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June 18, 2005

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24Seven Cop2Cop: News By, For & About Law Enforcement In the West
with 24Seven

“How about a nice cup of…”

By Tod Catchpole & Steve Gibson, 24/7

Learn your job first before telling others theirs.

I often wonder how or why people choose the professions they choose, and when they do, I wonder what keeps them going. For emergency services, is it the rush and adrenaline of what lies next around the corner, or is it the desire to help others? For the sports minded people is it the money, prestige or simply the love of the game? For the politician, is it the power, the ability to make change or is it simply the desire to make a difference in the world?

I suspect that for each career, any, all and in some of these cases, none of these may apply to a given career choice.

However I would like to talk about a career that I thought at one time may have been my calling, but in the end wasn't. That would be journalism. Over the years of being a policeman, I have noted a trend that I am sure everyone else in the law enforcement field has also noticed. That is that no matter what you do with the best of intentions, it will go unheralded, but make one mistake or make a split second decision that turned out unfavourably and you will be under the gun until the next mistake comes along. Being an armchair quarterback is so much easier. There is an old adage that basically goes, "Those who can-do, and those who can't-talk about it."

It doesn't matter if you have saved innocent lives, just done a next-of-kin notification or risked your life to protect others, at best it may appear on page B13 in the lower left hand corner. But make a mistake and guaranteed it will appear on the front page of your local paper as headline news. I mean who could forget the journalistic integrity of a writer when an Arizona tabloid named our friend Jason Schecterle of the Phoenix PD as one of the ugliest people of the year. Jason was almost killed when his patrol car exploded and he was engulfed in flames in which almost his entire body was burned beyond recognition but whom fire personnel dramatically rescued. That would have killed most, but not Jason, a law enforcement officer and a true hero.

Or how about the fine reporting of a national news agency that talked about the Koran allegedly being flushed down the toilet that resulted in the deaths of numerous people overseas only for that agency to go; oops it was our confidential source that was wrong. Those are some of the same agencies or news medias that want us as law enforcement officers held to a higher standard than most because we should know better. I could go on and on about the stories written by so called journalist who are above and beyond any level of integrity that we as law enforcement officers will ever know. I mean so many journalists that we have read have been there, done that and are absolutely qualified to tell everyone else about it because they saw Kojak when they were 8-years old and acted like Batman when they were 10, now they are experts on law enforcement right…not.

It now seems like a lot of those ever so qualified journalists have decided to go after TASER International from every angle by directly linking it to in custody deaths. But if that is not enough, they are even attacking the TASER Foundation and their efforts to assist families of officers killed in the line of duty. There is a writer who scribbles for a large newspaper who seems to have made it his personal goal to discredit anything that TASER International or the TASER Foundation does. I mean what a great job to sit down with his crayons and scribble down stories condemning the efforts of a benevolent organization trying to help the families of officers killed in the line of duty. This is not to say that all reporters are like this, because most of them do their job and report the news as it happens.

Several news agencies throughout the United States and Canada are quick to write a follow up story if and when a TASER device and its use has been cleared of any responsibility in the death of an in custody person. But unfortunately some agencies and specifically so-called writers don't have the guts to stand up and right the wrongs that their unskilled and ill-informed minds had previously penned. What a great job it is, that you can write virtually anything you want with relative impunity, and when proven wrong, you simply move on to the next story or blame your confidential source. I don't need to mention any names because I have no doubt that those so-called journalists know who they are.

What I would like all of our readers to do is look at a USA Today article titled "TASER Contributes to Police Families," dated April 25, 2005 written by…well, a nobody really and then look at the response that Gerry Anderson the executive director of the TASER Foundation sent out which reads as follows:


No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

Kevin Johnson's article TASER Contributes to Police Families is as piercing as a "cop killer" bullet is to Kevlar.

