The Verdict - The Lombardi Law Firm Blog
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What people don't seem to appreciate is why this debate continues. Like any tool of law enforcement Tasers can be misused. How and when they are being used has been the ongoing concern but the Canadian research is raising additional questions about how the Taser performs and whether or not the internal functioning of it is predictable or reliable. What has never been discussed or debated is whether the Taser works as it is intended to and how long they function in a reliable manner. Now take a look at this case. I have to wonder if the reporting by the officers should include in their reports how long they actually caused the voltage to be applied. Meaning did the Taser take over and jolt the arrestee longer than the officer intended.
According to a Star Telegram online article, Tasers are gaining acceptance, though there are some still who will not issue this weapon, such as Tarrant County Sheriff Dee Anderson. There are many that are issuing Tasers and believe it is a safer and a more beneficial option to guns. A recent case involving use of a Taser which killed the victim, has spurred this discussion once again.
Opposing Taser Use
The case of Michael Patrick Jacobs, age 24, gives evidence against the use of Tasers. Jacobs’ parents called the Fort Worth police because their son was creating problems for them. When the police arrived, he became aggressive, and was shot twice with a Taser, dying on April 18, 2009. According to the autopsy report done by Tarrant County Medical Examiner Dr. Nizam Peerwani, it was found his body was shot for 49 seconds during the first jolt, and 5 seconds the second time. His body was also found not to have contained any drugs and Peerwani ruled his death a homicide. It was reported that the police officer who pulled the trigger on the Taser did so for 49 seconds “unknowningly.”
“The Jacobs family is suing the city of Fort Worth and the Police Department for wrongful death.” Lt. Paul Henderson, chief of staff for the Fort Worth police department, said the case is undergoing investigation and is expected to go to a grand jury.
“Amnesty International reported this year that 351 people have died after being stunned with Tasers in the United States since June 2001. The organization has called on governments to suspend their use or limit them to life-threatening situations.”
Favoring Taser Use
Sheriff Departments which employ Tasers in Texas include Bexar, Dallas, Harris and Travis counties, as well as locally, more than 10 police departments (including Arlington, Dallas/Fort Worth Airport and Fort Worth) have trained their officers and equipped them with Tasers. “Proponents say officers who use Tasers, which deliver a 50,000-volt shock that can temporarily immobilize a suspect, fire a gun less often, helping protect both the suspect and officer in potentially deadly situations.”
It was reported that a 30% decrease in police shooting has occurred in 2000-2008 compared to the time period of 1992-2000, due to increased implementation of Tasers.
There is conflicting evidence that longer duration of taser jolts will cause death, which was suspected in Jacobs’ case. Dr. Jose A. Joglar, an associate professor of internal medicine at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, has said “there is no evidence longer duration Taser applications would necessarily put the heart at a higher risk of arrhythmia since the energy for each pulse is still low."
Tasers are growing in numbers, according Taser International’s website they have “sold more than 406,000 devices to law enforcement agencies in 29 out of the 33 largest U.S. cities.”
All agencies that purchase and give officers the use of Tasers, “must undergo at least six to eight hours of training, yearly certification and, in some cases, experience being stunned, according to the agencies and Taser officials.”
There are opposing views, among the public and enforcement officials, on whether Tasers should be used by police officers. Despite this, the truth of the matter is Tasers are growing in number among officers and departments.
See related blog on Texas Sheriff Refuses to Issue Tasers to his Officers.
Texas Sheriff Refuses to Issue Tasers to his Officers
A 72 year old woman, Kathryn Winkfein, was pulled over for speeding on Highway 71, in Travis County on May 11, 2009, according to Fox and CBS news. She refused to sign the speeding ticket and deputy constable Chris Bieze , (Precinct 3), asked her to get out of the car because she was being arrested. Winkfein got out of the car, said she would not sign the piece of paper and then became difficult cursing and repeatedly saying, “Are you going to tase a 72-year old woman?” He warned Winkfein many times that if she did not step back she would be tased. She did not comply and was about to get in her car when the deputy tased the elderly woman.
What is shameful about this incident is a government law enforcement officer doesn't have the common sense, temperament or professional training to see where this would end up; costing the citizens $40,000.00 because he can't swallow his pride and walk away after throwing the ticket in her open window.
The video of the tasering became a nationally viewed story, even making its way to the comedy circuit. Winkfein requested, “$135,000 for pain and suffering, medical expenses and humiliation.” On September 29th, the county commissioner’s office countered with a firm offer of $40,000, which Winkfein accepted.
The incident is still being reviewed by the district attorney’s office. Constable Richard McCain said Winkfein may be charged with resisting arrest. Are you as sick and tired of these Tasers costing the tax payers? I am. I’m tired of officers with little patient thinking it would be better to punish the citizen while he gets immediate gratification from doing it. These are our tax dollars; not theirs to waste. Get rid of these fancy cattle prods and stop wasting citizen tax dollars. If you don’t want to get rid of them then put controls on their use. It’s as simple as that. This is America not some communist country run by despots with a third-grad mentality.
Fox news reports:
Raw video from deputy’s car:
You Tube Video:
Tarrant County Sheriff Dee Anderson has done his own testing of Tasers as well as research on cases using Tasers and according to CBS news in Fort Worth, Texas he's not handing them out to his department officers. The use of this weapon has grown in popularity with Texas police departments, but Anderson is more concerned with it causing deaths. He said that when “people have health issues or who have used alcohol or drugs, the electric shock could be deadly.” He feels the negative aspects of a Taser outweigh the positives. Though Anderson will not issue Tasers to his deputies, he noted that he is not against enforcement agencies employing the weapon, saying "I completely respect others who decide to use them. I'm not a crusader against Tasers. I'm not out telling people not to use them. Everyone has to make the decision right for them.”
