Groups fret over Taser usage; Chronicle hops to attention

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The Chronicle‘s Roma Khanna — who has done yeoman’s work for Jeff Cohen in exposing the shocking fact that HPD officers have actually had to use their guns when dealing with bad guys, and in doing makeovers of death row killer guys — has a story today about Tasers being disproportionately used on minorities:

Houston police officers used Tasers on minorities in almost 90 percent of the incidents in which they shocked people in recent months, prompting civil rights groups Wednesday to call for tighter controls on the use of the stun guns.

Leaders from the ACLU, LULAC and NAACP requested a meeting with Police Chief Harold Hurtt to express concern about officers’ use of the 50,000-volt alternative weapons since the police department bought 3,700 of them last year.

Officers stunned people with Tasers in 144 incidents between Dec. 3 and March 10, according to the department, shocking blacks or Hispanics in 125 cases, or 87 percent.

“It always seems that the minorities are the first to get a taste of something like this,” said Sylvia Gonzalez, director of the local chapter of the League of United Latin American Citizens. “We are very concerned.”

Executive Assistant Police Chief Charles McClelland said, however, that the racial breakdown on Taser use mirrors statistics of other police interaction with minorities.

“The Taser itself is not a racial device,” he said. “Officers’ decision to deploy the Taser is based on the suspects’ behavior and the officers’ training.”

In police shootings throughout the county, however, about 70 percent of people shot from 1999 through August 2004 were minorities, according to a Houston Chronicle analysis.

I don’t know why, but I am constantly amazed at “professional” journalists’ inability to do any critical thinking. Does Khanna really think that HPD officers specifically target minorities? REALLY?

The Chronicle was supportive when HPD purchased Tasers to use as an alternative to guns. Are we now seeing another crusade, to completely disarm law enforcement? We’ve asked this before, but what exactly would the Chronicle like HPD to do when faced with bad guys? Hand them a cookie? Give them a gift certificate? Maybe a teddy bear? WHAT should HPD do?

And let’s not forget what happened when the Chronicle‘s editorial board was invited to test a law enforcement training simulator:

Earlier this year, Harris County District Attorney Chuck Rosenthal invited members of the editorial board to the basement of the Harris County Court House to experience the Shoot/Don’t Shoot Course

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Anne Linehan is a co-founder of blogHOUSTON.