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)

Sources:
“Excessive and Lethal Force?” Amnesty International, http://web.amnesty.org/library/index/engamr511392004

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

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

People stood by because they didn't want to be shot or killed and could not afford it legally . I know I would voice my opinion but I would really have to fight myself to not get involved in something like that. $$ wise I can't afford to fight a police agency and I really want to keep my job and my way of life. I have a little too much to lose. I mean if they taser someone for talking what are they going to do to me if I fight back for him. They would shoot and kill me. I respect the law but when Law Enforcement pays less then a manager at a fast food place the more intelligent officers become detectives or work in the CSI areas and then the "aggressive" officers take the street jobs. Better training for law enforcement would create better judmentment when dealing with the a drunk mother,a college student and a drug dealer . Seems like all the beer belly lazy cops need to be re-trained to understand their jobs.

Sammy said...

The police need training to learn how to treat people with decency and kindness instead of force and restraints.
For sure, the procedures need to be reviewed to figure out when and how force should be used.
The world is facing severe problem of LACK OF COMPASSION. I wonder whether humanity is moving forward or backward sometimes.
Keep up the good work Jenny!

George T said...

So called non-lethal weapons are an opportunity for people to inflict pain and force submission of others, justified or not. It is the technological version of the spear or the whip. Before taser tech, Police would use psychology and indirect force to subdue hostile yet non-threatening offenders, far more often than drawing weapons or using physical contact. When I was a child, we often played cops and robbers. I would simply shout, STOP IN THE NAME OF THE LAW! Not ZAP!!! STOP RESISTING!! The perception of the police by the general populace as a benevolent society of law keepers and servants of the public, is degenerating into a vision of hired thugs who are in the news, brutalizing people who may only be 1st time offenders (read as: made a mistake). Not everyone who is tasered, battoned or even shot is guilty of a pain worthy crime, and that scares people. Two quotes follow:

"A government is the most dangerous threat to man's rights: it holds a legal monopoly on the use of physical force against legally disarmed victims."
Ayn Rand


"The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren't enough criminals, one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws."
Ayn Rand

Today's Rant said...

NewsJournal, 10/14/2007..."Police Brutality: A Lifelong Learning Process," written for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, Earl C. Johns lays out a grim picture of police brutality that goes beyond the proverbial few "bad apples," and analyzes what makes officers overract. Johns, a graduate of the FBI National Academy who served in every division of the Kissimmee Police Department, reports that an us-vs.-them mentality teaches officers to see their role in the community as in a war zone...not enough emphasis is placed on police techniques...the problem is the mindset behind Taser use-the mindset that excuses brutality as public protection."

BigSis said...

Ayn Rand - interesting quotes.

Meanwhile, I agree that the use of a taser gun was extremely inappropriate. I also believe that is some cases, our government has overextended itself in affairs where a law enforcement body should not be.

If this man really was a disturbance to the public...why wasn't he just escorted out by the police? Was physically restraining this man really necessary? Or was 'a law abiding body' trying to quiet a citizen's 1st amendment right?

I'd also like to know if John Kerry commented on this incident.

Today's Rant said...

U.N.: Tasers Are A Form Of Torture:

http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2007/11/25/national/main3537803.shtml

Today's Rant said...

Out of Control!!! Officer in Utah tasering an unarmed motorist.

http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2007/11/22/national/main3534130.shtml

Today's Rant said...

And the horror continues...
http://wcbstv.com/topstories/taser.death.nypd.2.825077.html