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November 16, 2006

Cops repeatedly TASER UCLA student over library ID!

UCLA police were caught on cell-phone video repeatedly "Taseing" a 23-year-old student who allegedly refused to show ID at the library:

Campus police report said community service officers were doing their nightly sweep of the library to ensure that all users after 11 p.m. are students or authorized patrons, the Times said. Tabatabainejad allegedly refused to show identification to an officer and the guard called in campus police. A statement from the UCLA Police Department said Tabatabainejad was asked to leave "multiple times."

"He continued to refuse," the statement said. "As the officers attempted to escort him out, he went limp and continued to refuse to cooperate with officers or leave the building."

However, witnesses have disputed that claim, saying Tabatabainejad has begun walking toward the door when police arrived but was grabbed by an officer. [UPI]

The footage is up on YouTube:

The police claim that they shocked the student because he refused to produce student ID at the request of a Community Service Officer and defied their order to leave the library. Then, they say, they continued to shock him because he refused to get up off the ground.

These stun guns are supposed to be substitutes for lethal force. Don't tell me they would have shot the kid for not showing his ID. Even by the cops' own account, they had no right to TASER the kid.

He wasn't threatening the officers or anyone else. The victim may even have been attempting to leave the library as instructed. This is just the latest of many cell phone videos documenting brutal arrest tactics by LA cops.

Update: Bruins Nation has more details on Tasergate. The Daily Bruin corroborates reports that the victim was walking out with his backpack when an officer grabbed him.


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» Furor Over UCLA Student Tasered By Police from The Moderate Voice
The images and stories coming out of 21st Century America, although not necessarily interconnected, are not nice ones. So much for the days of Americana artist Norman Rockwell. The latest is a story and a You Tube video tha... [Read More]

» Furor Over UCLA Student Tasered By Police from The Moderate Voice
The images and stories coming out of 21st Century America, although not necessarily interconnected, are not nice ones. So much for the days of Americana artist Norman Rockwell. The latest is a story and a You Tube video tha... [Read More]


"Assault by officer under color of authority

P.C. 149. Every public officer who, under color of authority, without lawful necessity, assaults or beats any person, is punishable by a fine not exceeding ten thousand dollars ($10,000), or by imprisonment in the state prison, or in a county jail not exceeding one year, or by both such fine and imprisonment."

These police officers should be prosecuted for assault.

Via commenter jesses at:

While this doesn't give you the entire story, it does show a hell of a lot. It would make anyone angry to watch it.

At a minimum, these police officers appear to lack proper training.

While tasers are useful in that they present a nonlethal alternative to firearms, they may be upping the ante in cases like this. If the officers only had clubs and/or pistols, I suspect that they wouldn't have used either. But with the nonlethal taser, why not give the guy a shot?

I'm surprised at the quality of the images--sure these are from a cell phone?

Bloody hell. Those cops should be fired, at the very least. Really stunning, especially with so many witnesses objecting all around them.

Oh, this has "excessive force" written all over it.

Had these officers been properly trained in the use of tasers, they might have realized that the student couldn't get up because HE'D JUST BEEN TASERED. The solution is not to taser him again.

IIRC, the NYPD only gives tasers to sergeants, and I'm not sure if they even carry them at all times.

heard a lot of people like The Phantom (above) saying that tasers are "non-lethal". this is not true. tasers kill quite often, and though the number is not shocking in these days of global wars and tsunamis, being killed by a taser is very possible and has happened with regularity since it became an accepted police tactic. that would seem to take "non-lethal" off the table.
it seems many people in this country don't even think waterboarding, sexual humiliation, or needless murder is inhumane. maybe if we all got tased just once, we'd be closer to understanding fear of immediate death type pain (then maybe less likely to inflict it).

Lindsay--I am jealous of your right wing commentors. Every other site I've seen carrying this, including mine, winds up getting people saying "Had it coming! Taser him again!"

But over here, you have The Phantom saying "At a minimum, these police officers appear to lack proper training."

Your borderline trolls are much better than anyone else's.

My baser self was urging the crowd to pounce on the sadistic fuckers.

But that would be wrong.

