Taser tales

This tasering stuff is getting a little out of hand:

ABC News report that Oakland police tasered a man having an epileptic seizure because he became agitated when restrained. They subsequently prosecuted him for assault and disorderly conduct. You couldn’t make it up if you tried.

Oh, I don’t know. I can make up some pretty good ideas if I try. I mean, we had someone tasered for overstaying his welcome at a library, and now someone tasered for having an epileptic fit. What’s next?

Look at Michael J. Fox. The man was out of control, head weaving and wandering, hands moving around, and he was annoying true patriots. He was definitely a candidate for the taser. And just think how entertaining Rush Limbaugh’s imitation would have been!

Another case: Terry Schiavo. Mere police presence would not have silenced her moans and random wiggling, but 50,000 volts? That would have taught her a lesson. As a real bonus for the Republicans, when her muscles all tensed and she arched her back and groaned uncontrollably, they would have been able to say, “See? She does respond to stimuli!”

You want to know what problem really makes people “agitated when restrained,” subject to irrational excesses of exuberance, uncontrollably loud and hyperactive? Youth. If you’ve ever been in a restaurant when little kids are shrieking and running amuck, you know what I mean. One zap, though, and the little bastards will calm right down.

I think there is real potential for civilizing the populace here.

I want a taser of my own.

First thing I’m going to go looking for: a cop with the hiccups.


  1. Marc Buhler says

    The police should all have dogs and horses. Every policeman should have both a dog and a horse and a taser, a pistol, a shotgun, some pepper spray and a low yield nuclear device. Also a slingshot as a backup for when the guns run out of ammo, and they all should have road spikes, too. And while we’re getting dogs and horses for all the police, what about a few snakes and maybe some bees? A few bee-handling police could easily restore order by wacking their hive with a baton. (Oh, yeah.. all the cops have to have those fold-up batons, too, especially if they have to carry the bees.) Did I miss anything? Maybe a back-up nuclear device…. (signed) marc

  2. says

    You’ll release the dogs, or the bees, or the dogs with bees in their mouths and when they bark they shoot bees at you? Well, go ahead — do your worst!

  3. says

    Lately I’ve been noting more stories about police abuse. There was another story where police shot and killed a groom the day before his wedding. His crime? Being with two of his friends.

    My SO is black. If the cops EVER, EVER do anything to him including tasering, they will never know what hit them. That’s what happens when you have an intimate knowledge of the local PD’s.

  4. Joshua says

    My dad was a police officer. I’d like to say that somehow he and his police buddies were exceptions to this ever-more-common rule.

    Sadly, they weren’t.

    There have been rumblings for a while about heavy steroid doping within police departments. Hard to say how widespread a problem it is, but it’s something that deserves serious examination and probably regular testing.

    On the one hand, I can understand why some cops would get into that, especially the ones in the really crappy neighbourhoods. Pressure to compete with the tough guys out there on the streets making trouble. On the other hand, this only makes things worse. Cops on the beat need judgment as much as they need muscles (or tasers), and steroid abuse obviously gets in the way of that.

    Frankly, whether steroids are involved or not, all these instances of abuse damage police credibility, and that only makes their job even harder. It’s easy to see things falling into a vicious cycle of escalating violence. (Arguably, we’re already there.) The utter failure of politicians to seriously engage the problems of economic injustice and illegal drugs in the inner city and elsewhere is at least as much to blame for the problem as anything the cops themselves are doing.

    Yet, at the same time, some parts of England are at least as bad off economically, but they don’t have nearly this scale of police abuse, that I’m aware of. Of course, they don’t have beat cops with shotguns. They also don’t have this ridiculous “War on Drugs”. But I think the lack of readily-available weapons probably has more to do with it. If a cop has to call for back-up instead of thinking he can go solo into a dangerous situation and handle things himself (after all, he’s got his pistol right there on his hip), he’s going to have to stop and think about the right course of action, and that’s better for everyone, both the cops and the community.

  5. Rupert says

    I don’t understand why the epileptic case didn’t get thrown out of court. Why was it allowed to continue once the facts were known, and why was the unfortunate man forced to spend twenty days in a mental institution? In the UK, there are plenty of ways – even during the hearing of a case – for such things to be defused before a perverse judgement is passed.


