Taser Nation

Saturday, August 1st, 2009

I’ve been late on a few major taser stories in the news lately. A quick rundown:

  • Alabama police tase three times, pepper-spray, arrest, and jail deaf, retarded man because he took too long in a Dollar General store bathroom, and didn’t come out when called. Here’s the “you’ve got to be kidding me” part: “A spokesman for the Mobile Police Department said the officers’ actions were justified because the man was armed with a potential weapon — an umbrella.” They went ahead and jailed him even after learning about his deafness and severe mental disability.
  • Police tase a grandfather and a pregnant woman after responding to a noise complaint. Bonus points: The grandfather is a “church family counselor and a bible study teacher.” Double bonus points: They were responding to a child’s baptism party.
  • Boise police effectively sodomize a man with a taser, then threaten to tase his genitals, too. He was handcuffed at the time. He was tased apparently for protesting while the officers were on top of him that he could breathe. Link includes audio.
  • Kelley Vlahos on taserings and police shootings.
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  • 48 Responses to “Taser Nation”

    1. #1 |  billy-jay | 

      I am really reluctant to click on any of those links.

    2. #2 |  Highway | 

      That Boise one and the Baptism party one both show me something. And that is that it doesn’t matter what ‘professional standards’ or whatever the Sergeant yammers about afterwards, when he puts the cops on paid vacation while there’s an ‘internal investigation’ (which as we all know usually results in no further discipline and that ‘procedures were followed’). If this is how cops aren’t supposed to act, then why are there *THREE* of them there acting that way? If one’s going overboard, and all 3 of them are supposed to know it, then why aren’t two of them stopping the third?

      We all know why. Call it the Blue Wall of Silence, or ‘Always back up the other cop’ or whatever platitude you want, but until it stops, trust in the police will continue to erode. Because if 2 supposedly good cops don’t stop ‘one bad apple’ cop, then they’re all bad cops.

      And I think we’ve seen what happens when a cop does things that question or stop other cops from going too far. And I can certainly understand nobody wanting to go through that hell. But don’t then turn around and tell me that you have professional standards, when your profession won’t uphold them.

    3. #3 |  Dave Krueger | 

      “Officers didn’t realize Love was deaf or had mental problems until he showed them a card he carries in his wallet, Levy said. He was arrested on a charge of disorderly conduct, but officers released him and took him home after a magistrate refused to issue a warrant.”

      Hey that idea of giving the mentally handicapped a card explaining their actions is a pretty cool idea. hey should require all cops to carry one.

      What a fucking bunch of dim witted dickheads. Did it occur to them that in a contest of the intellects, the guy they arrested would probably fare better than them?

      Anyway, kudos to the magistrate for not mindlessly going along with such idiocy. That’s a pretty rare occurrence.

    4. #4 |  ktc2 | 

      As I’ve said before the platitude that “most cops are honest” is bullshit. The ones that do these things are guilty and the ones that cover for them or standby and say nothing are also guilty, and the ones that harass and fire any cop who tries to do the right thing are also guilty.

      The only “honest cops” are the ones being kicked off the force.

      So, no, don’t give me that “a few bad apples” bullshit. The whole barrel is rotten to the core. It’s time to trash them all and start over.

    5. #5 |  Marty | 

      I’m sure I have a tasing coming my way… I’ve had 4 tickets in the last 2 years and have been pulled over 6 times. I am not cordial about these intrusions.

      It’s like Clint Eastwood said in the ‘Unforgiven’- ‘we all got it coming, kid.’

    6. #6 |  Bob | 

      ktc2:

      Yup, there are no ‘good cops’. There are bad cops, cops that secretly like it but don’t have the balls to do it themselves, and cops that perversely justify the misconduct as “noble motive” because they’re unwilling to make waves that could get them fired.

    7. #7 |  Dave Krueger | 

      OT: Police dog attacks woman.

      An off-duty Boston police dog bolted from its handler today in Mattapan and attacked a 60-year-old woman who was walking by with a small, Chihuahua-like dog on a leash. The police dog apparently went after the Chihuahua and bit the woman in the face, stomach, and leg when she tried to protect her small pet, according to police and one witness.

      “This is just a case of a dog going after another dog and unfortunately another woman got involved,”

      …the police dog was off the leash and attacked the woman…

      The old bitty should have known better than to interfere with a police dog munching on her pet.

      This afternoon a uniformed policeman stood guard outside the canine officer’s house and said no one was home.

      Awww!! Isn’t that touching that they’re protecting their fellow officer?

    8. #8 |  Chet | 

      This is just a case of a dog going after another dog and unfortunately another woman got involved

      I’m aware I’m new to this party, but it’s becoming increasingly amazing to me that when violence is directed against a police dog, it’s treated exactly as if you had killed a human police officer; but when the dog itself is violent, suddenly it’s just another mutt.

