Another "I don’t care anymore, tase me, bro!" police taser debate

This Youtube video depicts an incident which spawned an excessive use of force lawsuit against the deputy involved.

I don’t think the force was so excessive as to be unconstitutional. While it’s true the man isn’t fighting, neither is he cooperating, and he goes limp when the deputy tries to pick him up and get him into the patrol car.

It might have been wiser to wait for backup, but this wasn’t a city scene, with ten other cops available three minutes away.

The man who was tased sued, and the court decided that the deputy could not assert qualified immunity as a defense. On appeal, that decision was reversed, and the suit dismissed.

I disagree. I believe the force was quite excessive, given what was going on. The officer had radioed for backup, and should have waited for it to arrive if he needed help getting the suspect into the car. He’s neither fighting nor cooperating, but there was simply no need to taser him. I’m of the belief that tasers should be reserved for those times where someone is being threatened or harmed. In this case, the victim was seated on the ground, handcuffed, and not threatening or intimidating the officer in any way.

Absent further context, seems to me that the officer just got fed up of the man not complying with his orders and figured tasing him would be a good way to make him listen. That’s not an acceptable justification for tasing, IMO, when another officer has already been summoned to help.

ETA:

Upon review, the officer seems to be calling for backup at 8:02:25 after first use of the taser. Backup arrives at 8:05:55. 3:30 isn’t bad, and I’d wait even longer than that before whipping out the taser.

The guy seemed to be in bad psychological shape. On the oft chance that he was mentally ill and having a breakdown that was beyond his control, I would have not reached for my tazer. He wasn’t being aggressive, he was already restrained (cuffed), and he wasn’t putting anyone in danger.

Not unconstitutional. But definitely unprofessional and the guy should not be a police officer, for the reasons articulated by atomicbadgerrace. Not sure what the debate here is.

A few observations:

  1. If you want someone to move someplace on their own power, using a device that causes pain and incapacitation isn’t neccesarily the best way to do it.

  2. While Mr. Buckley wasn’t complying with the officer’s instructions, neither did he pose an imminent threat to himself, the officer, or other persons. He was also not actively resisting, only passively resisting. At no time did he run from the officer or struggle with the officer. He spent the entirety of the video on the ground crying.

  3. Mr. Buckley’s only offenses were speeding and failing to sign his citation. He hadn’t committed any violent crimes, nor done anything to suggest to the officer that he might be a threat.

  4. Ultimately, the use of the taser didn’t compel compliance. It only served to make Mr. Buckey more hysterical and less likely to respond to the officer (Before the first tasering, Mr. Buckley is responding to the officer’s comments. Afterwards, he doesn’t seem to be listening to the officer at all. The next two taserings didn’t seem to have any affect in changing Mr. Buckley’s response/compliance level.) What got Mr. Buckley into the car as the arrival and assistance of the second officer.

  5. The officer on the scene actually calls for backup at 8:04, and the second officer arrives at 8:05:55, within 2 minutes of the initial call (the call at 8:02:25 was a call inquiring as to the existence of backup.) So, after 8:02:25, the officer knew that a second officer was in the area (and nevertheless tazed him a third time).

Given those facts, it’s hard to say that the officer’s actions were appropriate.

Tasers are all to frequently used as a compliance tool. They should never be used in this fashion, and they have not been “sold” to the public as a compliance device. Tasers were initially supposed to save lives, as they would be used instead of a (more lethal) gun. In actual fact, the use of firearms by police has not gone down, and the use of Tasers as a compliance or punishment device has gone way up. (sorry no cite)

Tasers can be, and frequently are lethal (despite the companies reassurance that all of the many, many deaths of people who have been tasered had nothing, NOTHING to do with the application of thousands of volts of electricity through them.

A taser can be a useful tool, but it has too frequently been abused in the hands of poorly trained police.

Looking at the records, the arrest was for not signing a speeding ticket. Mr Buckley was homeless and destitute so the ticket was probably the last straw. There was no evidence he was drinking or incapacitated nor did he exhibit any threat to the officer. I would have hog tied him so he couldn’t wander into traffic and then waited for back up. Not the most professional or compassionate demonstration of humanity.

This is a far cry from the “tase me bro” jackass that was debated last year. I had no sympathy for him.

I tried to find a personal update on the guy but couldn’t find anything.

I disagree, his apparent level of distress indicated that he was capable and likely to induce harm upon himself. He should have been restrained in such a way as to prevent him from stepping in front of a car. He was 3 zip-ties away from being secured. I knew someone who stopped along a highway and then stepped in front of a semi. This guy appeared well on his way to doing it.

The rules for use of tasers should be the same as the rules for using a firearm. If a firearm is not appropriate, neither is a taser. IMHO

Then there wouldn’t be a need for a taser. Taser’s are clearly designed as a non-lethal weapon and are used to avoid deadly force. It is an tool for police to use in the event of a physical confrontation. The goal should always be to use the minimum amount of force necessary to avoid harm to the officer.

