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Today in Tasering: 16-year-old with a broken back edition

scarshapedstar's picture

[Bonjour, mon general! --lambert]

An imminent threat

So, yesterday morning, a 16-year-old boy in Ozark, Missouri fell off a 30-foot I-65 overpass for unknown reasons. When the police arrived on the scene, they promptly administered first aid Tased him 19 times because he wouldn't "comply" with their orders to stand up. (Thank god for Tasers, otherwise they'd have had to put him down like a broken racehorse, eh?)

Mace ended up in intensive care at a hospital. His parents believe the actions of Ozark police officers contributed to his injuries and slowed doctors’ abilities to speed his recovery.

The official explanation:

“He refused to comply with the officers and so the officers had to deploy their Tasers in order to subdue him. He is making incoherent statements; he's also making statements such as, ‘Shoot cops, kill cops,’ things like that. So there was cause for concern to the officers,” said Ozark Police Capt. Thomas Rousset.

Yeah, I'm sure that's exactly what he said after falling off a fucking bridge. They must have felt very threatened indeed by a possibly-paraplegic child. No word on whether he announced to the world that he was high on crack and PCP yet.

I don't even know what to say anymore. It really is a gaslight scenario. I wish I could at least attribute this to racism or something, but it appears these cops are bona fide sociopaths. Subliminal Stanley Milgram: No, they're not! Subliminal me: Harumph...

I can't say I'll be surprised with they start Tasing motorcycle crash victims. We Are All Violently High On Crack And PCP Now.

He refused to comply with the officers and so the officers had to deploy their Tasers in order to subdue him.

Anyone catch that curious bit of subordination there? "Refusal to comply" is now grounds for the use of force when there hasn't been so much as a citation issued?

Can somebody explain to me how, logically, this doesn't allow a cop to Tase someone for not stepping aside on a crowded sidewalk if he asks? In all honesty, I don't see any difference. It will happen, sooner rather than later.

P.S. Is there a Guinness world record for consecutive Tasings yet?

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orionATL's picture
Submitted by orionATL on

they are police who are responding to the "new", post sept 11, 2001, laxity in our society about demanding responsible behavior from security officials of any kind - police, fbi, tsa, ice, animal control - pick your choice.

i suspect the kind of gross negligence you have describe here happens far more regularly today than it did fifteen years ago; the judiciary is far more wiling to tolerate it, thanks to the Federalist society and the corporate media.

and it happens because community officials are far less inclined to publicly attack such "public security" behavior these days.

blame it on the media chant, "every public safety official is a hero".

inconveniently,

the bottom line is that unchecked, unexamined, unquestioned power will ALWAYS be abused-

but we knew that didn't we?.

scarshapedstar's picture
Submitted by scarshapedstar on

Orion? Like, Orion from Tech? Orion whose Transformer I helped carry to ORGT way back in fall of '03? :D

But I still believe
And I will rise up with fists!!

scarshapedstar's picture
Submitted by scarshapedstar on

If it should happen you're not "the" Orion, I don't think this is so easily explained in the Milgram fashion. I have a really, really, really hard time imagining these officers saying with a straight face that they felt they were in mortal danger and had to follow the textbook procedure.

Consider:

He is making incoherent statements

That I can believe.

[H]e’s also making statements such as, ‘Shoot cops, kill cops,’ things like that.

That I can't. The only intelligible statement he made the whole time was "fuck the po-lice"? Bull. Shit. Sorry, this just sounds like embellishment for ass-covering purposes.

I'm having a really hard time trying to put myself into this situation. Reading between the lines, the best explanation I can come up with is that past a certain point the cops were just having some fun, much like a young George Bush with frogs and firecrackers. If you've Tased him once, why not Tase him some more? After all, the Captain doesn't want a bunch of firings on his record, especially not for something like this. He's got no choice but to back you up.

But I still believe
And I will rise up with fists!!

tnjen's picture
Submitted by tnjen on

...as a police weapon, period. They've become a means of torturing anyone who doesn't jump high enough, fast enough, or who the cop just doesn't like. When it's not excessive enough to cause death, it's an act that leaves no mark and a form of brutality that can't be proven save extreme circumstances. When it does kill, they call it 'accidental.' Sometimes it is accidental but even then we're putting a deadly weapon into an officer's hands and telling him or her it's harmless. Under the best of scenarios, it's too great of a temptation for an officer to just taze someone they think might hurt them rather than using other means that might prolong the situation (talking) or put the officer in perceived danger (walking closer and physically arresting them).

