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November 18, 2006

“Here’s your Patriot Act.”
Posted by Patrick at 09:34 AM *

At a library computer lab, UCLA cops demand that student Mostafa Tabatabainejad show his ID. He doesn’t have it with him, and he begins to leave. Before he can do so, he’s seized and shot repeatedly with a Taser.

Story from the school paper here. Eyewitness report here. Video here. Response to the argument that the victim had it coming here.

Incidentally, not only did the campus police threaten to Taser onlookers who objected, they also continued to Taser their victim after they had him fully handcuffed.

Not that it’s unusual for police to beat and torture their victims well after they’ve been fully restrained.

Meanwhile, Houston police trample striking janitors from horseback.

The janitors make $20 a day. Among the injured was an 83-year-old man.

We’re ruled by people who have determined that torture is okay. Do you think it stops in Iraq?

Comments on "Here's your Patriot Act.":
#1 ::: Clark E Myers ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2006, 11:09 AM:

Notice the Taser(regisistered trade mark) amounts to lethal force
TASER (registered trade mark) electronic control devices are weapons designed to incapacitate a person from a safe distance
while reducing the likelihood of serious injuries or death. Though they have been found to be a safer and
more effective alternative when used as directed to other traditional use of force tools and techniques, it is
important to remember that the very nature of use of force and physical incapacitation involves a degree of
risk that someone will get hurt or may even be killed due to physical exertion, unforeseen circumstances and
individual susceptibilities.
OPERATIONAL

Product Warnings � Law
Enforcement

Cattle prods may be torture - Threat of Tasering is threat of death.

#2 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2006, 11:12 AM:

I understand the student is planning to file a civil rights suit.

#3 ::: Sherwood ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2006, 11:12 AM:

I had stopped in to watch the news and they played the students' cell-phone videos of this incident. It was extremely stomach turning. My fourteen year old son kept saying "How can they get away with that?" (You can clearly see that they were torturing the man far beyond his ability to stand or even speak, and he just kept screaming as concerned students tried to demand the officers' badge numbers) and my spouse answered "They can get away with it because torture is now legal under the present government."

#4 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2006, 11:25 AM:

I'm guessing, however, that the police involved in this are going to have a rough few weeks. Cameras in the hands of citizens may end up being a far, far more effective counter to police abuses than guns in the hands of citizens ever were.

I wonder if cameras are going to do for police brutality charges what DNA testing has done for the credibility of death-row convictions. (Though everyone in the world seems to think that the solution to this is commuting death sentences to life without parole, which is amazingly silly. The lesson isn't "the death penalty is evil," it's "the criminal justice system isn't very accurate, even after multiple appeals.")

#5 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2006, 11:30 AM:

Well, yes, but (reductio ad extremis) I have a friend who would find the offer of a peanut butter sandwich a threat of death.

I have a bigger problem with the cops than the weapon in this story.

#6 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2006, 11:48 AM:

If the university does not settle this quickly, I expect there will be faculty resignations.

#7 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2006, 11:56 AM:

Jon Meltzer: I sincerely hope you are right, but my cynicism notes that faculty at most of the universities I'm familiar with these days are a lot more concerned with keeping jobs than resigning in protest over appalling acts.

Or were you talking about a different cause for resignation?

#8 ::: Anaea ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2006, 12:06 PM:

I find it rather disconcerting that this happened in California, the land of republican haters. LA has had problems with police brutality directed against minorities for years, but the campus of UCLA is a somewhat different situation entirely. And frankly, if it's happening there, everybody everywhere else is screwed.

What would the potential consequences have been, aside from more people getting tased, of the students stepping in more directly and getting the cops away from Tabatabainejad?

#9 ::: MikeB ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2006, 12:25 PM:

Remember: the public streets of Houston are the front line in the War on Octogenarian Janitors. We're fighting them there so that we don't have to fight them here in America.

On a more serious note:

Sherwood at #3: your son deserves a better answer. Nobody has "gotten away with" anything - not yet. That video, and the eyewitnesses, are not going anywhere. The student protests are just getting started. Alumni awareness of this event has only begun to grow. The letter-writing campaigns to the university's corporate research partners have not started yet, and although the informal, web-based, international campaign to inform prospective students has been going on for a few days, it will take some time for the effects to be felt at the UCLA admissions office.

(Those effects could be very serious. The professors that the university actually cares about - the ones who pull in serious grant money - will leave UCLA for greener pastures if the supply of talented grad students dries up.)

Those cops are going to lose their jobs. If the chancellor can't do a better job of finding a scapegoat, he's gone, too. Mr. Tabatabainejad is going to be a multimillionaire, probably without even having to actually play that video in front of an L.A. jury.

I'm more concerned about the janitors, myself. They have far fewer allies and resources to fight back with.

#10 ::: Russell Letson ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2006, 12:31 PM:

Re #s 6-7: Um, U-cops go wild, so, say, the English department should quit? And that fixes what? Gee, maybe we should all give up our livelihoods in protest over evils we have no control over or responsibility for. God knows there's enough to go around.

#11 ::: Clark E Myers ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2006, 12:35 PM:

Can somebody confirm that the Community Service Officers, who reportedly first asked for student identification as a condition of remaining in the library, are properly referred to as cops?

I suspect the trespassing student - remained in enclosed premises without rights when required to leave after entering legally - helped escalate the situation and also that there was a police failure in the handoff of responsibilities between what I understand amounted to student proctors and campus police.

As noted the response was excessive and in my view involved lethal force - see e.g. Taser on:

Deployment Health Risks
Sudden In-Custody Death Syndrome Awareness. If a subject is exhibiting signs or behaviors2 that are associated with Sudden In-Custody Death Syndrome,3 consider need for medical assistance.
2 Signs of Sudden In-Custody Death Syndrome include: extreme agitation, bizarre behavior, inappropriate nudity, imperviousness to pain, paranoia, exhaustive exertion, �superhuman� strength, hallucinations, sweating profusely, etc.
3 Sudden in-custody death results from a complex set of physiological and psychological conditions characterized by irrational behavior, extreme exertion, and potentially fatal changes in blood chemistry. Promptly capturing, controlling, and restraining a subject exhibiting signs of these conditions may end the struggle and allow early medical care intervention.

However I have trouble associating these actions with the so called Patriot Act or with Iraq. Police misbehavior is an old old story and more likely led to actions in Iraq than resulted from them.

One of the problems at Abu Ghraib is that soldiers were given deference well beyond their grade and superiors failed to exercise proper supervision and authority based on the soldier's civilian occupation as jailers - that is presumed expertise as a result of the related civilian occupation. Much of what happened under Americans in Iraq happened every day in the United States first.

For instance from the Chicago Sun Times speaking of the death penalty and police torture:
.......
Despite his objections, former Gov. George Ryan must answer why he pardoned four former Death Row inmates who are now suing Chicago Police for torture, a federal judge ruled.

...... Ryan issued the pardons at the same time that he commuted 167 Death Row sentences to life terms, citing a flawed criminal justice system.
....
The pardoned men, Madison Hobley, Aaron Patterson, Stanley Howard and Leroy Orange, are suing police detectives led by former Cmdr. Jon Burge, saying they were tortured into making false confessions.

The men are using Ryan's pardon as a basis of innocence as they sue the city and officers.

Bureaucratic failures in the United States might have told us all that if we can't build a great society at home we can't do it abroad but the failures abroad did not come first.

#12 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2006, 12:40 PM:

I can't avoid thinking that Tabatabainejad was to some extent inviting trouble. No ID, arguing with the cops; that's never a good tactic. But well-trained cops should have been able to handle that without using weapons, even if they had to manhandle him out of the library.

And well-trained university cops should expect such awkwardnesses. They should know all the petty provocations that students will indulge in.

This isn't just turning the reasonable force dial past 11, it's calling into question the basic competence of the LEOs involved.

And cellphone video footage... These guys sound to be a few bricks short of an outhouse.

#13 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2006, 01:03 PM:

Clark, #11, while I'd agree some people might be a bit slipshod about their use of the word "cops", the reports seem to have carefully distinguished between UCPD and the CSOs.

A google on UCPD turns up a lot of info, including details of the CSO job. They're part-timers, students at the university. There's very little easily found about training and uniforms, but one of the jobs is described as a "general uniformed presence", and some of their tasks wouldn't make sense without uniforms.

They're part of the UCPD for administrative purposes, but not police officers.

Summary: 77 sworn officers, 45 other full-time personnel, 60 student volunteers (the CSOs). Has full Police status under California law, and meets the standards of the California Commmission on Peace Officer Standards and Training.


#14 ::: Janet Kegg ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2006, 01:34 PM:

The Washington Post had an article Wednesday about the role instant videos are increasingly playing in the fight for justice.

"Amateur Videos Are Putting Official Abuse in New Light"
By Mary Jordan
Wednesday, November 15, 2006; Page A01

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia -- "Do your squat! Do your squat!" the policewoman barked. "Arms up!"

The 22-year-old babysitter, Hemy Hamisa Abu Hassan Saari, had already been forced to strip naked. Now she was being ordered to squat up and down, over and over, keeping her elbows away from her body and holding her earlobes.

[...]

Hemy's drug possession case has yet to go to trial, but her lawyer said no drugs were ever found on her. She is suing the police for negligence and seeking damages of about $2.7 million.

Yap Swee Seng, executive director of Suaram, a human rights group, said Hemy has a strong case -- one that shows how the common cellphone has shifted power to ordinary citizens.

"Five years ago this would have been totally impossible," he said.

#15 ::: Chris ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2006, 02:00 PM:

Anyone who doesn't have the training to use a weapon responsibly shouldn't be issued one in the first place. Not a gun, not a taser, not a stick. If the officers involved weren't fully trained and qualified, the administration is doubly at fault for arming them.

As for why Tabatabainejad reacted with such hostility and fear to an apparently reasonable demand for ID... I invite you to look at his name. Really, these days it's reasonable for everyone to be suspicious where police are concerned, but especially non-whites and *especially* anyone that could be confused with Middle Eastern.

#16 ::: pat greene ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2006, 02:19 PM:

Russell, at 10: Um, U-cops go wild, so, say, the English department should quit? And that fixes what? Gee, maybe we should all give up our livelihoods in protest over evils we have no control over or responsibility for. God knows there's enough to go around.

First of all, university professors are identified with their institutions more than many people are with the company they work with. Being a professor at a university implies a certain level of endorsement. It's a matter of who you wish to associate with: if a professor can go elsewhere, why should they stay with a university that allows its cops to engage in such behavior? Why help support such an organization with your work and, especially in the case of famous faculty (which a large well-respected school like UCLA will certainly have), with your hard-earned reputation?

Professors have leverage -- not as much as some people think, but certainly a fair amount -- and it's totally appropriate for them to use that leverage to help correct abuses.

Academia aside, I know people who have changed jobs because they objected to policies or actions that their employers undertook, even when those policies or actions did not affect them. Many people do not have the choice to do this, of course, but there are a lot of people who take the ethical positions of a company into account when seeking or remaining employed -- funny, some of us see it as a matter of social responsiblity.

#17 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2006, 02:24 PM:

This morning's LA Times says that UCLA has brought in an outside investigator (someone from the Christopher commission).

The student was, or should have been aware of, the requirement to have an ID on him in the library at night - actually, he probably should carry it all the time, considering how often it's needed.

Concerning the janitors in Houston: the usual reason for mounted police is that the horses won't hurt people, not usually being inclined to step on them. I'm assuming (possibly incorrectly) that the police actually had to try hard to ride down the protesters.

#18 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2006, 02:31 PM:

P.J. Evans: Police horses are trained to do many things that horses aren't naturally inclined to do--like stand still when explosions go off and push through a press of bodies. They're not warhorses, and aren't taught to bite, kick, or trample, but they can and do push people and sometimes knock them down, and while they try not to step on things, I've been stepped on enough by my own horses under calm conditions to know that it happens.

#19 ::: Russell Letson ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2006, 02:49 PM:

Re: #s 6, 7, 16 and social responsibility.

Teachers at top-tier universities such as UCLA may have more mobility than others, but the principle remains the same: These are not line-authority administrators but the (eminently replaceable) employees of a large institution, and that institution is not the apartheid-era South African government or the Burmese thugocracy but a public university open to various kinds of political and legal pressures short of the public theatre of professional suicide.

Practically speaking, I suspect that, outside a handful of star scholars, any faculty member resigning as a public protest would be effectively ending her academic career. I've spent four decades in the academy as teacher and faculty spouse, and I have a very clear picture of where the levers of power are and what happens to whistle-blowers, protesters, and those tagged as malcontents or troublemakers. So suggestions that middle-aged professionals give up, almost certainly forever, the jobs that support their families strikes me as an abstract and inadequate kind of "social responsibility" that brings grief to a second set of innocents without helping the primary victims.

#20 ::: TomB ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2006, 02:56 PM:

The student was, or should have been aware of, the requirement to have an ID on him in the library at night - actually, he probably should carry it all the time, considering how often it's needed.

I disagree. Let's look at the purpose of the policy:

UCPD Assistant Chief of Police Jeff Young said the checks are a standard procedure in the library after 11 p.m. "Because of the safety of the students we limit the use after 11 to just students, staff and faculty," Young said.
Obviously the ID requirement is to keep out outsiders who might do something bad to a student late at night. The first priority in the policy should be the safety of the students, including students who fail to present papers. Detaining and repeatedly assaulting a student is not a good way to protect the safety of any students.

Just because there's a requirement doesn't mean you they can do anything to you if you fail to meet it.

#21 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2006, 02:59 PM:

Was he in the library illegally? Seems he only forgot his ID.

And they didn't have to "make him leave." He was trying to leave when they attacked him.

#22 ::: TomB ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2006, 03:08 PM:

Rules serve two purposes: They protect the general population, and they justify authority. The student was not a threat to the first, since he actually was a student, and he was on his way out anyway.

#23 ::: Clark E Myers ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2006, 03:14 PM:

The facts are certainy disputed elsewhere if assumed here.

"As students we feel our safety is endangered, and we do not feel safe on campus," said Sabiha Ameen, president of the Muslim Students Association.

I wonder who is the greater threat and who is perceived to be the greater threat - youths, be they student or not, or outsiders or campus cops?

Campus police say he refused to show his student ID and refused to leave the building when asked.

Police said they shocked Tabatabainejad after he urged others to join his resistance and a crowd began to gather. Footage from another student's camera phone showed Tabatabainejad screaming on the floor of the computer lab.

Students at the news conference said there was no sign Tabatabainejad was targeted because of his ethnicity. But his lawyer disagreed.
All from the AP By ANDREW GLAZER

#24 ::: John ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2006, 03:42 PM:

That video was very disturbing, but it also highlights a tendency I've noticed. When LEO's have a device they feel is "non-lethal", they tend to use it even when it isn't really called for. After all, pepper spray, mace, and now tasers, aren't really lethal, they just hurt a lot and then you get over it. So, when they even --think-- they --might-- be threatened, well, out come the tasers and the pepper spray!

