Friday, November 17, 2006

Thoughts on UCLA Taser Incident

If you're a UC student, you've probably already heard of the shocking (*snort*) news to hit the UC campus in LA, but for you "Melinda Duckett Porn" googlers:

UCPD officers shot a student several times with a Taser inside the Powell Library CLICC computer lab late Tuesday night before taking him into custody.


At around 11:30 p.m., CSOs asked a male student using a computer in the back of the room to leave when he was unable to produce a BruinCard during a random check. The student did not exit the building immediately.

The CSOs left, returning minutes later, and police officers arrived to escort the student out. By this time the student had begun to walk toward the door with his backpack when an officer approached him and grabbed his arm, at which point the student told the officer to let him go. A second officer then approached the student as well.

The student began to yell "get off me," repeating himself several times.

It was at this point that the officers shot the student with a Taser for the first time, causing him to fall to the floor and cry out in pain. The student also told the officers he had a medical condition.

(Daily Bruin, 11/15/06)

You can check out the YouTube video of the incident, as it loads a lot quicker.

While watching the movie is enough to make one cringe, no one should be all that convinced that this is a flagrant abuse of power.

The issue here is not simply that the student forgot his ID. If you forget your ID, you say, "Whoops, forgot my ID!" and the situation is over. The CSO asks you to leave, you comply, end of story.

That's not what happened.

"He wasn't cooperative; he wouldn't identify himself. He resisted the officers," Young said.


Young said the CSOs on duty in the library at the time went to get UCPD officers when Tabatabainejad did not immediately leave, and UCPD officers resorted to use of the Taser when Tabatabainejad did not do as he was told.

If you are going to tell a CSO to get lost after a directive to leave, and the real cops need to show up to ask you to do so, there's a good chance they're going to want to talk to you. You don't suddenly get to pack your things and leave at this point.

But some students feel differently:

When asked whether the student resisted when officer attempted to escort him from the building, the witness said, "In the beginning, no. But when they were holding onto him and they were on the ground, he was trying to just break free. He was saying, 'I'm leaving, I'm leaving.' It was so disturbing to watch that I cannot be concise on that. I can just say that he was willing to leave. He had his backpack on his shoulder and he was walking out when the cops approached him. It was unnecessary."

I mean, one can try asking politely, but I don’t think the officers are going to just let go after they’ve had to physically hold someone down to the ground. Say what you want, but at that point, you aren’t leaving.

In this situation the use of a taser seems fairly justified, particularly because the unidentified person is not complying with police directives. Yeah, getting tased hurts, but using other physical means to detain this person, or to perhaps pull this person up from the ground and out the door, particularly when the police do not know whether he is armed, can end up being more dangerous for both parties.

My stomach turns everytime I watch this clip, and I do feel some sympathy for the guy (the visceral emotions evoked by his screams is what gets most students, I wager), but I really do not understand his preaching about his rights and the officer’s abuse of power. Priorities are important here. Do that AFTER they have deactivated the taser and ceased with the threats to tase you again. The police made the consequences of continuing to ignore police directives very clear, yet he refused to comply.

Given what we know of the situation, we can of course logically protest the policy of officers wielding tasers, but we cannot fault the officers for doing their job.

"Any student who witnessed it was left with an image you don't want to remember," said a witness who asked not to be identified.

Yeah, and I hope that image and this story's moral is crystal clear: shut the fuck up about the Patriot Act and listen when an officer has already had to use force to subdue you and is giving you stern commands, with a stun gun primed and aimed up your ass.

The Daily Bruin has an editorial that reflects some of this sentiment.

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