Thursday, July 28, 2005

More On Saving Innocents From Suicide Bombers

My logic of when a rational cop should kill a suspected suicide bomber has been extended by Giles to address the Dead Man's Trigger (DMT). Suicide teams might adopt DMT after their members were intercepted and killed by cops before they could insert themselves into crowds.

If, for example, you think there's a 50:50 chance of a DMT, the policeman needs to think there's a 13.3% chance of someone being a bomber before shooting. That's still very low.

And to get to a 50:50 chance of a DMT, we'd need more technically competent Jihadis than the detonator-challenged crew last week. Pressure release systems (like a hand grenade without the pin out) would be very difficult to sustain while running from police. Heart monitors (as used by runners) are liable to interference from power lines and also loss of electrical contact with the chest area during violent activity. Either would cause premature explosion.

Still, with or without DMT, our cops are left with an agonizing choice. we regard the death of an innocent at police hands as being that much worse than a death at the hands of terrorists? I suspect the latter, perhaps because we regard the risk of a state run amok as greater than that of terrorism. If we regard police shootings of innocents as being twice as bad as terrorist-caused deaths, then we find that the policeman has to be 13.3% sure before shooting if there are no DMTs, and 23.5% if there are DMTs half the time.

23.5% is still a very low level.

The best solution I've found to this dilemma is the Taser. This fires two barbs trailing wires into the target which deliver a 50,000 volt shock.

The Taser is yellow to show it is not a gun. Officers are told to aim for the target's back, and the device has a range of 21ft.

It was first used in Britain on August 3 last year when officers in London tried to stop a man carrying two handguns. He failed to stop after being hit in the stomach by a plastic bullet, but the Taser brought him down. He later made a full recovery.

The Taser has been drawn six times in Manchester since it was introduced in January. In one incident it took down a man with a gun holding a woman hostage.

It takes down the suspect about 85% of the time, is usually (but not always) non fatal.

Negatives are the limited range - within the kill zone of the nail bombs used by the IRA and current terrorists. And it may stop the victim's heart, so if they have a DMT the cop may be killed as well. And of course the 50,000 volts might trigger home-made explosives.

So, here are my suggestions.

1. Shoot suspected suicide bombers with Tasers from maximum range.

2. Shoot from a crouching position to reduce shooter vulnerability to an explosion.

3. Shoot below the waist, where there is least probability of explosives and less bulky clothing.

After Tasing, an innocent has a very painful experience but still lives. Of course 15% of terrorists will not be taken down, but we've reduced the kill from 13 per bomber to 2 - maybe the Brits can live with this.