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Non-lethal weapons, a moral hazard?

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    What I want to talk to you about today
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    is some of the problems that the military
    of the Western world --
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    Australia, United States,
    the UK and so on --
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    face in some of the deployments
    that they're dealing with
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    in the modern world at this time.
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    If you think about the sorts of things
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    we've sent Australian military
    personnel to in recent years,
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    we've got obvious things
    like Iraq and Afghanistan,
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    but you've also got things like
    East Timor and the Solomon Islands,
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    and so on.
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    And a lot of these deployments
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    that we're sending
    military personnel to these days
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    aren't traditional wars.
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    In fact, a lot of the jobs
    we're asking military personnel to do
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    in those situations
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    are ones that, in their own countries --
    Australia, the US and so on --
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    would actually be done by police officers.
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    So there's a bunch
    of problems that come up
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    for military personnel
    in these situations,
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    because they're doing things
    they haven't really been trained for.
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    And they're doing things that those
    who do them in their own countries
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    are trained very differently for
    and equipped very differently for.
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    Now, there's a bunch of reasons
    why we send military personnel,
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    rather than police, to do these jobs.
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    If Australia had to send
    1,000 people tomorrow
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    to West Papua, for example,
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    we don't have 1,000 police officers
    hanging around that could go tomorrow,
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    and we do have
    1,000 soldiers that could go.
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    So when we have to send someone,
    we send the military --
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    they're there, they're available,
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    and heck, they're used to going off
    and doing these things
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    and living by themselves
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    and not having all this extra support.
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    So they are able to do it in that sense.
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    But they aren't trained
    the same way police officers are,
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    and they're certainly not equipped
    the way police officers are,
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    so this has raised
    a bunch of problems for them
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    when dealing with these issues.
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    One particular thing that's come up
    that I am especially interested in,
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    is the question of whether,
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    when we're sending military personnel
    to do these sorts of jobs,
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    we ought to be equipping them differently;
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    and in particular, whether we ought
    to be giving them access
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    to some of the nonlethal weapons
    that police have.
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    Since they're doing some of the same jobs,
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    maybe they should have
    some of those things.
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    And there's a range of places you'd think
    those things would be really useful.
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    For example, when you've got
    military checkpoints.
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    If people are approaching
    these checkpoints
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    and the military personnel are unsure
    if this person's hostile or not,
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    say this person approaching
    here, and they say,
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    "Is this a suicide bomber or not?
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    Is something hidden under their clothes?
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    What's going to happen?"
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    They don't know if the person
    is hostile or not.
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    If the person doesn't follow directions,
    they may end up shooting them,
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    and then find out afterwards
    either, yes, we shot the right person,
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    or, no, this was just an innocent person
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    who didn't understand what was going on.
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    So if they had nonlethal weapons,
    then they would say,
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    "We can use them
    in that sort of situation.
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    If we shoot someone who wasn't hostile,
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    at least we haven't killed them."
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    Another situation: this photo
    is from one of the missions
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    in the Balkans in the late 1990s.
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    This situation is a little bit different,
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    where maybe they know someone is hostile;
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    they've got someone shooting at them
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    or doing something else
    that's clearly hostile,
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    throwing rocks, whatever.
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    But if they respond,
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    there's a range of other people around
    who are innocent people,
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    who might also get hurt.
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    It'd be collateral damage
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    that the military
    often doesn't want to talk about.
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    So again, they'd say, "With access
    to nonlethal weapons,
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    if we've got someone we know is hostile,
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    we can do something to deal with them,
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    and know that if we hit anyone else,
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    at least we're not going to kill them."
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    Another suggestion has been,
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    since we're putting so many
    robots in the field,
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    we can see the time coming
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    where they're actually going
    to send robots out in the field
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    that are autonomous.
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    They'll make their own decisions
    about who to shoot and who not to shoot,
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    without a human in the loop.
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    So the suggestion is,
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    if we're going to send robots out
    and allow them to do this,
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    maybe it would be a good idea
    if they were armed with nonlethal weapons,
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    so if the robot makes a bad decision
    and shoots the wrong person,
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    again, they haven't actually killed them.