You know, sort of like rubber hoses and things like that. They hurt but don't really kill anyone either, right?

#25 ::: Nancy Hanger ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2006, 03:44 PM:

An article from May in the Palm Beach Post has some interesting information about the use of the Taser as the officers at UCLA employed it: in the "drive-stun" mode --

In March, a study by the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies said that Tasers can't be ruled out as a contributing cause of deaths that follow shocks.

"We strongly recommend that additional research be conducted at the organism, organ, tissue and cell levels," the report concluded. "The community needs to understand the specific effects of varying electrical wave forms... to include possible psychiatric and other nonlethal effects."

In the same month, forensic engineer James Ruggieri warned police departments that Taser shocks could damage the heart and cause delayed cardiac arrest. He advised that officers not be submitted to shocks during training.

Even the company that makes the stun gun, Taser International, urges caution about use of the weapon in the "drive-stun" mode and with repeated shocks ...

Officers also can remove the prong cartridge and discharge the weapon directly against a person's body in the "drive-stun" mode to subdue combative arrestees with a searing jolt of pain.

The Taser training manual advises that because it is not incapacitating, this mode can lead to "prolonged struggles" and that "it is in these types of scenarios that officers are often facing accusations of excessive force."

The technique also requires some care, according to Taser International, but the company's guidelines contain conflicting recommendations. The manual points out that the neck and groin "have proven highly sensitive to injury, such as crushing to the trachea or testicles if applied forcefully." The manual continues, "However, these areas have proven highly effective targets."

#26 ::: Kathryn from Sunnyvale ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2006, 04:03 PM:

Are there studies about if people do "come along quietly" with respect to if the person is (or believes themselves to be) innocent?

When reading about this case, I'm seeing people saying "well, he should just have left, right away." These types of comments seem to assume that you'd behave the same for having forgotten an ID vs. not having an ID at all.

Rollplaying here. If I (who rolled 'lawful' when making myself) was doing a victimless-crime tresspass *, then if caught I'd be very likely to act meek and quiet. I'd feel guilty, and would hope to get out of a ticket by good behavior. I wouldn't want people nearby to watch or help, because of my embarrassment (and looking way too red in the face).

Instead, what if, like the student, I belonged in my location? If authorities were trying to get me out based on bureaucratic insult (the only victim is the rule itself, and rules don't care, only bureaucrats do), then I could imagine myself getting angry. I probably would want people nearby to know that an injustice was taking place.

Of course, for this hypothetical, I'm fully aware of the advice to always just obey, to try to get redress later, to never argue back. I know that arguing back isn't going to help, once you've insulted the law (from the perspective of the law enforcer).

But expecting someone to stay quiet and meek when they don't see themselves as guilty... really? Is it realistic to expect this? Have studies been done?

* Being in a 24-hour library past the hours where non-students are supposed to be there strikes me as a victimless crime. No harm or cost is caused by my presence as compared to if the library was closed and I was there. Actually, no, there is a victim- me. A 24-hour library and I wouldn't be allowed to stay? There are 24-hour libraries, and I'm not living next to one? [Warning, warning, blood-pressure based Feed cutoff alert.]

#27 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2006, 04:05 PM:

Did Tabatabainejad have it coming? Did he bring it on himself? No way.

It's only forbidden for people to be in that area without ID after 11:00. For Tabatabainejad, that wouldn't mean that he was somewhere he wasn't supposed to be, or that being there without his ID was some kind of offense. After all, throughout most of the day it's perfectly all right to be there without ID. What is means is that if you're working on something and you don't finish up by 11:00, campus security can make you leave. It's not a terribly tight deadline, either. Note that they didn't tell him to leave until 11:30.

What seems evident to me is that Tabatabainejad didn't think it was any big deal. He didn't shut down his work and leave immediately. I'll bet lots of students do the same. By the time the police got there, he'd put on his backpack and was heading for the door.

That's not threatening behavior. He may have dawdled, but he was complying with the request to leave. It was arguably an overreaction that they grabbed and physically restrained him, much less did what followed.

Yelling "let go of me" is not grounds for tasering someone.

The point where I get angry is the police repeatedly telling him to "Stand up and stop fighting us." Last time I heard that one, it was the police account of the Rodney King beating. Failure to stand up is not fighting. Claiming that someone who isn't standing up is therefore fighting, and justifies the continuing use of force, is a line I've only heard used in abusive contexts.

Have you ever been beaten to the floor? Standing up is not a natural response, unless you think it'll give you a chance to fight back or run away. Tabatabainejad wasn't in a position to do either. Standing up while you're being beaten exposes your face, throat, collarbones, abdomen, hands, and knees to direct blows. Staying down means the blows mostly land on your back.

There's no excuse for this incident.

#28 ::: TomB ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2006, 04:09 PM:

Thinking about this more, I'm dubious about the validity of the ID requirement in the first place. Students steal from other students. They assault and rape other students. Requiring student ID is not protection. Also, UCLA is publicly funded. As a California resident and taxpayer, I have a right to use the library. If I want to come in at night, I might even be doing a favor to the students and staff who need to use it during the day.

#29 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2006, 04:10 PM:

TomB @ 20
Sorry, but I've been a student at various colleges in CA, including one of the UCs, and you really do need that ID, if only for getting into places where non-students aren't supposed to be. Also, if a school has posted signs saying that you need to have an ID to be there during certain hours, not having one with you is asking for trouble.

#30 ::: Writerious ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2006, 04:21 PM:

The piece that I haven't seen explained yet, and perhaps someone can enlighten me, is why did the campus police approach the student in the first place? Surely not because he didn't have ID. They had to ask him for that. What precipitated this event? Was it something he did that prompted someone to call the cops? Were they doing a routine library patrol (do they do routine library patrols?) and decided to approach him and see if he belonged there? If so, why? Because of something he was doing? Because he was dark-skinned?

All the eyewitness accounts begin with the student in a confrontation with the police. But why was he approached in the first place?

#31 ::: Caroline ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2006, 04:25 PM:

Nancy #25:

I am in a biomedical engineering Ph.D program, studying cardiac electrophysiology, and studied the effects of Tasers briefly in one of my courses. They can cause death after the fact by changing the pattern of electrical activation in the heart. It is not well understood how this occurs, but the Palm Beach article summarizes what I learned pretty well. (I don't have the notebook where I wrote down references here -- it's at school -- but I'll try to find them and let you all know.)

Also, the Taser was classified as a nonlethal weapon for the military, which means that it's not intended to kill, but given that it's the military, it does not have to be demonstrated that it will never kill. That nonlethal classification has been assumed to mean that it is perfectly safe, which is not the case.

The video made me shake and my heart pound, and about halfway through, listening to the young man screaming, I was so enraged that I wanted to hurl my laptop across the room and punch through a wall. I'm not by nature a violent or rage-filled person, and it takes a lot to push me to that point, but listening to him scream like that made me want to fly at the officers tasing him. There was absolutely fckng no need for that. You want him out of the library, you take two guys, take him by the arms, and escort him out. I've seen it done. It's not that hard. There was no fckng need for that.

#32 ::: Caroline ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2006, 04:26 PM:

Writerious #30 -- I read in one account that another student actually asked him for ID, then called the cops when he didn't have it. That's why they were there. However, the same account claimed that he was leaving the library when the cops showed up.

#33 ::: Dave Lartigue ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2006, 04:33 PM:

This incident was mentioned in the "Off Topic" forums at a site I frequent. Many of the people there responded how the student had it coming by acting like a spoiled child who was provoking the officers, who deserve the benefit of the doubt.

Every time I wonder how America got the way it is I am reminded by the number of people who want it this way.

#34 ::: TomB ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2006, 04:42 PM:

P J Evans #29: Sure, I understand that ID is required. But why? How much does it really help make the school a safer place?

Why do we keep creating requirements that don't seem that necessary, and then say not meeting them is asking for trouble?

#35 ::: Scott Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2006, 04:54 PM:

Hundreds protest UCLA Tasering

Looks like the student body isn't completely taking this sitting down. There will, apparently, be an independent investigation, in addition to the UCPD Use of Force review.

My biggest problem with the situation is the gross incompetence of the UCPD officers from the very beginning - leaving aside any questions of profiling/racism on the part of the CSO who was asking for IDs (since there is some question as to whether that was real, perceived, somewhere in between, or something else entirely).

Brother was leaving. He was complying with directives. On the Use of Force continuum, he doesn't need anything more than Spoken Word - if that, since he's doing what you want him to do. But apparently one of the officers felt it necessary to escalate to Restrain and Detain techniques (grabbing or restraining the subject) - an action that was not only outside the profile in the continuum, but unnecessary as well, which triggered the dude's escalation of the situation.

That is where the UCPD officers failed. If they had stayed back, observed for a while, made sure the dude left, and then hung out for ten-fifteen minutes to make sure the brother stayed gone - or came back with ID - they would have been utterly righteous in their approach - even commendable.

Now? Now they have confirmed everything Mostafa Tabatabainejad - and many other Muslim-American students, on that campus and elsewhere - feared about the US. He believes - and with justification - that he is an outsider in his own country.

Because some more of LAPD's "finest" couldn't keep their goddamn (metaphorical) dicks in their pants. Way to go, dudes. Congratulations on alienating yet another batch of folks we didn't need hating the US.

(Events beyond his handcuffing - and possibly the first application of taser (but not likely - see below) are, of course, completely beyond the pale, as was threatening innocent bystanders with tasing if they didn't disperse, and the cops should, at the least lose their badges for that).

*Tasers are usually considered to be Hard Hand (striking actions - punches, kicks, etc.) or Tool/Baton level on the Use of Force continuum (some make a difference between unarmed and armed aggressive maneuvers, others don't). Such actions are usually only justified in the continuum if the subject is presenting a clear and present - but non-lethal - hazard to himself, the officer, or others, or is very aggressively resisting arrest - particularly in regards to the baton (and sometimes electronic-discharge weapons), because of the potential lethality.

#36 ::: Melanie S. ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2006, 04:55 PM:

Writerious #30--one of the articles I read said it was a "random check" for IDs, which may be one of the reasons he's claiming racial profiling.

And TomB #34, I'd say you have to look at the area around the university too. I don't know much about UCLA, but I know that I appreciate the ID requirements at the library where I'm a grad student because it's in a fairly unsafe area, even though I'd have thought the same requirement silly at my rather pastoral undergrad institution.

#37 ::: Clark E Myers ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2006, 05:06 PM:

#27 The point where I get angry is the police repeatedly telling him to "Stand up and stop fighting us."

When the police action might change from regrettable but acceptable to inacceptable is hard to know.

The first - Simi Valley - Rodney King jury acquitted, according to reports, because the initial force was justified and only became excessive toward the end and the force toward the end was insufficient to support the charge.

What I heard on the video and take to be correct was repeatedly "stand up or get Tasered again" and as I tried to argue above the Taser, by current standards, is an alternative to lethal force not a non-lethal force intensifier. Taser initially promoted the device as much safer than experience has shown it to be.

It is certainly true that many officers and departments are entirely too taken by "oooh shiny" and kill people improperly with new toys. See e.g. Boston Police Department training records show that Deputy Superintendent Robert E. O'Toole Jr. was not certified to use the pepper-pellet gun that he and other officers under his command fired during celebrations of the Red Sox American League pennant victory last month, killing a 21-year-old reveler and seriously injuring two others. Boston Globe

It seems to me that taking the facts in the light most favorable to the campus police it then follows that the use of the Taser was still improper and unjustified. Given that I wonder why argue the victim and any others just had to be little angels?

I have no experience with the UCLA facilities. I know that in the 1970's Hyde Park in Chicago was very high crime - and much more crime in University housing - than the University ever acknowledged and further that much it was town on gown. In Hyde Park some of the faculty, some with school age children, reacted - not to police brutality but to criminal brutality - by moving.

I've seen similar issues at Georgia State in Atlanta more recently.

A policy decision to declare open season on students may be appropriate but it was certainly my observation that University of Chicago students, date rape and all, were better behaved - perhaps from fear of encountering their victims again later - than non-students in the surrounding community.

Further my experience has been that access while requiring proper identification has usually been open to anyone with a need and identification will be given to non-students. Reserving facitilites to students just as is done with reserve books makes sense to me as a proper allocation of resources.

#30The piece that I haven't seen explained yet, and perhaps someone can enlighten me, is why did the campus police approach the student in the first place?

It has not been established that the first approach was by campus police. Perhaps the first approach was by student volunteers - Community Service Officers - and according to some reports all patrons are eventually approached after hours. If the first approach was by CSO then the reports that the CSO called for backup after meeting some form of resistance are correct.

#38 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2006, 05:31 PM:

One wonders why the campus cops didn't merely block off the entire building and search and confiscate all camera phones as instruments of terror and taser anyone who objected and have them all shipped out as illegal enemy combatants. Everyone knows that dissemination of the methods used to combat terror only helps the terrorists.

In summary, this incident never would have happened during the Bartlett administration.

#39 ::: Clark E Myers ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2006, 05:38 PM:

I've read several police coulda police shoulda comments here. Any other suggestions on what should have been done at any stage?

On another, more or less LEO only board, the discussion among trainers seems to be about to boil down to go nuclear immediately - it makes for a shorter and therefore less damaging movie. Any gradual approach is just being nice and nice guys always finish last.

I was reminded of a statement by an old Shore Patrol type of my long ago acquaintance that his first move, given a decision to get involved, was always to use his baton to start breaking collar bones - immediately effective and not too damaging in the circumstances.

Myself I'd give the officers involved here credit for following a continuum - however wrongly - and retrain. There has been a tendency in recent years among some departments to react to officer mistakes by eliminating the officer and thus losing an opportunity to train never to make the same mistake again. The flip side, among too many departments, has been to deny any mistakes are ever made and so to insulate the department from later suits for retaining an officer with a history of mistakes. Protected officers seem never to learn and to escalate until cover-up is impossible.

#40 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2006, 06:03 PM:

Random thoughts:

It's assumed, by those prone to the "he deserved it" end of things, that the student was intentionally in the library without his ID; it is my observation that college students in the library at 11pm include a high percentage of the sleep-deprived, overloaded, and frazzled, who may well have left their wallet at home or, you know, I thought it was in the bottom of my pack, wait a minute, where... I dunno, I thought I had it!

There is a minimum amount of time to save ones work, close applications, possibly print out documents, gather notes, and pack a backpack. That the student did not leave instantaneously is not evidence of defiant behavior.

Whether students are scarier, as a group, than townies depends a whole lot where you are; UCLA is, indeed, less scary a population than LA average, or even Westlake average, but given the number of students at the school there's probably a substantial number of people who I'd cross the street to avoid.

It is true, however, that student cops are not an unmixed good; cops as a whole include a number of people who are in the job because it allows them to shout and frighten people, and work-study security people have that factor complicated by the perception that they're just pretending to be cops. While I try not to be overly influenced by the memory of a student security officer who used his pass key to steal cameras and televisions from dorm rooms while I was a student, the use of student security as unsupervised first contacts, in this circumstance, makes me queasy.

