Update: 15 Jan 2008.
The context of the following discussion on pain-compliance is a situation involving a subject that is essentially non-threatening (on a reasonable scale!); and unresponsive, or passively resisting, or non-compliant, or slow-to-respond, or anything similar. On the other hand, if the perpetrator is (for example) strangling a police officer, then the police officer is obviously perfectly entitled to defend himself or herself through whatever means are available.
I've gone through the applicable sections of the Criminal Code of Canada (link below), and the word 'force', when applied to the concept of lawful force, is ALWAYS a noun, NEVER a verb.
In other words, the police do not actually have a blank check to 'force' (verb) you to do what they want you to do. They are simply allowed to apply reasonable physical 'force' (noun) to move you into the position that they're legally entitled to place you. And they are quite clearly not allowed to use threat of torture, nor actual torture, to 'force' (verb) you to submit to their orders.
The Criminal Code of Canada is full of crimes by omission. So if you cheerfully choose to passively disobey a lawful order - well, that omission would be a crime and the police would be perfectly entitled to bundle you up, take you downtown, and add that charge to your ever-growing charge sheet. But they're not allowed to torture with a taser you to force (verb) you to comply.
And the taser devices CLEARLY meet the definition of torture: "...any act or omission by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person..." It is perfectly clearly that the tasers cause what can be fairly described as 'excruciating pain' and that is far far and away above 'severe pain' which is already banned.
Perhaps a wrist-lock (for example), if applied reasonably, is somewhere below 'severe pain' and it would seem therefore to be quite reasonably not be considered to be torture. There's a line in the sand, written by the Canadian Parliament and that line is 'severe pain'. The taser is so far above that line that there's probably not much space above it.
From what I have read, I think that I would choose water-boarding over a good tasering. Both are horrendous, but I'd choose the water.
I honestly believe that there has been a serious misunderstanding of the law on this subtle (noun/verb) point over recent decades. Back in the 1960s, I think that everyone knew that it was legal for the police riot squads to lift up and drag away protesters - and that is what normally happened. If any heads were unnecessarily clubbed, then there was an immediate outcry about violations of civil rights and rightly so. But we've forgotten this recent history.
Since the development of things like pepper-spray and tasers, the nuances of the Queen's English have been overlooked and the police seem to think that they're allowed to 'force' (verb) people to obey their orders. But that's NOT what the law states. Because this issue has sort-of crept up on us, nobody has really noticed. The modern 'hey dude' educational standards don't help either.
ANY USE of the taser device as a pain-compliance device is not protected under the law, is excessive in any case, and finally it amounts to unlawful torture for purposes of "...intimidating or coercing the person...". Therefore, it is clearly not legal on several counts.
1) The police are allowed to use reasonable 'force' (noun).
2) The police are not allowed to 'force' (verb) people.
3) Especially not by using torture, or threat of torture, for purposes of intimidating or coercing.
4) The use of a taser as a pain-compliance device clearly constitutes torture.
If you actually set out to bring the administration of justice into disrepute, then one way to bring this about would be to hand out potentially-dangerous torture devices, allow the manufacturer to pull the strings on the training, and then disregard the deployment statistics that clearly indicate that they're being misused.
It seems perfectly clear to me that if the police feel (or are) entitled to use pain-compliance on people, that is the defining boundary of a police state. On the other hand, if their authority is limited to (gently) bringing the subject before The Court to answer the charges (including disobeying a lawful order if applicable) then that is what is known as The Rule Of Law.
In summary, if we allow lawful 'force' to be a verb (which leads to allowing use of the taser as a pain-compliance device), then we've just step over the line. And on that side of the line is a slippery slope to hell.
See sidebar for a Philosophy-101 analysis that reaches the same conclusion.
Link= Criminal Code of Canada (English)
PS: For our American cousins:
You might wish to check your own laws to see what's what. The USA is a great country and I can only assume that your Civil Rights laws are at least as good as Canada's. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 probably has something to say on the subject.
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