      On the other hand, if it had been a human officer who had mauled a woman for no reason, would the reaction have been any different? I guess she’s lucky the police didn’t just “see a gun.”

    9. #9 |  Les | 

      Now, guys, I’m sure if Patterico and his followers have perfectly reasonable explanations for why these people deserved to be tased.

    10. #10 |  Les | 

      Damn. “I’m sure Patterico and his followers…”

    11. #11 |  Chuchundra | 

      The answer is that police are complete pussies these days. My FIL is a former member of the NYPD and I can’t imagine him needed a Taser to control a drunken grandfather or a pregnant woman.

    12. #12 |  KBCraig | 

      Don’t forget the release of the new Taser X3, which carries three cartridges, letting officers spread the joy.

    13. #13 |  thorn | 

      I’m sure I have a tasing coming my way… I’ve had 4 tickets in the last 2 years and have been pulled over 6 times.

      Is the problem the police, or your driving?

    14. #14 |  CharlesWT | 

      Cops behaving badly:

      County looking into allegations that police beat, robbed man

      Police chiefs plead not guilty to burglary

      Olympic hopeful injured during police ‘hit-and-run,’ his attorney says

    15. #15 |  z | 

      You’re late with this opinion piece on illegal search and seizure too.

    16. #16 |  Michael Pack | 

      The guy was drunk on hs own property?We can’t allow that.

    17. #17 |  Dave Krueger | 

      Friggin’ cops in Mobile are some real doozies. I just came across another story about them charging an 81 y/o woman with public lewdness for urinating in some bushes in a public park. She was at her bank and had a “bladder emergency” but the bank wouldn’t let her use their restroom, so she headed off to use the public restroom on the other side of the park. She didn’t make it.

      The good news is they didn’t tase her, she’s out on bond, and she’ll turn 82 before her court date in September. Remember the days when Mom and Dad said the cops were your friends? I guess that was back before “the few bad apples” took over.

    18. #18 |  Nash | 

      I rather enjoyed the fact that the backyard party one was Prince William County Police.

      They sure do show up a lot around this site.

    19. #19 |  Aresen | 

      In the Boise incident, I love the way that none of the officers is identified by name.

      I hope the victim’s lawyer gets a FOI warrant & puts their names out where the public can read it.

      Of course, if they don’t actually identify the cops, there is no way to tell if they are ever actually disciplined, is there?

    20. #20 |  Aresen | 

      @ Dave Krueger # 7:

      Appalling.

      No dog should be that undisciplined. If the cops think that is what a police dog should be like, they are the “boys in blue” equivalent of trailer trash who own aggressive dogs to prop up their fragile egos.

      The only thing I’d point out further is that, if a “civilian’s” dog behaved that way, it would be put down.

    21. #21 |  Helmut O' Hooligan | 

      #11 Chuchundra: “My FIL is a former member of the NYPD and I can’t imagine him needed a Taser to control a drunken grandfather or a pregnant woman.”

      Excellent point. My father is a retired officer and a Vietnam Vet (USMC). He most certainly didn’t need an electronic weapon to do his job effectively. Even with his training (self defense, marksmanship, etc.) I always thought his most effective weapon was his mouth. There is much to be said for street corner psychology. The taser is making police lazy and soft, in my opinion. If the taser is the end all and be all, why have I had to take physical agility tests while testing with police departments? Might as well just excercise my trigger finger, I suppose. Things are getting ugly out there (apologies to Jack Cafferty).

    22. #22 |  Marty | 

      ‘Is the problem the police, or your driving?’

      I have no problem with my driving, but… I got a ticket in TN by a trooper who sped pass me enroute to his area to patrol! I got a redlight ticket for not coming to a complete stop before making a right. I got another speeding ticket in a known (now to me, too!) speed trap, and I got an illegal lane change mixed in with those. probably $800 or so in fines. 1 of ‘em I won’t argue with, the others were money grabs. I drive a lot of miles, so I’m sure I’ll get robbed again…

    23. #23 |  Mario | 

      From the police report concerning the poor guy whom the cops shot in the ass with the taser:

      “Officer No. 3, punctuated his offensive speech language by pushing the Taser between the complainant’s buttocks and against his anal and genital areas,” the report states. “Such speech combined with these actions was especially offensive.”

      “Especially offensive.” Yeah, do you think?

    24. #24 |  Frank | 

      #7 #8 Of course, if a citizen with a gun had shot the dog in defense of the woman, he’d be charged with killing a police officer and get the death penalty.

    25. #25 |  Helmut O' Hooligan | 

      “If you move again, I’m going to stick this Taser up your (expletive) and pull the trigger,” the complaint said. “Now, do you feel this in your (expletive)? – I’m going to tase your (expletive) if you move again.”

