The media and talk shows are all abuzz about the video of a 72-year-old woman being tasered at a traffic stop last month. The tease to the news story focuses on the woman’s age, and the fact that she’s somebody great-grandmother. Local officials recently ruled that the tasing of Kathryn Winkfein was appropriate.
When I first heard the story, I wondered why anyone would taser a 72-year-old man OR woman at a traffic stop. But, after watching the dash cam video of the incident (below), I have to admit that the woman was acting pretty mouthy and seems to be using her age as an excuse. She also appeared to walk closer to the traffic, despite the officer’s repeated instructions to move back.
Were there any other options besides tasing that the officer could have taken? Maybe. If he decided to place her under arrest for resisting, he could have cuffed her and moved her to his car. Still, if she had her mind made up that she wanted to get back into her car and physically fought him, if she made another move towards traffic, she could have gotten herself, and the officer, hit by a car. It was a tough call, and while one would think the police officer could have somehow physically restrained her, it is possible that tasing was the easiest way for him to render her unable to physically resist.
The pros to tasers is that they are sometime better than using physical force, and always better than using a gun, to restrain or disable someone who has become out of control. While I have no desire to have any family member of mile tased, I would rather the police take that option than using severe physical force that could cause harm. I would be very upset too if my 79 year old mother was treated that way, but I would also be upset and concerned if I saw my mother behave the same way this woman had behaved toward the officer. (Just for the record, if my mother behaved this way, it would not be normal for her, which is why I would be concerned.)
The cons to tasers is that they can be an easy out for the police. This office was clearly bigger and more powerful than this 72-year-old woman, and I don’t see why he couldn’t have just cuffed her and led her to his car. In addition, a 72-year-old person’s heart or nervous system may not react too well to the shock of a taser. In fact, unless a police officer knows the medical condition in advance of the person they are going to taser, they run the risk that their action could cause the person serious physical harm. And what if the woman’s unruly behavior was due to a medical condition? The officer can’t always know if the person is acting out because they have a medical problem, or if the person is just being a jerk. My thinking is the officer needs to engage their brains before they engage that taser – presuming they have time to think, that is.
In this case, the taser didn’t appear to cause her any major harm. His intent appeared to be to get her out of the line of traffic, and to keep her from possibly fleeing in her car. Her repeated invoking of her age was a clear attempt on her part to use her age as an excuse for her infraction. Sorry, but if you’re age is that much of a problem that it causes you to speed to the point you are stopped by the police, maybe you shouldn’t be on the road.
While tasers aren’t the answer in all cases, in this one, it was likely the best choice.
Video – 72 Year Old Woman Tased
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