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    Now, there's a whole range
    of different sorts of nonlethal weapons,
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    some of which are available now,
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    some of which they're developing.
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    You've got traditional things
    like pepper spray,
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    OC spray up at the top there,
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    or Tasers over here.
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    The one on the top right here
    is actually a dazzling laser,
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    intended to just blind
    the person momentarily
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    and disorient them.
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    You've got nonlethal shotgun rounds
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    that contain rubber pellets
    instead of the traditional metal ones.
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    And this one in the middle
    here, the large truck,
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    is called the Active Denial System,
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    something the US military
    is working on at the moment.
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    It's essentially a big
    microwave transmitter.
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    It's sort of your classic
    idea of a heat ray.
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    It goes out to a really long distance,
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    compared to any of these
    other sorts of things.
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    Anybody who is hit with this
    feels a sudden burst of heat,
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    and just wants to get out of the way.
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    It is a lot more sophisticated
    than a microwave oven,
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    but it basically is boiling
    the water molecules
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    in the very surface level of your skin.
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    So you feel this massive heat,
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    and you go, "I want
    to get out of the way."
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    And they think this will be really useful
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    in places where we need to clear
    a crowd out of a particular area,
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    if the crowd is being hostile.
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    If we need to keep people
    away from a particular place,
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    we can do that with these sorts of things.
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    So there's a whole range
    of different nonlethal weapons
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    we could give military personnel,
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    and there's a whole range of situations
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    where they're looking at them and saying,
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    "These things would be really useful."
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    But as I said,
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    the military and the police
    are very different.
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    (Laughter)
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    Yes, you don't have to look
    very hard at this to recognize
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    that they might be very different.
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    In particular,
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    the attitude to the use of force
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    and the way they're trained to use force
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    is especially different.
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    The police --
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    and knowing because I've actually
    helped to train police --
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    police, particularly
    in Western jurisdictions at least,
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    are trained to De-escalate force,
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    to try and avoid using force
    wherever possible,
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    and to use lethal force
    only as an absolute last resort.
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    Military personnel
    are being trained for war.
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    So they're trained that,
    as soon as things go bad,
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    their first response is lethal force.
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    The moment the fecal matter
    hits the rotating turbine --
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    (Laughter)
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    you can start shooting at people.
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    So their attitudes
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    to the use of lethal force
    are very different,
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    and I think it's fairly obvious
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    that their attitude to the use
    of nonlethal weapons
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    would also be very different
    from what it is with the police.
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    And since we've already had
    so many problems
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    with police use of nonlethal
    weapons in various ways,
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    I thought it would be a good idea
    to look at some of those things
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    and relate it to the military context.
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    I was very surprised when I started
    to do this to see that, in fact,
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    even the people who advocated the use
    of nonlethal weapons by the military
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    hadn't actually done that.
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    They generally seemed to think,
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    "Why would we care
    what's happened with the police?
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    We're looking at something different,"
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    and didn't seem to recognize
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    they were looking at pretty
    much the same stuff.
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    So I started to investigate
    some of those issues,
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    and have a look at the way
    police use nonlethal weapons
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    when they're introduced,
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    and some of the problems that might
    arise out of those sorts of things
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    when they actually do introduce them.
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    And of course, being Australian,
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    I started looking at stuff in Australia,
    knowing from my own experience
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    of various times when nonlethal weapons
    have been introduced in Australia.
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    One of the things I particularly
    looked at was the use of OC spray --
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    oleoresin capsicum spray, pepper spray --
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    by Australian police,
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    and seeing what had happened
    when that had been introduced,
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    and those sorts of issues.
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    And one study that I found,
    a particularly interesting one,
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    was in Queensland,
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    because they had a trial period
    for the use of pepper spray
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    before they actually
    introduced it more broadly.
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    And I went and had a look
    at some of the figures here.
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    Now, when they introduced
    OC spray in Queensland,
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    they were really explicit.
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    The police minister's and a heap
    of public statements were made about it.
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    They were saying, "This is explicitly
    intended to give police an option
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    between shouting and shooting.
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    This is something they can use
    instead of a firearm
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    in situations where they would have
    previously had to shoot someone."
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    So I looked at all
    of the police shooting figures.