People don't want to think the cops, or any variety, are prone to lapses of judgement; defending actions like this by transferring all the blame to the student makes us feel more safe, in an entirely spurious way, just as the theater of the absurd at airline boarding areas does.

Assuming that the student deserved the kind of physical brutality he received doesn't make any of us safer from policemen making bad calls.

#41 ::: Alan Hamilton ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2006, 06:10 PM:

I have somewhat mixed feeling about this. On another discussion board, there's a discussion of various cases where a minor infraction escalates into tasering and/or arrest.

I guess the police response can be excessive, but I also think "Oh yeah? MAKE ME!" is a poor response to a police officer even if you you are in the right. You just aren't going to win that argument, and you're better off playing along and telling it to the judge later.

There seems to be an idea that you can get away with a minor offense by violently resisting correction. The thinking goes something like, "Tresspasssing is a minor offense. I won't leave unless they use force. Because it's a minor offense, they won't use force. Therefore, I can tresspass."

#42 ::: Leslie in CA ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2006, 06:45 PM:

Have you ever been beaten to the floor? Standing up is not a natural response ...

Tabatabainejad was tasered, by all accounts, at least four times. Also according to the published accounts, a single taser shock, at the setting they were using, is sufficient to immobilize the body.

So they tasered him, which is why he was on the floor in the first place; and then they demanded that he get up, which he couldn't do because they'd tasered him; and then they tasered him again for not getting up. And they did this repeatedly.

Even if he had been resisting - which is the police version of events, but is contradicted by the eyewitness reports that said he was leaving - there would have been no excuse for what was done to him. None.

#43 ::: Kevin Andrew Murphy ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2006, 06:53 PM:

And if you lose/misplace your ID and you have a paper due, what are you supposed to do then?

If you watch the video, there are a large number of students there. It should be enough to prove that you are a student to have other students vouchsafe for you--which, as I understand, was already the case.

The word "random" is said with Bush smirk by security officers at airports all the time. "We have selected you for a random search."

I do not think that word means what you think it means. I know that people with overly common names get on the watched/no-fly list because Southwest Airlines even told me it to my face without having to hear it from 60 minutes or hearing a routine lie from the glorified rentacops of the TSA. The "random" ID check just happened to pick the ethnically Iranian guy? Yeah, right. And even if it honestly WAS used randomly in this one instance, the word has been uttered as a bald-faced lie by smirking LEOs so many times that it doesn't prompt anything more than resentment.

Watching the video, they tasered the guy after he was on the ground in handcuffs, one assumes for their own amusement. They also threatened to taser the woman asking for the officer's badge number. That is so many shades of illegal and right there recorded I'm pretty certain that everything before it was equally improper.

#44 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2006, 06:58 PM:

They're using work-study students as Campus Security Officers? That's a potentially complex and hazardous job. It's undoubtedly cheaper to use entry-level half-time student workers whose financial aid requires that they stay on the job, but it strikes me as an irresponsible administrative decision. The CSOs are guaranteed to be perpetually short on experience, training, and continuity.

If the CSOs were the ones who first reported that there was a problem, and the UCPD officers were the ones who grabbed and tasered Tabatabainejad, I'll bet you there was a breakdown in communication when the CSOs reported the situation to the UCPD. If so, I hope the university doesn't try to blame the CSOs.

#45 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2006, 07:09 PM:

Clark, who exactly has been arguing that "the victim and any others just had to be little angels"?

#46 ::: Steve Buchheit ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2006, 07:12 PM:

Alan, "There seems to be an idea that you can get away with a minor offense by violently resisting correction. The thinking goes something like, 'Tresspasssing is a minor offense. I won't leave unless they use force. Because it's a minor offense, they won't use force. Therefore, I can tresspass.'"

That's called "Failure to comply with a lawful order," and does justify an escalation of force.

But that is not what it sounds like in this case. The student was leaving when the campus police showed up. At this point we don't know what was said or happened until right before the tasering. Frankly, in my opinion from the reports, the campus police had control of the situation, the person in question was in compliance with the request. Frankly, if it was me and I was leaving and police showed in force (the first mistake they made), I would stop heading for the exit and begin re-evaluating the situation and might choose to stay where there were witnesses instead of exiting the building.

From all the descriptions at no time did the student present a danger to himself or others. There was no reason to touch him or draw a weapon. The only reason I can think of is if the police were going to take him into custody which would only make sense if there were a history on this student (that is, he's been asked to leave before, caused other problems for the police, etc).

The other students approaching the officers at this time, in the officers' minds, only inflamed the situation. However, threatening to use the taser because of a request of the officer's number is way over the line and shows the mindset of the officer (never threaten with a weapon that's not what they're for, if you must present the weapon, use it). Officers are trained in the use of body language, that's all that was needed in this case.

What this sounds like is a serious deficiency of training, a frightened student, and both sides going over the line. The officers are supposed to have training, which is the difference, which is why they will pay the price.

#47 ::: Jenny ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2006, 07:22 PM:

Clark E Myers @ #39 'Any other suggestions on what should have been done at any stage?'

I'd be interested, also, to hear what people think the bystanders could/should have done, other than surreptitiously videoing events (at least someone did get a record of what happened...)

#48 ::: Kathryn from Sunnyvale ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2006, 07:32 PM:

Anaea @8,

We have a stereotype of being a teal-Democratic state, but California split 55%D, 44%R in the 2004 Presidential election. Kerry may have won San Francisco County (222k to 41k), but Bush won Orange County (455k to 300k).

If you check out the Purple America geography maps or the population based cartograms, (see also these cartograms if you want greyscale or non-RB color schemes) you'll see distributions that explain how we could have sent Pelosi And Dornan And Pombo to Congress.

(Other things about California:
It isn't all beaches and palm trees and spinach ranches... for instance, some Californians know what cold weather is like*, you're just less likely to meet them. The climate zone of northeastern California is similar to Wyoming. It also has the population of Wyoming. But then drive west to coastal northwestern California and you'll be in a temperate rainforest.

* We did have a winter Olympics here once, which implies at least some snow. While that's at high elevations, one can get blizzards at lower elevations in far northern CA. Heck, I've gone through a blizzard in NorCal, one that covered thousands of square miles. But only about 40 thousand people live in that region.)

#49 ::: Leslie in CA ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2006, 08:02 PM:

Re Blue California: I live near CA-04, where John Doolittle, the single greatest beneficiary of Jack Abramoff's largess, just managed to win re-election by a 5-point margin, which I believe is the closest it's been since the district was gerrymandered. The only consolation is that Doolittle stands a good chance of being indicted in the not-too-distant future.

California has a lot of deep red pockets. We are fortunate that overall, they are less densely populated than the blue parts of the state.

#50 ::: Clark E Myers ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2006, 08:30 PM:

#45 - not going there.

If you prefer I will withdraw the phrasing but not the sentiment and expand on it.

I repeat that viewing the facts in the light most favorable to the police leads to a conclusion of police brutality.

Given that viewing the facts in the light most favorable to the police gives a definite conclusion and the same conclusion then I wonder why any number of people, close reading is left as an exercise for the reader, repeat as established fact favorable to the victim what can only be conjectures.

That is why then do people here and elsewhere assume facts favorable to the victim as in "he was leaving","he was trying to leave","he was on his way out", "why he was on the floor", "it's reasonable for", "what if like the student, I belonged in my location?", "he was complying" "He was complying with directives" ,"The student was leaving when the campus police showed up" and others.

Assertions contradicting each and all of the above can be found in press as well as in the blogs and journals.

Maybe he was, maybe he wasn't. Anybody who knows for sure what the unreliable narration really means is cordially invited to explain all of Gene Wolfe to me in an open topic comment.

That is I assert that whether he was leaving or not doesn't matter. Whether he was on the floor of his own volition or not doesn't matter. Those who assert as fact that he was leaving, that he was in compliance (he obviously was guilty of a status offense because he was there without privilege - whether the rule should have been different so as to permit presence if vouched for is another question entirely, that wasn't the rule) and those who assert he was forced to the floor by police action are either assuming facts not in the published reports, perhaps picking and choosing among reports to support their prior beliefs or taking the established facts in the light most favorable to the victim or some combination.

I'd suggest that several people here might be excluded for cause from any jury formed to hear matters of fact related to this case.

Similarly I infer, perhaps wrongly, that some here believe the police should have had enough force present to drag the victim out without Taser and another believes the first mistake was to show up in force.

I find it plausible the victim refused to accede to a request by the CSO - a fellow student - with every intention of eventually leaving before the police escalated the situation. I find it plausible the victim agreed to leave at the request of the CSO but was either deliberately or inadvertantly delayed. I find it plausible the victim was playing to some element(s) of the crowd - and I can imagine several possible elements.

I do assert that the range of possibilities is bounded but not that I know what happened and especially what anybody there was thinking or intended.

#51 ::: Bruce Arthurs ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2006, 08:36 PM:

There's a question that occurs to me:

How many of the student CSO/sorta-kinda-cops were "Hallway Monitors" in high school?

#52 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2006, 08:46 PM:

Bruce Arthurs #51: I met a fellow once who contended that customs and immigration officers where the fellows who always got beaten up in high school, and now they had their revenge.

On topic: I can't see how this differs from normal police behaviour towards people with skins that aren't pale pink. Brutalise first, then, if wrong apologise.

#53 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2006, 08:57 PM:

Clark E. Myers: Police at colleges and universities in Calif. are sworn cops, POST certified, able to arrest you, toss you in the clink and all like that.

UCLA has something like 75-100 of them.

The cops at UCLA are actually more powerful than that, as they have jurisdiction in Westwood, as well as on the campus. I have seen them arresting people (non-students) on the city streets, off campus.

As for the King case, they acquitted for several reasons, not the least of which is that Simi Valley, to which the trial was moved, is a right-wing bastion of, "Law and Order" people. A significant portion of the population is cops, and retired cops, as well as a larger portion who moved out there in "white flight."

#54 ::: Clark E Myers ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2006, 09:21 PM:

#53 see #13 for an exact perhaps also accurate count.

In the there will always be a California department Bruin TV UCLA showcases attractive young blonde announcers. The police spokesman, Jeff Young, on Bruin TV refers to the nameless CSO as a civilian employee.

#48 in the there will always be a California department - ocean side and desert side are different - I am reminded that long ago leaving one of the urbanized So Cal Marine bases for lunch that McDonald's was much more expensive ocean side than desert side for the same meal.

#55 ::: Edward Oleander (Detox Nurse) ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2006, 09:26 PM:

THN #27: Have you ever been beaten to the floor? Standing up is not a natural response, unless you think it'll give you a chance to fight back or run away. Tabatabainejad wasn't in a position to do either. Standing up while you're being beaten exposes your face, throat, collarbones, abdomen, hands, and knees to direct blows. Staying down means the blows mostly land on your back.

I think you're right here. Anyone who even thinks of getting up once security has them on the floor is looking to fight. The response I've seen over and over at my Detox is that the person being subdued will go fetal and cover.

A lot of that decision (to cover or fight back) seems to be based on the methods used to get the person there. We employ absolute minimum force when possible, and the result is cooperation more often than not. Fighting back is part of a cycle of escalation that happens when extra force is used (occasionally by necessity).

When police are involved, the amount of force used initially, and the violence in the response by those being subdued (the subduee?) is almost always higher. There seems to be a point where this levels off and the overwhelming nature of the initial force is enough to keep those subdued from fighting back.

So the instinct to fight back seems to be triggered most often by medium-high force usage, which is where the video seems to place this incident.

If I can see this pattern, so can the police. By using the Taser before they had to, they were attempting to goad the student, probably because of his ethnicity. When he wouldn't fight back, they goaded him further. Disgusting.

I deal with the police and the people they take off planes, trains, and the streets every day. I'm currently awaiting a subpeona for a police brutality case that happened right in front of me. I understand the pressures that police face in their lives (my best friend is a 20-year Officer). As a ride-along, I have helped in dozens of semi-to-moderately violent arrests. All this gives me a good idea of where the line is. This one went way over the line.

Thanks for posting this thread, Teresa. Knowledge is power.

#56 ::: Clark E Myers ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2006, 09:56 PM:

#55 - By using the Taser before they had to, they were attempting to goad the student, probably because of his ethnicity. When he wouldn't fight back, they goaded him further.

Telepathy or whatever allows knowing intentions must be nice - never reliably developed in my world.

I'd really like to know why the official version just can't be true?

.....When a person, who was later identified as Mostafa Tabatabainejad, refused to provide any identification, the CSO told him that if he refused to do so, he would have to leave the library. Since, after repeated requests, he would neither leave nor show identification, the CSO notified UCPD officers, who responded and asked Tabatabainejad to leave the premises multiple times. He continued to refuse. As the officers attempted to escort him out, he went limp and continued to refuse to cooperate with officers or leave the building.

Tabatabainejab encouraged library patrons to join his resistance. A crowd gathering around the officers and Tabatebainejad's continued resistance made it urgent to remove Tabatabainejad from the area. The officers deemed it necessary to use the Taser in a "drive stun" capacity.

......

I do believe using the Taser was wrong. Passive resistance should not be met with Tasers. Just the same I'd like to know why the passive resistance theory has been so rejected?

It isn't commonly at the UCLA Library but there are credible reports of efforts to provoke excessive force in a the worse the better plot to improve things from around the United States and from around the world. All in German and so no Patriot Act involved here:http://www.spiegel.de/panorama/justiz/0,1518,449015,00.html
http://www.focus.de/politik/deutschland/kriminalitaet_nid_39423.html
http://www.focus.de/schule/eltern/schulgewalt-special/gewalt-an-schulen_nid_39355.html
http://www.spiegel.de/panorama/0,1518,448826,00.html

#57 ::: Scott Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2006, 09:59 PM:

Clark E Myers wrote -
That is why then do people here and elsewhere assume facts favorable to the victim as in "he was leaving","he was trying to leave","he was on his way out", "why he was on the floor", "it's reasonable for", "what if like the student, I belonged in my location?", "he was complying" "He was complying with directives" ,"The student was leaving when the campus police showed up" and others.

Assertions contradicting each and all of the above can be found in press as well as in the blogs and journals.

Maybe he was, maybe he wasn't. Anybody who knows for sure what the unreliable narration really means is cordially invited to explain all of Gene Wolfe to me in an open topic comment.

Can you provide non-UCPD sourced cites for the above?

Because honestly, so far as I've seen, the only people claiming that Mostafa Tabatabainejad was in any way resisting are the UCPD. Every eyewitness report that I've seen that regards the incidents leading up to the video suggests that he was, in fact, leaving the building when the police grabbed him. I've heard some people state opinions that if he was refusing to leave that the UCPD should have taken reasonable steps, but that's not the same thing. If you have other credible sources, please, share them.

But, these assertions not withstanding, stating he was leaving when confronted by UCPD is by no means shrouding him in an angelic cloak of beatific innocence. It's pretty clear he's a pretty angry dude even before he got tasered - the question is whether or not he has a right to be.