A recent incident which supports Anderson’s case of not using Tasers, involved a Taser being employed and caused the death of 24 year old Michael Jacobs in April 2009.
See related blog on Taser Debate spurs acceptance or refusal of Tasers.
On October 2nd 2009 a Georgia man died after being stunned by a Taser during a law enforcement BADGES investigation. While the investigation is ongoing and there has been no word yet on how many times the individual was Tased, we have to ask ourselves how safe are these devices? And, should the public continue to call these devices non-lethal weapons?
The BADGE officers stated that they stopped the vehicle Friday afternoon in the area of the Turtle Lake Apartments, the officers saw that one of the vehicles occupants was, “consuming an unknown amount of what appeared to be narcotics” and in an attempt to prevent him from “consuming or destroying” a struggle began which is when the officer pulled out his Taser X26 and began to stun the man. While the stun guns are only designed to have 5 second blasts it is unknown how many times the officers stunned the individual. When the officers realized that he was in need of medical attention they rushed him to the hospital. The facts of this case raise questions of what substance the arrestee was eating and how that may have contributed to his demise.
Two other individuals in the vehicle where arrested and charged with possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute, possession of drug paraphernalia, and a third was charged with weapons and drug charges.
Without referring to the facts of this case I’m predicting there will be continued litigation involving Tasers, how they are being used, how they function and it will lead to research that will demonstrate the internal functioning is not as reliable as has been assumed; the question will arise as to a defect in that the electrical pulse isn’t as constant, predictable and reliable as we are being lead to believe; or even what we have assumed. The Taser supporters can get as mad as they want towards those raising questions about the Taser’s reliability and how they are being used by law enforcement, but that will only spur on those asking the questions and demanding more research. Those individuals commenting on this blog in support of Tasers like to accuse the lawyers of trying to drum up business, but that only serves to deflect the main concerns of lawyers and other citizens. The civil rights of Americans is what is at stake, something much more important than a stock’s price. Many lawyers, including this one, believe there is a place for the Taser in the weapons police carry and are authorized to use; but we can’t blindly accept the notion that civil rights take a back seat to convenience or a stock's price. This fight is long from being over.
How about if Taser, International opens up its research library and testing data to some news organization along with what it gives to the Wall Street Journal?
Taser's stock price was down to around $4.62 from a high of over $33.00 since January 2005. One has to wonder if the 'market' suspects something about the product that most of America is willing to ignore or remain ignorant about.
Why are there so many lawsuits? Why are there so many injuries?
A legless unarmed man suspected of domestic abuse and charged with resisting arrest was Tasered by the City of Merced. After effectuating this arrest the report states the police left the man nude from the waist down for several minutes in front of a small crowd. No explanation was given of what the arrestee did that made the police fear for their own safety or the safety of fellow officers. The person arrested is a 40-year-old double leg amputee.
He said Williams was stunned once for less than five seconds, causing him to release his grip on his wheelchair so that officers could handcuff him. Andrade called it "unfortunate" that Williams' genitals were exposed to his neighbors and said officers didn't mean to humiliate him.
The Taser device can release up to 50,000 volts of electricity.
In another case a woman was awarded $200,000 after being tased by local police in downtown Minneapolis. She was 57-years-old and out with her husband and friends from Plymouth, Minnesota. The lawsuit alleged excessive force on the part of the police.
There is a tendency for lazy or overweight police officers to tase a suspect instead of trying to physically subdue her. When Sandra Brown was arrested she wasn’t drunk or belligerent, a cop tased her because she wouldn’t put her cell phone down. Brown was calling 911 because she was frightened by the officer’s aggression.
In another situation the officer who accidentally Tased a Walt Disney security guard in Orange County has been suspended without pay for 12 hours.
Deputy Eric Jaros was working off duty at Disney on Sept. 3 when a security guard asked to hold the Taser, a report shows. The guard then accidentally shocked another guard with the device.
Why are there so many lawsuits? Why are there so many injuries?
Taser, International (TASR.O) is now using Facebook and Twitter to shock jock their way through the airwaves to better press. Recent articles indicate the company spends $4 million annually on legal expenses. Four million is an amount of money that doesn’t really shock the conscience. Think of it as the cost to do business.
Laredo man is dead after being tasered in Laredo, Texas. Three officers are on administrative duty pending the investigation.
An escaping Emu running at-large on city streets was Tased after being handcuffed. I’m not making this up. Is it true? I have no way of knowing but the story was too funny not to report. After being handcuffed and seeing the Taser out of its holster the emu was heard to say, “Don’t Tase me bro!” The Mississippi police department had no comment.
Taser hits baby - In this news story the arrestee allegedly used her baby to block the Taser probes. The two-year-old child made no comment.
An Aurora, Colorado man died after being Tased. The man was 38-years old.
Edmonton, Canada – Did this police officer really fire his Taser 8 times at a teenager who was found passed out in a car?
Vancouver, Canada - Pit bull attacks llama and then officers is shot with Taser before being killed. Are you noticing the connection between Canadians who are under a system of healthcare that we would call reformed and the need to use Tasers. I wonder if there is a connection between the two. Ooooo isn’t that another thing to fear about health care reform? Maybe I should add an anti-reform comment to Wayne Parson’s post.
Question of the Day: Do undertakers invest in Taser stock?
