Italian Police to arm with TASER guns

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Last among the Police Forces in Europe, Italian Policemen (along with Troops from the Italian Army and Carabinieri) could also be equipped with TASER guns while on duty, after Prefect Vittorio Izzo, head of the Crime Executive, gave his authorization on March 20th, 2018.

Six Italian cities (Milan, Brindisi, Caserta, Catania, Padua, Reggio Emilia) are going to be the laboratories for the agent, who are to be temporarily equipped with TASER guns (specifically: model X2 with flash light and laser scope, the newest weapon on the market)in the performance of their duties; they are also to be equipped with color cameras with HD resolution, which will automatically switch on as soon as the safety is removed, as well as with night sight in order to register the agents¡¯ movements and study any progress.

 The use of TASER guns is preferred by law enforcement because it allows to prevent scuffles with potentially dangerous persons: the electric shock emitted by a TASER gun (50.000 volts every 5 seconds, via two 13-millimiters darts capable to pierce through skin and clothes, attached to a thin electric cable which creates an electric circuit) causes muscles and nerves to contract, thus enabling the agents to handcuff the subject.

At the same time, it should be noted that Italian Policemen are not legally bound to have an identification number to carry and show when in service (a draft bill to introduce it and make it mandatory was stopped in 2015), thus preventing their traceability which would be an helpful deterrent against abuses in the management of public order. Of course, this would be but one step toward making police work more clear, by ending impunity.

According to the Italian laws, the Court of Cassation (the body at the top of the Italian ordinary jurisdiction) in a judgment of 2016 (Cass. pen. Sez. II, 25-10-2016, n. 49325) has defined the TASER gun an "actual" weapon (meaning that its primary function is the offence against the person): this implies that TASER guns can be sold to whoever has a gun license, but cannot be carried around.

It is well known that, as early as 2007, the UN ruled that the TASER guns are "torture devices" on the ground that it "provokes extreme pain", advising the Portuguese Police not to equip its agents with TASERs.

Back in the first decade of the 2000s, TASER guns and the "Shockwave System" (a device that fires multiple TASER cartridges remotely, originally designed for "area denial" to allow the US Service members to combat the threat of suicide bombers, while remaining out of the environment of these threats) began being used for crowd control during riots.

Psychologist Thomas Gebauer (also managing director of the human rights organization Medico International, based in Germany) warned that non-lethal weapons were "a symbol of the growing repressive character of European and North American governments, and of their readiness to violently suppress protests against the spreading social injustice"; interviewed by the news agency Inter Press Service, he stated: " The development of such weapons aims at securing the growing social inequality, at ensuring that the poor do not have a chance of showing their discontent against the rich. The aim of these weapons is to guarantee social borders, to install perennial control of movements, to restrict democracy."

Dozens of civilian deaths are attributed to the use of TASER guns by police both in USA and UK: while the manufacturer maintains that these unfortunate deaths are not to be linked to the direct use of TASER guns but, instead, to cardiac and lung conditions making the subject "at risk", it is also true that a major cause for concern is the lack of specific training for the agents on duty, who might become very prone to misuse and abuse the TASER guns given its status as "non-lethal weapon": since the officers feel that they are harmless, they may be increasingly tempted to use them frequently. It¡¯s technically true that all fatalities may be described as accidental because TASERs have been designed for non-lethal force: they are not drawn to kill, at least intentionally.

Unless usage discretion is properly determined, TASER guns can indeed lead to deaths.

So there¡¯s no easy way to find a good balance in a debate about TASERs, because most depends on how they are used, who is using them, and who they¡¯re aiming to.


Article provided by: Angelo Colella. Mr. Colella is professional translator specializing in English, Italian and Chinese.


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