Police State Amerika III: “Non-Lethal” Tasers

  “In a police state, there is no need for judges, juries or courts of law, because the police act as judge, jury and law, and their version of justice is one-sided, delivered at the end of a gun, taser or riot stick,”

– attorney and author John W. Whitehead


As a back up to the riot police’s favourite tactic of pepper spraying you in the face, the so-called “non-lethal weapon” of choice marketed for more than 11,000 law enforcement agencies – is the taser. Under the umbrella term for Conducted Energy Devices (CEDs) this electro-shock gun with targeting laser has the capacity to inflict up to 50,000 volt by firing two small darts attached to wires. With a maximum reach of 35ft, it paralyses the central nervous system and can be used to “incapacitate” any unsuspecting driver, homeowner, pedestrian or protestor. 

Although marketed by Taser manufacturers as a much safer choice to presumably gunning down the public (which still occurs with greater and greater frequency) the net result of this mass deployment has been the replacement of due caution and sensible policing with a policy of tasing first and asking questions later. More worryingly still, Amnesty International found that unarmed suspects bore the brunt of tasers, with 36% of individuals tased merely for the crime of “verbal non-compliance.” Where the officers’ lives might be in danger from a deadly assault the average was only 3% of cases. [1] Even though you are well within your rights not to give your name or identity if you are lawfully going about your business, the nature of policing is breaking with tradition in alarming ways. 

    Occupy-Pepper-Spray_Webf-116x91

Alongside the taser, pepper spray is the preferred choice at peaceful protests: “Former campus officer John Pike, the “Pepper Spray Cop,” received $8,000 more in workers’ compensation pay than peaceful protesters he sprayed.” Source: ‘Occupy Victims Burned By Settlement For Pepper-Spray Cop’ By Katie Rucke, Mint Press News.

Since over 500 people have died in taser-related incidents since 2001 and others having suffered serious injuries, it suggests that tasers are very far from “non-lethal”. [2] A large proportion of cases also involve those with health problems already present, thus exacerbated the likelihood of injury or death. A 2008 study by UCSF and cited in the Journal of American Cardiology found: “… a sixfold increase in sudden deaths during the first year of taser use – amounting to nearly 6 deaths per 100,000 arrests.” [3]

hc-ed-police-taser-stun-gun-deaths-call-for-more-controls-20150311Taser companies pay lip-service to the safety that is said to be built in to the guns. There is indeed a button on all models which, when lightly pressed gives a five second burst ostensibly designed to limit excessive use. However, this “tool” is being routinely abused. It has been shown that it’s far more expedient in the minds of some police to hold down that button and deliver the maximum burst. Yet, because the signs of abuse are difficult to locate it raises serious questions not only of basic human rights but police accountability. Even more troubling is the decision by Taser International to market the sale of modified tasers to the general public.

It seems we can seek to ban e-cigarettes but having a taser in your handbag is apparently fine.

When reviewing the following cases where the public have obviously been victimised by the police, it is very hard not to come away thinking that many officers are itching to use their tasers at every opportunity – usually against the most vulnerable – rather than actually do their job properly. Moreover, when circumstances point to excessive use of tasers, even in cases of death, police officers are very rarely prosecuted or disciplined repeating the same pattern of closed ranks in law enforcement as a whole. In exactly the same vein as no-knock raids, it matters little whether you are elderly, mentally impaired, pregnant or a child – the taser appears to be a reflex-response from a culture saturated in fear. Or else, it is simply a whole lot of fun for your resident psychopathic policeman who appears to use it as cat would its prey before killing it. And as the ACLU like to remind us when engaging in a tense police intimidation:

“You have the right to refuse to consent to a search of yourself, your car or your home. – If you are not under arrest, you have the right to calmly leave.” [4]

Sadly, knowing your rights is no protection against some police officers.

In March 2015, Connecticut police were once again in the headlines when two of their officers from Branford County shot David Werblow with a taser for refusing to leave his car. Consistent with taser-related deaths where individuals have mental disability or addiction problems (or both) Werblow was not actively resisting arrest. Yet, he was tased anyway. According to the local Hartford Courant quoting the police report: “A Branford Police Officer successfully deployed his department issued TASER to gain control of Werblow,” … “Officers were able to remove Werblow from the vehicle and place him in handcuffs.” [5]

Gaining control of individuals, regardless of their civil liberties or constitutional rights appears to be the overriding priority in these cases, where the police officers’ willfulness determines the outcome of such cases. Since officers are the ones with tasers and firearms we know how the statistical pattern will likely play out.

mn_bart07_ph3_ta_0499627869_par.jpgBack in 2011, cases like these went through the roof, with the elderly and mentally ill as victims of hyper-aggressive policing. Take two separate incidents in different states: one suffering from dementia and another from Alzhiemer’s disease.