Boulder, Colorado – The police stand by their man who used the Taser weapon (can we call it a weapon?) on a young man who witnesses say was harassing them. The man was charged with suspicion of harassment and obstructing an officer. There’s the butterfly again. What exactly is suspicion of harassment? Is it enough that I think you are harassing me? Maybe we should all carry Tasers? Wouldn’t Taser, Int’l. like that. Think of how high the stock price would go.
Harlingen, Texas - Do the bad guys get to carry Tasers? Read this news from Texas. “The owner of Bob's Auto Air off Jackson Avenue claims Cruz Acevedo and Daniel Salinas stole $100 dollars from his wallet.
The two men allegedly wielded a taser as a weapon and threatened to kill him Saturday afternoon.”
Ottawa, Canada - Taser, International is arguing before the B.C. Supreme Court “that commissioner Thomas Braidwood made unreasonable findings of fact and breached principles of procedural fairness” concerning the death of Robert Dziekanski, the Polish man who died after the RCMP officers shocked him at Vancouver International Airport.
“The filing by Taser International argues the medical research used by the commission was “inadequate” and “flawed or irrelevant,” and claims the commission didn’t consider the material or experts Taser brought forward, naming four specific experts.
But one of those experts, Los Angeles-based cardiac electro physiologist Dr. Charles Swerdlow, said in an interview he believes the commission heard him out.”
Neighbor Tased while sitting in chair on porch and holding his arms up.
Mobile, Alabama – It pays to shop at the Dollar Store, just don’t stay in the bathroom too long. Look at the deaf and mentally challenged man who was Tased for taking too long. The surveillance camera shows the raw footage and there is also what is said to be 911 audio.
Another shocking question for the day: Should taxpayers short the cost of lawsuits for excessive force by buying the Taser stock and taking it long or short?
Why are there so many lawsuits? Why are there so many injuries?
This one is coming out right, Wednesday’s Star Tribune reports the two officers who Tased the 76-year-old parade participant over where the parade should end, were given their walking papers and told to take a hike. We reported earlier on this mess out of Glenrock, Wyoming and suggested deeper budget cuts that included the police chief and the county prosecutor.
Now if they kick the prosecutor and police chief out of office we can all have a parade.
Town officials announced the firing this morning in a press release.
"After considering all aspects of the unfortunate event which occurred after the parade during Deer Creek Days this year, the decision has appropriately been made that the two Glenrock police officers involved are relieved of duty," the statement read.
The officers, Sgt. Paul Brown and officer Mike Kavenius, can appeal the decision.
Star Tribune, Wyoming
Does bad judgment or rude behavior by any citizen justify the use of force of an electric shock by the police in America?
Here we go again, another officer with poor or nonexistent communication skills using the Taser in a manner unacceptable in a free society. This new report comes from not New York City where you expect rude behavior to be the norm, but from the wild west of Glenrock, Wyoming.
Wasn’t it the Bush Administration that coined the phrase, “Freedom isn’t free.”? I’m left to wonder, free of what; free of excessive force from our own police force? Just going through the airport in America I’m made to feel like a criminal in ways you won’t feel going through airports in Europe. In Russia you get robbed over luggage charges but you expect it. In America we now get not just robbed by Wall Street, but there is a growing trend of being mugged by our own police forces.
Like many of the reports seen on YouTube and those that have made recent news, the police are using the Taser to effectuate an arrest but in a way to also punish citizens for what the officers perceive as some level of behavior that justifies force when the evidence would simply support either bad judgment or simply rude behavior. In this instance a 76-year-old man with a heart condition riding an antique tractor in a small town parade misunderstood where the parade route ended. Assuming tractors would do what they had done in years past at the end of the parade the elderly driver veered off towards the town park where in recent years a tractor pull had taken place. Apparently the office took offense and started a chase that culminated in a car accident. It seems the parade wasn’t going to end in the usual location. Instead of merely letting the old man on the tractor go, the officer chases the near octogenarian, another joins in with an SUV, there is an accident and while one officer removes the grandson from the tractor another points a Taser at the old-man and shoots him with it. The grandfather was unarmed and apparently in the officer’s eyes un-American. There isn’t any indication of resisting arrest, but then again there wasn’t an arrest so how could there be?
Why didn’t the guy who took the child off the tractor ask the old man to get off the tractor? Or if need be, he simply could have pulled him off the tractor. Why the use of the Taser? What were the facts about an old man that warranted the use of the Taser? But then again what are the standards for when law enforcement can use electric shock on citizens? Is saying it can be used to subdue citizens enough of a standard?
If there wasn’t any illegal behavior what justified the use of force? What fact justified an American police officer taking out a department issued weapon that can cause death and using it on an American citizen taking part in a parade? Once again we are back to traffic stops and the use of the Taser to punish the questioning of authority.
Has the 9/11-America redefined the Constitutional limits of excessive force?
Or is a declining America so scared of losing its place in the world that we are willing to punish anyone who questions our authority?
Are citizens so fearful of losing jobs to the developing world that emotionally we enjoy watching someone who questions American authority being shocked and made to go limp?
Are a few deaths acceptable to the many in order to quiet the demons in our heads that make us fear what the Chinese labor force is doing to our labor market?
Is speech free only when we speak it; but not for the other guy?
The wrong-way tractor driver is shocked and quickly the parade crowd gets ugly with the officers and no arrest is made. Really, no arrest is made? I wonder why that might be. Following the incident, the police join ranks, hunker down with the local county attorney who says there will be no apology and denies the police did anything wrong. After a post-parade circling of the law enforcement wagons they rationalize that no arrest was made because the situation was getting out of hand and nearly turned into a riot. Really, a riot? I wonder why that might be. Perhaps the county attorney and the Glenrock Police Chief should pick up a book about why the American Revolution took place.