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    And you can't actually
    find them very easily
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    for individual Australian states;
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    I could only find these.
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    This is from an Australian Institute
    of Criminology report.
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    You can see, in the fine print at the top:
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    "Police shooting deaths"
    means not just people shot by police,
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    but people who have shot themselves
    in the presence of police.
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    But these are the figures
    across the entire country,
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    and the red arrow represents
    the point where Queensland said,
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    "Yes, this is where we're going to give
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    all police officers
    across the entire state
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    access to OC spray."
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    So you can see there were six deaths
    sort of leading up to it,
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    every year for a number of years.
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    There was a spike a few years before,
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    but that wasn't actually Queensland.
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    Anyone know where that was?
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    Wasn't Port Arthur, no.
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    Victoria? Yes, correct.
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    That spike was all Victoria.
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    (Laughter)
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    So it wasn't that Queensland
    had a particular problem
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    with deaths from police
    shootings and so on.
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    So, six shootings
    across the whole country,
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    fairly consistently over the years before.
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    The next two years were the years
    they studied -- 2001, 2002.
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    Anyone want to take a stab
    at the number of times,
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    given how they've introduced this,
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    the number of times police in Queensland
    used OC spray in that period?
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    Hundreds? One? Three?
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    A thousand is getting better.
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    Explicitly introduced as an alternative
    to the use of lethal force --
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    an alternative between
    shouting and shooting.
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    I'm going to go out on a limb here
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    and say that if Queensland police
    didn't have OC spray,
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    they wouldn't have shot 2,226 people
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    in those two years.
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    (Laughter)
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    In fact, if you have a look
    at the studies they were looking at,
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    the material they were
    collecting and examining,
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    you can see the suspects were only armed
    in about 15 percent of cases
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    where OC spray was used.
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    It was routinely being
    used in this period,
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    and, of course, still is routinely used --
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    because there were no complaints about it,
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    not within the context
    of this study, anyway --
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    it was routinely being used
    to deal with people who were violent,
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    who were potentially violent,
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    and also quite frequently used
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    to deal with people who were
    simply passively noncompliant.
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    This person is not doing anything violent,
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    but they just won't do
    what we want them to.
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    They're not obeying
    the directions we're giving them,
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    so we'll give them a shot
    of the OC spray -- that'll speed them up.
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    Everything will work out better that way.
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    This was something explicitly introduced
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    to be an alternative to firearms,
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    but it's being routinely used
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    to deal with a whole range
    of other sorts of problems.
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    Now one of the particular
    issues that comes up
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    with military use of nonlethal weapons --
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    and people actually say,
    "There might be some problems" --
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    there's a couple of particular
    problems that get focused on.
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    One of those problems is: nonlethal
    weapons may be used indiscriminately.
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    One of the fundamental principles
    of military use of force
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    is that you have to be discriminate;
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    you have to be careful
    about who you're shooting at.
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    So one of the problems suggested
    with nonlethal weapons
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    is that they might be used
    indiscriminately --
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    that you would use them
    against a whole range of people,
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    because you don't have
    to worry so much anymore.
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    And in fact, one particular instance
    where I think that actually happens
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    was the Dubrovka Theater
    siege in Moscow in 2002,
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    which probably a lot of you,
    unlike most of my students at ADFA,
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    are old enough to remember.
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    So, Chechens had come in
    and taken control of the theater.
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    They were holding something
    like 700 people hostage.
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    They'd released a bunch of people,
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    but they still had
    about 700 people hostage.
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    And the Russian military police
    special forces, "Spetsnaz,"
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    came in and stormed the theater.
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    The way they did it was to pump
    the whole thing full of anesthetic gas.
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    And it turned out
    that lots of the hostages died
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    as a result of inhaling the gas.
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    It was used indiscriminately.
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    They pumped the whole theater
    full of the gas.
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    And it's no surprise that people died,
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    because you don't know how much gas
    each person is going to inhale,
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    what position they'll fall in when
    they become unconscious, and so on.
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    There were, in fact,
    only a couple of people who got shot
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    in this episode.
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    So when they had a look at it afterward,
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    there were only a couple of people
    who'd apparently been shot,
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    by the hostage takers
    or by the police forces
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    trying to deal with the situation.
