “universal” applicability of the Taser, as a kind of a “come-along” gimmick. If so, the fault redounds exactly to unduly cheerful and over-optimistic marketing. The Taser it appears is being aggressively marketed by the manufacturer at this time. There is just now of course a window of funding-opportunity, represented not only by the availability at this particular time of free money from the Homeland Security setup, but also of funds from police-confiscation of money and property from persons arrested for illegal activities such as drug-dealing. Also, the Taser corporation lately has been developing a program of ladies’ home Taser-parties. The Taser in all of these contexts and on the face of it certainly must seem to be a Heaven-sent alternative to simply shooting outright the uncooperative and the menacing. But what if in certain types of cases the Taser in fact works directly oppositely as intended, for example with the mentally ill? Is the Taser corporation keeping CENTRALIZED records of adverse reports? If they are, then can I, as a trained and credentialed public administrator for example, ask the Taser corporation for statistics of reported problems and expect to receive an ACCURATE account? The situation is highly unsatisfactory at this time, and this is shown above all by the wild array of statistics concerning Taser-caused and Taser-related deaths. Depending on which source one initially accesses in even a cursory Internet search, something like two hundred to four hundred or better deaths are ascribed, thus far, to Taser problems, either from possible mishandling or simply wrong-deployment. The greatest concern now of all is whether cash-strapped local jurisdictions have been tempted too far in relying on the Taser, as a kind of universal solvent, and a cheap substitute for such ongoing activities as inservice-training in dealing with the mentally-ill? Or even just the further perfection of non-lethal SWAT techniques? All-in-all, the only intelligent decision increasingly is to have at this time a moratorium on further sales of the Taser, until we are for once and for all all altogether on the same page.
Emmett R Smith & cet
[Emmett R Smith all rights reserved 1 March 2008]