Well, in that case keep up the good work.
IVEN THE hundreds of civilian deaths caused by police use of tasers in the U.S. since the weapon was first issued, the National Association of Police Organizations has released a statement to allay the growing fears of a jittery public.
The NAPO statement is addressed to "those law-abiding citizens who have expressed concerns that the use of tasers by peace officers constitutes deadly force, or at least police brutality." NAPO seeks to assure civilians that "the taser is not a deadly weapon so much as it is a tool of irony, intended to provide a vivid contrast to the title of 'peace officer' given to our men and women in uniform. We take full responsibility for not explicitly pointing out this irony to the general public much sooner, and hope that by doing so today, citizens will appreciate the ironic juxtaposition as much as we do."
In the full-length version of the NAPO statement, readers learn the history of the ironic use of weapons in past police work. Take the billy club, named after its inventor, the irony-loving Sergeant Billy "Dukes Up" Pershaw, who, rather than talking a drunk down from his illegal high during the Prohibition era, chose to beat him with a stick to "point up the irony of laws prohibiting alcohol while cocaine use was perfectly legal.
"Thanks to Sergeant Billy Pershaw, the billy club was manufactured and Prohibition soon repealed," notes NAPO. "Ironically, many citizens today are similarly beaten about the head for smoking pot, but we expect the ironic power of the billy club to eventually change lawmakers' minds in this case as well."
Some of the most ironic uses of the billy club occurred during the suffrage movement at the beginning of the 20th century, when women marching on the streets in demand of the right to vote were "beaten silly and thrown into prison, ironically, for wanting to participate as full citizens."
NAPO informs readers that "forced feeding was also employed ironically on women engaged in hunger strikes while incarcerated. We therefore believe that our brothers and sisters in corrections can stand shoulder to shoulder with the early suffragists in assuring that justice eventually prevailed. Were it not for the ironic use of nutrition tubes forcibly shoved down restrained women's throats, the U.S. Congress might not have ratified full suffrage for many more years."
The Civil Rights movement of the 1960s provided police with some of the best opportunities "to employ their billy clubs with full and unfettered irony," the expert use of which led to the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
More recently, pepper spray has become one of the more effective peace-keeping tools in the police arsenal; however, NAPO states its lackluster irony has proved "quite a disappointment" to police departments around the country:
"Yes, people cough and choke up from the spray, and crowds are dispersed, but, without permanent tissue damage or even death, where's the irony?
"With the advent of the taser, however," continues NAPO, "full, technologically sophisticated irony has finally been achieved in law enforcement. While death by taser is not always our intention, we can honestly say that never in the history of police work has the incongruity between our actions and the words 'peace officer' been more completely ironic. Sergeant Billy Pershaw would have been proud."
What eventual social progress may arise out of the "perfect irony" of dying at the hands of a taser-wielding peace officer is not yet apparent, but, "in the meantime," NAPO says, "we want to reassure all citizens that, ironically, we're in complete control."
© 2.16.10 Kate Heidel