      Damn! Sounds like a sex offender, not a peace officer. Officer whatshisname should be charged with battery in addition to whatever discipline the department hands out.

    26. #26 |  Dave Krueger | 

      #25 Helmut O’ Hooligan

      “If you move again, I’m going to stick this Taser up your (expletive) and pull the trigger,” the complaint said. “Now, do you feel this in your (expletive)? – I’m going to tase your (expletive) if you move again.”

      Damn! Sounds like a sex offender, not a peace officer. Officer whatshisname should be charged with battery in addition to whatever discipline the department hands out.

      Maybe 2NEWS.TV should pull its head out of it’s ass and realize that the language is about the least offensive part of that story. But, it’s nice to know they’re looking out for milquetoast citizens by providing a warning and censored the naughty words.

      Any population that has to be protected from cuss words doesn’t have the fortitude required to keep an elected government in line.

    27. #27 |  Highway | 

      DK, especially when it’s the agents of that government that are using the cuss words.

    28. #28 |  Cynical in CA | 

      I have nothing more to say on this subject except fuck the police. May they all rot in hell, every last one of them.

    29. #29 |  Mac Deeds | 

      “And because forensic scientists often are driven in their work by a need to answer a particular question related to the issues of a particular case, they sometimes face pressure to sacrifice appropriate methodology for the sake of expediency. A forensic analyst responding to a request from a law enforcement official may feel pressure — or have an incentive — to alter the evidence in a manner favorable to the prosecution…”
      Judge Antonin Scalia
      Diaz v. Massachusetts

    30. #30 |  Joe | 

      When you say every cop is corrupt, you are just playing into the hands of Patterico and his “law and order” conservatives. Yeah there is a wall of blue on issues, and cops definitely screw up and do bad things (at times), and I think Patterico is a lying liar’s liar and flat out dishonest (because I have seen him act that way in the past), and I agree that police are public servants so they should act like public servants—but where are you all coming from that every cop is bad?

    31. #31 |  Joe | 

      I will give you some evidence you can ponder, there are four stories here of bad taserings. If true (even cops are presumed inocent until proved guilty), the cops should definitely be severely disciplined for this sort of abuse. But how many cops are there in the country? Approximately 800,000.

      Where are all the abuse cases?

    32. #32 |  Dave Krueger | 

      #31 Joe

      Where are all the abuse cases?

      Usually only the cases caught on video see the light of day. When it comes to police misconduct, if there’s no video, then it didn’t happen. Remember, when a cop abuses someone, they immediately call for “backup”, which is code for additional witnesses. They’re called backup, because they backup the first cop’s story.

    33. #33 |  MacGregory | 

      Nicely noticed, nicely said by Dave “code for additional witnesses.”

      And sadly, a badge on the witness stand, still carries far more weight than it should.

    34. #34 |  billy-jay | 

      Joe,

      It’s not that every cop is corrupt. It’s just that the corruption is institutional. The police as a whole are corrupt. That’s not the same thing as saying that every police officer is.

    35. #35 |  Roberto | 

      The fact that the “bible study teacher’s” last name was Rodriguez had absolutely nothing to do with the Prince William County use of force. I’m sure.

    36. #36 |  Marty | 

      Prince William County are equal opportunity abusers…

    37. #37 |  notsurprised | 

      you know, the Maryland Baptism incident really makes my blood boil with how arrogant these LEOs have gotten lately.

      But theres another side to this as well. This was a daytime party, and the neighbors felt the need to call in a noise complaint? What, their friggin legs were broken? Couldn’t walk next door and ask them to lower the volume? Or better yet…fucking deal with it?

      I am really, really getting sick of people who can’t get off their tight little asses and solve their own problems. If I was that grandfather, I’d go buy a taser and hit up everyone who lived within 3 doors of his house.

    38. #38 |  Bob | 

      #30, joe

      When you say every cop is corrupt, you are just playing into the hands of Patterico and his “law and order” conservatives. Yeah there is a wall of blue on issues, and cops definitely screw up and do bad things (at times), and I think Patterico is a lying liar’s liar and flat out dishonest (because I have seen him act that way in the past), and I agree that police are public servants so they should act like public servants—but where are you all coming from that every cop is bad?

      There’s bad as in actively bad (as in tasering out of malice, abuse of handcuffed suspects, etc) then they’re passively bad, as in lies to back up the actively bad cops.

      Cops are given power and authority. Lying to protect the abuses of other cops given this authority is also an abuse of that authority.

      I understand why they lie, to uphold the institutionalized ‘blue line’ and protect their jobs. As the institution is rotten, so too are it’s members. They may be ‘good people’ at home, but on the job they’ll throw you or I under the bus to protect the institution that empowers them. As such, there are no good cops.