You are correct… in theory, Tasers should be used as an alternative to deadly force. All too often however, they are used by police as a compliance tool or a punishment tool.

Internal police document shows "officers seem content to Taser individuals for lack of compliance with verbal commands or aggressive posturing "

Also:

Tasers don’t reduce shootings

Police rely too much on manufacturer for policy development

Sure there is. If an officer has a taser, and can avoid using a firearm, then he should. Officers should not always default to killing people just because they can justify a righteous shoot.

Obviously if they use a taser instead of a gun then they aren’t always defaulting to shooting someone. There’s a difference between someone in a physical confrontation and someone with a weapon. One gets maced, clubbed, or tasered, and the other gets shot.

Poor guy. What a mess. Just breaks my heart.

FWIW, I think the cop was out of line. Tasers should not be used as a punishment tool for non-compliance. If someone is guilty of a the “crime” of non-compliance, charge them with resisting, or maybe interfering, and then convict them (using due process) and punish them with a legislated punishment, don’t torture them by inflicting pain because they are not doing what you want. This should be, IMHO, illegal, but is definitely immoral in my American moral system.

Bingo. That’s exactly what I was going to say.

The only justification for the use of a Taser is to have something that can take people down like a gun can, but which is far far less lethal and damaging.

It’s not a toy and it’s not a device to prevent cops from having to think about how to deal with someone.

If someone came up with “the ultimate taser”, in other words, a painless device with no risks (assuming that’s possible), then perhaps we could let the police use it in a few more situations than the “it’s this or a gun” ones.

But until then, slow the hell down, Chucky.

Um… I agree… but I don’t get how this goes with this:

It’s a tool for the police to use in the event of a physical confrontation. There was no physical confrontation, nor any indication that there would be. The goal should always be to use the minimum amount of force necessary to avoid harm to the officer. The officer did this when the guy was cuffed on the ground.

He’s clearly distressed, but I don’t think that the level displayed in this video is too outrageous. I’m sure many women (and men, too) have been pulled over for simple speeding violations and spewed more tears and been far more upset than this guy, but that doesn’t mean that any of them are about to jump in front of a car. Your anecdote doesn’t really mean much to me in terms of how this guy may or may not have acted.

Even if he were of the mindset to jump in front of a semi, I don’t think I could approve of the officer’s use of a taser to prevent it.

atomicbadgerrace, I’m not defending the use of the taser in this instance. I would question the common sense of the officer involved. He was acting in the mindset of getting control of a situation but there was no struggle beyond the meltdown the guy was going through.

If someone is running away from a police officer but not threatening the officer in any way, the police have the right to stop them using judicious use of force. Refusing to move is, essentially, just the same as trying to run away. If the officer has a non-harmful way to compel compliance such that he would use it on a fleeing suspect, I see no reason he wouldn’t be just as in his rights to use it on someone who is refusing to move. Why should taxpayers spend police officer time on someone who is clearly breaking the law by not complying, just for the sake of having the basic grunt power of lifting up an asshat bodily and putting him in a car? It would be cheaper to give police their own personal illegal immigrant to help them as a worker bee, because otherwise you’re wasting the time of a highly trained and skilled worker on something piddling and pointless.

My question is, what use of force would anyone feel is alright to use to stop a non-threatening fleeing suspect to force him to comply?

Just being on the side of the road like that is inherently dangerous for the officer and the man. And this factor is worse at night. Add to that the fact that this guy was unstable and potentially a threat to himself if not the officer, and I probably would not find the initial tasing attempt in order to achieve compliance to be excessive force. It is a reasonable attempt to obtain compliance.

The subsequent tasings, on the other hand, I’m not sure about. When that first attempt clearly failed, it seems obvious that more tasing was going to inflict pain rather than lead to compliance. Each subsequent act seems further and further from the range of conduct that could be reasonably calculated to achieve compliance. So I would probably find, at a minimum, the final tasing to be excessive force.

That said, I think the officer should have gotten qualified immunity. In fact, given the standards for qualified immunity, it is hard to see how it is ever overcome in excessive force cases because the law is so fact-dependent. But that’s another thread.

No, it’s not. An officer can force a subject to move by calling for backup, and using the physical strength of the assisting officer(s) to move the person. When running away, you’re not going to solve much by calling for backup to run after him right beside you.

Have you ever been tased? I don’t think it’s gruesome or unconstitutional, but I wouldn’t call it non-harmful. Why would you use a device intended to incapacitate someone to compel them to move?

Backup wasn’t called from home to come in for overtime to move the guy. The responding officer was already driving around, on the clock, in the area. I’d rather my tax money pay him to help another officer move a guy than drive around waiting for something else to do. Had there been a more important issue to take care of, I’m sure he would’ve been taking care of it.