Monday, October 08, 2007

Necessary Force?

“What Did I Do?”

What did a University of Florida student do that resulted in him being Tasered and arrested after trying to ask U.S. Senator John Kerry about the 2004 election and other subjects during a campus forum?

“He apparently asked several questions—he went on for quite awhile—then he was asked to stop,” university spokesman Steve Orlando noted. “He has used his allotted time. His microphone was cut off, then he became upset.”

What I saw from the video was a 21-year-old cocky college student asking obnoxious questions of the former Presidential candidate. Holding a book in one hand and the microphone in his other, posing no physical threat to anyone. Still standing in front of his cut off microphone, within moments the officers were grabbing him and moving him towards the aisle. That is the point at which Andrew Meyer became upset, and rightfully so.

I have the utmost respect for any law enforcement officer. Everyday, they put their life on the line; unsure of what ‘evildoer’ they might run into. But when did we start to fear a person asking questions of our leaders?

Many have commented that once the officers attempted to restrain and remove him from the auditorium, any failure to comply was ‘resisting arrest.’ Not true! “An illegal arrest is an assault and battery. The person so attempted to be restrained of his liberty has the same right to use force in defending himself as he would in repelling any other assault and battery.” (Stave v. Robinson, 145 ME. 77, 72 ATL. 260). Not only did Andrew Meyer have the right to resist his unlawful arrest, he also had the right to use force in return. But Andrew Meyer wasn’t there to cause physical harm to anyone…

…Instead he was Tasered while lying on the ground with six officers surrounding him. The United Nations (UN) Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials and the Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials, outline that force should be used as a LAST RESORT and that officers must apply only the minimum amount of force necessary to obtain a lawful objective. Here’s the kicker, they also provide that all use of force must be proportionate to the threat posed as well as designed to avoid unwarranted pain or injury. A 21-year-old, unarmed college student with his arms outstretched, trying to finish his questioning…six officers using a Taser was obviously a proportionate amount of force considering this young man’s capabilities.

Tasers deliver a 50,000-volt shock designed to override the subject’s central nervous system, causing uncontrollable contraction of the muscle tissue and instant collapse. Taser International has stressed that Tasers are not designed to stop a target through infliction of pain but work by causing instant immobilization through muscle contraction. However, even officers subjected to even a fraction of the normal Taser discharge during training have reported feeling acute pain.

There are two types of Taser guns, “touch” stun guns for close range and dart projectile mode that has two fish-hook like darts designed to penetrate up to two inches of the target’s clothing or skin. Many ‘victims’ of Tasers have reported burn marks from the guns. Pointing out an obvious question, what is the sanitation of these hooks? They can penetrate two inches of skin…does the amount of voltage prevent disease transfer?

Considering our bodies are 70% water and transfer electricity through all parts of the nervous system, I can’t help but believe that 50,000 volts may have long-term effects, especially brain damage, at the slightest exposure. While I agree that a Taser gun would be less damaging to an assailant then a bullet-driven gun, both should be used with extreme caution and as a LAST RESORT.

In July 2004, it was announced that eleven police agencies in Orange County, Florida, had agreed to restrict their use of Tasers following a yearlong review, which suggested that some officers were too quick to resort to their weapons. Indianapolis police told Amnesty International that the entry level at which Tasers could be used was “at any point force is needed.” Any person, at anytime, for any reason then can be Tasered. Like 20-year old Dontae Marks, whom was a bystander protesting when the police tried to arrest a friend for being drunk outside a nightclub. Police reportedly pointed a Taser at Marks’ chest when he refused an order to leave, then Tasered him in the back as he walked away shouting an obscenity. Granted, we should show officers respect but under these guidelines, you can therefore be Tasered for hurting an officer’s feelings. We’ve taken the freedom to speak ones mind and put power in the sole hands of 5,000 US law enforcement agencies.

“Why are they arresting me? Can someone do something here?” In a room full of peers, why did everyone just watch? Some cried out but the truth is that this has become a nation living in fear. Terrorized from within! If posing a threat is having a book in one hand and a microphone in another, then it is time we all bore arms.

“Obedience is not enough…there will be no curiosity, no employment of the process of life. All competing pleasures will be destroyed…always there will be the intoxication of power, constantly increasing…Always, at every moment, there will be the thrill of victory, the sensation of trampling on an enemy who is helpless. If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face-forever.” (1984 by George Orwell, p. 267)

“Excessive and Lethal Force?” Amnesty International,

“Student Arrested, Tasered at Kerry Event,” AP, 9/18/2007