9/11-America clearly is losing control of its government – we are quickly becoming a police state with a police-state mentality run by thugs. The only difference between the American police state and those like Venezuela is the level of education of those running this one. The county attorney and police chief can rationalize the situation all they want but the facts speak for themselves and so did the crowd that saw it in real time. The American way of life is becoming, or maybe it’s become an intolerant society post 9/11 being run by a police force with a thug mentality. Sort of like the thugs on Wall Street. The Wall Street thugs steal our retirement funds and the politicians and law enforcement thugs steal our constitutional rights to freedom, but especially free speech. Like the SEC rationalizing how they missed Madoff operating an investment fund that never traded stocks, this county attorney rationalizing the accident as a ramming is an over-intellectualization of the truth. Just like anyone with a brain knows the SEC turned a blind eye to an obvious Ponzi scheme, the county attorney not filing charges against the officers is just as lame.
As a lawyer I’m finding it difficult to understand what has happened to America since 9/11 and the advent of the Bush Doctrine. Under the Bush Administration one day of multiple terrorist attacks was and is used to justify the use of force against American citizens for any behavior that questions authority. The use of the Taser by law enforcement is a prime example of how the U.S. Constitution has been gutted. This technologically sophisticated cattle prod is being used so frequently and in so many situations that it’s clearly not justified nor understood by law enforcement and perhaps the American judiciary. What ever happened to just good old police work that required good communication skills, an even temperament and thick skin? Alternatives exist that professional law enforcement could use and would be better suited; but it seems that officers with low intelligence, poor communication skills and quick tempers too quickly use a jolt of electricity to justify what can only be understood in real time to be the meting out of punishment. It isn’t being used to enforce the law, instead it’s being used to punish for minor infractions, bad judgment or speech that simply questions authority.
I’m seeing commenter’s on this blog that have shamefully low communication skills and whose temperaments mirror the officers who are quick to pull out the Taser and use it on American citizens who deserve nothing more than a good tongue lashing. Conditioned by the sitcom we want instant gratification and the Taser seems to dish it out in a way that we get to see someone with a bad disposition shake, then go limp and fall helplessly to the ground. None of us want to look at the ones who run, shake, drop and die. Those are too messy. Like American reality show mentality we justify the officer’s bad behavior through rationalization to win. Like the Bachelor or the Bachelorette we fool ourselves into believing that valuable human qualities can be developed and discovered in just a few short weeks. Like Big Brother we give the officers and the county attorney the power of veto (POV) so their own bad behavior is exempted, then empowered and require no intelligent explanation. Just say anything and you'll get to the final four because lying, cheating and scheming is now acceptable behavior in post-9/11 America. And this is the true Bush legacy.
It seems post-9/11-America can justify anything; even criminal behavior by law enforcement.
Is Free Speech Illegal in Post-9/11 America?
Where did people get the idea that questioning law enforcement is illegal? What created the impression that talking is resistance and can justify an arrest? If the standard-less use of the Taser continues to be tolerated by politicians and misguided citizens then the courts must step in and do what the other two branches of government are unwilling to do: stand up to Taser International and its growing league of thugs and say enough is enough. How many people have to die before the Court’s do what the U.S. Constitution mandates?
If freedom is not free then free speech certainly is.
One reader questioned why I draw the analogy that we are looking more and more like a communist regime backed up not by the rule of law but by a police force that use force to control speech, citizen temperament and the mere questioning of authority.
The traffic-stop-Tasering situation in New York involving Mrs. Harmon and the one involving the man in Alabama remind me of the U.S. Supreme Court’s situation in Jacobellis vs. Ohio, 378 U.S. 184(1964) in which Justice Potter Stewart in talking about pornography stated, I may not be able to define pornography but I know it when I see it. When watching the following video clips in real time and thinking through what law enforcement does in each I can say this: I may not be able to completely define police brutality but I know it when I see it. Like the crowd in Wyoming, the prosecutor can take a single fact, spin it and justify the officer’s position, but in real time the rest of us aren’t fooled.
To the people of Glenrock, Wyoming, as law abiding citizens you still have a choice. You can honor the Constitutional rights of every townsperson by throwing the bums out of office. Remove the prosecutor and the police chief and fire the officers involved. You’re better off with the criminals not wearing badges and having the right to “legally” carry deadly weapons. Take back your government and take back our country.
The terrorists may have taken down the World Trade Center towers but they didn’t rob America of its soul. America is still free to choose who runs our government. Freedom may not be free in an esoteric sense, but you better damn well not forget that in America speech still is.
Cincinnati Police Department, Ohio – August 28, 2009 – Teenaged daughter of City Councilman Tased, Charges: She’s accused of obstructing official business and possessing an open container.
A videotape of the incident recorded from a camera in one of the police cruisers doesn’t show the tasing, but other officers on the scene have told the Chief that Thomas was on her knees with her hands up.
"What we’re trying to accomplish here is for a citizen to submit to arrest," the Chief said Friday. “If a person goes to their knees or puts their hands up, I’m here to tell you that with 38 years of experience, that person is submitting to arrest. They’re not being combative. They’re not being threatening. When you’re on your knees, hands up, that means ‘I give up.’"
Memphis, Tennessee - the City of Memphis has said no to the police carrying Tasers and there is a Petition circulating for congress to hold hearings on the number of deaths being caused during an arrest where this non-lethal weapon is used.