PB 2.0 - Supplement the wonk!

bringiton's picture
Submitted by bringiton on

Ozark is in Missouri, not Montana.

There are some total assholes out there, eh? Assuming things are as reported, difficult to understand how anyone would justify this.

The good news, such as it is, will be that the recorder on the Taser keeps the bad cops from lying about the use. Without that, abuse would never be documentable.

Just to play devil's advocate, how would this have played out differently without the Taser? Do you suppose they'd have - literally - kicked him to the curb?

scarshapedstar's picture
Submitted by scarshapedstar on

That was my point:

(Thank god for Tasers, otherwise they’d have had to put him down like a broken racehorse, eh?)

Tasers are supposed to be a nonlethal substitute for lethal force. The fact that lethal force was not required here is self-evident. And they wouldn't have beat him, either, had they no Tasers. (What sense would that make?) I dare say they might even have helped him.

The blade itself incites to deeds of violence.
-Homer

But I still believe
And I will rise up with fists!!

scarshapedstar's picture
Submitted by scarshapedstar on

I realize I may seem to contradict myself here, calling the cops sociopaths and then arguing that, actually, the Tasers on their hips clouded their judgment.

It may simply be that the best way to get good results from a flawed officer is to limit his opportunities to fuck up. Handing out Tasers opens up a real big can of worms.

But I still believe
And I will rise up with fists!!

bringiton's picture
Submitted by bringiton on

But there is a drill for dealing with coming up on a "subject" down, and it doesn't include physical assault as a first option - of any kind. Something went terribly wrong in the process this time, and that would lay the blame on the judgment of the officers. An inanimate object can't be the cause of what is surely a mental error.

Seems so irrational - why once started did they stop at 19 shocks? Did it take that long to sort out that he was injured, or did the batteries just run out?

Difficult, I think, to make rational guesses about what seems to be an irrational act. Also difficult, I think, to say what an irrational person might or might not have done if the Taser had not been available.

I'm loath to make broad social change based on these kinds of anecdotal cases, heartbreaking as any one of them - many of them - might be. Any tool can be used for abuse by abusive people; I'm not sure that a Taser is any more inciteful or enabling of abusive behavior than any of the other weapons that police have available.

I'm still unpersuaded that on balance the disadvantages outweigh the advantages, and continue to believe that increased pay and better training are what we need to improve policing practices.

Submitted by Elliott Lake on

"I’m not sure that a Taser is any more inciteful or enabling of abusive behavior than any of the other weapons that police have available."

Sure it is. It's new and shiny and tech and all the cool cops are using them. It doesn't blow big holes in flesh, ruin your cop car or get blood on your uniform the way a gun or a billyclub can. You don't have to get within striking distance of your victim, so unless they have a gun and shoot first, you can do anything you want to them once you've zapped them the first time.

In this case, increased pay is not going to improve a damn thing. Increased training on the fact that citizens are human beings who feel pain and sustain injuries, that would help. Civilian oversight and real penalties for injuring helpless civilians would help.

But as long as we treat policeman as ubermen who can do anything as long as they "are keeping us safe"--from broken paralyzed teenagers, naked deaf men in their own showers, pregnant women, disabled folks carrying soda pop, no less--we are enabling and inciting this.

bringiton's picture
Submitted by bringiton on

That's a step forward. Now, about that higher pay....

Like it or not, we live in a capitalist system and until that changes we are largely constrained by capitalist forces in trying to manage society. The number of altruists is limited generally, and the number of altruists who are interested in being cops is, in my data-free NSHO, vanishingly small.

As a job, being a cop is largely a bore punctuated by moments of abject terror overlaid with a constant low-level tension waiting for that terror and day-in-day-out dealing with other people's bad attitude and their mistakes. The job description demands that the day be spent on tasks that society deems neccessary but most people don't want to have to do. It is a wonder that anyone not a sociopath would be willing to take it on.

If we can agree that we'd be better off without sociopaths as cops, without financial corruption and without Milgramesque psychological dehumanization, we need a tool to gain that objective. My argument is that higher pay will, on average, attract a better quality person in the first place and create more of an incentive to behave properly to keep the job than currently exists.

It is the same argument I see as valid for all social service jobs, teachers, firemen, EMTs, nurses, politicians and police; pretty much, there are no real bargains and you get what you pay for.

All positions of power should fall under civilian oversight, and all crimes under color of authority should be prosecuted. - of course. But as long as we, collectively, try to fund our key social infrastructure jobs on the cheap we will get a low-budget result.