Albert Flowers, then 66 years old, was involved in a dispute. Police officer Derek Middendorf from Melbourne, Florida had been called to the scene primed with information that Flowers had in his possession a small pocket-knife and was in an angry state of mind. When the officer arrived, Flowers slowly approached him and when a few feet away the burly Middendorf suddenly ran towards him delivering a full kick to the old man’s chest causing him to fly backwards collapsing on the ground – as one might expect.  If that wasn’t enough, the policeman pounced on Flowers punching him repeatedly about the head with the old man weakly trying to defend himself. Turning him onto his stomach the officer continued to rain down blows on his head and abdomen. With Flowers still lying face down in the road and Middendorf straddling his back, a second officer approached from the nearby police cruiser and proceeded to taser the old man in the face.

Officer Middendorf had disabled the in-car dash cam before exiting his vehicle so it was clear what he had in mind and did not want it recorded. The information was nonetheless extracted from the hard drive. According to the police report “Flowers walked towards him in an aggressive manner” and that he “refused to stop at a safe distance.” This was the initial reason for arresting Flowers and charging him with assault on a law enforcement officer and resisting arrest.

Middendorf received a reprimand and all charges were dropped against Albert Flowers while was in hospital recovering from his injuries. [6]

albert flowers

Stills taken from the in-car dash cam video | Melbourne police Officer Derek Middendorf kicks Albert Flowers in the chest then repeatedly punches him in the head, chest and stomach while straddling his body. Flowers is then tasered in the face.

The next senior citizen to become victim of police aggression was 67 year-old Alzheimer’s patient Dolores Seyfried and her husband David. In a bizarre interpretation of the code to “serve and protect”, City of Lewisville Police Department, Dallas physically and emotionally abused the couple in a fashion astonishing for its brutality.

On May 29th 2013, Dolores Seyfried had become agitated with her husband David and held a 4-5 five-inch letter opener in her hand. The Dallas Alzheimer’s Association was contacted by Mr. Seyfriend and in a response that mirrored the kind of reflex action of the CPS, promptly called the police without his consent. The couple were in the backyard to their house when police officers George Reed and Sgt. Courtney Letalien arrived. Instead of maintaining a sensitive distance and allowing David the time to calm his wife down – something he had no doubt done many times before –  Letalien  immediately tried to remove David from the vicinity.  He repeatedly tried to explain to the officers that he could defuse the situation and calm her down, but the policemen had other ideas. It was clear from lawsuit reports that Mr. Seyfried was being maneuvered to the front of the house so that he did not witness the forced disarming and subjugation of his wife.

As David was attempting to reason with Letalien it was then that he heard Officer Reed firing his taser at Dolores. As she remained standing he then shot at her three times with an orange non-lethal shotgun, which uses rubber bullets. Now on the ground, officer Reed attempted to cuff Mrs. Seyfried, stepping on her wrist to do so, breaking it in two places. Just for good measure he tased her a second time, imagining she was resisting arrest. Dolores also received a wound to her head which required seventeen stitches. As if this weren’t enough, ignoring Mr. Seyfried’s protests, the police then conducted a warrantless search of their premises violating their Fourth Amendment rights. The final insult was to come, however.

According to Dallas Courthouse News:

“While David continued to shout his disapproval at the officers, he was told that they ‘saved his ass today,'” the complaint states. Reed then called the Dallas Alzheimer’s Association and reported that David could not take care of Delores, David says. “This action was unnecessary and … it was done with actual malice,” David says. [7]

David Seyfried sought “punitive damages for excessive force and wrongful search and seizure.” At the time of writing it is not known if he was successful in that claim.

Police_issue_X26_TASER-white© infrakshun

As we saw in the last post, being elderly or having a neurological disorder is no protection against some members of the police force. It would seem more psychopathic-minded individuals gain intense satisfaction from torturing the vulnerable. All too frequently their masks slip to reveal their true nature. Using a taser on someone who is African-American, hand and ankle-cuffed and who is mentally ill was obviously a lot of fun for Chicago jailers. It also led to the death of Philip Coleman.