Montgomery County, August 27, 2009 – After an argument over a bicycle a man was tased and charged with domestic assault.
Alabama - Never Pass the Sobriety Test – You Could Be Tasered – Fear is the Standard – Punishment the Norm
Newest Taser Weapon – August 2009 - Taser XREP – Slight problem develops with users ability to aim it.
In test firings, [the Taser XREP] proved difficult to aim, as the aerodynamics of the projectile caused it to fall below the aiming point at a range of 20 metres. “Any lack of accuracy means a greater risk of hitting an unintended part of the body and therefore greater risk of injury,” says security researcher Neil Davison.
New Scientist – August 26, 2009 – Long-range Taswer reignites safety debate
Government-funded tests on initial versions of the new Extended Range Electronic Projectile (XREP) have revealed possible health risks to people on the receiving end, New Scientist has learned. The manufacturer, Taser International of Scottsdale, Arizona, says the issue has been addressed in redesigned devices, but these have yet to be independently tested.
Unlike the current Taser X26, which fires darts attached to short wires, the XREP is wire-free. Its projectile, the size of a shotgun cartridge, is designed to pierce the target's skin and contains battery-powered circuits that deliver a debilitating shock. It has a range of 20 metres or more, compared with 5 metres for previous Tasers.
Arizona City, Arizona – A 37-year-old mand died of what is reported to be cardiac arrest after being Tased. The need to stop was a traffic violation.
The suspect resisted arrest and the deputy tasered the man.
Police say the taser was not successful on the suspect and he continued running until collapsing to the ground. Officers said the suspect had gone into respiratory and cardiac arrest.
Corpus Christi, Texas – August 24, 2009 – A 67-year-old woman was robbed by an unidentified woman using a stun gun.
The thief is described as a Hispanic female, 18 to 23-years-old, 5' 1", 110 to 125 pounds with brown eyes and brown hair.
Taser International Inc (TASR:NASDAQ) – Stock price closed at $4.44 on September 2, 2009.
Shares of TASER Int'l (TASR) Fall 2% After French Court Suspends Use of Stun Guns For Local Police
1:41 pm ET 09/02/2009- StreetInsider
Shares of Taser Int'l (Nasdaq: TASR) are down almost 2% today after reports that the French court has suspended the use of Taser stun guns for local police.
Dow Jones reports that the Taser stun guns were given to police without proper training and safeguards.
The State Council, which is the highest court of appeal in France, rejected a September 2008 government decree allowing France's 20,000 local police to carry Tasers.
Currently, 4,615 Tasers have been issued to French police.
... and that folks is the news.
Meet the latest reality series on of all things, The Learning Channel: Meet the Police Women of Broward County, on the TLC. And what is it exactly that TLC is teaching today? Well let’s just take a look and see.
Yes you heard it right, the police bragging that, “There’s always a good time to use a Taser.” Right from the mouth of the people entrusted to uphold the law is bravado about turning, what should be a department issued deadly weapon, into a sound bite for entertainment consumption. Is this right? Is this what American society has become? Is this what are tax dollars are being used to do; to put weapons in the hands of law enforcement who think Tasing citizens has entertainment value? This clearly demonstrates what is wrong when the government gets into the entertainment business.
How about instead of playing to the TLC camera that government does what it is constitutionally empowered to do: simply enforce the laws.
This comment by law enforcement is inappropriate, unprofessional and can be later used to show malice by the Broward County Police Department and officers when someone dies from using a Taser. And who will pay for this indiscretion? You guessed it the taxpayers will be paying. The taxpayers of Broward County will be paying for it in wrongful death damages after little Miss Blonde Deputy Gun Slinger gets her fill of always having a good time to use the Taser.
It’s my opinion that government law enforcement participating in reality TV shows is not an appropriate governmental function. These shows started as educational opportunities and they’ve turned away from education to focusing on entertainment. When did police work turn into the latest reality TV series? When cops turn into movie stars crime turns into an excuse for profit and what crime drives the best ad dollars. Making police work entertaining borders on an unconstitutional exercise of the State of Florida’s police power. A basic function of state government is law enforcement not entertainment. So using government law enforcement resources to entertain the public is wasting those resources and encouraging the perception that the purpose of law enforcement is to take economic, social and financial advantage of criminal activity.
This is disgraceful for the State of Florida and especially its police departments. This officer should be sanctioned and either removed from the show or from the service of police work. The Broward County Sheriff’s Department needs to withdraw from the TLC.
Does the TLC stand for Taser Loving Cops.
Perhaps next we’ll have a Tase booth at the Iowa State Fair. “Step right up ladies and gentlemen and try your hand at Tasing the Moving Criminal! It’s great fun and even helps reduce the deficit created by irresponsible government spending! Hit the felon twice and we’ll credit your property tax bill! Kill him and we’ll give you a full year of property tax relief! Come one come all!”
This disgusts me; this officer needs to be retrained by the Iowa State Troopers who by the way don’t carry Tasers. They use what is called verbal judo, what the rest of us know to be communication skills. Notice the Iowa State Patrol’s motto: “To preserve lives, rights & property through courtesy, service & protection.” No boasting, no bravado and certainly not stated for entertainment value. The Iowa State Troopers make the Broward County Sheriff’s Department look like Communist thugs.
America is ill. The American public is being dumbed down and law enforcement is not doing it's job in a respectable way. The three branches of government should be ashamed. As a lawyer statements like the one here make me wonder if we've developed very far beyond the Roman Empire and its use of lions eating slaves for entertainment. Long live Caesar.