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    Virtually everybody that got killed
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    got killed from inhaling the gas.
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    The final toll of hostages
    is a little unclear,
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    but it's certainly a few more than that,
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    because other people died
    over the next few days.
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    So this was one problem they talked about,
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    that it might be used indiscriminately.
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    A second problem
    people sometimes talk about
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    with military use of nonlethal weapons --
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    and it's actually why,
    in the chemical weapons convention,
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    it's very clear that you can't use
    riot-control agents
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    as weapons of warfare --
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    is that it's seen that sometimes
    nonlethal weapons might be used
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    not as an alternative to lethal force,
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    but as a lethal force multiplier:
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    that you use nonlethal weapons first,
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    so your lethal weapons
    will actually be more effective.
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    The people you'll be shooting at
    won't be able to get out of the way.
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    They won't be aware of what's happening,
    and you can kill them better.
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    And that's exactly what happened here.
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    The hostage takers who had
    been rendered unconscious by the gas
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    were not taken into custody;
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    they were simply shot in the head.
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    So this nonlethal weapon
    was being used in this case
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    as a lethal force multiplier,
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    to make killing more effective
    in this particular situation.
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    Another problem I want to quickly mention
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    is that there's a whole heap of problems
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    with the way people are actually
    taught to use nonlethal weapons,
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    and get trained about them
    and then tested and so on.
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    Because they're tested
    in nice, safe environments,
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    and are taught to use them
    in nice, safe environments --
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    like this, where you can see
    exactly what's going on.
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    The person spraying the OC spray
    is wearing a rubber glove
  • 13:46 - 13:48
    to make sure they don't get
    contaminated, and so on.
  • 13:48 - 13:50
    But they're never used like that.
  • 13:50 - 13:52
    They're used out in the real world,
  • 13:52 - 13:54
    like in Texas, like this:
  • 13:54 - 13:57
    ["Police Taser Great-Grandmother
    During Traffic Stop"]
  • 13:57 - 14:01
    I confess, this particular case
    was one that piqued my interest in this.
  • 14:01 - 14:03
    It happened while I was working
    as a research fellow
  • 14:03 - 14:04
    at the US Naval Academy.
  • 14:04 - 14:07
    News reports started
    coming up about this situation,
  • 14:07 - 14:10
    where this woman was arguing
    with a police officer.
  • 14:10 - 14:11
    She wasn't violent.
  • 14:11 - 14:14
    In fact, he was probably
    six inches taller than me,
  • 14:14 - 14:16
    and she was about this tall.
  • 14:16 - 14:18
    And eventually she said to him,
  • 14:18 - 14:20
    "Well, I'm going to get back in my car."
  • 14:20 - 14:23
    And he says, "If you get back
    in your car, I'm going to tase you."
  • 14:23 - 14:27
    And she says, "Oh, go ahead.
    Tase me." And so he does.
  • 14:27 - 14:29
    And it's all captured by the video camera
  • 14:29 - 14:31
    running in the front of the police car.
  • 14:32 - 14:34
    So, she's 72.
  • 14:35 - 14:39
    And it's seen that this is the most
    appropriate way of dealing with her.
  • 14:39 - 14:42
    And there are other examples
    of the same sorts of things,
  • 14:42 - 14:43
    where you think,
  • 14:43 - 14:46
    "Is this really an appropriate way
    to use nonlethal weapons?"
  • 14:46 - 14:49
    "Police Chief Fires Taser
    into 14 year old Girl's Head."
  • 14:49 - 14:51
    "She was running away.
    What else was I suppose to do?"
  • 14:51 - 14:54
    (Laughter)
  • 14:54 - 14:55
    Or Florida:
  • 14:56 - 14:59
    "Police Taser 6-year-old
    Boy at Elementary School."
  • 14:59 - 15:02
    And they clearly learned a lot from it,
    because in the same district:
  • 15:02 - 15:05
    "Police Review Policy
    After Children Shocked:
  • 15:05 - 15:08
    2nd Child Shocked by Taser
    Stun Gun Within Weeks."
  • 15:08 - 15:10
    Same police district.
  • 15:10 - 15:13
    Another child within weeks
    of Tasering the six-year-old boy.