A University of Chicago graduate and masters graduate of UIC, Coleman had never been in trouble and was a model citizen. On December 12, 2012, all that changed and he suffered a nervous breakdown, striking his mother and exhibiting symptoms of delusion. When police arrived it was obvious that Coleman was not in control of his senses, uttering nonsense, bleeding from his mouth and generally showing signs of distress. His father, Percy Coleman, wanted to see his son taken to hospital immediately. Jail was not the place for him. The police disagreed, stating: “We do not do hospitals, we do jail.”  [8] All he could do was to try and mitigate the end result by attempting to calm down both the police and his son. According to a WYWLAS Radio network the situation became more volatile as Coleman become more incoherent and unstable: 

An officer pulled his gun and “I got in front of my son and said ‘You are not going to shoot him,’” Coleman said. “I told him, ‘How are you going to give him orders when he don’t understand?’”

He said he calmed his son down, but then an officer shouted at his son, agitating him. Coleman said he rushed his son and took him down and got a neighbor to sit on Philip so they could hold him down until police handcuffed him. [9]

It was when Coleman was in jail that the torture started. He was awoken at night and deliberately tased. In the morning as he was transferred to County Hospital he was again tased and once more on arrival at the hospital. In fact, according to CBS Chicago News, Coleman was tased 16 times in 22 hours. [10]

A police station video allegedly shows six officers entered Coleman’s cell as he lay sleeping and used a TASER on him three times after they told him to stand up. Attorney Ed Fox filed a lawsuit for the Coleman family and is fighting to get the video released. He says after the TASER was used on Coleman the officers reacted. “Some of them were laughing,” Fox says. “He was treated like an animal.” [11]

His father, former Chicago Housing Authority police chief Percy Coleman filed suit against the police in December 2012, the results of which are still pending.

Philip-Coleman

Philip Coleman giving a presentation during his university days Source: Youtube CBS News

The cases just keep coming in, all of which follow the same pattern of total disregard, even contempt for human life and sensibility:

  • A family who sought help for their son Michael who was suffering from paranoid schizophrenia called the police. Officers tased the young man until the battery was drained and when the victim tried to escape they shot at him repeatedly until dead. “My son did not deserve 11 shots to his head, and we have to find out from the media how many times he was shot in that bathroom. … All that we’re asking is that someone recognizes what we recognize. That was brutality at its finest in that bathroom that day,” -mother, Kimberly Blair-Olaniyi.”  [12]
  • Electric shocks and clubs were used by a group of six policemen on an unarmed, homeless man leading to his death. Kelly Thomas was known to the area and diagnosed as schizophrenic. He was not prone to violence. “See my fists, they’re going to f*** you up,” said one of the officers sliding his hands into rubber gloves.” The last words of Thomas before lapsing into a coma and later death were: ‘Please sir,’ ‘I’m  sorry,’ ‘I can’t breathe.’” The police officers responsible  walked free.  [13]
  • 44 year old Michael Angel Ruizd had climbed onto the roof of his apartment and was behaving erratically. When Phoenix police arrived he was tased several times on the roof before consenting to come down. After giving himself up, he dropped down to the balcony and was immediately placed in a choke-hold by an officer who was then joined by others. With no aggression shown by Michael and with no history of violence he was tased once again while still in a choke-hold as they descended the adjoining staircase. By the time they got to the ground, he was dead. “Witnesses say they could audibly hear the lifeless man’s skull thumping across the staircase.”   [14]
  • Police tased and arrested father Ryan Miller who was trying to save his 3-year-old son, Riley from a house fire. A city police officer stunned Riley’s stepfather Ryan Miller with a Taser gun three times as he tried to enter the burning house. “He tried to get back in the house to get the baby,” … “They took my son to jail because he tried to save his son.”- Gandmother Lori Miller  […] “It’s just heartless. How could they be so heartless?” … “And while they all just stood around and waited for the fire department, what kind of police officer wouldn’t try and save a three year old burning in a house?” – Emily Miller, sister-in-law. [15]
  • A 10-year-old boy who only weighed 42 kg was tased by police at a day care centre by two Indiana policeman because he was “out of control.”  [16]

stungun1Still from Prime News


“What this means is that all of us need to be very afraid now,” “Its carte blanche for police officers everywhere to kill us, beat us, whatever they want. It has been proven right here today that they’ll get away with it.”