Tasers are without a doubt capable of causing either alone or in combination with other human factors a person to die. Even if there is no proof that Taser alone can cause a death, and I’m not assuming that, the fact people die after being Tased should be alarming to anyone in a civilized society. How then can they be so casually used? Are ordinary citizens tolerating this simply because it’s a clean death? In other words there is no blood to clean up so society is putting the deaths out of mind.
Clearly in many of these instances the use of a Taser is not law enforcement, but the dishing out of punishment by law enforcement. Punishment of course is the Constitutional power of the Courts, not law enforcement or the legislative branch. At what point have we become as repressive as the Communist society?
I’ve been covering the use of Tasers and what appears to be both an abuse of power by law enforcement along with embarrassment for the rest of the department. Take a look at the arrest of this mother, Audra Harmon, with children in the car, stopped for speeding and who asks to see the radar reading on the radar gun. Appearing to be caught off-guard and simply intolerant to being questioned this Onondaga County Deputy takes out his taser orders the woman back into her car; and when she complies he pulls her out of her car to taser her.
How is this not criminal conduct? How can anyone justify this use of force? Watch the video and see if you agree with the woman filing a lawsuit against the police department.
Now that you’ve seen the video did you see the officer pull the woman down and into the lane of traffic without first looking to make sure she wasn’t going to get run over?
A police video captured by a dashboard camera shows Deputy Sean Andrews yanking Audra Harmon out of her minivan by the arm and knocking her down with two Taser shots last January.
Harmon was charged with disorderly conduct, resisting arrest and going 50 mph in a 45 mph zone. Her lawyer says the district attorney's office dismissed the charges after watching the videotape.
Was he or wasn’t he handcuffed when Tasered? This Michigan boy, only 15 died after being shocked with a ”non-lethal” Taser. Were there other methods to calm him down? Probably. Bay City, Michigan police didn’t even consider other means. The Taser is so convenient and easy to use and many, especially stockholders say that it’s safe, non-lethal.
But if it kills how it can be non-lethal?
Come back and let’s see if the issues involving Tasers have similarities to cigarettes smoking and the tobacco industry.
And what about the Detroit teenager who also died in April after being Tasered?
Since 2001, more than 330 people in the United States have died after being shocked by Tasers, said the human rights group. "Amnesty International acknowledges the importance of developing nonlethal or 'less lethal' force options" by police, the group said in a December report on Tasers and Taser-related deaths. "However, Amnesty International has serious concerns about the use of electro-shock devices in law enforcement, both as regards their safety and potential for misuse."
According to Amnesty International as of December 2008 more 351 individuals have died after being shocked with the non-lethal Taser. See Taser Abuse in the United States. A report on the list of deaths following use of stun weapons in US Law Enforcement from June 2001 to August 31, 2008 it tracks the decedents name, age, date of shock, race, police agency by city and state, county, cause of death, contributing factors and underlying health conditions, number of Taser strikes or shocks, other restraints used, whether the arrestee was armed, if armed with what type of weapon and the length of time between the Taser use and death or cardiac arrest/loss of consciousness.
If a weapon contributes to precipitating death is it non-lethal? Which states are the most deadly for law enforcement using this non-lethal weapon? Amnesty International states that 90% of the people arrested are unarmed when shocked by police Tasers. California and Florida have the highest death count per state. Phoenix and Las Vegas the highest per city body count.
“Amnesty International’s report -- which includes a study of 98 autopsies that were independently reviewed by a forensic pathologist -- found that 90 percent of those who died after being struck with Tasers were unarmed and many did not appear to present a serious threat. Police officers used Tasers on schoolchildren, pregnant women and even an elderly person with dementia. More than 30 individuals died after being shocked in jails, where Tasers are also widely used, or in the booking area of police stations after they were already under police control.”
An 11-year-old girl who punched an officer was Tasered; she suffers from a learning disability. The child was at school in Orange County, Florida pushing desks and chairs and spitting at teachers. Now I know what you’re thinking, “Good she had it coming.” But that’s punishment not law enforcement. That’s for the courts not officers.
Research being done to evaluate the safety of Tasers is being funded by the industry. The same thing happened with the Tobacco Institute and whether cigarettes cause cancer. In the past when an industry funded safety research the results were manipulated to favor the industry. Watch the videos available from the Multimedia Collection of the Legacy Tobacco Documents Library from the University of California, San Francisco.
The script for Taser risks has similarities to Pro-cigarette propaganda. Watch “Open Questions” a video produced by the tobacco industry about The Causes And Effects Of Smoking. This movie attempts to create doubt about the “Main Line Of Public Attack” creating a link between lung cancer and smoking cigarettes.
“No one knows what causes lung cancer.”
Many factors are involved making it unknown what the causes of lung cancer can be.
“Can we separate fact from fancy.”
“… a very complex subject.”
“… we need more information.”
“Do these relationships between sets of numbers prove a causal connection or establish a cause and effect?”
The Tobacco Institute touts its role as the public relations arm of the tobacco industry with selections from media appearances by Institute staff. Includes a Tonight Show skit parodying the segregation of smokers and non-smokers on airplanes.
Did he do it or not? That is the question to be answered in a small community of Oakwood, Texas in Leon County. The report states the mother-in-law noticed marks on her daughter and then reported it which spurred an investigation. The officer was then discharged.
Michael Lowe a criminal defense lawyer in Dallas writes the following:
“What is known with certainty is not only do Tasers work -- the target is instantly stopped in their tracks by the electric shock -- but they are very, very painful. Some police officials have described the intensity of the pain as so severe that it constitutes cruel and unusual punishment (which we all know is unconstitutional).