By his own admission (through his lawyer), he refused to show his ID not because he didn't have it, but because he thought he was being profiled by the CSO (and he might have been - we don't know one way or the other) - so the whole situation could have been avoided if the CSO had been seen asking some other dudes for their IDs before getting to him, or if Moustafa had decided not to make an issue of it. By his own admission, when they grabbed him, he got grumpy and dumped his ass on the ground - but there is nothing that I've seen to suggest he went beyond tactics that are commonplace in peaceful protests, none of which warrant using a taser on a dude.

Was he an angel? Nah. But to the best of my understanding at present, he was certainly not someone the UCPD needed to be manhandling, let alone handcuffing and then tasering multiple times while ordering him to do something he was likely incapable of doing. Maybe information will surface to get me to revise that opinion. But I can only judge based on the facts available to me - and so far, those support the decision I've come to.

#58 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2006, 10:15 PM:

Sherwood, #3. The basic answer is, "They're the cops." We have never restrained our police and Los Angeles police are notorious for overuse of force. This is a long-standing problem in US law enforcement, not a problem of the current government. I'm sorry.

Tasers are painful and they risk injury to the target. Tasers introduce muscle spasms, the way any electric shock does. The risks are the same as those of convulsions; the target will fall, uncontrolled, and people can die simply from falling badly, the muscle spasms may cause injuries to bones and soft tissue, and there are probably some effects that aren't understood as well. They are less lethal than firearms, and often the target takes no lasting injury, but this is not a certain thing.

#59 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2006, 10:24 PM:

Patrick writes: "We’re ruled by people who have determined that torture is okay. Do you think it stops in Iraq?"

It doesn't stop with torture either.

#60 ::: Scott Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2006, 10:32 PM:

Clark E Myers wrote -
I'd really like to know why the official version just can't be true?

Because it's Los Angeles, and they have had, what, half-a-dozen bits of video footage surface this week regarding seperate police brutality incidents in the city?

Because former police chief Bernard Parks (now an LA councilmember) sent a letter to the LA Police Commission this week regarding "an ongoing discipline problem" at the LAPD - which is almost undoubtedly responsible for training many of the officers that are employed by UCPD

Because the LAPD and associated departments have had a severe decades-long problem with police brutality?

Because we hold police officers to a higher standard than twenty-three year old college students?

Because it appears that the situation was exacerbated, not ameliorated, by the UCPD and their tactics?

Because the entire situation revolves around a bit of bureaucratic nonsense like showing an ID?

#61 ::: Clark E Myers ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2006, 10:33 PM:

#57 - Acknowledging that I have no powers of mindreading I have no idea what any of the public sources derive from. For all I really know the whole story may be as much a hoax as the WTO initiative for "full private stewardry of labor" for the parts of Africa.

On the other hand I find a tension between the statement the only people claiming that Mostafa Tabatabainejad was in any way resisting are the UCPD and the statement By his own admission, when they grabbed him, he got grumpy and dumped his ass on the ground

Moreover in a back at you sense I'd like some support I really don't think exists for the assertion that the whole situation could have been avoided if the CSO had been seen asking some other dudes for their IDs before getting to him I don't know what the CSO did or didn't do but by my lights 2 wrongs don't make a right.

I suspect that like most universities UCLA expects and requires its students to comply with its rules. Some very fine institutions even have an elastic rule that requires students to behave as gentlemen.

Notice that we agree the Taser was unwarranted and I think the use was unwise - viewing the facts in the light most favorable to the UCPD. I simply assert that it does not and need not follow that the reality must be more favorable to the victim.

#62 ::: Cathy ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2006, 10:47 PM:

Teresa, I have work study students patrolling my library at night, they're CJ majors and gaining experience. Nothing happens and they've got instructions to call for back-up if something does happen. Real officers will be there in an instant.

In over a quarter of a century in academic librarianship I've never seen anything like this complete and total over-reaction by the police. In every case I've seen of disruptive patron conduct the police have worked to diffuse the situation, not make it worse. While I can see the need for IDs after 11 at some urban institutions, there should and are other ways to verify enrollment at the institution besides the ID.

#63 ::: Clark E Myers ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2006, 11:01 PM:

58 They [Tasers] are less lethal than firearms Depends

So long as some people here, never me, are being picky picky I might note the long established California habit of maintaining order in prison yards with shotgun blasts at the ground and feet - spraying with gravel and shot - unpleasant in itself and a warning the next shot might be higher. These are almost never lethal but still regrettable.

#60 - Notice some police officers are 23 year old college students.

Times in my life I and others have had to engage in a bit of bureaucratic nonsense like showing an ID to go to work. Armed guards, authorized and encouraged to use deadly force in appropriate circumstances, were rotated so familiarity did not degrade security.

Some of it does begin to seem pretty silly - speaking of California I had a friend who joined every other soul in the neighborhood in an effort to secure the perimeter at George a couple times - now that's bureaucratic nonsense with ID's.

Just the same I remember a computer lab at the University of Chicago so long ago there was a large posted sign to the effect that if caught trying to invert a large matrix folks would lose computer privileges because it wouldn't work anyway and it would consume scarce resources. In those days I was glad that when my wife was on campus late they tried to control access.

#64 ::: Naomi Kritzer ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2006, 11:41 PM:

Teresa asked, They're using work-study students as Campus Security Officers? That's a potentially complex and hazardous job.

My college used work-study students as Campus Security Officers. They also had several full-timers on duty at all times, who were actual grownups. I was involved in one medical emergency where the student was the first official person on the scene, but she was almost immediately supplanted by EMTs and police officers from town who showed up. (Some of the EMTs were also students, either at our college or the other one in town -- it was a partly volunteer emergency services department.)

Neither student nor full-time security officers were equipped with any sort of weapon, aside from a large, heavy flashlight. My college was in Northfield, Minnesota, and it was mostly pretty quiet.

#65 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2006, 11:47 PM:

Clark E Myers, I can't speak for others, but the reason I'm reluctant to accept the "official" account as truth even though it still clearly shows the police are in the wrong is because, frankly, such institutions have long histories of admitting to less than they've actually done, and then only to what is indisputable.

Focusing only on the actions that went so clearly over any acceptable line ignores how things may have got to that point in the first place. Was this student being profiled? Were the police handling this incident only too ready to consider verbal exchanges sufficient to restrain a student who was, in fact, complying with the order to leave? These things matter too.

#66 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2006, 11:49 PM:

"Have gotten." Bedtime for me.

#67 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2006, 11:50 PM:

Clark: "I'd really like to know why the official version just can't be true?"

Because it isn't true. Here's a question in return: Why are you putting so much work into trying to make the official version true, when it doesn't match the eyewitness accounts or phonecam recordings, and doesn't make sense in its own right?

There is no evidence whatsoever that Mostafa Tabatabainejad presented any danger to anyone. I've been in ID-required university areas without proper ID a lot of times. Sometimes I was asked to leave, but no one ever got excited. They sure as hell didn't hit me with a taser, handcuff me, then go on tasering me when I was down on the ground.

You want to keep up this argument? Go ahead. But first, I'm going to require* something from you. I want you to tell me to my virtual face that this was a (1.) normal, (2.) necessary, (3.) justifiable, and (4.) responsible action, given that the security officers had the kid heavily outnumbered, no one was being endangered, and no crime had been committed.

Then tell me one other thing: If it had been your own personal kid who'd taken a few minutes to shut down his computer use and pack up his stuff, and was on his way out the door when he was grabbed, tasered, cuffed, and tasered a bunch more times, would you still be telling me that the kid brought it on himself, and that the officers' response was normal, necessary, justified, and responsible?

Go ahead. I want to hear this.


___________________
*That's "require" as in "I am the moderator, and you are required."

#68 ::: Clark E Myers ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2006, 12:16 AM:

#67 - I am not now and never have been telling you or anyone else that the kid brought it on himself. I am not now and never have been saying the officers' response was (1)normal, (2)necessary, (3)justified, and (4)responsible. I am not now and never have been trying to make the official version true. I have been arguing that it is equally logically false to say that because the UCPD had the kid heavily outnumbered it follows no one was being endangered - that may or may not be true - but given that the crowd had the security officers heavily outnumbered it may or may not be true that someone, student or officer, was being endangered.

It is certainly true that trespass was being committed.

If it had been my own child I would no more be telling anyone that the child brought it on himself than I am now which is to say not at all.

Quite possibly the CSO was lying in his teeth and all the several officers conspired to deprive the victim of his rights under color of law and a section 1983 action will lie. But just possibly there is some color of truth in the assertions of the several officers.

However given that as noted it is the general, but in my view unwarranted, assumption here that the victim was surely and certainly someone who'd taken a few minutes to shut down his computer use and pack up his stuff and was on his way out the door when he was grabbed, tasered, cuffed, and tasered a bunch more times there is certainly nothing more to say is there?

#69 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2006, 12:47 AM:

As I see it, what really matters is that there's a full investigation here and that, if necessary, UC police procedure is adjusted. I don't really care if Mr. Tabatabainejad was abusive, or if he stopped to bake cookies for the cops. What matters is whether or not the cops behaved appropriately, especially in the context of a college campus.

University policy should also be reviewed. If UCLA is so concerned about making sure that only people with university IDs are in the library at 11, they should simply do a sweep and check everyone. This would clearly eliminate the possibility of profiling, and would ensure that only authorized people are on site.

As to whether or not Mr. Tabatabainejad was committing trespass simply by having forgotten his ID, I'll leave that to the lawyers. Most attended facilities have some mechanism to authorize entry to people who have forgotten their IDs. For instance, if you forget your badge at my office, they'll give you a temporary sticker/badge to wear. It's a real pain in the neck since it means that you can only enter at attended entrances, but it helps assure that unauthorized people aren't in any of our buildings.

#70 ::: Eric ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2006, 01:24 AM:

An angry kid gets caught in a school library without an ID. The responding officers restrain the kid, taser him, and immobilize him.[1] At this point, all the police need to do is handcuff him and frog-march him out of the building.

Instead, the officers begin to repeatedly inflict severe pain on the kid. He's screaming in agony, and the onlookers are clearly freaked out by the officers' behavior. The police refuse requests for their badge numbers, repeatedly threaten non-violent bystanders with tasers, and continue tormenting the kid.

Given this situation, one of the most common American reactions is, "He's a mouthy kid and he had it coming." Apparently, the reason that the United States runs secret prisons and tortures prisoners is that roughly 30-40% of Americans like it that way.[2]

See also: Obedience to Authority by Stanley Milgram.

[1] Unless we make some awfully generous assumptions about the situation, the police are using excessive force the first time they taser the student. Since these are the same officers who later threaten to taser an onlooker for requesting badge numbers, I have reason to believe these officers are predisposed to brutality.

[2] As many as 58% of Americans reject torture under all circumstances, though some surveys have reported lower numbers. Another chunk only believe in torture under various hypothetical "ticking bomb" scenarios.

#71 ::: Kathryn from Sunnyvale ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2006, 01:48 AM:

Clark Myers @69,

How are you defining trespass?

To me, it seems as if there is one rule- "don't be in the library without ID" -being used to define two very different problems. (If for example a person is in the library and their wallet gets stolen, they're now technically breaking the rule. But they aren't, are they?)

It is as if breaking the rule "driving without a licence" applied equally to people who don't have their licence with them and people who haven't been licenced.

And then there's the larger problem that our society just doesn't have a good system for how to let ordinary people question the LEO's without the LEO's feeling like they're losing face or losing control.

In a case like this, the LEOs seem to want obedience like a parent wants obedience: unquestioning and fast. Yet if the LEO is acting on incorrect or incomplete information, the more likely it is that the person will want to ask the LEO questions. (i.e. "Why do you think I'm not a student?" or "Why do you keep calling me Buttle?")

#73 ::: Thalia ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2006, 02:09 AM:

I'm much more disturbed by the fact that both of the people who asked for the badge numbers of the officers were threatened with being tazered as well.

Add to that the command "stand up or you'll be tazered again" when it's pretty well known that tazers lock up muscles. Between the tazer muscle effects and the fact that it's hard to stand up wearing handcuffs, they were giving him instructions impossible to follow, and tazered him repeatedly when he failed to comply.

#74 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2006, 02:14 AM:

Clark, #68, the kid was not trespassing. He was a student at the library and allowed to be there after 11pm. He either forgot his card or didn't feel like having to prove he had one. That's not trespassing.

In VA (apparently this isn't true in all states), if I forget to put my handicapped hangtag up and get a ticket, I can go to the police station and they will cancel the ticket. I wasn't parking illegally; I just forgot to put my tag up. I don't become able-bodied because I forget to put my tag up. (I wish!)

#75 ::: Darkrose ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2006, 02:22 AM:

The ID requirement is there to ensure that only UCLA affiliates are in the library after 11. Given that UCLA is an urban campus, that's reasonable. However, given that the checks are random, I have no trouble believing that either the CSO's or the UCPD (who, by the way, are considered CA state police, not LAPD)looked at him and saw a dark-skinned guy and automatically assumed that there was reason to question his student status.

And because it seems to bear repeating: it doesn't matter why he didn't have his ID. It doesn't matter whether or not he was being a jerk, or whether he was trying to provoke something. What matters is that:

1. the officers tasered him after he was prone and clearly no longer a threat, and

2. at least one of the officers threatened to taser a student who asked a legitimate question.

#76 ::: Darkrose ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2006, 02:28 AM:

#37 Clark, regarding the issue of reserving resources for students, what is true at UCD and people have said is also true at UCLA is that in order to be on a lab computer, you have to have a valid campus login and password. Given that, the random ID checks strike me as little more than a way for the administration to look like they're doing something.

#77 ::: Carolyn Davies ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2006, 02:41 AM:

To add in my very humble two cents here--I think part of what Clark may be saying is the huge dispute here rests on two pillars. The "he deserved it" camp says 1. Tabatabainejad was uncooperative and 2. the Tasering was justified. Opposing thought says that 1. Tabatabainejad was cooperative and 2. the Tasering was unjustified. So long as everybody disagrees on both points, no real progress will be made and those who have no problem with this event will continue to do so; why not take the fight to them and say, yes, even if the kid refused to show his ID, refused to leave, grandstanded and made a dramatic speech to his fellow students about racial profiling, and passively resisted officer's attempts to make him leave (which is a conglomeration of pretty much all the justifications for the officer's behaviour), even then he didn't deserve what he got. Even then this is completely unacceptable.

At least, that's what I'm reading. I actually kind of like that reading because it satisfies my need for internal logic. I cannot imagine a group of trained LEOs walking up to an innocent, inoffensive kid and Tasering him repeatedly. It defies logic. I can, however, see them getting pissed at someone who's mouthy, noncompliant and disrespectful and overreacting to the horrendous degree they did. It makes a twisted kind of sense, while the other explanation makes none.

#78 ::: Don Fitch ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2006, 02:59 AM:

#15: "I invite you to look at his name. Really, these days it's reasonable for everyone to be suspicious where police are concerned, but especially non-whites and *especially* anyone that could be confused with Middle Eastern."

