The Taser War on the mentally ill continues

The Taser War on the mentally ill continues

by digby

I have often written about the taser war on the mentally ill, but I've never seen anything as awful as this:

Someone using a stun gun like a cattle prod assaulted a dozen patients at the Sonoma Developmental Center last fall, inflicting painful thermal burns on their buttocks, arms, legs and backs.

The center’s in-house police force, the Office of Protective Services, had a suspect from the start. An anonymous whistle-blower called a tip line in September 2011 and accused Archie Millora, a caregiver at the Sonoma center, of abusing several profoundly disabled men with high-voltage probes.

Detectives found burn injuries on the patients, according to internal records obtained by California Watch. The following morning, they discovered a Taser and a loaded handgun in Millora’s car at the Sonoma center.

The facility is one of five state-run board-and-care institutions that serve roughly 1,700 residents with cerebral palsy, mental retardation and severe autism – disabilities that make communication difficult, if not impossible.

The one victim who is able to speak named Millora and used the word “stun” when interviewed by a detective at the center, according to a state licensing record.

As part of an ongoing investigation, California Watch has detailed how the institutions’ internal police force, created by the state to protect the vulnerable residents at these state homes, often fails to conduct basic police work when patients are abused and harmed.

In case after case, detectives and officers have delayed interviews with witnesses or suspects – if they have conducted interviews at all. The force also has waited too long to collect evidence or secure crime scenes and has been accused of going easy on co-workers who care for the disabled.

Those shortfalls again were on display in the Taser case, records show.

After the assaults were discovered, the Office of Protective Services made no arrest, deciding instead to handle it as an administrative matter. Also, at least nine days after the revelations, records show, detectives still had not interviewed Millora, whose personal Facebook page includes wall photos of assault weapons and handguns.

To make matter even worse, if that's possible, this was once a top flight facility that has been degraded over time with budget cuts, turning it into a Bedlam for the 21st century. And there is fear on the part of advocates that this will be used as an excuse to close it down and sell off the land to speculators who have been eyeing the valuable property for some time.

Obviously, this is a case of a sadistic gun-nut employee rather than your average street cop and his behavior is beyond the pale of all but the worst taser abuses. But I can't help but think that if tasers were less generally "acceptable" this sort of thing would carry more of a risk. When they are featured as big laughs in the movies one can see how a person could get the idea they could get away with using them.

By the way, the man was fired. But click over to the whole story to see how an incompetent and corrupt police department deals with something like this. It isn't pretty.