In most jurisdictions, before a police officer is allowed to use a Taser, he is required to be targeted with one under the theory that he will be less likely to abuse the weapon once he understands how devestating (sic) the shock can be.
One wonders if Chief Ivy was ever Tasered before he was issued one of the electroshock guns by the county. If not, perhaps his wife would volunteer for the job.”
Ooooo Mike, that’s not nice.
The news sources reporting about this former police officer’s past create questions about why cities and towns make Tasers a part of the standard weapons to be used on its own citizens. In this case Fox indicates his past included short employment stays, an alleged suit for domestic issues and the charges finally dropped due to the victim allegedly failing to appear in court for over two months. Oh wait I almost forgot this is Texas. Watch and you be the judge.
For additional reading see:
I thought it was odd that the pro-Taser guy attacked me for what I do for a living. After all what does my being a lawyer have to do with the price of Taser International stock prices? This is the mentality left over from the failed Bush Administration policies. If the Bush followers don’t’ agree with what you say they categorize you; label you and attempt to place you into a category that Madison Avenue has turned into a hated-group. Hate in America has become a marketable and saleable commodity. It is a commodity that is making a lot of money for some people. To make money from peddling hate you need to hone certain skills that use to be associated with social dysfunction.
It is possible to develop the necessary dysfunctional personality necessary to become a hate monger. I’ve listed 25 personality traits and skills you’ll need to make hate profitable. Those traits are listed in this linked post.
But today let's get back to the post that brought out the ire of the commenter. In the instance of the Australian human candle, I wasn’t in disagreement that the officers could use the Taser to stop him; in this case dead in his tracks. So why attack me for reporting on the news item? Like Apple, I suspect Taser is very sensitive about what you say about their product. And the stock holders are just as sensitive.
But the Taser isn’t even the point of my blog post. The point of lawyers’ blogging about the Taser is about how law enforcement is abusing it to punish, not just to subdue. It's easy for lay people to want to see the bad guy or gal punished. The lay person isn't used to seeing and dealing with what law officers see and deal with every day. But they are paid and trained to deal with excited and agitated people. That is their job and the reason why it's called a profession is because they are trained to deal with unruly people and to get them under control. But when the Taser takes the place of thinking, talking and becomes the officer's vocabulary, the officer is no longer a professional. He's now operating at the same level as the person he's trying to control. The Taser is not a substitute for training, experience, a level head and professional skills used to get control of a volatile situation. The Taser is an instrument of death in the wrong hands and not necessarily as the primary cause; it can lead to death by putting the person being arrested in a situation where they are unable to protect themselves. Tomorrow or the next day we will see a man Tasered while standing on a fire escape, who then falls to his death. Let's face it the Taser can precipitate some deaths.
Here is today’s case in point. Is it excessive force to Taser a 14-year-old girl in the head because she intends to run away?
14-year-old Tasered to the Head After Running to the Park
When I looked on YouTube there was this story about a 14-year-old getting Tasered for not standing still; a story that makes me wonder if this is one more instance where Tasers are being misused? As a citizen I don't want the police misusing the power they are given. I for one don’t want to live in a place where we are governed by fear of the police. Law enforcement is the job of our professionally trained police force; their job is law enforcement not punishment. Punishment is for the Courts and prisons. If the Taser is being used to punish someone, it is per se’ improper; and I think the evidence is in on that one; the Taser is being used in many instances to punish. Tasering a person already handcuffed is against regulations; yet in my practice I still see it. Repeated Tasering seems unnecessary. Yet it happens.
“If the Taser is being used to punish someone, this is per se’ improper and an unconstitutional use of excessive force under the Bill of Rights; and I think the evidence is in on that one; the Taser is being used in many instances to punish.”
The commenter attempts to downplay the unnecessary use of the Taser by describing it as non-lethal. Describing a Taser as a non-lethal means to subdue someone side steps the real issue. The police punching a person repeated would also be non-lethal yet it’s not proper or legal. Dropping a bowling ball on their foot would not be lethal, but it would also not be necessary or legal. Water boarding is non-lethal and yet it’s torture. Shoving bamboo shoots under a person’s fingernails is non-lethal yet it’s also torture. If the police were allowed to hold you by your ankles from the 14th story roof of a high-rise that wouldn’t be lethal unless they dropped you, but it’s still not something a civilized society tolerates.
The issue isn’t about whether the Taser is lethal, that is for the Courts and scientists to determine and for the legislature to act upon. The issue is whether the Taser is an easy and convenient means of abusing power; one that appears very difficult to detect. It seems that it is being abused, yet because it’s not leaving but a few marks society is willing to look the other way. An abuse of power is wrong no matter how much visual damage is obvious. And that’s my point; if it’s being used to abuse power it’s wrong no matter who is making money off the stock.
And is it causing nerve damage or brain damage? I'm not sure, but if you want to consider the situation walk to any wall outlet, wet your fingers and stick them into the socket holes. How good did that feel? Are you willing to do it again? I didn't think so.
If the police were allowed to hold you by your ankles from the 14th story roof of a high-rise that wouldn’t be lethal unless they dropped you, but it’s still not something a civilized society tolerates.
And that’s why the commenter is afraid to say who he is and why he hides behind a pseudonym. He knows what he’s saying is a distraction from the real issue. He lowers himself to name calling because he has no real counter-argument. He focuses on the criminal because he doesn’t want the Courts to find this law enforcement tool is being misused and to limit its use. The company and its stockholders want to fan the flames of fear so citizens, police chiefs and the legislatures will continue to look the other way while the police abuse the power entrusted to them. It’s not all the police that are abusing power; it’s a few bad apples. But left unchecked a few bad apples spoil the entire department's image.