As the executive director of the TASER Foundation, I read Johnson's article with great contempt and sadness in my heart. The mission of the TASER Foundation is to honor the service and sacrifice of law enforcement officers lost in the line of duty by providing immediate financial support to their families. Johnson's innuendo and cynicism do little more than dishonor the memory of the fallen officers and their families. Since its publication, I have heard from family members of slain officers and law enforcement who find his assertions unconscionable.

In 2004, more than 150 officers in the United States and 7 in Canada were tragically killed in the line of duty. More than 6,000 law enforcement agencies have lost officers in the line of duty. In response to these tragedies and its commitment to law enforcement, TASER International, Inc. established the TASER Foundation in November 2004. The initial endowment of more than $1,000,000 came from TASER International, Inc. and the direct contributions from TASER International employees.

Since its inception, the TASER Foundation has provided more than $434,000 in financial support to the families of 73 officers (nearly every officer killed in duty since August 1, 2004).

We know the dangers police officers face everyday - and, through the TASER Foundation -- have tried to be at the comforting end of those left behind when the ultimate price is paid. Our understanding of this risk is what led the company to develop the TASER device in the first place.

Despite Johnson's scurrilous allegations, I am honored to have the opportunity to help families in their greatest time of need. My brother was a police officer who was ambushed and killed while off duty. I know what these families go through since I have walked in their shoes.

Sincerely,

Geraldine Anderson
Executive Director
TASER Foundation


Finally I would like to make note of one particular part of the USA Today article where by a law professor from the University of Toledo allegedly says "'If you want to be cynical about it, you'd have to say, 'Isn't this a little too convenient.'" What is a little too convenient professor? The fact that 153 officers were killed in the line of duty last year in the United States and 7 in Canada-half were murdered. Or is it the fact that someone cared enough to step up to the plate and help out a family in need. Yes professor, we as law enforcement officers are not real people and our families don't need help to get through these difficult times. When a disaster strikes and lives are lost, the corporations of the world do their part to help those in their time of need. But it amazes me that when an officer is shot, stabbed, blown up, executed or killed in a motor vehicle accident, a company such a TASER International and its Foundation is frowned upon for doing the same thing-helping it's community. I am not going to condemn you for your opinion, I just feel sorry for you. There are lots of nice caring people in the world who do things just because, but I guess that is not supposed to be the case in the law enforcement world.

We at 24Seven have met numerous people at both TASER International as well as the TASER Foundation, and you will not find a more caring, concerned and warm bunch of individuals than you will there. The Smith brothers, Tom and Rick, are easily the most approachable people who genuinely care not only about their staff, but also the front line law enforcement officers from top to bottom. But I guess it is so much easier to sit back and find fault than it is to go forward and praise. I imagine that that is what sets us apart as officers from so many others who choose to hide behind a poison pen.

A small disclaimer however, there are a huge number of great writers, journalists and news agencies such as The Orange County Register-Gordon Dillow, The Tennessean, The Greenwich Time-Connecticut, The St. Petersburg Times, WMTW Channel 8-Maine and KAVU-Victoria Texas-Jenny Fisher to name a few, out there who remember what their job is, and that is to report the news, not make it. For all of the others who have forgotten what your job is, look in the mirror and try to hold your head up high.

By the way, I now see another article by the same "quality" U.S. newspaper talking about how the TASER is 100 times stronger than the electric chair and also states that the electrical output of the TASER X26 is 2,100 to 3,600 amperes, when the actual output of the TASER device is, in fact, 0.0021 to 0.0036 amperes - a misrepresentation of the device's average current specifications by a factor of 1 million. 1 million! - How can they be that far out? The first place any credible researcher and writer would go to; would be the TASER web site as it shows all the specs. I don't know who did their research or their mathematical work-what's the matter run out of fingers and toes, but a set of crayons and a return to basic math might be a good idea for those of you fine upstanding, arrogant and egotistical writers and researches at this paper whose name is not worth printing.

By the way, I used to line my hamster cage with this certain paper, but now even my hamster "Sparky" won't use it anymore, even he has higher standards. For the majority of you reputable journalists and newspapers, which report the news as it is, keep up the great work.

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