I forget where I first saw this story (Balloon Juice, I think), but the case of a Utah State Trooper tasering a motorist deserves sufficient attention for the way it demonstrates excessive police use of tasers. The video, in case you’ve missed it:
Before going any further, my take: Mr. Massey was resisting arrest. The officer, John Gardner, needlessly escalated this incident into a pissing match, given that he could’ve simply written that Mr. Massey refused to sign the ticket. He did not choose that route, instead preferring a display of authority for the sake of authority. His actions leading to the Mr. Massey getting out of the car were unnecessary and demonstrate a lack of fitness for police work. However, the point stands that, in an escalated scenario, Mr. Massey resisted arrest. That is incidental to what transpired as a result.
… If you watched closely, and heard Gardner order Massey to put his hands behind his back, there’s no doubt that by walking away, Massey was resisting arrest. There’s no doubt that the use of the Taser was justified; that an attempt to physically subdue Massey may have forced both men into oncoming traffic.
The use of the taser was not justified. First, Trooper Gardner made no other attempt at lesser force to subdue Mr. Massey. Second, he tasered Mr. Massey in the back. Third, he tasered him as he approach the traffic lanes. Fourth, after he tasered Mr. Massey, Mr. Massey fell back, clearly either in or dangerously close to the traffic lane.
In this entry Kip states the reasonable:
A big part of the problem with tasers is that they were originally marketed as a substitute for guns, but have become a substitute for exertion. Tasers are, increasingly, not used to save lives but to merely make cops’ lives easier.
If the rule were: “Never use your taser unless you would also be willing to shoot your firearm…” then I can’t imagine too many incidents of “taser brutality.” … But instead the rule seems too often to be: “Use your taser whenever you perceive a risk to yourself.” Or, worse: “Use you taser whenever you deem it convenient.”
That simply cannot be right — not to the tune of 50,000 volts.
Exactly. The four violations – five if you count the initial, unnecessary escalation – demonstrate that Trooper Gardner’s use of the taser was indefensible.
For what it’s worth, this kind of nonsense occurs on almost every new episode of Cops. I love Cops, but it’s getting increasingly unbearable to watch because of the police state inclination it highlights. It’s basically an orgy of tasering and moral superiority over drug users. When I watch, I’m more often rooting for the “bad” guys. It’s uncomfortable, like watching someone try to humiliate me while he has food stuck to his face.
¹ Headline reference here.