I tell juries in defamation cases; it takes a lifetime to build a solid reputation, and only minutes to destroy it. The same is true for police departments.
Like you I’m sick of crime and those that commit it. I’m tired of paying for law enforcement and prisons; as much or more than you are; but I’m not willing to live in a police state where fear is the means by which we persuade the populous to comply.
Iowa’s North Liberty police department sued for multiple Tasering of arrestee.
The Courts define what force is legitimate police power and when the use of force becomes punishment. It is the court's that mete out punishment sanctioned by state law; whereas police enforce the laws. Police are not authorized by the Constitution to punish. It's all about the separation of powers under the United States Constitution.
Once under control would repeated Tasering be considered an abuse of police power?
This Iowa case may answer the question of whether it is justified police action or an unconstitutional abuse of police power to use multiple Tazing of a person under arrest. As you can imagine once a person is under control further Tasering is akin to torture. The police are supposed to enforce the laws, but are not authorized to act as judge and jury as far as punishment goes.
What this case may answer may also demonstrate the difficulty of proving damages in a civil case for the manner in which the Taser was used. If it’s legal to Taser a person at least once, then what pain and suffering does a second, third and fourth Taser event add? If at least one Tasering is legal then you won’t be allowed damages for that first event; only for the 2nd, 3rd and 4th events. But if the Taser makes your nerve pulses ineffective can a person continue to feel painful stimulus? If not how then can you suffer pain? Perhaps the experts will be able to tell us if the Tasered suspect can still feel pain but is simply unable to respond. This damage case will require medical experts on the issue of the Taser and a person’s ability to feel pain after undergoing a Taser event.
I have to wonder how, if the Taser is so effective, can anyone justify multiple Tasering events?
Canadian authorities have been analyzing the use of the Taser by it’s own police forces and seem more concerned than is American law enforcement.
1. Whether a deputy sheriff violated the Fourth Amendment by administering three separate five-second-long direct contact “drivestun” Taser shocks, over a two minute period, to a handcuffed, nonviolent misdemeanor traffic arrestee who had already collapsed to the ground sobbing, who never actively resisted arrest or attempted to flee, and who never posed any danger to himself, the officer or the public, when the sole purpose of the Taser shocks was to administer pain to prompt the arrestee to stand up.
2. Whether a reasonable police officer had fair notice in 2004 sufficient to deprive him of qualified immunity that it violated the Fourth Amendment to administer three separate fivesecond-long direct contact “drive stun” taser shocks, over a two minute period, to a handcuffed nonviolent misdemeanor traffic arrestee who had already collapsed to the ground sobbing, who never actively resisted arrest or attempted to flee, and who never posed any danger to himself, the officer or the public, when the sole purpose of the Taser shocks was to administer pain to prompt the arrestee to stand up.
PARTIES TO THE PROCEEDING
Petitioner is Jesse Daniel Buckley, plaintiff-appellee below.
Respondent is Jonathan Rackard, Deputy Sheriff of Washington County, Florida, in his individual capacity, defendant-appellant below.
Amnesty International USA covers the use of Tasers multiple shocks in a single arrest. See Canada: Inappropriate and excessive use of tasers.
2.1 Multiple or prolonged taser discharges
Amnesty International's research into deaths following taser use in the USA and Canada indicates that many of those who have died had been subjected to multiple or prolonged shocks. In Canada alone, all six of the deceased in 2005 and 2006 were shocked multiple times with a taser; in one case up to 12 times in three minutes.
Amnesty International believes that repeated shocks should be avoided unless absolutely necessary to avoid serious injury or death and prolonged shocks beyond the five-second discharge cycle should be prohibited.
The Canadian Police Research Centre noted in its 2005 Technical Report that "police officers need to be aware of the adverse effects of multiple, consecutive cycles of a CED on a subject" because "the issue related to multiple CED applications and its impact on respiration, pH levels and other associated physical effects, offers a plausible theory on the possible connection between deaths, CED use and people exhibiting symptoms of CED.(12)
In April 2005, the US Department of Defense released a report which concluded that while available data suggests that healthy adults would not be at significant risk from the taser, "if long periods of uninterrupted EMI [Electromuscular Incapacitation Device] activation did occur, the risk of unintended adverse effects such as cardiac arrhythmia, impairment of respiration or widespread metabolic muscle damage could be severe".(13)
Taser International is the main manufacturer of taser stun guns. In June 2005, in light of a number of lawsuits by relatives of those who died after being shocked by tasers, and the fact that the use of their product was being listed in autopsy reports, the company included a warning that there were potential health risks in the use of its product in a training bulletin.
Taser International on May 3, 2004 issued a Memorandum of Law concerning the Taser Conducted Energy Weapons.
The legal concerns usually raised regarding the TASER conducted energy weapon generally fall into two categories:
1. What are the legal restrictions on the use of a TASER conducted energy weapon; and
2. What is the impact of a TASER conducted energy weapon on legal liability in a use of force incident. The purpose of this Memorandum of Law is to address these issues in the context of U.S. Federal and State regulations and case law.
Watch this video and ask yourself whether these six officers were using force to effectuate an arrest or whether the force is in fact punishment. This is not the Iowa arrest that resulted in the lawsuit.
The Courts define what force is legitimate police power and when the use of force becomes punishment. It is the court's that mete out punishment sanctioned by state law; whereas police enforce the laws. Police are not authorized by the Constitution to punish. It's all about the separation of powers under the United States Constitution.