Monday, September 21, 2009

More Cops Having Fun with Tasers

I'm starting with a long quote from Digby about a tasing incident in Merced, California:

"This is appalling:
The Merced Police Department's Internal Affairs Division is investigating whether an officer twice used a Taser on an unarmed, wheelchair-bound man with no legs.The man who was Tasered, Gregory Williams, 40, a double-leg amputee, spent six days in jail on suspicion of domestic violence and resisting arrest, but the Merced County District Attorney's office hasn't filed any charges.

Clearly, he didn't understand the new unspoken "common sense" federal law which says that when in the presence of a police officer, you stop in your tracks, hold your head down, answer every question with a quick "yes sir" and do not move until they give you instructions, lest you get electrocuted on the spot. It has nothing to do with whether or not you present a danger to anyone --- it has to do with whether or not the police officer is satisfied with your response, so best be very, very very obsequious and docile whenever you are in the presence of authorities, no matter what the circumstances. Otherwise, this country won't be free. There is video at the link.

A handful of residents in Williams' apartment complex said they witnessed the incident and supported Williams' charges. A short video clip, shot by a neighbor and obtained by the Sun-Star, shows Williams sitting on the pavement with his pants down, his hands cuffed behind his back.[...]Between 3 p.m. and 4 p.m. on Sept. 11, Williams said, he and his wife, 28-year-old Demetrice Shaunte Phifer, were arguing when a marked Merced Police Department patrol car arrived at the couple's studio apartment.While one officer spoke with his wife, Williams said, another officer arrived and ordered him, "Go back to your house!"Williams, who had his 2-year-old daughter Ginni in his lap, said he rolled his wheelchair back to his apartment.The officer, who's identified in the police report as John Pinnegar, approached him in the doorway of his apartment. Pinnegar said that his wife had accused him of striking her, which Williams denied.

Shortly afterward, police Sgt. Rodney Court and a worker with Merced County Child Protective Services entered the room, Williams said. "I'm trying to tell him nothing happened. We were just having an argument," he said.

Pinnegar grabbed William's 2-year-old daughter from his lap, handing her to the CPS worker. "I said, 'What are you doing? I haven't done anything!' " Williams said.Williams said Pinnegar unholstered his Taser, jammed it into his rib cage and shocked him twice. Williams said he fell from his chair onto his stomach on the ground outside his doorway.While he was down, Williams said, Court put his knee on his neck, and one of the officers then cuffed both of his wrists. At some point after he fell out of his chair, Williams said, his shorts slid down his legs.

With his hands cuffed behind his back, Williams said, he was unable to pull his pants up. He said police left him for five to 10 minutes in that position on the pavement, with his private parts showing as neighbors and onlookers watched.Williams, a lifelong Merced resident who's married with three children, said that both his legs were amputated in 2004 after he was diagnosed with deep-vein thrombosis that led to gangrene in both legs.

Doctors amputated both his legs below the knees when he was 34. Now only withered stumps of skin hang where his lower legs once were. He lost his job as a truck driver and now supports himself and his family from a Social Security disability allotment of $1,004 a month.

Obviously they had no choice but to shoot the man full of electricity. Otherwise, he might have kept on showing disrespect for the officers by protesting his innocence and we can't have that or the whole system will fall apart. *Obviously, I have no idea if the man hit his wife and if so, it was obviously wrong. But two wrongs don't make a right --- and tasering an unarmed man in a wheelchair is completely unnecessary in order to take him into custody. And, by the way, the man spent six days in jail before they released him without filing charges. .digby"

Digby thinks that Gregory Williams was tased because he wasn't "obsequious enough" to the white police officers in charge. I think it's more the case that the police officers just didn't like him. So they found an excuse to tase him. It's as simple as it is disgusting. The officers have the tasers, are looking for opportunities to use them, and decided to have some fun and games by legally torturing Gregory Williams. It's


Anonymous said...

This is outrageous! It is happening all over the country. Here in Bay City, MI 3 cops tasered and killed a 15 year old boy who was already in handcuffs! Protect and serve?! HA! Being a "policemen" USED TO BE considered an honorable profession. Gutless bully punk cops have destroyed that.

