Friday, November 17, 2006

When Police Behave Criminally

I want you to watch something:

This is one of the clearest examples of criminal misuse of "less lethal" force that I have ever seen.

I watched the video; the kid shouldn’t have been tasered. No way that was a justifiable use of force. The security officer didnt use any escalation protocol, and it seems to me (and this is me talking, I’m FOR sensible profiling) to be a clear case of profiling; combined with an overreacting undertrained campus cop.

I may be wrong on this, but I believe that the UC system campus cops are in fact sworn law offficers in California; and also that in order to lawfully carry a taser in California you have to be certified in it's use, including escalation of force training.

Actually, I believe the Cal state standard uses "continuum of force" training, which is intended to emphasize the de-escalation of conflict;in addition to minimizing the use and degree of force.

The proper response to a beligerent subject is to follow a force progression/escalation protocol. They vary from organization to organization, but would typically look something like this, in escalating order of threat/response:

1. Verbal
a. Polite command
b. Strong command
c. Close Physical presence and strong command (optional)
d. Moderate physical reinforcement of command (including a hand on a shoulder or something similar, optional)

2. Physical restraint, compliance, or control technique (arm bars, wrist locks etc...)
a. Restraint of a subject by hand
b. Use of a compliance device in a restraint, compliance, or control technique (come alongs, batons used for compliance)

3. Use of direct physical force to provoke complaince through pain, with or without a device (striking with a baton, striking sensitive areas of the anatomy etc...)

4. Use of a less lethal pain complaince device such as pepper spray, stun baton, or taser (
May be used in some protocols before the use of direct physical force such as batons)

5. Use of lethal force

Now, if officer safety is ever in question, it is acceptable to progress to a higher level of response; but it did not appear that either the officer was in any way threatened; nor, other than beligerence was the victim (and yes, that's what he was), non-compliant. He was exiting the building, and reacted beligerntly to the officer putting a hand on his arm; however this is not even close to grounds for the officer to feel threatened, or to escalate their response.

They tased the guy four more times while he was on the ground, and clearly presented no threat. Even if he was beligerent, repeated tasing was inappropriate. They could have very easily subdued him (by that time there were four officers completely surrounding him) and restrained him if they believed there was really a threat.

They repeatedly tased him for refusing to stand up; when in fact many people are unable to stand after being tased, and certainly after being tased repeadetdly.

Not only that; but if you believe someone is a threat, you do not order them to stand up when you have them surrounded and subdued (that would simply give them greater opportunity to injure an officer), you have them lie flat on their stomach with their hands clear, and you restrain them.

The officers then repeatedly told the victim to stand up, and stop fighting them. At no time was the victim physically fighting back, or threatening the officers; he was merely beligerent and non-compliant.

Even if it isn’t profiling; this guy has a serious Barney Pfife problem. He shouldnt be allowed anywhere near any kind of weapon.

Some security officers are taught that Tasering isn’t all that serious; if they’re taught anything at all. They are dead wrong.

Less lethal force is never really a good option (it's there so you can avoid having to shoot someone, not simply for officer convenience); and because it’s “less lethal” or worse “non lethal”, lots of people think it’s acceptable to use it in situations that have not reached a significant level of force/compliance escalation.

Since the rise of electrical and chemical "less lethal" force response technologies and methodologies has become popularized (mainly in the last 15 years); the escalation of force beyond the verbal/simple restraint phase has skyrocketed. If this were simply because the "less lethal" technologies had given officers another option less serious than the use of a baton or a gun; then one would expect a corrseponding decrease in the use of those levels of force; however not only is there no decrease, there is a huge increase.

We grant the police a conditional monopoly in the use of legitimate force to enforce civil order; in exchange for the guarantee that they will behave lawfully, and enforce the law legitimately.

When the lawful representatives of the state excercise legitmate authority, they are protected under the law and by the full force of the state. When those agents act with no authority, or illegitmate authority, they are no longer granted the protection of the cloak of state.

These officers should be stripped of the protections offered them by the state; and should be prosecuted for assault with a deadly weapon. Quite simply, what they did was criminal; and it should be treated as such.

Yes, I know cops have a hard job. I train cops all the time, and I have quite a few cops in my family. Yes I know that they put their safety, and their wellbeing on the line every day. Yes I know they get huge amounts of stress and aggravation from the worst people in the world, who they deal with every day.

None of that excuses criminal behavior; or treating every person they meet like a criminal, or like the enemy.

The police have a monopoly on legitimate force against civil crimes; but when that force, or the authority they use that force with is illegitmate, they have commited a crime themselves; and they must be punished for it.

Quis custodiet ipso custodes?