You haven't been on the UCLA campus recently, have you? I've spent the better part of three days wandering around on it during the past month (the Med. Center Dental Dept. makes great fake noses, gradually). I'd say that close to half the students are of not-obviously-White/European-ancestry, and that a significant fraction of them _are_ of Middle-Eastern background. That doesn't seem to be a problem for many people because they are also, equally obviously, Students.

I know no more about this situation than anyone else here does, but my guess is that the guy responded rather obnoxiously (I don't suppose students today are any less likely to do this than they were at UC Berkeley in the mid-'50s, where I knew more than a few of that type). Some students do that -- sometimes with good cause -- and some students/young people flat-out act like assholes.

Campus (& other) Police Officers, however, are most distinctly not suppose to do that, and the eyewitness accounts here indicate that they did engage in a grossly-excessive use of force. My tendency is to attribute this to incompetence rather than malice, but I have no idea how competently the University Administration will deal with it. (Read that as "I doubt that the right heads will roll", if you wish.)

I don't know what problems the UCLA police might have with non-students, but the area -- campus & adjacent Westwood -- seems to be a somewhat-isolated enclave, upper-middle-class & above (the nearby restaurants, including at least five good Middle-Eastern ones, are pricey enough to make me hesitate... momentarily), so I doubt that outsider thugs would be common.


#79 ::: Samantha Wilson ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2006, 03:34 AM:

The impression I got from the video I saw was that he was being uncooperative. Nobody shouts that angrily without making similarily violent movements with their body, especially if they perceive a threat to themselves. In my opinion, from what I know and what I have perceived, the first tasering was fully justified. However, the rest of it was out of control, especially since a single taser shot will take nearly anyone out of a fight effectively. However, the attempt to restrain him in the first place was uncalled for. He was leaving peacefully, according to what I've heard and read. So, like many things, both parties were in the wrong, with the CSO(s) being in the wrong first.

It's things like this that make kids hate cops. It's things like kids hating cops that make cops dislike kids, which makes kids hate cops. A lot of problems in my town are caused by eighteen to twenty-four-year-olds overreacting to the police. Many police departments could use better training, but a public relations upgrade would also be in order.

#80 ::: Lylassandra ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2006, 03:48 AM:

Not that it's unusual for police to beat and torture their victims...

Sherwood, #3. The basic answer is, "They're the cops."

I acknowledge that all cops, LEOs, etc are people-- but that's my point. They're people. Individual, different, not some amorphous mass of Other. My biggest problem with the reporting of incidents like this is the tendency of the discussion to go "cops did such-and-such..."

A while back here in SD a man used his own baby as a human shield in a shoot-out. When "the cops" rescued the baby and brought the guy down, what was the headline? Not "Cops save baby". No, it was, "Cops shoot man with baby".

Sure, what these particular guys did was evil. Pure cruelty by anyone's measures. But by generalizing this way you discount every officer who spends his or her life fighting to do the right thing and protecting the same people who call them brutes.

And if you've never met one of the good guys, you need to get out more.

#81 ::: bad Jim ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2006, 04:23 AM:

Justice in Houston seems rather brutal. Bail is set at $888,888, the prisoners sleep on a concrete floor, the temperature is turned down low... janitors in a Texas jail are treated like prisoners at Guantanamo:

The guards would tell us: 'This is what you get for protesting.' One of them said, 'Who gives a shit about janitors making 5 dollars an hour? Lots of people make that much.'

Would someone please remind me that I live in the land of the free?

#82 ::: Kevin Andrew Murphy ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2006, 05:35 AM:

Generalizations about cops? Howabout one about how when any of them get accused of wrongdoing, they all seem to link arms and protect that person with a show of solidarity? Even if the evidence so clearly shows that a crime was commited.

Here? Well, threatening an unarmed person who asks for your badge number? Crime. Tasering someone who's already on the ground with their hands cuffed behind them? Crime.

Beyond that, we can look for a few more. I don't know if polygraphs are acceptable evidence, but I'd like the CSO who started the whole chain of unfortunate events to answer this question: "Was the ID check truly 'random' in this case or did you ask Tabatabainejad because he looked Middle Eastern?"

That seems a fair enough question to ask and would shed light on whether Tabatabainejad was justified in feeling that he had been racially profiled and moreover, was also justified to protest such an action.

I'd also like to ask all the officers how often they lie in the performance of their duties, if they have ever been caught in a lie, and if they are ever surprised when someone doubts the word of an officer of the law. Again, with a polygraph.

#83 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2006, 06:17 AM:

I'll push things along a little: Mr. Tabatabainejad responded to the police in an eminently sensible way.

Remember, there is no longer a right of habeus corpus in this country. Once he enters police custody, there is no guarantee that he will ever be seen again. The President knows nothing about the most fundamental facts of life when it comes to dark-skinned people; the leading news network interviews a newly elected Muslim congressman and challenges him to prove he's not a traitor because of his religion; major media figures call for the indiscriminate slaughter of dark-skinned people to cow them, and insist that they're not ready for, maybe not even capable of, self-government.

People who look like The Enemy to ignorant authorities have been meeting ghastly fates since 2001. Maher Arar is just the tip of the iceberg, and people as much closer to the line of fire as Tabatabainejad than I am will have heard about and remembered more cases than I do. Consider this 2004 case in Seattle, of a man subjected to sustained police harassment for, basically, taking photos while dark-skinned. I took photos of the same features a year later and never encountered any trouble at all...and I find good reason to believe that part of that is that I'm quite white.

In short, while the odds are good that no randomly arrested dark-skinned person will get the gulag treatment, how much is it worth to gamble on that? It seems to me that in face of even a small risk of being disappeared, it makes excellent sense to kick up a fuss in hopes of there being witnesses, at least. To claim anything else is to deny the reality of living as a dark-skinned person in Bush's America.

#84 ::: Mary Aileen Buss ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2006, 09:54 AM:

I have a slightly different take on this:

(First of all, Clark is right about one thing: we don't know exactly what happened, although I think he's giving the official reports too much credence.)

I work in a public library in an urban area. Not infrequently, we have to ask someone to leave for gross violations of the rules. Sometimes they refuse and get loud and obnoxious. (Sometimes being loud and obnoxious *is* the rules violation.) Occasionally, we have to call the police to get them out. The police response is always the same: Remain calm, try to defuse the situation, escort the individual out of the building quietly. I have *never* seen them resort to force. I don't recall ever seeing them even touch the individual. The most threatening thing I've ever seen them do is lay one hand on the end of their nightstick for a moment. Sometimes it's not just one person being thrown out, but a group (usually teens). Even then I've never seen the police lose their cool.

So why was this incident so different? Is police training that much different there? Were those cops just brutal thugs? (and if so, why were they still on the force?) Was Tabatabainejad that much more obnoxious than our patrons? (*very* hard to imagine) Something isn't adding up.

--Mary Aileen

#85 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2006, 11:14 AM:

Bad Jim writes: "Would someone please remind me that I live in the land of the free?"

(In cheesy East Euro accent)
Land of free. Home of brave. Da, da— pass the borscht.

Anybody know if the Houston police have a union?

#87 ::: lalouve ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2006, 11:56 AM:

I've only read the description of the incident here, and think I don't want to see the video...but I have this to say. I used to work security, and I know something about subduing people. Had anyone working for my old boss acted in the fashion dscribed here, he would have beaten us up himself when he found out.
If you've had proper training, it is perfectly possible to subdue a person with a minimum of violence and very little pain to them; it is also often desirable to use no violence at all. It not only spares them discomfort - it makes the onlookers happier and much more inclined to turn to you if they're in trouble. How many of the students who saw this incident will be willing to call the cops in the future?

#88 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2006, 12:06 PM:

Samantha Wilson (79): Are you out of your mind? Smallish student. Unarmed. Considerably outnumbered by professional officers in uniform. Not one word yet about him striking or even making threatening moves toward the officers, when they and the university have every incentive to claim that he did. And you think that tasering him was justified? On what grounds? That he was going to feloniously wave his hands in their general direction? That within the few seconds it took for the incident to develop, he had not yet gotten round to being cooperative?

What kind of a country do you think we live in? Talking loudly and waving your hands is not a crime. Being momentarily confused, suspicious, or angry when someone comes up and grabs you is likewise not a crime.

If you haven't done the same, you know people who have.

The foregoing argument is based on the assumption that he moved as you hypothesize. I have to say, I'm not seeing it in the eyewitness accounts.

But let's give your hypothesis the benefit of the doubt. Let's suppose he did. If so, so what? It's not at all uncommon for people to get agitated, raise their voices, and gesture as they speak. Any experienced officer will have dealt with that more times than he or she can count. No way is it standard procedure to respond by taking a nightstick or taser to the person making the noise.

Tasering someone is a nontrivially violent act. Tasers are intended to be used as an alternative to clubbing or shooting someone. Getting nailed with one is disabling and extremely painful. If you re-watch the video, you can hear the screams.

If it were normal and justifiable to taser Mostafa Tabatabainejad, then half a dozen or a dozen people in your social circle would have been tasered at some point or another: when they were loudly objecting to a traffic ticket, arguing with the other driver over a fender bender, yelling at a reservation desk clerk, getting into a brangle with a neighbor over noise or doggy misbehavior or barbecue grill smoke ... any disorderly display of temper in public.

You'll notice that it didn't happen to them. I doubt you're socially acquainted with anyone who's been tasered. How, then, can you possibly say it was appropriate for this to happen to Tabatabainejad?

#89 ::: Martin Wisse ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2006, 12:12 PM:

Clark Myers is one of the reasons the US is going fascist, because he and others like them are so willing to keep on believing the authorities are right no matter what they do to their victims and will continue to do so until they themselves are the victims.

I'm hoping you're just naive and not actively evil.

The police is never your friend, is not interesting in anything other than protecting themselves and will always see anybody they interact with as criminals and will treat them as such.

I use that as a rule of thumb with Dutch cops, which are slightly less trigger happy than their US counterparts; worst that might happen to me in a similar situation is a night in jail, but the guy here is just lucky to be alive. Tasers kill and there's not that much margin between a debilitating shock and a deadly shock.

That's right, the people who say that he was calling for it because he hadn't got any id on him in a place it was obligatory are saying they would've been okay with his murder as well.

Glad to see at least some people here questioning the ID rule as well. It's one of those rules that may make feel you safer without making you safer, as having the correct ID says nothing about the threat you represent. It's just a case of social control.


#90 ::: Dave Kuzminski ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2006, 12:14 PM:

It's becoming more apparent with each passing day that the men in their trenchcoats demanding, "Papers, show me your papers!" are no longer restricted to the train stations.

As to cops reacting without reason, I will relate a true story. Years ago, I was assaulted by a man while I was eating a late dinner meal around nine o'clock because he demanded I place a salt shaker on his table and I didn't comply. I didn't work there. I was a patron. I fought him off and he ran. I didn't chase after him, but I did wipe off some of the food from my clothing and then left only to be met at the door by a pair of officers responding to the report of a fight. I was grabbed and thrown against the wall without even being asked anything. As I was being frisked, some other patrons shouted out that I was the victim and not the attacker.

I was finally asked for some identification. I pulled out my military identification card showing I was a staff sergeant in the US Army. Only then did the officers even begin to show me any courtesy and respect since I was in civilian clothing. Since the police are supposed to serve their communities, they have an obligation to show courtesty and respect to their citizens regardless of how they're dressed.

This isn't the only incident that I've witnessed or been involved in. The truth is that there are virtually no localities where every officer is fully trained and professional. Sadly, some departments have very few trained professionals.

Had those incidents not occurred to me or in my sight, I probably would side with the police version but I've had too much experience to just take their word any longer. Now that photographic evidence is so often available, let's hope it's enough to weed out those officers who aren't fit to serve their communities.

#91 ::: Elizabeth Vom Marlowe ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2006, 12:23 PM:

This is appalling.

I work at a public university academic library. While we do not currently require ID to use computers, we did at one time, and now we just require that they have university logins. We *still* have 'public use' computers for patrons who are members of the, you know, public.

As a taxpayer funded university, all members of the taxpaying community are allowed to use our resources (though not all of them, such as ILL). I've worked at and used private university libraries that required IDs to enter--that's fair, it's privately funded.

It's not unusual to require ID at certain campus events, but it's not unusual for students to forget them, either. We have a community of working adults and our students forget their IDs all the time. It isn't a hanging offense, and I've never in my life seen anyone receive anything more harsh than 'Please retrieve your ID from your car/dorm/boydfriend's room, please, or I'll have to ask you to leave. Thanks'

#92 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2006, 12:29 PM:

What a horrendous video. I hope there is a fair and independent investigation, and that its findings are acted on.

BUT

The plural of anecdote is not data, and I'd like to ask that we not tar an entire global profession based on the incidents we're describing here. Many people join the police for many different reasons, ranging from a hunger for power to a desire to serve.

Let me offer an anecdote back. My younger brother has severe Asperger syndrome, and has not always had the best idea of how to behave in public. And he's a big guy, who hangs out in tough areas and looks it.

He's consequently been in trouble with the police from three or four local forces, ranging from our tiny town to larger cities like Oakland and Berkeley. And the cops who have dealt with him have been - universally - moderate, understanding, and capable of using minimum force to restrain him.

I went through the usual adolescent distrust of the police, but the experiences of the only member of my family to actually be in their power and their custody has led me to respect the profession.

I'm not saying all police are good. I'm saying that I treat them as benevolent until individually proven otherwise. (I also feel that the best way to keep them from closing ranks is to avoid the "us and them" thinking that tries to separate them from the general populace.)

#93 ::: little light ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2006, 01:10 PM:

Bruce Baugh @ 83:

You know, I have to go with you there, to a great degree. I'm racially mixed and often read as Arab, and my partner is Iranian-American. We spend plenty of time nervous, and for good reason. In the winter of 2001, my parents' home was vandalized, my younger brother was threatened and assaulted and harrassed in school, and all of this on a family only read as Middle Eastern--my mother's Filipina, and my father's Ashkenazic. (The funny thing is, people used to harrass my brother for being "Mexican." It's all about the hated-brown-people-du-jour.)

But the other part of your point is, I think, more important: once you're in, you're in. I spent a night in jail once. I hadn't really done anything, as the court later determined, but that didn't matter while I was in lockup and before the trial. As far as they were concerned, they didn't want to know who I was, what I had or hadn't done, any of it. I was treated as a criminal. I was screamed at, pushed around, threatened by sherriffs with rape, and told by officers they wished they could torture me "like Saddam." I was lied to about my rights and told I would be denied legal counsel for the next three days. And this was over a minor arrest, just in the course of booking and charging.
A friend of mine in there with me was sexually molested and assaulted by the same officers and mistreated severely, on the grounds that she was transgendered. And this was three years ago, before legal rights really publically eroded. (For the record, there was an attempt to sue the police in this case. Oddly enough, all of their records and video of the relevant couple of hours disappeared, and when a key witness skipped town out of fear, the whole case fell apart.)