    39. #39 |  Jody | 

      Joe- There is a prevailing opinion that not only are the perpetrators in the wrong, but that all the guys on the force not refusing to work with these guys are just as guilty. That means that a whole hell of a lot more folks than just the people who commit these acts are culpable.

      Secondly, while this is 4 examples in the last couple weeks, it isn’t exhaustive. I’m not trying to say that the number of abuses will reach your 800K estimate (which includes folks like fish and game wardens BTW. Assuming you’re citing the 2006 estimates, there are about 683K police officers). However, there is a lot more of this going on than just these four examples. Just watching the national media (MSN, CNN, Fox) will give you some good, almost daily articles. If you watch other sites, you can almost end up with multiple examples of abuse everyday. Certainly some of these end up as cases more complex, and perhaps even where some of us will say the officer did little or nothing wrong, but most of them don’t. A purely quantitative evaluation of these issues is too basic though. The trends that these incidents show, abuse of power, complete disregard for civil rights, the increasing inability for uniformed officers to deal with people in a humane and intelligent way (highlighted nicely by the Alabama example Radley posted) are alarming. Combine it with the increasing militarization of local, suburban police forces, and you seem to have a bad recipe for those of use who consider liberty fundemental.

    40. #40 |  Mikestermike | 

      A Houston, TX cop fatally shot a man who had threatened to Tase him. SO:

      1) If the cop was in danger, his shooting was justified, right? Then Tasers are NOT non-lethal

      2) The shooting was NOT justified because Tasers ARE non-lethal

      Which one is it?

      http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/breaking/6557924.html

    41. #41 |  Bob | 

      Mikestermike,

      Taking the article at face value, the officer was certainly in danger. Even if Tasers never killed (which they do) they almost always incapacitate. It would then be a simple matter to take the cop’s gun and finish the job.

    42. #42 |  Canadian_Lurker | 

      Mikestermike,

      Tasers are not non-lethal. They are less lethal, but not non-lethal.

      For a non-US perspective on tasers and policing, google the Braidwood report and the Dziekanski inquiry. The RCMP has been out of control the last few years.

    43. #43 |  Helmut O' Hooligan | 

      #41 Bob:

      Agreed. Same goes for pepper spray. In fact, that is one reason why police recruits are sprayed in the academy. Among other things, OC may cause your eyes to swell shut, so you are totally vulnerable. If the guy in Houston threatened an officer with a taser, that shooting looks justifiable to me. Tasers AND OC products, as Canadian Lurker points out, are absolutely not non-lethal. They can and do kill under the right circumstances, so they should be used very sparingly.

    44. #44 |  Chet | 

      Where are all the abuse cases?

      Everywhere. Seems like everyone I know has a story about their harassment at the hands of a police officer more concerned with their authority than with the law.

    45. #45 |  Andrew | 

      I think it is obvious by now that the police are abusing tasers and that the abuse is epidemic. It’s high time these devices are either removed from the police entirely or at least be locked up and only accessible to shift supervisors or swat teams. There also need to be very strict guidelines as to when these torture devices can be employed and it should be mandatory that their use be videotaped.

    46. #46 |  Pablo | 

      #33–It’s getting to the point where fewer and fewer people (though still a majority) always believe the officers. I go over quite a few voir dire transcripts from criminal cases and the number of prospective jurors who distrust and/or have had bad experiences with cops seems pretty considerable.

      #45–Good points and I’m conflicted on the issue. I think Tasers have a legitimate use if a cop is being attacked and has to get into a hand-to-hand fight with an unarmed but aggressive subject. Bare handed grappling in a case like that may well be more dangerous to both the cop and the suspect. Not sure if that can be quantified. And of course we have the whole issue of cops using tasers not to protect themselves, but to torture someone for revenge, to gain “compliance,” or just for fun.

      Re: the police dog–this is really getting out of hand. The more I think about it the more I find the whole idea of police dogs offensive, esp. in regards to apprehending or intimidating suspects. How can it be justifiable to use a dog to do something if an officer himself would not be justified doing? Would a cop be justified in mutilating someone’s arm or leg with a knife or a chainsaw in order to take them into custody or to make them “comply?” Then how can we allow dogs to do the same thing?

    47. #47 |  Andrew | 

      Police dogs most definitely need to go. They’re used to intimidate, torture and to give a false pretense for an unwarranted search. They smack of Nazi Germany, East German border guards and Bull Connor. Perhaps allow bloodhounds or other tracking dogs kept for the tracking of escaped criminals but nothing more. The use of attack and search justification dogs by the police should not be tolerated in a Republic of free men.

    48. #48 |  Laziness « The Carbon Fibber | 

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