  • 15:13 - 15:16
    Just in case you think it's only going
    to happen in the United States,
  • 15:16 - 15:18
    it happened in Canada as well:
  • 15:18 - 15:20
    ["Mounties Zap 11-year-old Boy"]
  • 15:20 - 15:22
    And a colleague sent me
    this one from London:
  • 15:22 - 15:24
    ["Arrested Man, 82, Shot with Taser"]
  • 15:24 - 15:28
    But my personal favorite,
    I have to confess, does come from the US:
  • 15:28 - 15:32
    "Officers Taser 86-year-old
    Disabled Woman in her Bed."
  • 15:32 - 15:34
    (Laughter)
  • 15:34 - 15:36
    I checked the reports on this one.
  • 15:36 - 15:38
    I looked at it. I was really surprised.
  • 15:38 - 15:42
    Apparently, she took up a more
    threatening position in her bed.
  • 15:42 - 15:44
    (Laughter)
  • 15:44 - 15:46
    I kid you not,
    that's exactly what it said:
  • 15:46 - 15:49
    "She took up a more threatening
    position in her bed."
  • 15:49 - 15:51
    OK.
  • 15:51 - 15:52
    But I'd remind you --
  • 15:52 - 15:55
    I'm talking about military
    uses of nonlethal weapons,
  • 15:55 - 15:56
    so why is this relevant?
  • 15:56 - 15:59
    Because police are actually
    more restrained in the use of force
  • 15:59 - 16:01
    than the military are.
  • 16:01 - 16:03
    They're trained to be more
    restrained in the use of force
  • 16:03 - 16:05
    than the military are.
  • 16:05 - 16:07
    They're trained to think more,
    to try and De-escalate.
  • 16:07 - 16:09
    So if you have these problems
    with police officers
  • 16:09 - 16:11
    with nonlethal weapons,
  • 16:11 - 16:12
    what on earth would make you think
  • 16:12 - 16:15
    it's going to be better
    with military personnel?
  • 16:15 - 16:18
    The last thing that I would like to say:
  • 16:19 - 16:20
    When I'm talking to the police
  • 16:20 - 16:23
    about what a perfect nonlethal
    weapon would look like,
  • 16:23 - 16:25
    they almost inevitably say the same thing.
  • 16:25 - 16:28
    They say, "It's got to be something
    that's nasty enough
  • 16:28 - 16:30
    that people don't want
    to be hit with this weapon.
  • 16:30 - 16:31
    So if you threaten to use it,
  • 16:31 - 16:33
    people are going to comply with it.
  • 16:34 - 16:36
    But it's also going to be something
  • 16:36 - 16:39
    that doesn't leave any lasting effects."
  • 16:41 - 16:42
    In other words,
  • 16:42 - 16:46
    your perfect nonlethal weapon
    is something that's perfect for abuse.
  • 16:46 - 16:49
    What would these guys have done
    if they'd had access to Tasers,
  • 16:49 - 16:53
    or to a manned, portable version
    of the Active Denial System --
  • 16:54 - 16:56
    a small heat ray that you
    can use on people
  • 16:56 - 16:58
    and not worry about.
  • 16:59 - 17:00
    So I think yes,
  • 17:00 - 17:04
    there may be ways that nonlethal weapons
    will be great in these situations,
  • 17:04 - 17:06
    but there's also a whole heap of problems
  • 17:06 - 17:08
    that need to be considered as well.
  • 17:08 - 17:09
    Thanks very much.
  • 17:09 - 17:12
    (Applause)
Title:
Non-lethal weapons, a moral hazard?
Speaker:
Stephen Coleman
Description:

Pepper spray, Tasers, tear gas, rubber bullets -- these "non-lethal" weapons are being used by more and more local police forces, as well as military forces brought in to control civilian crowds and other situations. Despite their name, non-lethal weapons have been known to cause deaths ... and as Stephen Coleman suggests, there are other, more insidious hazards as well. He explores the complex ethics -- and the unexpected consequences -- of using non-lethal weapons to control civilians.

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Video Language:
English
Team:
TED
Project:
TEDTalks
Duration:
17:11

English subtitles

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