Once you're in custody, you're in custody, and when you're in restraints, behind closed doors, you. have. no. power. You are utterly in the power of the people incarcerating you, until such time as you can get a communication out or get out physically. You might get good cops dedicated to serving and protecting in charge of you. You might get the other kind. It's all up to them.
With habeas corpus suspended for now, there's no telling what could happen once you're in custody, if somebody decides you're a threat, and without the recourse to communication with the outside, you're screwed. So yeah--I have a hard time seeing this student's behavior as anything but a rational response.

#94 ::: Naomi Kritzer ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2006, 01:38 PM:

I'm in the somewhat unusual position of having seen really good police work in a situation where people were committing civil disobedience. I grew up in Madison, Wisconsin. The example in particular that stands out was a walk-out protest that happened at my high school. The organizers of the protest managed to get the word out very effectively but did no other planning: there were no megaphones, no parade marshalls with walkie-talkies, no plans. Just a very large mob of somewhat agitated teenagers, milling around on the lawn of the high school, and no way for the organizers to communicate even basic instructions.

The police knew about the protest too, of course, and stayed about a block away -- present, but out of sight. They kept an eye on things, and I'm sure they'd have moved in if anyone had initiated violence, but as long as people wanted to just mill around and yell slogans, the plan was clearly to stay out of the way.

At some point, the Hive Mind of the disorganized mob suggested that blocking traffic on the big, busy street near the school was the Thing To Do Now. Everyone went up, got into the street, and sat down. At that point, the police officers showed up, and....routed traffic around that two-block stretch of street. People blocked the street for about fifteen minutes, then got bored and moved back to the yard of the school.

About fifteen minutes after that, the bell rang, and nearly everyone present went back to class. The protest was over, with no confrontations and no violence.

I'll note that the chief of police at the time had a black belt in Judo.

I saw the Madison police take steps to suppress civil disobedience at another protest around that same time -- that was the year that the city actually enforced the law during the Great Midwestern Marijuana Harvest Festival, and busted anyone caught smoking a joint. The police were pretty much all working that day, and went everywhere in groups of four. Again, I saw no violence, though they were frequently treated disrespectfully by the people at the festival, even those not breaking the law. The expectation was that they would keep themselves safe but behave professionally even if they were verbally harrassed. And they did. This is not an unreasonable expectation of police, honestly. They are as capable of walking away from someone being a jerk as anyone else out there. There were lots of arrests that year, but no violence.

Admittedly, in one case they were dealing with a bunch of privileged upper-middle-class kids, and in the other case they were dealing with a bunch of latter-day hippies. Still, there are a lot of ways to approach police work that minimize the chances that anyone will get hurt, and they can work really well, particularly when dealing with protests.

#95 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2006, 01:41 PM:

It occurs to me that if you're being hassled by the police, you might be better off tasered in public than dragged off to jail without protest.

If you perceive yourself as one of a victim-group, the whole balance of the situation changes. Your expectation of events is different.

And I wonder a little about how the CSOs behave. I can see them being less dangerous than the police, but more of a nuisance. "Papers, please", rather than "Bang! Bang! Stop!".

Anyone else remember Columbine? The talk, and speculation, and recognition of what it could be like to be the outsider. Then we were talking about fannish geeks compared to the default jock culture, and I'm sure I mentioned Triumph of the Will and compared it to the sort of contrived enthusiasm for the school team. Pep rally?

How long before some troubled student of the brownish persuasion does a Columbine? And is that going to be an Al Qaeda cell?

All the guns do is make it easy to be violent.

So do Tasers.

#96 ::: Naomi Kritzer ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2006, 01:45 PM:

Also, just to be clear, I'm not saying this to defend police as a group, because I think there are a lot of people out there who fear police for good reason, even though they're law-abiding.

My point is that it doesn't have to be that way. It is possible to run a police department in such a way as to minimize the chances that the individual officers will commit crimes against the people they're supposed to be protecting. It is possible for police to manage difficult and stressful situations without resorting to violence. These are not unreasonable expectations for us to have of our law enforcement officers, and I've seen it work the way it ought to work.

I think it's important for us not to lose sight of the fact that the police are not supposed to be our enemies and when law-abiding people fear the police because of the actions of the police and government, this is a deeply wrong situation that needs to be corrected immediately rather than "yeah, it's always that way, whaddya expect?"

#97 ::: gren_knight ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2006, 01:46 PM:

I had to stop watching the video as I found it incredibly disturbing.

Why does this university employ such a large number of police officers in the first place? What are they afraid off? (I've attended universities in Germany and Britain. They employ security guards to make sure doors are locked and people park their cars in the right places. The idea that there would be armed police on campus as a matter of fact is frightening on its own.)

So a person is quietly sitting in a computer lab and working on the computer there. What threat is he to security? None at all. That someone shouts 'get off me' or triest to twist free when grabbed forcefully is, to me, a perfectly normal reaction, even when the grabber wears a uniform.

That the conduct of the policemen in question is despicable should be without dispute. What I would like to see discussed is why anyone felt it necessary to send more than a maximum of two unarmed security guards to say to this guy 'excuse me, can you please leave now'.

I can comment on the police horses, though. While police horses undergo special training, there is no way anyone in the world can guarantee that a horse that feels threatened will not act in the matter a horse does by nature, that is to kick out. Riding up people sitting on the ground in the manner they did was inviting injury.

#98 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2006, 01:51 PM:

Looking at this, I tend to ask two basic questions, assuming (apparently correctly) that UCLA PD had a clear policy on Taser use:

  • Was that policy followed correctly?
  • Is the policy itself correct?

I have not seen yesterday's LA Times article UCLA orders outside probe of Taser arrest referenced here. There are several intersting tidbits to consider:

The most important, in my opinion, is this passage:

Several local police agencies — including the LAPD and Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department — allow officers to use Tasers only if a suspect poses a physical threat or is acting combatively.

The sheriff's policies expressly say deputies can't use Tasers simply to move someone. (empasis mine)

"We look for assaultive conduct," said Bill McSweeney, chief of the sheriff's leadership and training division "We generally don't use the Taser on passive resisters except when an individual indicates explosive action to follow, such as a verbal threat."

But UCLA police are allowed to use Tasers on passive resisters as "a pain compliance technique," Assistant Chief Jeff Young said in an interview Friday.

Under UCLA policy, Young said, officers can use the weapons after considering the potential injury to police and to the individual as well as the level of resistance and the need for prompt resolution.

So, to begin with, UCLA PD guidelines appear more permissive than LAPD or LA County Sheriff, neither of which have a soft reputation by any rational standard, but are both vastly more experienced with Tasers than UCLA PD. Then I suggest turning to the UCLA PD's own standards and consider this set of general restrictions on Taser use:

4) GENERAL

Although not absolutely prohibited, officers should give additional consideration to the unique circumstances involved prior to applying the Taser to any of the following individuals:

A) Pregnant females;

B) Elderly individuals or obvious juveniles;

C) Individuals who are handcuffed or otherwise restrained; (emphasis mine)

D) Individuals who have been recently sprayed with alcohol based Pepper Spray or who are otherwise in close proximity to any combustible material;

E) Individuals whose position or activity may result in collateral injury (e.g. falls from significant heights, operating vehicles, etc.)

In other words, we aren't going to tell you it's absolutlely wrong, but you damm well better have a first class explanation of precisely why you used a Taser in these cases. An explanation that seems to be missing in any public statements by UCLA PD on this case.

To me, it looks like we had a bad policy, badly followed in this case. Carefully crafting a policy for nonlethal weapon use, fully training peace officers in implementing that policy, and strictly enforcing that policy is very important. As others have stated upstream, these weapons can be considered nonlethal only if properly used, and there is a well established tendency for police to use such weapons in the most "effective" way, even if unsafe. For example, so called "rubber bullets" (sometimes called baton rounds) are intended to be fired at the ground in front of rioters, to strike them in the legs. However, there have been a number of documented cases of such rounds being fired directly at the chest or head -- which does stop someone much more effectively, but has a decent chance of seriously injuring or killing the target.

(One thing I have noticed as well -- not only is the UCLA PD not publicly charging this student with the kind of threatening behavior that might justify this kind of response, but as we move further away from the original UCLA PD statement, the more the University seems to be carefully and gradually distancing itself from that story. YouTube did not help, and as the LA Times pointed out, it appears that the Administration has gotten quite a few calls from parents and alumni.)

Of course, all the above only applies to the police actions in reference to the student in question. Threatening to Taser someone for asking for your badge number is simply assault with no justification at all.

#99 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2006, 01:54 PM:

The Lesson of Columbine is that when oppressed by jocks, sometimes geeks respond with overwhelming firepower.

As for the current situation, I'd shave off all of my excess facial hair to reduce the possibility of being incorrectly profiled as a terrorist were it nor for the fact that I have blue eyes. I've had a quadruple bypass, I can't afford to be tasered.

#100 ::: Scott Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2006, 02:21 PM:

gren knight wrote -
Why does this university employ such a large number of police officers in the first place? What are they afraid off? (I've attended universities in Germany and Britain. They employ security guards to make sure doors are locked and people park their cars in the right places. The idea that there would be armed police on campus as a matter of fact is frightening on its own.)

UCLA is a campus of about 35k students and 3500 faculty and staff - so it's essentially a small city of almost 40k people, located in a city district (the Westwood district of Los Angeles) of slightly larger. size (about 50k). If the numbers given above are correct, they've got a "safety officer" to student/staff ratio of about 212:1 - which is about half that of the city of LA (LAPD has about 7 thousand officers, and LA proper has a population of about 4 million, giving a ratio of about 600:1 not counting LA County Sherrifs, the CHP, etc.).

Why they have armed police? That's fairly standard with many State school systems, which often use their state police forces for part or all of security duties on their campuses - this was a sticking point for students at the SUNY schools when I was younger, as at RIT or UofR you were likely to get yelled at and possibly written up if you were overly rambunctious or caught with alcohol underage at a party - at SUNY Brockport, you could get arrested and jailed.

Do they need them? I dunno - I know most of the dudes at SUNY Brockport were pretty damn bored most of the time, but the only real problems they had were on-campus (thefts, occasional fights, date rapes, etc.) and incidents with the townies once in a while. But SUNY Brockport is fifteen some-odd miles of suburb and nothing from the nearest city (Rochester). While UCLA isn't exactly next to the barrios (unless you consider Brentwood and Hollywood the barrios...), it's still in a major metropolitan city of 4 million people - slightly different demographics and security concerns.

#101 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2006, 02:22 PM:

For what it's worth, I completely agree about the reality of very good cops. I've seen some in action and known some as family friends. Law enforcement is a worthy calling, and some of the people who take it up are fully worthy of it and the confidence the law vests in them.

The problem is that a lot of cops aren't like that, and we live in an era where it is harder and harder to undo tragic mistakes they're underway. Anyone who gives serious grief to a cop whose requests are clear, polite, and obviously reasonable is being a bit of a jerk, but anyone who declines to submit to a cop whose demands are unclear, rude, impossible, or overtly inappropriate is doing just the right thing.

#102 ::: Eric ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2006, 02:24 PM:

Abi @ #92: I don't think anybody here is implying that all law enforcement officers are bad. I--and presumably many others--have friends who've worn the uniform, acted honorably, de-escalated dangerous situations, and generally behaved as professionals.

But to digress for a moment, consider the burn-out rates among people who do tech support. They start out happy and friendly, and within about 6 months, most of them are laughing at stories of the BOFH tormenting users. To survive in tech support for more than a couple of years, you need an angelic personality.

A police force is (among other things) tech support for society. But instead of dealing with people who forget to plug their computer in, you get to deal with wife-beaters and drug dealers. And after a while, some officers begin to dislike that segment of the public they usually encounter. But unlike sysadmins, police officers get tasers and weapons. Imagine a real-life BOFH, equipped with a cattle-prod and a bit of privacy.

This is a fundamental dynamic of law enforcement. Combine it with the human tendency to abuse power just for kicks, and you have a deep, systemic problem.

Now, the US works extremely hard to overcome this dynamic. Police officers are carefully screened; bullies and psychopaths are kept out; and a professional culture is carefully built. Miranda is a key piece of this professional culture, as are habeas corpus and the rights of the accused.

And thus, we get many excellent police departments, as you've experienced. But all this can break down, either in certain cities (LA), or by undermining the professional culture. And then you no longer have competent police officers; you only have pigs (as they used to say).

And a lot of people are OK with that: They enjoy watching violence against anyone who is different, and they always argue, "Hey, the perp had it coming!" I mentioned Milgram upthread, because his research on this subject was clear: People generally defer to anyone in uniform, no matter how inhumanly cruel, unless somebody else challenges the abuse of power loudly and swiftly.

If you're ever willing to say, "Hey, he mouthed off to the cops; he had it coming," you're willing to do anything: Turn your neighbors in to the secret police, lynch the uppity black folk, or personally torture an innocent victim. You're just waiting for somebody in uniform to ask.

And this is why I'm complaining so loudly about the officers in the video: Their behavior is what happens when cops go bad, and if we don't oppose it loudly and swiftly, the rot will spread, infecting both the police and the public.

#103 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2006, 02:25 PM:

Only peripherally related:

I (OK, the Beeb) note that the UK Attorney General, Lord Goldsmith, has come out against a further extension of the right to hold terrorist suspects without charge. He says he sees no evidence that it's needed. The current limit is 28 days (scarily long in itself).

Mind you, he's still backing post-charge questioning of suspects, even in non-terrorist matters, and the use of telephone intercepts in court without necessarily revealing their sources. So he's not all wonderful, but it is nice seeing someone in the judicial system who isn't trying to tighten the iron fist in every way possible.

#104 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2006, 02:26 PM:

Lylassandra, in actual fact, I know plenty of good cops; that's one reason I know, too, that that's not who tasered this student. Good cops, on the whole, know how to defuse tense situations; they also try to avoid creating confrontations to begin with.

The police, along with any other profession which gives individuals power over other individuals, attracts its share of natural bullies looking for a way to express their need for domination (cynically, I think there's a higher number of bullies who become PE teachers and physicians, though). They don't make anyone safer.

#105 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2006, 02:32 PM:

Of course there are decent cops in the world. Lots of them. A reasonably well-known writer who sometimes posts comments to this weblog is married to one of them. Along with firefighters, EMTs, and other people who put themselves in danger for a living, decent cops are part of what makes civilization civil. There had better be a lot of them, or we're in trouble.

Unfortunately, police work is a profession that also attracts some of nature's true thugs. At a time when our basic rights are being overtly stripped from us, it's entirely rational for everyday citizens to categorically distrust the police. It's particularly rational for everyday citizens who happen to look like they might be Middle Eastern. I'm sorry if this hurts anyone's feelings. I'm afraid I really can't regard those feelings as Problem A.

If your basic reaction to the UCLA story is to tut-tut over people making generalizations about cops, allow me to suggest that you have some priorities you need to reconsider.

#106 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2006, 02:44 PM:

Eric @102:

I was reacting primarily to these two comments. In both cases, the commentors are making very broad-brush assumptions about the police as a whole.