Utica is right. A simple Google search turned up this report of 167 cases of death following stun-gun use. In 27 of those cases medical examiners said Tasers were a cause, a contributing factor or could not be ruled out in someone's death. Tasers cannot be considered non-lethal. Granted, bullets are a hell of a lot more deadly than Tasers. However, in most cases whacking a person over the head just once with a nightstick will not result in death BUT in a few cases it definitely could. Serious and critical injuries, i.e., concussions, subdural hematomas, etc., are also a definite possibility. For those reasons cops can't whack people with nightsticks except under exceptional conditions. The same rule should be in effect for Taser use, and I suspect it probably is but these cops were either 1) trained inadequately, or 2) trained adequately but did not give a damn because the police department as a whole doesn't really give a damn, or 3) both of the above. I suspect that 3) is the right answer.

That video makes me sick. It feels sort of like (dare I say it) Rodney King all over again, but without the racial component. Even if the guy had steadfastly refused to leave the cops could have simply carried him away. They ended up carrying him out anyway, so why didn't they do that in the first place?

I think I'm willing to cut cops a little more slack than your average liberal because I'm sure that the job is a very stressful one, and making just one mistake could cost someone's life. As my degree is in psychology (which I promptly put to zero use) I understand maybe just a little better than most that stress can greatly impair one's judgment. Having said that I still see no reason why this arrest escalated so disproportionately to the alleged "crime". That wasn't just stress; that was sadism. Like I said already, they could have just carried the guy out. There were enough cops there to do that with a few to spare for crowd control.

How horrible. Someone please come forward and tell me in earnest that we don't live in a police state. Fucking A, how much worse do things have to get before we finally rein in these tactics!?

I'm reminded of the study done where people were told to administer shocks to an actor (who they didn't know was acting) and they continued to do so until he died. A lot of people confronted the "doctors" in the study. Those people don't become cops.

Police brutality is a systematic fact. Everyone who goes into police work who is not a thug ends up being smart and getting promoted to detective work or investigation. The guy who raped me was a fucking cop; the guys who doggedly brought him to justice were detectives. And they seemed worn down and sad but not surprised that their suspect was a cop. My friend who is a forensics investigator says cops are the worst; don't date them, don't be friends with them. When you call one for assistance, half the time they don't show up, which is why she got held hostage by a suspect at gunpoint while doing a routine burglary investigation.

We have, in other words, a serious problem.

I have no idea how to deal with it. The profession appeals to thugs, no doubt. There is a disconnect here, and I don't have a clue how to fix it.

I hear you, Amanda. It's weird. The ethos that makes a person become a cop seems to be one part of a dichotomy or the other: Either they're the best or the worst in society.

When I meet cops through work, I tend to like them instantly and superficially, but it takes me very long time to trust them--even the guys from my neighborhood that I see every day and chat up periodically as sources.


I believe you are referring to the Milgram experiment. Another classic study in this area was the Stanford prison experiment.

I couldn't agree more with what you are saying. I'm truly sorry to discover that you were raped. I visit your blog often but never knew that. I appreciate your ability to openly share this information with everyone. It helps immensely to destigmatize the victims of this awful crime. Sorry to go OT, but I just wanted to let you know that.

Regarding the question of how to have more good cops and fewer bad cops:

My solution is to raise the miniumum age for being a cop to 30. Only admit people with no criminal records.

If someone has thuggish tendencies, he'll usually show it by age 30. If he doesn't have a badge when he shows his thuggish tendencies, he's more likely to be held accountable.

In my work I run across a lot of abstracts from medical journals. I read one a few months back about a case in which a man was (amazingly) successfully treated after having one of the pair of taser barbs embedded in his eye.

Lon-lethal. All in good fun.

One of the big problems in this instance, which parallels the attitude about torture in national security matters, is the developing "no blood, no foul" mentality.

As torture expert Darius Rejali has documented, "clean" techniques and technologies for breaking subjects' will are in many ways even more of a threat than good ol' beating.

That's because "after the fact, victims have nothing to show to their communities or even to their families—who want to believe them," he says... "[These techniques] are calculated to prevent any kind of public expression of outrage or sympathy. They are also exceedingly hard to monitor and track, so their corrupting influence is pernicious."

This case is rather obvious because of the video, but this is happening more and more because of that corrupting influence. Even when it's caught on tape, it's sometimes hard to detect. Nobody remembers Rodney King being tased three times between beatings, the last instance lasting until the batteries ran out.

Stacey Koon remarked as he watched King writhing on the ground, "he's groaning like a wounded animal, and I can see the vibrations on him."

