Sunday, November 19, 2006

Tased and confused

I assume everyone has seen the video of the UCLA student getting Tasered multiple times, even after he's been fully incapacitated. It's difficult to watch, to say the least; it took me three days to make myself go past the first minute or so. In case you're not the blog addict I am, a UCLA student forgot his ID, became unruly when either asked for it or was asked to leave, the campus police came, and as he was leaving the library Tased him. Not just once, but multiple times, demanding he stand up and comply with their instructions.

A Taser fires and electrical shock which is extremely painful, and robs you of the ability to control your body. From what I've been able to find online, recovery from a single Taser strike varies with the individual, but can take up to several minutes. So these cops demanding he stand after multiple strikes were being unreasonable.

What I find really disturbing is their demands that he "stand up or be Tased again." The cops are using it as a form of punishment and discipline, which is not appropriate for a potentially lethal weapon. There's not a lot online but police policy in Hawaii states:

...that the drive stun feature is used "where an officer or someone else is physically confronted, serious bodily injury is imminent and no other alternative exists except for the use of the drive stun."

Obviously, an incapacitated student poses little threat to several security officers.

The thing that really disturbs me is that, toward the end of the video, some of the crowd of students are asking the campus cops for their badge numbers. One of the cops tells a student to stand to the side "or you'll get Tased too."

UCLA appears to be in damage-control mode, rather than ensure-the-safety-of-students mode. From Talking Points Memo:

...the officers involved have not even been put on administrative leave pending completion of the internal and external reviews of the incident. Why not? It's not clear from the article.

But to hear UCLA's acting chancellor talk, it looks like the university is managing the perception of a problem rather than the problem itself: "Norman Abrams said he ordered the probe after the university received numerous calls and e-mails from parents and alumni raising concerns about the officers' actions during the videotaped Tuesday night arrest, which has been widely seen on TV news and the YouTube website."

The video itself apparently didn't prompt an outside review, but concerns from alum (i.e., donors) and parents did. Nice.

One thing this incident shows is the power of the Internet. A student with a cameraphone, YouTube, and the blogosphere have given this story nationwide attention, when, only a few years ago, it might have made only the local newspaper or might possibly have been completely ignored.

Archpundit and Americablog have more.

Update: It looks like the campus cops in this case were using the Taser in "drive stun" mode. That may be less incapacitating than the mode where the Taser shoots too electrodes into the skin of the target. Again, there's not much online, but this was reported in the case of a Florida police department:

A recent amendment to the DeLand Police Department's Taser policy is clearer, saying that the "drive-stun" mode can be used only under exceptional circumstances

1 comment:

Fig said...

Apparently the cop in question has a history of abusive behavior including choking a frat guy with his baton (which unfortunately sounds like a double entendre) and shooting a homeless guy he found in a bathroom. Hat tip to Americablog.