Kevin Andrew Murphy @82:
...when any of them get accused of wrongdoing, they all seem to link arms and protect that person with a show of solidarity? Even if the evidence so clearly shows that a crime was commited.
...
I'd also like to ask all the officers how often they lie in the performance of their duties, if they have ever been caught in a lie, and if they are ever surprised when someone doubts the word of an officer of the law. Again, with a polygraph.

Martin Wisse @89:
The police is never your friend, is not interesting in anything other than protecting themselves and will always see anybody they interact with as criminals and will treat them as such.

Speaking personally, I prefer a society with a police force to one without one. It's worth my efforts to keep it effective, even if that means not making easy generalisations from bad examples.

I agree that police forces are risky things, because power attracts people who shouldn't have it. What I, personally, can do about that is to question abuses of individual police officers while not generalising to the entire institution. As I said above, if we treat the police as "them", they'll treat us as "them".

Even my parents the uber-hippies (I was in the People's Park riot before I was born) taught me to seek out a police officer if I ever got lost. I teach my children the same thing.

#107 ::: Jules ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2006, 02:51 PM:

Marilee #74: Clark, #68, the kid was not trespassing. He was a student at the library and allowed to be there after 11pm. He either forgot his card or didn't feel like having to prove he had one. That's not trespassing.

As I understand the definition of trespassing, he was (at least according to some accounts): he was on private property, had been asked to leave, adequate time had been given for him to comply, and he hadn't. Unless some prior arrangement had described how notice of termination of his license to use the premises should be presented, the fact of being asked to leave by a representative of the university administration is, I believe, enough to put him (legally speaking) in the wrong.

Still, I don't see how that would justify using a taser on him. Not even once, let alone multiple times.

And I have to agree with the comments in #97 -- the idea of armed police being permanently present on a university campus just seems scary to me. I don't really see why UCLA would need that kind of security when European institutions of a similar kind seem to survive with just a general-purpose unarmed security staff with no special legal authority. The security arrangements at my university certainly seemed adequate to the task. Admittedly, Warwick's only half the size of UCLA, but I don't see why that would make any difference.

#108 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2006, 02:52 PM:

PNH @105:

If your basic reaction to the UCLA story is to tut-tut over people making generalizations about cops, allow me to suggest that you have some priorities you need to reconsider.

If that's to my address, you must have missed the start of my comment.

What a horrendous video. I hope there is a fair and independent investigation, and that its findings are acted on.

In other words, investigate and treat them with the full weight of the justice system, unlike what they did to him.

...it's entirely rational for everyday citizens to categorically distrust the police.

And here we part company. As I said above, the more we treat the police as "them", the more they'll treat us as "them". We need more solidarity with the police, not less, so that each side sees the other as part of a shared community.

I understand that people who are more likely to be targeted may react with extra caution. Surely then the risk involved in both oversight and outreach falls more squarely on those of us who are less likely to be hassled?

#109 ::: beth meacham ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2006, 03:00 PM:

As I understand the definition of trespassing, he was (at least according to some accounts): he was on private property, had been asked to leave, adequate time had been given for him to comply, and he hadn't. Unless some prior arrangement had described how notice of termination of his license to use the premises should be presented, the fact of being asked to leave by a representative of the university administration is, I believe, enough to put him (legally speaking) in the wrong.

He was a student at the University, he had student ID (but not on him) and he had every right to be there. Can a police officer come into your house, demand your Identification, assault you, taser you, and charge you with trespassing if you don't produce it immediately?

The student was not trespassing. He forgot his ID.

#110 ::: little light ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2006, 03:33 PM:

abi @ 108:
And here we part company. As I said above, the more we treat the police as "them", the more they'll treat us as "them". We need more solidarity with the police, not less, so that each side sees the other as part of a shared community.
I understand that people who are more likely to be targeted may react with extra caution.

And here, we--hmm.
I've gotten a lot of flak in some activist communities for insisting on seeing police as people. I believe in the project of law enforcement. I know there are good people doing it. When I'm volunteering as a street medic or with my local safety patrol, I make a point of trying to communicate with police, to negotiate and help them understand that I'm there to offer first aid, not to do anyone, least of all them, harm. I believe in community policing, as well, and that "shared community" ethos.

But having had some terrible experiences and having read about and heard about more, what I cannot do is trust that police I meet, in general, are interested in sharing that vision with me. I know there are police who do so, and this includes many of the police I meet, but nothing--nothing--can assuage my learned wariness of armed law enforcement. And this is a rational caution. I'm brown, and I'm transgendered, and there is a very ugly history of what can happen to people like me when we're too trusting of the police.

I don't like the generalizations, either, but it's not unlike my lacking inherent trust in random young men I run into on the street at night. Most of them are undoubtedly decent guys, but if I'm out alone and it's late, it's foolish of me to let my guard down. I'm not judging every one of those guys or assuming anything much about them; I'm just keeping my guard up and taking precautions. Similarly, I hate to say, it's foolish of me to count on the protection, benevolence, or impartiality of the police, if I want to stay safe, and I know I'm not alone in that.

#111 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2006, 03:47 PM:

little light @110,

It sounds to me like you have the balance about right, particularly for your set of circumstances. There is a distinction between choosing how much to trust the police and treating them all as you would treat the worst of them, which was the thread I saw emerging here.

Since I'm neither brown nor transgendered, my balance of trust is a little different. But with the greater safety, I think, comes a greater responsibility. I'm in a better position to challenge police abuses (like the white girl who asked for badge numbers in the library). It sounds an awful lot like the white man's burden when I put it like that. Maybe a better way to say it is that I can compensate for my extra safety by taking an extra risk.

But those challenges only come across as reasoned and mature - and therefore more likely to be listened to - if I don't come off as pre-judging every police officer as hostile.

#112 ::: Don Fitch ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2006, 03:48 PM:

Patrick #105 :" If your basic reaction to the UCLA story is to tut-tut over people making generalizations about cops, allow me to suggest that you have some priorities you need to reconsider."

Precisely. It is (IMO) _always_ appropriate and important to question the actions of people in positions of Authority. Maybe nine times out of ten you won't get the shocking answer you expected or hoped to get, but establishing that tenth time, and doing what we can about it, is one of our major responsibilites and priorities as citizens.

Is it going to cost the taxpayers a bunch of money (and effort) to establish responsibility in this case? Yup. Is it going to cost us an even bigger bunch of money & effort to re-vamp local police systems to greatly reduce the unnecessary use of force, and keep them that way? Yup. These are foundation-stones of our society, and (relatively) unflawed foundation-stones don't come cheap & easy.


#113 ::: Julia E. Smith-Ruetz ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2006, 03:55 PM:

little light, at #110:

I don't like the generalizations, either, but it's not unlike my lacking inherent trust in random young men I run into on the street at night.

Precisely: I don't trust anyone I don't know until I can recognize them as an individual and have evidence that they are trustworthy.

I believe in the big city they call that "street smart."

I've never been arrested; I have been abused by police when I was the complainant; had flashlights shown in my eyes at close range when I (1) was pointing to where a lock had been ripped off the storage building by thieves. and (2) had asked politely that the officer NOT do that, as it would precipitate migraine (three days of laying in the dark puking for trying to cooperate in the investigation of a plague of thefts from outbuildings that had swept our neighborhood, thanks ever so).

On the other hand, I also watched different cops talk down a drunk eighty year old neighor who was threatening my sister with a machete- long story, not terribly interesting- and defuse the whole bad situation with, at the end, nobody getting mad.

#114 ::: TomB ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2006, 04:13 PM:

Police forces aren't perfect, but they are a major upgrade from what they replaced. Because they are very lightly armed, they can be allowed to be under local control without being perceived as a threat to the national government. The practical alternatives to police forces are direct policing by an army, for example the US in Iraq, or policing by heavily armed local forces such as the warlords in Afghanistan. Both alternatives involve less local control and greater risk of armed conflict.

The recent trends towards greater militarization of police forces, such as SWAT teams, armed park rangers, and so on, as well as the many troubling incidents that keep happening, show how easy it is to backslide to old models of policing. What we're trying to get away from is also what we are used to and understand the best. On the other side, our police forces are more professional, better trained, have a better understanding of human psychology, have a renewed focus on community policing, and have vastly improved information and communications technology. Police now can be much more effective without being more militaristic.

Through its actions, the UCPD has become a shining bad example in the important national debate over police work and civil rights. If things go as they should, the UCPD will get some satisfaction from becoming a much better police department, and from helping other police departments avoid making the same mistakes. This will not be fun for the UCPD, but they didn't have to volunteer.

#115 ::: Emma ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2006, 04:20 PM:

As someone who, over the course of a twenty-five year career in libraries has had to deal with the clinically deranged, the drunk, the belligerent, and the merely obnoxious, I can tell you one thing: this incident stinks.

Most academic libraries in urban settings try to limit access to students with I.D. during late nights, simply to minimize the possibility of confrontations during times when the library is usually not fully staffed (most libraries have large contingents of part-timers and student assistants working those hours, supervised by one or two professionals). There is usually a policy in place about dealing with students who forget their I.D. (plenty do, especially around exam and final paper time):

--student doesn't produce i.d. when asked
--student is asked to come to the circulation desk
--student's library records are checked on the library database
--student is given a warning that being in the library without I.D. is a violation of the rules
--a note is put in the student record

If the student is a repeat offender or particularly obnoxious, he is asked to leave BY THE SENIOR LIBRARY STAFFER. Many students can be disrespectful to student assistants, figuring that they are their equal. A senior library staff with the power to put the student on academic probation is another matter altogether.

And yes, they give you dirty looks, and take their own sweet time in packing up their belongings. But they go.

I think,though, there is a legitimate question regarding the first call to the police. Usually, someone calling from the library saying "we have a student without I.D. refusing to leave and acting obnoxious" would produce two uniform guys (or gals), not a bunch seemingly primed to deal with a riot.

#116 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2006, 04:23 PM:

TomB @114

Agreed. An additional concern about the militarisation of the police is to do with their recruitment and training.

The growth in "boot camp" police training programs worries me, because one of the goals of such programs is to build unit loyalty. I can see the value of such loyalty to the police - the feeling that one can rely on one's mates - but it doesn't serve the public very well.

There are two problems. First of all, the protective instinct kicks in when any member of the team is attacked, even when the attack is a member of the public with a perfectly legitimate criticism.

The second problem is that, because members of the public haven't gone through the tough training, police officers may not feel that they are entitled to judge people who have.

Both of these tendencies worry me, though I know these programs produce many fine, committed officers. I'd still prefer a less military force.

#117 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2006, 04:26 PM:

Oh, cool, Emma. Thank you very much for the reality check about procedure and experience.

#118 ::: Edward Oleander (Detox Nurse) ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2006, 06:07 PM:

Clark #56: Telepathy or whatever allows knowing intentions must be nice - never reliably developed in my world.

Study harder. Years of seeing a huge variety of resistance methods (and the response and attitudes of authority) on a near daily basis gives not telepathy, but good insight into the psychology of these situations. I stand by my assertion.

I'd really like to know why the official version just can't be true?

Who ever said it can't be? It changes nothing. The police used excessive force beyond the needs of the situation. They did so deliberately and with a specific plan/goal in mind. The sequence of events once the tasing began clearly indicates that.

Clark #63: 58 They [Tasers] are less lethal than firearms Depends

DEPENDS? There's a few areas of knowledge never reliably developed on your world, my friend.

Samantha #79: Nobody shouts that angrily without making similarily violent movements with their body, especially if they perceive a threat to themselves. In my opinion, from what I know and what I have perceived, the first tasering was fully justified.

Wrong and wrong. I have people shout in my face every day, and very few of them ever actually take a swing at me. In seven years, only a couple dozen have become assaultive, and only half of those make an all-out (i.e. dangerous) attack.

The first tasering was in NO WAY justified. I've been there, and this wasn't even close.

TomB #114 & Emma #115: Excellent observations.

#119 ::: Samantha Wilson ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2006, 06:13 PM:

Does anyone know of any blogs run by any of these students? They might have posted accounts of the incident.

Teresa, #88, As I said, I'm just working off of what I heard. That is all I have to base my conclusions on, and unless someone knows where there is a video that actually shows him when he's protesting and will share that, or provides a blow-by-blow account written by an observer (I'm sure they're out there, I just don't know where they are,) I have no way to tell otherwise. The impression I got from the video was that he was being more than just a little belligerent. He was shouting at the top of his lungs. He was probably reacting with the rest of his body, too. If he did more than just attempt to shake off the officer's grip, he could have been perceived as a threat.

If I were a juror at the trial of these cops (I'm very glad I'm not one of a certain twelve people in LA right now,) with the knowledge I have so far, and someone asked me what I thought of the case (disregarding procedural law,) I would say, "Okay, so I am pretty sure that Mostafa Tabatabainejad was acting angrily and without much rational thought. Most people, when they get like that, either fight or flee. He apparently fought. So, now, show me why the Tasering wasn't justified." Of course, if the Tasering really wasn't justified, the prosecution would pull out thirty or so witnesses to say that no, Tabatabainejad was just standing there with his arms at his sides and yelling and the cops wanted to shut him up. No, he sounded like he was reacting in some violent manner or another. If you know a source that tells otherwise, please post it. (I have seen both the video and the two newspaper articles and none of them are thorough enough for my satisfaction. For one thing, the first article gives the impression that he's just telling them to get off and then later uses the term "struggling".)

I think that a single, swift, effective strike, to take an attacker out of combat without severely crippling or injuring them, is always the best policy. But then, I think that Afghanistan went quite well, until the government jumped the gun and went into Iraq before settling things in Afghanistan. So yes, except in the cases of exceptionally small individuals (who wouldn't be able to fight against trained officers of average stature and above average self-defense training in the first place,) a single Taser shot does make for an effective answer to being assaulted. So the first Taser shot was probably justified. The others, however, were highly unjustified. The possible racism in the CSO asking Tabatabainejad for his ID was also unjustified, if indeed it was racism. I am not pardoning the officers for what they did. Rather, I am arguing that the first measure, the first Tasering, to which many people have objected, was probably justified.

I do not think that the government has it out for everyone. I think the Bush administration has it out for everyone not like them, and I think that now that the Democrats control two houses of Congress, the current administration's power will be curtailed somewhat. I do not see police or the courts or politicians as a giant, malevolent Big Brother. The police system is rather nice when it is properly funded and staffed with intelligent people (proper funding has been a noticeable problem in the past six years.) While we could use a general audit of personnel in many places, and we could definitely use another Teddy Roosevelt to fix the cracks, the police system works better than many others we have.

One of the chief causes of this incident, most likely, is the tension between "them" and "us". It should never have come out like this. Cops are supposed to be citizens. Normal citizens, granted a little more license than most, who keep the peace when needed. Not this evil arm of an inherently corrupt system that many people make them out to be. And yes, there is a "blue wall" where one cop stands up for another. That's another problem. Unless everybody sees the cops as citizens first and police second, the entire justice system will be worse off. Same for how many people see lawyers and corporate heads and politicians and vice versa. Remember, dehumanization is how people justify war crimes. If there were to be a revolution in this country now, and an overthrow of the government, who do you think would get trampled on by both sides? Good cops.

