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Hullabaloo


Friday, August 22, 2014

 
If tasers aren't for use in place of deadly force what are they for?

by digby

I've written a couple of things about tasers this week, one on Salon in which I questioned their use as torture devices for cops' convenience and one here where I explained why I don't think they should be banned. I explained that while they are often misused, if they were deployed only in situations where lethal force would be the only other option, they would be a very useful tool in the toolbox. I raised the Powell killing in St. Louis as an example of how they should be used.

Well, I think I'm changing my mind.  From what I gather on the internet, a lot of police and other experts believe that tasers cannot be used in situations where a citizen is wielding a knife or other weapon other than a gun because there is no guarantee that a taser will stop them. Therefore, the protocol is to use deadly force in any situation where they feel threatened. The St. Louis police chief was quoted on CNN saying "Tasers aren't 100%. That's what guns are for."

And that means the only use for tasers is to force compliance of unarmed citizens with the use of 50,000 volts of electricity --- which is torture. Like this:

In police reports and in the document charging Hulett, the officers said they told Hulett he was under arrest on the bus before hitting him with the Taser. But in a video of the incident, no such statement can be heard.

Schiano said he reviewed all the available evidence, including the bus video, but found nothing to corroborate the officers' statements that they told Hulett before tasering him that he was under arrest.

"I listened closely and I didn't hear it," [District Attorney]Schiano said outside the courtroom. "I can't speak for them. That's for them to answer." 
Hulett was charged with disorderly conduct by intending to cause annoyance and alarm by obstructing vehicular traffic.

"He wasn't obstructing any traffic," Schiano said. "He was on the bus. As I see the video, he was just trying to go home or wherever he was trying to go."

And if there was no disorderly conduct, there was no reason to arrest him, Schiano said. So the resisting arrest charge was also improper, he said.

The video, taken from a security camera above the driver's seat, shows the officers lifting Hulett's shirt then hitting him with the Taser after warning him that it's coming.

Hulett then falls as the officers, Sgt. William Galvin Jr. and Officer William Coleman, move him off the bus. They drag Hulett away from the bus and one of the officers stands over him as Hulett lies on the pavement.

Hulett, who says a back condition makes it difficult to sit while riding a bus, suffered a broken hip in the incident, according to hospital records. 
"You want it again?" the officer yells repeatedly at Hulett in the video.

Galvin then grabs Hulett's right foot and drags him about 10 feet along the pavement. 
Hulett, 35, suffered a broken left hip in the incident, according to medical records from Upstate Medical University.

In his news release today, Fitzpatrick said he was concerned about the timing of a use of force report filed by the police department. It was dated Aug. 1, three months after the incident and just hours after a story about the case was published in The Post-Standard and on Syracuse.com.

That report said the officers were justified in the force they used.
or this:

McFarland hurt himself June 30, 2009, in a fall at his Woodacre home. His wife called 911, but when paramedics arrived, McFarland refused to be taken to a hospital and signed forms declining medical assistance.

Sheriff's Deputies Justin Zebb and Erin Mittenthal arrived at the home shortly thereafter "without consent and without a warrant," said McFarland's suit, filed in U.S. District Court in San Francisco. Deputies are automatically dispatched to most medical calls.

County officials said McFarland made a comment to the deputies about shooting himself. His attorneys have said an embarrassed McFarland was joking about his fall.

After McFarland ordered the deputies to "get out of (the) house," Zebb pulled out his Taser and told McFarland to come with him to the hospital, the suit said.

When McFarland got up from his sofa, the deputy shocked him several times.

Marin County paid that man over a million dollars in damages. Most people, however, don't have these altercations filmed and even if they do cops are usually found to be justified. This man had the means to get a good lawyer.

The only good reason for cops to have tasers is to use them in place of lethal force. If the only legitimate use for these weapons is to torture citizens into compliance then they need to be banned.



Update:  For a thorough rundown of everything done wrong in the Powell shooting this piece gets to it all. Yes, they could have tasered him.
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