You see those two little marks close together like vampire bites
on their bodies … those are stun gun marks.

— Defense attorney Nick Hentoff, on police violence
in Maricopa County Jails, Arizona, 19971


11
Stun City

Over the last two decades, stun manufacturers have boldly redesigned their products to open new markets and surmount new challenges, including bad publicity and lawsuits. Stun guns are complex technological products, and their design bears the history of the rich and litigious democratic society in which they first appeared.

To reduce the risk of litigation, stun manufacturers created products that, among other things, left few marks when they were properly used. This quality set stun guns apart from mace, rubber bullets, and other nonlethal weapons, where clean usage is difficult regardless of whether officers use them well or poorly. As a result, this design characteristic also reduces the ability of authorities to oversee officers using these weapons. One can tell if stun guns are used badly, but one cannot always tell after the fact that a stun gun, if it was used correctly, has been used at all. This is true also of its use for torture.

Counting on police to act professionally on their own cannot make up for this potential problem in oversight. On the contrary, a perverse professional pride may drive police to use stun guns for torture because they have a reputation to preserve as officers who solve crimes. In Chicago, police officers praised for their professionalism allegedly extorted confessions from suspects with stealth torture for decades in the late twentieth century. Even though these policemen used magnetos, not stun guns, the case shows that professional police can be driven to torture regularly, and that they can get away with it for years in a modern democracy provided certain conditions are met.

In this chapter, I describe first the Chicago story and then various stun torture scandals in the past two decades, showing that other officers counted

-239-

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Torture and Democracy
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface xv
  • Acknowledgments xix
  • Torture and Democracy xxv
  • Introduction 1
  • I - Torture and Democracy 33
  • 1: Modern Torture and Its Observers 35
  • 2: Torture and Democracy 45
  • II - Remembering Stalinism and Nazism 65
  • 3: Lights, Heat, and Sweat 69
  • 4: Whips and Water 91
  • 5: Bathtubs 108
  • III - A History of Electric Stealth 121
  • 6: Shock 123
  • 7: Magnetos 144
  • 8: Currents 167
  • 9: Singing the World Electric 190
  • 10: Prods, Tasers, and Stun Guns 225
  • 11: Stun City 239
  • IV - Other Stealth Traditions 259
  • 12: Sticks and Bones 269
  • 13: Water, Sleep, and Spice 279
  • 14: Stress and Duress 294
  • 15: Forced Standing and Other Positions 316
  • 16: Fists and Exercises 334
  • 17: Old and New Restraints 347
  • 18: Noise 360
  • 19: Drugs and Doctors 385
  • V - Politics and Memory 403
  • 20: Supply and Demand for Clean Torture 405
  • 21: Does Torture Work? 446
  • 22: What the Apologists Say 480
  • 23: Why Governments Don't Learn 519
  • 24: The Great Age of Torture in Modern Memory 537
  • A - A List of Clean Tortures 553
  • B - Issues of Method 557
  • C - Organization and Explanations 566
  • D - A Note on Sources for American Torture During the Vietnam War 581
  • Notes 593
  • Selected Bibliography 781
  • Index 819
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