Friday, November 23, 2007

Taser troubles

Well, we have another tasing incident, this time in Utah during a traffic stop. In case you haven't seen it (?):


Anybody who's been stopped in a speed trap, whether real or imagined, knows the frustration. In a way this video is a tutorial of what not to say when pulled over--and why--but at the same time it's exactly what many of us want to do (but know better)--a fantasy come to life.

Seems clear the officer's "taser train" left the station too soon, but let's for a second consider his perspective. A traffic stop isn't a debate. Not very many officers would react well to a driver ordering them around and this guy was demanding they drive back to the speed sign and investigate before he would consider signing the ticket. That's normally not a good strategy. Ever. The cop never knows whether the person arguing has just robbed a convenience store and killed the clerk.

That said, the man's naive belligerence doesn't excuse this officer's behavior. You Tube is littered with taser dash cam videos, mostly from situations where a person was under the influence and hard to manage or dangerous/hostile. This man was none of the above and clearly didn't deserve a zap with thousands of volts. Heck, his wife was pregnant--if that's not one of the ultimate mitigating circumstances, what is?

And while I'd be quick to agree that many of our nation's law enforcement officers are unsung heroes, they're also human. The perception is that some drift into an "us versus them" mindset where everyone is an enemy combatant until proven innocent, ie, the above example of the convenience store. Surely that comes from dealing with bad people all day long, so it's nothing sinister, but it can certainly foster the silly notion that America is hurtling towards a police state when events like this one come to light.

Something else to be considered here is a kind of generational psychology. Some of the younger folks today have a "challenge everything" mindset, probably a result of growing up in the information age. It's a replay world. Such a mindset can be good but it can also lead to pursuits like 9/11 trutherism or the desire to lob pies at speakers they don't agree with.

It's almost as if the driver thought of himself as an NFL coach challenging a penalty flag in the big game and he simply couldn't understand why the ref (the officer) wouldn't go over and take another look. Most of us know from personal experience that any encounter with the police is no comparison even if it's just a minor incident.

Anyhow, here's a way the driver could have handled the situation:

"Sir, I don't believe I was speeding back there. I understand you're just doing your job so I am going to sign the ticket but after you release me I'm going to return back to the scene and take pictures so I can challenge this in court". Quite possibly the officer would have said, "fine, have a nice day". The cop was correct when he said the side of the road is not the place to litigate things. Once you're cited, you're basically screwed until a judge throws it out.

MORE 11/23/07

From a forum populated by law enforcement..
I guess times have changed. We had a ton of people who refused to sign their citation, but I can't remember ever tasing one. Normally we could convince them that if they didn't sign the citation we had no choice but to arrest them. The majority of the time they would sign without any physical force. I didn't see where this guy even tried to convince the motorist to sign. In my opinion he tasered him pretty quick.
That sounds reasonable. Browse some of the other comments for a full perspective.

MORE 11/23/07

Utah Highway Patrol statement. Did the motorist actually have a "question authority" bumper sticker?

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