The answers to these problems aren't either-or; they have to be all-inclusive or they will continue to come up short of what we want them to accomplish. Technology constantly presents us with new challenges along with new opportunities. How we - emphasis on we - manage tasers and the people we authorize to carry them is the nut of the problem, not the tasers themselves.

scarshapedstar's picture
Submitted by scarshapedstar on

Tasers, pain rays, the "sick sticks" from Minority Report: they're all marketed to the public as lifesaving devices to be used as a last resort when there would otherwise be no choice but to start unloading full metal jackets. This is all well and good because, as Alberto Gonzales will tell you, we have no Constitutional right not to be tortured.

The problem is that when people in psychologically stressful positions have these devices, they start looking better and better. It's like a safety valve for any uncomfortable situation. It's really easy to act as an authority figure when everyone you're ordering around or handcuffing is already writhing on the ground and screaming.

We've seen plenty of non-violent protests broken up with tear gas. Every single "tool" of this sort will become abused more frequently as it becomes more widespread and normalized. Milgram and Stanford proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that it doesn't matter how much you're paid or what your background is when it comes to your capacity to inflict pain; if your society says you can do it, you will. This is why I am quite skeptical of claims that better-paid and better-trained cops will torture more judiciously.

What we really need is a change at the top from "as long as you can claim you were Following Procedure, we will defend you" to "if you Tase someone for no good reason, you will be charged with assault with a deadly weapon." I'm sure they already say that, but it is clearly not getting through to the people who really need to hear it, and given the lame defenses offered up by their superiors, I remain unconvinced that the higher-ups actually give a shit about any of their electrifying antics. There is a Torture Culture that must be done away with before any meaningful change will result. Until then, we will see more and more and more of these abuses.

But I still believe
And I will rise up with fists!!

scarshapedstar's picture
Submitted by scarshapedstar on

I've been sympathetic to the idea that tasers can be useful and the cops simply need more training and stricter regulations. No more. The abuse is too widespread. These things are torture devices that we have empowered the government to use on us whenever they want to, no repercussions, no regulations. I've seen too many pictures of a group of uniforms holding someone on the ground, screaming in their faces, delivering electric shocks while the subject of their torture begs for them to stop. It's disgusting. Tasers need to be outlawed.

Lest you think she's exaggerating, explain to me how all four of these cops felt mortally endangered by this bride at her own wedding. I guess not one single member of the 14 separate law enforcement agencies present was well-paid or well-trained enough to step in and stop them. Why, oh why, doesn't that ever happen?

But I still believe
And I will rise up with fists!!

bringiton's picture
Submitted by bringiton on

Yer headed off into innuendo land.

The lady isn't being tasered here, or abused as far as I can see. She's being arrested.

Is she unhappy? Looks like it, but when your wedding guests start to bust up the joint so badly the owner calls the cops, and then the crowd threatens the one cop responding after he nicely asks them to leave and frightens him so badly he puts out a distress call and then cops from 14 jurisdictions are required to put down the ensuing riot, and while your drunken husband who has attacked the cops is getting tasered you jump in and get your sorry drunken ass shocked too and then you find out you're getting arrested, unhappy is a likely emotion.

Read the whole article, not just Digby's misrepresentation, then judge.

My conclusion and advice:

1) Don't bust up a rented hall.

2) Don't push around the cop who responds and tells you the party is over.

3) Don't assault a cop when there are 20 or so more of them standing around; they will kick your ass.

4) Don't grab onto someone being tasered, or if you do then don't complain about being shocked.

Many lessons from this story, but tasers = bad is not one of them.

Sarah's picture
Submitted by Sarah on

But before better pay and better training, we need the citizenry to stop looking for reasons to hate the cops.

We need the citizenry to own up to the bad behavior they commit.

Just like we need taxpayers to have working highways, sewer systems, and bridges, we need citizens to have a reasonable system of law and order.

As long as the prevailing attitude is that cops are bad, just because they're cops, nothing will change.

Treat people like your enemy long enough, hard enough, and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Realist's picture
Submitted by Realist on

You mean bad behavior like getting your back broken in a fall? That sort of bad behavior? Yeah, I can certainly see how that rates being tortured.

Excuse me, I think I'm going to go throw up now. That was quite possibly the most disgusting thing I've ever read. I expect this sort of attitude from wingnuts, but not from people who paint themselves as progressives.

bringiton's picture
Submitted by bringiton on

And ignoring the previous comment's point entirely, a twofur! Well done!

Excuse me, I think I’m going to go throw up now. That was quite possibly the most disgusting illogical thing I’ve ever read. I expect this sort of attitude sloppy reasoning from wingnuts, but not from people who paint themselves as progressives.