- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 26, 2001

Tasers just another weapon in hands of abusive police

The Prince George's County Police Department's public relations "spin machine" is working overtime. In news reports that the department will begin arming sergeants with a new electronic shock weapon, Chief John S. Farrell claims that violent police contact is "at a 15-year low" ("Tasers touted as alternative to deadly fire," Metro, June 21). County Executive Wayne K. Curry has called the police department "a model agency."
These statements ignore the pain of the surviving family members and friends of the seven persons who have been shot and killed by police officers in roughly the past two years. The statements further dismiss the fact that police behavior has led to an investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice to determine whether a pattern of abuse exists within the police department.
It simply defies logic to add electroshock weapons to the arsenal of a police department with a documented history of exercising excessive force and misusing police dogs with near-total impunity. The public still awaits a full report on the slaying of Prince Jones, who was followed across three jurisdictions before being shot and killed by an undercover officer nearly a year ago. Yet, during the same time, the department was studying how to increase its firepower with weapons that have a potential for misuse.
Amnesty International has documented the abuse of such devices. For instance, an inmate in a Virginia prison died last July 4 after being restrained with an electroshock weapon. The human rights organization has called for a ban on the use of all electroshock weapons until an independent study into their use and effects is conducted.
Given the Prince George's County Police Department's history of abuse and lingering unanswered questions surrounding numerous incidents of harm and death to residents, introducing electroshock weapons appears to be a recipe for disaster.

Director, Mid-Atlantic Region
Amnesty International US

It's the Unionists' turn to make a move in Ireland

Your disingenuous June 23 editorial "Disarm Ulster paramilitaries" may have misled readers into believing that the Irish Republican Army (IRA) decommissioning is the resolution to the conflict in Northern Ireland. The issue of decommissioning will not be resolved on either side until the Good Friday peace accord of 1998 is implemented by the British and Irish governments. Both governments have violated the Good Friday accord since its approval by voters in 1998; the resulting political vacuum is feeding the frenzy of violence. The IRA supports the peace process; its weapons are sealed in bunkers, and it has remained on cease-fire for six years. Loyalist paramilitaries have brutally murdered and pipe-bombed nationalists for the past three years, including human rights attorney Rosemary Nelson. Meanwhile, the British and Irish governments have continued to dismiss voters' demands for a new police service, the withdrawal of the British Army, human rights reforms, justice system reforms and cultural and language reforms. The democratic structures of the Good Friday accord were negotiated by the parties and the two governments over two years, approved by the voters and signed into international law. When will the media hold these governments accountable for the violence and mayhem their obstruction of the Good Friday accord has caused?

Niceville, Fla.

In May 2000, the British government stated that it would, at long last, put into force the changes in policing and in its massive military presence that it committed to when it signed the Good Friday accord in 1998. The IRA responded by opening three large arms dumps to international inspection. The British government responded with legislation that gutted the Patten Commission recommendations for a new police force. It implemented some token demilitarization while remilitarizing in other areas.
In response to your June 23 editorial contending that the IRA's arms move is not the same as putting weapons "beyond use": Weapons in an inspected arms dump are indeed beyond use. Those arms are forever compromised. Newspapers that support peace should be making that message loud and clear rather than backing some pro-British Unionists' claims that that is "not good enough." These obstructionist hard-liners want public weapons destruction, which is tantamount to surrender. This they well know will not happen.
Is the issue really arms? Or is that a smoke screen to hide Northern Ireland's failure to implement the democratic changes in the Good Friday accord? Why, indeed, would they want changes to their self-proclaimed "Protestant State for a Protestant People"?
The focus at this time belongs on the British government, not the IRA. Let's call for the British government to stop its prevaricating and finally do what it contracted to do when it signed the Good Friday accord.

Atlanta, Ga.

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