June 14, 2005

SPD Taser Pregnant Woman

A Seattle police officer tasered a pregnant woman three times over an argument about a traffic ticket. But she was black, so I guess that made her extra dangerous.

I'd expect that kind of crap in Los Angeles, but the fact that this surprised me means that I'm clearly not cynical enough yet.

Posted by natasha at June 14, 2005 05:46 PM | WA News & Trivia | Technorati links |

This is an outrage.

Jeeze-o-pete, you've got her and her vehicle Id'd - is getting a signature that important, such that you can translate refusal into grounds for resisting arrest? And then using a TASER when you resist being removed from your car because you won't sign a ticket that is already yours, like it or not, and designated as yours? And you do this to a PREGNANT lady? Would they have attacked her kid as well if it had been present and had also refused to get out of the car?

Doesn't ANYBODY think for a second that, instead, taking a picture of the lady would have been successful additional insurance if required, when a signature wasn't forthcoming?

I would plan on not going to downtown Seattle anytime this week, if you don't need to - I suspect the streets will be full of lots of angry people doing a demonstration, blocking streets deliberately, when word of this starts to spread.

Finally, was this act of stupidity committed by the King County Police or the Seattle Police Department? Either way, we need some badges turned in permanently.

Posted by: palamedes at June 14, 2005 11:57 PM

The police never get punished seriously for this kind of thing. They don't even always have to resign over shooting people to death for no obvious reason. They're a cult of paranoia and reprisal, their word is gold in court, and people should remember when dealing with US cops that they're twitchy little buggers who can shoot you and get away with it on the flimsiest pretext. In fact, they can shoot you, go back to work the next day, and have all their coworkers pat them on the back and promise to support them through any negative fallout. People can forget that when they live in nice, polite areas where most of the cops are sane and don't go around habitually brutalizing the public (I mean, this still isn't L.A.), but it's no less true for all that.

Public servants like the police get paid f*** all, they don't usually get the right kind of training, they're taught to fear the public, and the one perk they're given to expect is the unconditional respect and obedience of everyone in their presence. It's a recipe for disaster.

I hope I'm proved wrong, but there won't likely be any serious discipline of the officers involved. Heck, there isn't a dead body, the woman is black, and the department even went ahead and reluctantly changed their policy to forbid tasering pregnant women, the old, and the very young. WTF are you on about?

It's effing disgusting, but there it is.

Posted by: natasha at June 15, 2005 12:14 AM

Look, cops don't go back to work the next day after shooting someone.

Officer Donald Jones joined Ornelas in trying to persuade Brooks to sign the ticket. They then called on their supervisor, Sgt. Steve Daman.
He authorized them to arrest her when she continued to refuse.
The officers testified they struggled to get Brooks out of her car but could not because she kept a grip on her steering wheel.
And that's when Jones brought out the Taser.
Brooks testified she didn't even know what it was when Jones showed it to her and pulled the trigger, allowing her to hear the crackle of 50,000 volts of electricity.
The officers testified that was meant as a final warning, as a way to demonstrate the device was painful and that Brooks should comply with their orders.
When she still did not exit her car, Jones applied the Taser.
In his testimony, the Taser officer said he pressed the prongs of the muzzle against Brooks' thigh to no effect. So he applied it twice to her exposed neck.

Okay, so she was pregnant, had her kid with her, and was black. Yeah, but did you read anything else?

She confronted officers who caught her going fifteen over in a school zone, refused to sign a ticket (which they use to prove they talked with you), and refused to exit the vehicle when asked by the first officer, the second officer, and the third officer.

While the Taser proved totally ineffective in this situation... And the officers did escalate when they could've let a hot-headed citizen go...

...Not sure what they were supposed to do once they got the word to arrest her.

PS: My father was killed by a policeman in a bad stop; the cop was taken out of duty and found guilty of improper procedure and discharging his firearm. The court case went for years. But...

That doesn't mean there aren't good cops out there, too. No reason to tar an entire force out of a tiny fragment of their number.

Posted by: Crissa at June 15, 2005 01:36 AM

Where is a link to the original news story at the PI? I'd like to link to this on my blog, but I don't want to link to a link to a link to a link to a story. I'd rather point to something that's verifiable.

Ah, found it. http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/local/223578_taser10.html?searchpagefrom=1&searchdiff=36

Posted by: Scott at June 15, 2005 11:34 AM

Crissa - I actually think most police officers try to do a good job, but I also grew up in L.A., and I know that the same police that are polite to my white, clean-cut self in my usual boring whitebread neighborhood don't always act like that when they're dealing with other people. I know that they tend to have an insular culture, and can get the wrong signals from the people they answer to about what's appropriate behavior, which is dangerous when they're running around armed.

The biggest problem is that you see over and over again a tendency in the police force to treat verbal disagreement or lack of obsequiousness as a threat, as if getting some lip was the same as being physically threatened. And do we know whether or not the officer really tried to explain the seriousness of not signing? Do you think most people in a position to be dropping their kids off at a private school are aware of how fast even a traffic stop can turn very bad if they talk back?

There are certain ways to set up organizations and social situations such that even the well-intentioned can quickly lose sight of reasonable norms of behavior, and I believe that US police forces are often such organizations. That definitely doesn't mean that the police aren't generally trying to do good, and as I said above, I think that we as a society don't do well by them in terms of compensation for a hard and dangerous job.

It's a situation that's set up for unpleasantness, but because the police are the ones with the weapons, their mistakes do the most immediate harm. Yet I think that the ultimate blame lies with a culture of punishment and antagonism in society at large, as well as a worship of hierarchical power. Such attitudes permeate every transaction, from interactions with airline personnel (who too often clearly get off on their ultimate power over travelers) to routine customer service or retail exchanges (in which sometimes the customer is the agressor.)

Anyway, I'm impressed that you're so broad-minded about what happened to your father. I don't think I would be, if that happened to someone in my family and the worst charges laid on the officer were bland procedural violations. I'd see it as a sign of structural impunity, and permission for other police officers to take their responsibilities less seriously.

Posted by: natasha at June 15, 2005 02:44 PM

Natasha, I completely agree.

...And yeah, in a way I'm angry larger charges weren't brought against him, but it's hard to focus on that loss.

The officer lost his weapon, his badge, and I don't remember what else.

The legal system isn't for revenge, it's for justice.

Posted by: Crissa at June 16, 2005 11:24 AM

I can definitely agree with that last sentiment, well put.

Posted by: natasha at June 16, 2005 12:19 PM