Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Our Police State

From California:
A veteran policing expert who oversaw the attorney general's probe called Maywood "one of the worst" departments he had ever seen.

The attorney general's office launched its investigation in April 2007, shortly after The Times published an article calling the department "a haven for misfit cops." The article revealed that at least a third of the officers on what was then a 37-member force had either been forced out of previous police jobs or had had brushes with the law while working in Maywood.

The attorney general's report offered a top-to-bottom critique of the department, citing inadequate screening of officers before they were hired and a lack of proper training and supervision once they were on the job.

The culture of the department, the report found, was "permeated with sexual innuendo, harassment, vulgarity, discourtesy to members of the public as well as among officers, and a lack of cultural, racial and ethnic sensitivity and respect." ...

The report detailed eight instances of alleged excessive force, half of them involving allegedly inappropriate use of a Taser stun gun. In one case in 2006, a young man asked an officer for his badge number after witnessing what he thought was excessive force. As he wrote it down, he was beaten by a group of officers, then handcuffed and shocked with a Taser, the report states. When the young man's father yelled, "What are you doing to my son?" he was assaulted by several officers, the document states.
Barring some miracle that brings citizen oversight of police into widespread practice (and I still don't understand why those are dirty words. We, the taxpayers, fund the police.), there are a few ways to fight taser abuse. The first is what's happening in the story above. The state attorney general is stepping in. I won't hold my breath waiting for that to happen in some of America's more red states.

The other front for stopping taser abuse involves pointing out how expensive tasers actually are:

Spokane County will spend $120,000 to settle a lawsuit by a man who was jolted by a sheriff deputy’s Taser during a traffic stop in 2005.

County commissioners agreed Tuesday to settle the federal civil rights case filed by Troy Smith without accepting liability in the case, which stems from a traffic stop in Spokane Valley. The case was scheduled for a jury trial next month in U.S. District Court. ...

McNees ordered Smith to get onto the ground in the front of the car, the lawsuit said, and shocked him with a Taser as he began to lower himself. Smith did not refuse to obey an order or obstruct McNees, the suit said. He was on the ground for several minutes and jolted by the Taser at least two more times.

The county, in its response to the lawsuit, said McNees saw Smith reaching behind his seat for an unknown reason, became concerned and ordered him to stop. Smith didn’t stop, the county said, and McNees drew his Taser and ordered him out of the car.

The county acknowledged Smith was struck with the Taser but only after he “refused to cooperate” with the order to get on the ground.

The county said he wasn’t on the ground for several minutes, as the lawsuit claimed, but agreed “he was struck with the Taser more than once,” according to court filings.

Eventually, other deputies arrived, Smith was taken into custody and the two passengers were interviewed for official statements.

The lawsuit claims another deputy misrepresented what Monti Foster, Smith’s girlfriend, said and told the other passenger, Julian Taylor, he’d be arrested too if he didn’t add a line to his statement saying that Smith refused to obey McNees’ commands.

Yeah, you know, I'm going to go ahead and not believe the cops on this one. But, that doesn't even have to matter. For Joe the Taxpayer, the $120,000 of taxpayer money, that doesn't include the salaries of county attorneys, is the point to hammer on (i.e., Tasers are expensive.).