  6. Robert says

    I agree that the most distressing thing about the case is that there wasn’t any justice served. The guy was declared insane for being epileptic. Thats absurd. The case should have been thrown out, and the least the police be made to do was apologize.

  7. Jon H says

    “I don’t understand why the epileptic case didn’t get thrown out of court. Why was it allowed to continue once the facts were known, and why was the unfortunate man forced to spend twenty days in a mental institution?”

    It’s because the cops get an insane level of deference. And when they fuck up, they never admit it, they just keep pushing.

    Just look at all the people shot and killed because a SWAT team busted down the door at 4am, and all too often it’s the wrong house, and they’re after somebody for a nonviolent offense.

    Not long ago, an optometrist was shot and killed when cops swooped down on his home because he had been caught wagering on football with his buddies.

  8. flame821 says

    We did a column on this a few days ago along with the usefullness of You Tube.

    Just go to You Tube and type in police brutality and see how many videos you get of bad judgement in action. The nice thing is now that so many ppl have video phones it is so simply to film, email / upload the video and get it out to the public before they can confiscate the evidence. It MIGHT make some of the ‘loose guns’ that disgrace their uniforms think twice before resorting to violence.

  9. lydia says

    >Just look at all the people shot and killed because a SWAT team busted down the door at 4am, and all too often it’s the wrong house, and they’re after somebody for a nonviolent offense.

    Yeah, now they’re shooting 92-year-old ladies with actual guns. Collateral damage in the “War on Drugs” and all. Although this one did hit three police officers before she died.


    Makes me proud to live here, I tell ya.

  10. BC says

    You got my earlier email about the police officer at UCLA having a history of heavy-handedness, didn’t you, PZ?

    The UCLA police department identified the officer caught electrifying the student who did not produce his college ID card as Terrence Duren, an 18-year veteran of the UCPD.

    Duren hasn’t had the smoothest career in law enforcement. He came to Westwood after being fired from the infamous Long Beach PD. A few years after being hired by UCLA he was accused of using his nightstick to choke a fratboy and the university asked the UCPD to fire Duren, but he was only given a three month suspension.

    In late 2003 Duren shot a homeless man, Willie Davis Frazier, Jr., in a Kerckhoff Hall bathroom. Frazier, who attempted at first to shun lawyers and represent himself, was imbalanced enough to spend time in a mental institution as the court tried to figure out if he was fit to stand trial.

    During a 2004 preliminary hearing in which Duren testified against Frazier, the officer carried a Machiavelli book into court, “The Prince”, which argues that the ends justifies the means. “Did you know that this was Tupac’s favorite book?” he asked…


  11. annie says

    Don’t forget the five-year-old Florida girl who was handcuffed and arrested from her daycare in 2005. (She’d been acting horrifically but was calm and seated when they arrived, and for the half-minute they spoke to her teacher BEFORE grabbing and cuffing her. She was black, of course.)

  12. B. Dewhirst says

    The UCLA incident is a clear instance of torture. They were not shocking him to motivate action, they were shocking him to gratify their anger/fear.

    Since torturing him doesn’t have the desired effect, making the cops feel better, they’ll just shock him again until they feel better… fuzzy thinking, to be sure.

    Underneath all the excuses… folks torture people because they want to, not out of a desire to have him stand up, or tell who else is in league with the bad men. Everything else is usually an excuse…

  13. faux facsimile says

    The most aggravating part isn’t the abuse of power, it’s the fact that there’s no legal recourse that will personally punish the perpetrator.

    Even if a lawsuit had made it through, you can bet the cop would never have done a day in jail. Basically, if you or I do it, it’s a crime and we go to the slammer. If cops do it, it’s at most an accident, and you’d best forget about consequences.

    The SWAT incidents are especially disheartening. Using extreme force and paramilitary tactics against an alleged gambler. Talk about a levelheaded approach to ‘law’ enforcement.

  14. Joshua says

    But wait! There’s more!

    Somebody remind me why we keep these people around at all, because seriously I’m not seeing it right now.