Thursday, March 01, 2007


Did anyone see The New Inventors last night on ABC? The 3rd invention was called cuffsafe, and is pitched as being "designed to make the potentially dangerous task of applying and removing handcuffs safer".


I found that there was a sense of discomfort to the segment, which I attribute first of all to the panel's (slightly squirmy) awareness that they were talking about something that has sensitive human rights issues, and secondly to the fact that the inventor kept using the phrase 'detainee', which exacerbated my first point. He also threw into the pot the notion that his market wasn't just Australia, but America and other such nations, which brought (to my mind at least) a number of unsavoury applications for the device.

Even in the final discussion, I found that the panel would start talking about cuffsafe, but then change the subject rapidly to something 'safer' -- or was that the ABC's careful editing? They certainly placed this invention carefully in with some pretty harmless and consciously cute inventions: the endearingly-named 'Move Ya Bastard' car shifter, and an endearingly homemade gardening buggy. A bit of camoflage around the tricky issue, and maybe, just maybe, it worked.

The feedback panel at the New Inventor's program site has nothing at the moment -- and I'd be very surprised if anyone does bring up any of this -- but I'll be keeping my eye on it, just in case. If you didn't see it, and you have broadband, there is a link to the segment on the cuffsafe page.

If you did watch it, what do you think?


Anonymous said...

Bloody ABC - the video link page doesnt work - not your fault - theirs. Though it could be the start of a good conspiracy theory...

Anonymous said...

I watched it and it occured to me that if there was a risk of being biffed while taking off the handcuffs, surely the risk would increase once they were off?

Anonymous said...

It didn't help that the inventor -- an ex-cop -- spoke in that infuriatingly dry and over-complicated cop speak. You know, the speak that turns this:

The guy died after being hacked with an axe.

Into this:

The victim, after suffering multiple severe blows and lacerations caused by a large, sharp object, was found to be deceased.

Anonymous said...

Cuffs are locked in - & your average violent offender then lifts the entire device and smacks the officer over the head? or is it bolted to the floor? Gosh what a great idea - i can see one in every public place in the country - 21st century public stocks...instead of fruit, we'll hurl redundant electronic equipment at them...

Ampersand Duck said...

Exactly, Editor -- and he just couldn't help talking about applications like having one hidden under the edge of the dock so that members of the jury couldn't see it, hence "avoiding prejudice".

Also -- surely someone that violent could do a fair bit of damage to the copper with only one hand while he's bending over the other handcuff, even if it is stuck in the stocks? I don't think they're really thinking in the long term in those situations; they just want to lash out.

Dean said...

I saw it & didn't really pick up on any careful editing or sensitivities to language.

Violent people can be pretty unpredictable. Having some restraint is better than none; the copper could at least get out of range if need be.

Kirsty said...

I think the invention was pretty well thought through. The inventor did make the point that the cop could at least move away if the person in custody started swinging, if only with one hand (yes it was bolted securely to the ground). Not knowing much about it, I can only take his word that his invention was a response to a problem he encountered when he was a cop.

But. I did think there was some discomfort from the panel. When ever I hear the word 'custody', I can't help but think 'Indigenous deaths in custody'--not sure if the panel was thinking along similar lines... Something about the panel's questions about the possibility of a portable version of the device made me think, perhaps, yes. The inventor did pick up on the tension in the air and I think and he attempted to account for it by saying that the details of custody management were difficult to explain in just two minutes.

I don't know, it's such a difficult issue in all sorts of ways. Although I did think that perhaps if in the future the police didn't have to engage in violent struggles with offenders in confined rooms, then perhaps the invention would ultimately increase the safety of the person in custody too. Which could only be a good thing.

Ampersand Duck said...

It IS a difficult issue, isn't it? There are just so many undercurrents running through this product, both honourable and dishonorable.

samuel said...

For the problem it is supposed to solve, it's a great idea...once you struggle to get the cuffs into the device anyway.

I don't see how you could have a portable version of it as you need to bolt it to a solid surface like a floor.

My only real concern is the potential for it to be used as a detention utility. If it will hold the suspect in that position, what is stopping it from being used to hold the suspect for hours, days or weeks.

It solves a problem, but it introduces more.

Oh, and Bernice, the video page works for me.