I saw "SUE THEM"

Neal said...

I think? that we can all agree that on a societal level we need law and order and effective law enforcement. It's either that or we have chaos. Our spouses, kids and parents would be less safe.
Law enforcement officers have a very difficult, dangerous, low paying job. When they are called out to a domestic dispute, they realize that this is going to be an emotionally fueled and potentially very dangerous event. Things can escalate from manageable to deadly in a couple of seconds. They must follow specific procedures in order to keep all parties safe and keep themselves out of trouble as well. They want to go home to their families at night just like we do.
I'm sure that in a very few instances some cops make honest mistakes. There are a very few that are bad cops. We do not live in a perfect world. I have never been in law enforcement and I have been on the wrong side of the law a couple of times. I admire the job that the vast majority of them do. Yes, there are some bad people in law enforcement and every other profession on the face of the earth.
We do not know precisely who did what by reading this article and watching the video. That is why we have inquiries and civil & criminal laws to help protect the public in these instances. If these officers truly used a taser for "sport" (I very much doubt this) I think they should pay very stiff penalties. Jail time and copious amounts of it. And I bet that other cops would agree.
One final thought. If a member of your family is the victim of a violent crime, do you not want a team of smart, motivated cops solving the crime and helping you get justice?
I am always willing to give the cops the benefit of the doubt in the absence of evidence to the contrary.

Anonymous said...

Neal, you sure are giving cops far more trust that I would. For me to be okay with the tasing, the guy in the wheelchair would have had to have a gun that he was threatening the cop with. Merely having a gun does not meet the threshold because in our society, you either have a gun or wish you had a gun. How could the guy in the wheelchair have possibly been a threat to the cop? Tasers are not to simply to enforce obeyance. Tasers are for subduing those who are physically aggressive and in danger of harming the cop or others. Many people have been railroaded into situations with law enforcement that might have been avoided had they spoken up and not went with cops when not under any obligation. Loud vocalization addressed at officers (or anyone else) is not acceptable use of a taser, even if the cop tells you to shut up. It is difficult to do more than annoy when your only weapon is your voice.

Ric Caric said...

I wanted to thank Neal for his thoughtful conservative comment. But I agree with the last "anonymous" that a significant percentage of police are tasing people because they're "annoying." Those police have decided that being annoying is a criminal offense and that police officers have a right to unilaterally punish annoying people by tasing them. It's a dangerous point of view.

Neal said...

We do not know that the guy in the wheelchair was simply being annoying. You assume that he was being annoying. I say that I don't know. There is usually a back story that we know nothing about.
I certainly disagree that a significant number of police use a taser inappropriately. There is a lot of wiggle room in that argument. What is inappropriate and what is significant?
I agree that tasers are sometimes used when they should not be but in the heat of the moment, it is a nonlethal option for the police. Sure beats getting shot.
Are you arguing that you do not like the concept that police have authority over citizens, or are you arguing that they do not use tasers appropriately?
I am always willing to learn from legitimate info. Until I see evidence to the contrary (that a significant number of police use tasers inappropriately), we will have to agree to disagree about this.
Concerning anonymous' comments, are you a police officer or trainer? You seem to know precisely what the correct use of a taser is.

Anonymous said...

No, not affiliated with law enforcement at all. However, that is my opinion on how tasers should be used and on how guns are used. No data to back it up, but I doubt you could find data to refute.

When tasers were introduced, the public was told these tools were good because they could be used in place of guns, i.e., for same purposes law enforcement justifies the use of a gun. We don't shoot annoying people. We don't shoot people who are not threatening physical harm. On occasion, we shoot thieves. Until recently, no state allowed individuals to shoot someone unlawfully entering their home unless they were in fear of physical harm. Cops rarely shoot people for less than extremely aggressive, threatening behavior. Taser use should also be very limited in its scope; otherwise, it becomes a method of control by the govt that invades upon my civil liberties (due process). Citizens should not be afraid of being tased when interacting with police. The darker your skin, the more afraid you'd be.