Ron Thomas, father of Kelly Thomas beaten and tased to death by LAPD police officers.


In one sense, the  problem is not so much the tool itself, though there are plenty of arguments to suggest that its use is inappropriate. Rather, it is a large proportion of police officers themselves who pose a threat to the public. The irony is that your local cop has pledged an oath to serve the public yet the National Safety Council tells us you are 9 times more likely to die at the hands of a US law enforcement then any terrorist – with or without a taser. [17] Another statistic underscores the growing realisation that we have more to fear from law enforcement then any terrorist or criminal as more than 5,000 American citizens have been killed by police since 9/11. [18]  What’s the argument? Guns are not the problem it’s the mind behind the weapon. The same could undoubtedly be said about both the militarisation of police forces. With pathological individuals gravitating toward avenues which provide an opportunity to act as state enforcers they are liable to turn a baby’s rattle into a lethal weapon, let alone a taser.

The situation is no better in Europe, in particular the United Kingdom. Benevolence shone through the UK courts in 2007 when legislation permitted tasers to be against the under 18’s. Statistics from 2011show that 323 victims of tasers for that year equates to one child a day tased by police, some as young as 11 years-old. [19] As we have seen, this pales in comparison to the US, where age at both ends of the spectrum is no protection against state control.  Conforming to police officers’ requests, unreasonable or not, is the primary objective as befitting the emergence of Pathocracy. Civilian rights are simply not relevant.

Conformity is the prime directive. 


Notes

[1] ‘Amnesty International Urges Stricter Limits on Police Taser Use as U.S. Death Toll Reaches 500’ by Suzanne Trimel, February 15, 2012. | http://www.amnestyusa.org/
[2] Quoted at: ‘You’re More Likely to Die from Brain-Eating Parasites, Alcoholism, Obesity, Medical Errors, Risky Sexual Behavior or Just About Anything OTHER THAN Terrorism,’April 28, 2013 by WashingtonsBlog.
[3]Ibid.
[4] ‘Know Your Rights: What To Do If You’re Stopped By Police, Immigration Agents or the FBI’ https://www.aclu.org/drug-law-reform-immigrants-rights-racial-justice/know-your-rights-what-do-if-you
[5] ‘Unarmed Man Dies After Being Shot With Taser By Branford Police’  By Gregory B. Hladky Hartford Courant, March 16 2015.
[6] ‘VIDEO: Charges dropped against Melbourne man seen beaten by officer’ By Britt Kennerly, FLORIDA TODAY, Jan. 18, 2012.
[7] ‘Cops Accused of Overkill on Sick Woman’ By CAMERON LANGFORD Courthouse News, September 2013.
[8] ‘We Don’t Do Hospitals,’ Police Allegedly Told Philip Coleman’s Dad’ By Wendell Hutson DNAInfo, December 18, 2012.
[9] ‘Father Seeks Justice For Death of Son’ WLAS January 10 2013 at: www.mywlas.com/
[10] ‘2 Investigators: Cops Used TASER Several Times On Mentally Ill Man, Family Says’ CBS News, Chicago Dave Savini May 16, 2014.
[11] Ibid.
[12] ‘VIDEO: Family Releases Video of Man Being Killed by Fort Bend Officer’  By Jay Syrmopoulos benswann.com May 10, 2014.
[13] ‘Ex-Fullerton Officers Found Not Guilty In Beating Death Of Kelly Thomas’ CBS News, Los Angeles, January 13, 2014.
[14] ‘Man dies after being taken into custody in Phoenix’ abc15.com, Aug 20, 2013.
[15] ‘Family: Louisiana Police stun father as son died in house fire’ by Kris Wernowsky, KHQA November 1st, 2013.
[16] ‘Cops Taser 10 year-old boy at day-Care Centre’ www.thefreethoughtproject.com/
[17] op.cit Washington’s Blog.
[18] ‘US Police Have Killed Over 5,000 Civilians Since 9/11’ By Katie Rucke  Mint Press News, November 6, 2013.http://www.mintpressnews.com/
[19] ‘UK Police Taser One Child Per Day’ Concern as new information reveals tasers used on as young as 11By Sav D’Souza, International Business Times, October 26, 2013.

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