Subway Conductors with Tasers?

A New York State legislator has introduced a bill that would enable bus drivers and train crews on the subway and commuter railroads to carry Tasers to deter assaults.

The news report struck a nerve for me: a long time ago, when crime in New York City was at least twice as bad as it is now, I was a subway conductor.  At the time, conductors were required to watch the outside of the train move out of the station for a distance of three car lengths.  Many people cringed at that aspect of the job: you’re hanging out the window, uniformed, a target.

I had the job for a year, traveling under some of the worst neighborhoods in the city, and emerged from the experience pretty much unscathed.  I got spat on a few times, and simply washed it off at the end of the trip.  Someone tried to swipe my hat once; they failed.  And the most painful experience came when someone threw a pad of postcards at me.  Back then, some ads in the subway included pads of postcards for prospective customers to write in for more information.  When someone throws one at you while you’re on a moving train, it stings.

It was fun to do for a year, although I wouldn’t have wanted to spend the rest of my life at it.  Perhaps it was just because I was in my early twenties and felt indestructible, but the job didn’t seem very dangerous as long as you kept your wits about you.

Would I have wanted to be armed?  Absolutely not.   I don’t believe anything good would have come of it.

If transit workers had Tasers, for every bad guy subdued, there’d be at least five frazzled passengers zapped because their bus driver was having a bad day, ten fellow workers Tased in crew room hijinks, and probably a hundred passengers intimidated into silence.

It’s a bad idea.  Unfortunately, it’s been introduced in the New York State Legislature, where bad ideas never die.

4 thoughts on “Subway Conductors with Tasers?”

  1. I’d expect a poor conductor to have his taser stuck where the sun doesn’t shine before he (or she) succeeded in tasing a passenger, particularly if the taser had to be directly applied to the person’s body rather than shooting out an object connected to a wire to give the conductor some standoff.

    As far as irate conductors tasing misbehaving passengers goes, I doubt that the assembly is far-thinking enough to immunize the conductors against lawsuits, so unless the conductor wants to be turned into a latter-day Bernhard Goetz with the first white-on-black use of a taser, they might well decline the opportunity to carry one.

  2. I assumed from what I read that the bill contemplated the usual sort of Taser, which fires darts with trailing wires.

    As far as immunity from lawsuits, if a transit worker slugs a passenger, he can be held criminally (not civilly) liable. I doubt that Tasing a passenger would be different.

    Yet the leadership of the Transport Workers Union is in favor of the measure.

  3. If one believes that an armed society is a civil society, particularly if there unequal arming, I can see their point, but information to this point argues against it. A friend of mine who practiced martial arts gave me a very useful piece of advice: your first weapon is your eyes. I am the least intimidating perspon who you will ever meet, but I do move from place to place like I have a purpose.

    Here’s a true, but funny and sad story: in 1979, I was returning from Bellevue Hospital with my boyfriend of the time. Four guys blocked our path. They went after him, and let me pass. I do hope that they took the drugs that they stole. They would have been poisoned by the digitalis and blood thinners. He had congenital heart problems that required the medication.

  4. I believe that a civil society is necessarily an armed society, except maybe in some of the places they used to visit on Star Trek. But it isn’t necessary for everyone to be armed, and an actual show of force should be reserved for those circumstances where it is strictly necessary. However, an armed society can be most uncivil, as we’re learning the hard way.

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