The Reality of Police Action: The Use of Force Against a 95-year Old Woman

I read an article on Saturday, May 20, in the Toronto Star newspaper. I mentioned this to my wife, who was shocked and began to cry (her mother is 85). John Clarke, former major organizer of the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty, commented on this article recently, and added a link to the Guardian’s account.

John Clarke

Obviously, there can be no credible suggestion that this elderly woman posed a serious danger to the cop. She may have been holding knife, as she approached, using a walking frame, but it was completely possible for the cop to keep out of harm’s way. The use of the taser can’t be justified in terms of self-defence but it is really quite easy to understand if you have any familiarity with how police function.

Day to day policing is focused on social control and the assertion of authority is central to this. This means that cops demand compliance and, if they don’t obtain it, physically enforce it. The selection process, training and day to day functioning of the police establishes and reinforces this basic pattern of behaviour.

This is why the police are so horribly lethal in situations of emotional crisis and it explains the monstrous irrationality of firing an electric current into the body of a frail 95 year old woman. Talk of sensitivity training and deescalation skills is all just so much fluff that is at odds with the basic enforcement role of the police. When their instructions aren’t complied with, they move to the next level and, if the object of their attentions is too distraught or too disorientated to fall into line, the results are always harsh and often tragic.

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