"Police brutality is a systematic fact. Everyone who goes into police work who is not a thug ends up being smart and getting promoted to detective work or investigation."

I like how Doris Lessing puts it in the 1971 preface to her book, The Golden Notebook:

"With all our institutions, from the police force to academia, from medicine to politics, we give little attention to the people who leave - that process of elimination that goes on all the time and which excludes, very early, those likely to be original and reforming, leaving those attracted to a thing because that is what they are already like. A young policeman leaves the Force saying he doesn't like what he has to do. A young teacher leaves teaching, her idealism snubbed. This social mechanism goes almost unnoticed - yet it is as powerful as any in keeping our institutions rigid and oppressive."

That video makes me sick. It feels sort of like (dare I say it) Rodney King all over again, but without the racial component.

Well, kinda -- the student was Iranian. Which makes you wonder if there was some kind of weird anti-Middle-Eastern thing working, especially when he started yelling about the Patriot Act.

Sven, I don't think the Tasing had much to do with getting the young man to leave the library. It was done to punish him for not having deferred enough to the officers' dominance, as when police beat suspects who are not dangerous and no longer fleeing after a car chase. Here electroshock was less a means of securing compliance than of punishing insolence.
What to do? In the short term, we need fewer Tasers and fewer people authorized to use them. When they do use them, officers should have to fill out the same six-inches-deep paperwork that they do when they fire even a single gun round. And these officers should be desk'd and prosecuted. They probably wouldn't be convicted -- it would come down to a defense about the officers' "state of mind" and a reasonable doubt. But prosecutions help to rehearse the lesson that law enforcement is about protecting the public with the rule of law, not about members of that public submitting to police officers' dominance.

While I am outraged at what happened, I must say that the student witnesses were pussies. They could have stopped this or at least turned up the heat on the cops. Except for one or two, everyone hung back and watched this happen as though it was on TV. Pathetic.


Glad to see I've been promoted to "borderline troll" from "troll".

Independent thought is not a bad thing. Try it sometime!

John, I'm sorry---wasn't trying to freak anyone out or play victim. Mostly that's my most involvement with the cops ever so the difference sticks out.

My dad was a fireman for 30 years and he was friends with every kind of emergency worker imaginable. He was also friends with investigators and even federal law enforcement. But never, ever cops. He always told me you couldn't trust 'em.

In Norway, we had a big change in the police-behaviour pattern after a woman named Inger Lise Killengren became head of the National Police Force. She introduced criminology and sociology to the police-academy curriculum, and while we still have instances of police-violence, the whole system that used to exist has more or less disappeared.

But in the US, you allow torture now, the level of brutality in your society is stunning from a European pov. Fascists, all of you, lol.

--My dad was ...friends with investigators and even federal law enforcement..But never, ever cops. He always told me you couldn't trust 'em.--

Well, maybe he had some very serious psychological problems, maybe he had uniquely awful personal experiences, maybe he was unduly influenced by the famous cops/firemen rivalry. Its hard to say why your dad chose to give you such a poisoned view of the world.

I won't "take sides" re fireman or cops. I admire both greatly. Some firemen steal when they enter buildings ( a huge, underreported story in Battery Park City after 9/11 ) ; some cops engage in police brutality.

But the fireman always gets to play the good guy. There's almost noone who would think it wrong to save someone from a burning building.

But the police must enforce laws that they do not write. And there are loads of people who think that its OK to gamble, to sell heroin, to smack the wife around, to do whatever. A lot of people in society have a vested interest in the police failing in their work. The police have to deal with the very worst elements of human nature all the time.

Most of those that I've met do so, and keep their dignity and desire to serve all the people intact.

If dad said "can't trust them" to you when you were a child, that to me is just a despicable, prejudiced thing to say. Sometime, and not now, you just may want to think long and hard as to whether some of the views you hold are truly your own.

Phantom, the idea that my dad "poisoned" my worldview is so off-base he'd blow a snot bubble laughing at it. He and I agree on very little politically, except this.

Speaking of poisoned worldviews, just wait until the current Bush-trained torture brigade hits American streets.

Similarly, I know of parents who told their children that you "just couldn't trust" blacks or Puerto Ricans because someone who had gotten mugged on the train 30 years ago.

Saying bad things about groups to a child is to me just awful. I think that there's a whole lot less of that today, which is good.

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