It's a powder keg. Racism, yes. Counter-racism, yes. But there's so much more than that. These cops committed crimes (multiple Taserings, possibly more,) after being provoked by an irrational student who had flown into a rage after being grabbed, unrightfully, by an officer of the law, after a perfectly legal and civil exchange. How did such an innocent event escalate into this? The answer: people overreacted. Everybody overreacted. Why? Because there's too much tension in this country, tension that the ill-advised war in Iraq and the blind administration are only winding tighter. We need to diffuse it. Fortunately, we only have two more years of Bush.

#120 ::: adamsj ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2006, 06:53 PM:

Samantha,

You sound so reasonable, yet when you say:

I think that a single, swift, effective strike, to take an attacker out of combat

and
a single Taser shot does make for an effective answer to being assaulted

you gloss over the fact that no one, not even the police, claims that the student who was Tasered assaulted anyone.

#121 ::: Lylassandra ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2006, 07:02 PM:

If your basic reaction to the UCLA story is to tut-tut over people making generalizations about cops, allow me to suggest that you have some priorities you need to reconsider.

As my sister goes to UCLA, my first thought on the story was something along the lines of, oh my god, was she there? And general worry about her safety on a campus like that. My second thought was about how much that incident completely sucked.

My first reaction to the comments is what I posted. If I'd been the first one to post (which I wouldn't have been, as I only hang here occasionally and have never posted before) I would have commented on the incident itself. Instead I read other people's reactions, and it just bothered me personally. It's a personal beef more than anything else.

#122 ::: JC ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2006, 07:02 PM:

#119 Samantha:I think that a single, swift, effective strike, to take an attacker out of combat without severely crippling or injuring them, is always the best policy

Would it be out of line for me to suggest that Tabatabainejad was not a combatant, much less an attacker? (Or at least that it is begging the question to state that he was?) The term combatant implies to me equivalent status of participants on all sides. I don't think that was the case here.

Then again, I also don't understand why it is so crucial for his arms to be at his sides. This has been brought up several times now. It seems to me that one can flail ways that do not imply physical attack.

#123 ::: beth meacham ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2006, 07:10 PM:

Also, no one seems to have pointed out that a taser can put the victim into convulsions. No one who is in a convulsive state can "be still" or "stand up". Hitting a person in convulsion with the device that causes the convulsion, as a response to the convulsions, is utterly counterproductive, as well as pretty definitionally torture.

#124 ::: vian ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2006, 07:28 PM:

I'm ever so glad I'm antipodean. Our law enforcement officers seem to reap the consequences of such violence.

Mind you, there was the usual amount of state-sponsored thuggery at the G20 summit held here over the weekend. The press made much of "violent and agressive" members of the crowd. To my eyes, most people who could be so described had brought their horses and/or truncheons with them. Many had also mysteriously left their badges at home, so IDing them won't be possible. I suppose someone should taser them.

#125 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2006, 07:55 PM:

Oh, one semi-correction to the original post:

A lot of what's being done to "enemy combatants" has been done - and is being done - to American prisoners all across the country. Some prisons are run well and responsibly. Many have always been vile hellholes, places to make the most skeptical soul feel the presence of evil manifest in violence and degredation. Now the wardens have bigger pens.

#126 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2006, 08:26 PM:

Let me point out that I was saying that often police are not held to account for such actions and that's why they can get away with them--I wasn't making any general statement about police personnel. This is, in fact, not a failing of the police; it's failing of the courts, legislatures, and executive authorities who oversee the police and can forbid such actions, and with a substantial fraction of the public, who support such actions, and provide the base of support for these abuses of authority.

#127 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2006, 08:44 PM:

Little light #93: "I spent a night in jail once. I hadn't really done anything, as the court later determined, but that didn't matter while I was in lockup and before the trial."

Afew years back I was stunned to realize that, in reality, the US legal system has only a very weak presumption of innocence. The system overall is biased towards prosecution for a number of reasons. As if this were not enough some--let me emphasize some--PDs assume that anyone they arrest is guilty. And, again, there is hopelessly inadequate oversight.

#128 ::: TomB ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2006, 09:49 PM:

Randolph: I blame the education system. I can understand why teachers would want to emphasize "this is how we behave" and not go into all the gory details of how often people don't behave that way. But it sure does leave the kids unprepared to deal with the scam artists, nut cases and thugs that are so unavoidable in our society, because like, they own a lot of it.

#129 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2006, 09:50 PM:

Randolph @ 127

Add to that that there are people who, as jury members, are perfectly happy to believe that anyone arrested by the police must be guilty, or they wouldn't have been arrested.

#130 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2006, 10:08 PM:

None of the cops who were present for this incident should ever be able to work in any public capacity again. They should also be barred from working in the security industry in any capacity.

Goddam fucking Gestapo. In my heart I want them to be tasered until they lose consciousness. Every day for a year.


#131 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2006, 10:45 PM:

Not long ago, I was leaning against a horse who touched an electric fence. The shock went through both of us, and because of the way he happened to touch the fence, the resulting muscle lock kept him touching it for...well, I don't know how long it actually was. Long enough that I got frightened that I couldn't feel my heart beat when I thought it should.

When the contact was broken, I couldn't move my legs. I could not have moved if my life had depended on it--I tried, because I was in a pasture of horses who were stirred up, and that is not a safe place to be standing. Weirdly, I didn't fall over--probably because my leg muscles were still locked. But I couldn't move, and I was deeply frightened about what might have just happened to my heart.

The shock from an electric fence is nothing close to the shock from a Taser. That kid must have been terrified and utterly panicked.

#132 ::: Joe Crow ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2006, 11:16 PM:

I think it's important for us not to lose sight of the fact that the police are not supposed to be our enemies and when law-abiding people fear the police because of the actions of the police and government, this is a deeply wrong situation that needs to be corrected immediately rather than "yeah, it's always that way, whaddya expect?"

Well, up until about 40 years ago, that's pretty much the way it was. Miranda and associated legal principles, (including the notion that stomping confessions out of non-white/non-middle class people is a bad idea) are much more recent notions than most people seem to be aware. For that matter, our nine Supreme Nazgul have been dismantling a lot of those associated legal principles while nobody's looking.

See, I know a fair number of cops here in town, so I'm fairly comfortable dealing with them. I don't think I'd characterize it as "trust", rather experience. Outside of town, I'd be a lot more careful and less casual dealing with law officers, and I'd definitely think carefully about voluntarily involving the police in any conflict (violent or non) I was involved in. It's just good sense. Police, on the whole, are interested in quiet rather than justice.

#133 ::: Sean Bosker ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2006, 11:26 PM:

I have a modest proposal. Despite the stories of witnesses, and the video footage, the official account seems to be at odds with the popular account that a man who was in restraints and on the ground was repeatedly tasered. A fact-finding procedure involving humane interrogation with the simple, non-lethal tools of sleep-deprivation, near hypothermic cold, and water boarding might coax the truth from the officers. We'll never know unless we try.

#134 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2006, 12:13 AM:

Here's another modest proposal: if the officers involved are found guilty, they could be locked in a taser pillory on campus, where the students could walk by and give them shocks at the press of a button, for the duration of their judicially assigned punishment (with a webcam to record the results and to allow students with valid university accounts to participate online as well).

#135 ::: Vian ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2006, 12:44 AM:

A fact-finding procedure involving humane interrogation with the simple, non-lethal tools of sleep-deprivation, near hypothermic cold, and water boarding might coax the truth from the officers. We'll never know unless we try.

Unfortunately, someone would have to administer these non-lethal tools, and who would we condemn to that fate? I couldn't do it, or ask someone to do it (despite my earlier comment on this thread about tasering PCs without ID, which was uncalled for, and would make me as bad as them). Turning young men and women who once must have had empathy and compassion into Lyndie (sp?) England is too high a price to pay.

#136 ::: Lisa Spangenberg ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2006, 01:36 AM:

You do need to have your ID to use those computers, and, as a practical matter, you need it all the time -- it serves as a door key, for instance, and a phone card, and a library card.

The CSOs are students; the officers are trained professional cops, and the UCLA job is a highly sought after position. I've mostly been very impressed with the UCPD. It's a huge campus, with town/gown issues, and most of the problems are from non-campus folk.

But this instance -- it's inexcusable. It doesn't matter that he should have his ID available, it doesn't matter at all; there are a number of other options they could have used. Tasering was not appropriate and the repeated use was also not appropriate, and yes, this is a huge issue on campus, both in the student body government, and the faculty senate.

#137 ::: Cliff ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2006, 01:40 AM:

Am I insane for finding the response to the request for badge numbers somehow more offensive?

It seems like a meta-infraction: if we can't get cops' badge numbers without being threatened, forget about getting any sort of handle on police brutality since you can't even know who the offenders are. The same way perjury is seen as flouting the law on a more fundamental level than whatever crime.

Other am-I-insane question is, I don't believe I've seen Clark assert one way or the other which side he believes on the facts in question -- indeed he may, lacking data, not have a definite belief or opinion on those matters. I know *I* don't, though I have my suspicions. His point, it seems to me, is that the undisputed facts already indict the cops' actions -- why go making unwarranted assumptions? I.e., even if the cops' story is true, they're still wrong.

This strikes me as a good point to make, for the same reasons that it was good to point out that even if Saddam wants nukes/is a bad guy/etc. invading pre-emptively is wrong, period.

Because once you start getting down into the nitty gritty, the details of whether or not he lusts for nukes, of whether or not the student was leaving/being a dick -- you can be taken, and will be taken, as implicitly endorsing the view that those facts would change the judgment. And then you get dragged down into these nickel-and-dime arguments over disputed facts which given enough spin become increasingly indeterminate, the sort of Heisenberg's-with-extreme-prejudice that rules more and more politically colored questions these days (are people born gay, when is an embryo alive, does global warming exist, do guns kill people, what's the real reason for the qwerty layout...).

I mean, does Schiavo's goofy grin mean she's conscious? Are some of the prisoners at Abu Ghraib nasty little terroristseses? Fuck that noise, because it's not the point. The point is, you don't do that shit, and don't try to draw me into these semifactual debates which implicitly endorse your if-then.

#138 ::: Kevin Andrew Murphy ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2006, 02:33 AM:

Actually, what I'd like to see is the whole legal case--questioning, witnesses and all--be broadcast on Court TV. It seems a reasonable enough case to shine some light on.

Barring that, I hope that Rob Thomas and the crew for the notedly taser-happy college-library-working Veronica Mars might pick this up as a news item to lightly fictionize for an episode.

#139 ::: inge ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2006, 02:34 AM:

abi (#106):

In both cases, the commentors are making very broad-brush assumptions about the police as a whole.

Martin Wisse @89:
The police is never your friend,

Speaking personally, I prefer a society with a police force to one without one.

Apples and oranges. Just because someone performs a necessary job doesn't mean they are on your side. Railroads are good to have, too, but you do not want to get hit by a train.

#140 ::: A.R.Yngve ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2006, 04:15 AM:

Have you read the essay "The Paranoid Style In American Politics"?

The cops in the library who tasered that student -- I don't know what they could have been thinking (not much conscious thinking, perhaps)... but I'm fairly sure they weren't thinking "As servants to the Republican administration, we must do our Master's bidding... by your command, President!"

If you wish, you can use the same Paranoid Style thinking against the unfortunate student: "He had a Moslem/Arab name, thus he was one of Them, and therefore he was Up To No Good, and We had to Get Him before he Gets Us."

It is "Us Vs. Them" thinking that destroys societies. "You're either with us, or against us." Dubya didn't invent that trope. It props up regularly in American political discourse.

#141 ::: Kit ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2006, 05:14 AM:

I agree with A.R. Yngve on the 'us versus them' issue. From an outsider's perspective, I think the problem isn't to do with who governs that particular state, it's to do with American guard behaviour. I recently travelled through America and the campus guards' behaviour, while it infuriates me, doesn't surprise me. In different states I found the same thing: a hair-triggered authoritarianism from anyone in a position of authority, an aggressive anybody-I-don't-know-is-one-of-the-bad-guys paranoia.

For instance: going through customs check in Los Angeles airport, I walked through the gate, carried on a few paces, then paused to wait for my boyfriend, who was still at the desk. About three seconds after I stopped walking, a guard stood up and ordered me to move on, with the air of a man speaking to a prisoner the day after a riot rather than an airport official speaking to a customer. I explained that I was just waiting for my boyfriend to get past the desk (it was a big airport and I didn't want to disappear on him) ... well, the guard got extremely aggressive, with a 'don't you try anything' attitude, as if I was being threatening. He didn't physically threaten me, but if I'd shouted at him (which I certainly felt like doing as he was being, from an international perspective, astonishingly, gratuitously rude), I can easily see the incident escalating. It was the same in New York - stand anywhere near somewhere they didn't want you to be, even if you weren't trying to go in, and you'd be pounced on; explain that you didn't mean any harm, and you?d be smacked down for backchat.

Small incidents - but, if you're used to countries where they don't happen, very, very menacing.

A big section of American officialdom as I experienced it seemed to have this aggression towards the non-uniformed that shocked me - and I'd just travelled through Japan, where train drivers offer to resign if they get thirty seconds behind schedule. The whole attitude was, 'I don't know you, so I'm going to assume you're the bad guy till you go away.' I'm not at all surprised they started torturing this guy and threatening his fellow students. American security staff seem to be fundamentally frightened of strangers. And if they don't know you, more or less anything that calls you to official attention marks you as a threat, and one you're marked as a threat, anything at all that you do only makes things worse.

#142 ::: Dan Guy ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2006, 08:46 AM:

The video is hard to watch. As long as it went on, I'm surprised that the crowd didn't turn on the cops.

#143 ::: John ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2006, 08:56 AM:

I had an encounter at an airport similar to Kim #141 as well. My wife and I had flown into Hilo Airport and while I went to get the rental car, she retrieved our luggage. After getting the car I then drove around and around the "racetrack" waiting on my wife to arrive at the loading area with the luggage, since I was not allowed to stop and wait (the armed and uniformed Hawaii NG soldier made that very clear to me).

Finally I saw her approaching in the distance (maybe 30 yards away), stopped the car and went to help her haul the luggage to the vehicle, as I could tell she was struggling with the contraption. The NG soldier unslung his rifle and in no uncertain tone ordered me to remain with my vehicle at all times. Even pointing to my wife struggling with the cart and saying I only wanted to assist her with it didn't make a bit of difference to him; rules were rules and walking 100' away was too far.

These policemen used their "nonlethal" weapons on this man because they had them available, pure and simple. They believed they would only hurt and not permanently harm him, so what's the problem? It's the same thought process that precedes the use of pepper spray on peaceful demonstrators, and rubber bullets to break up crowds. Since it is nonlethal we can use it when we want to; it would not surprise me to see tasers being used on routine traffic stops "just in case the person stopped turns violent".

Preemptive violent action to stop possible violence. That's how some police are rationalizing their use of these weapons in these situations.

#144 ::: Vicki ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2006, 09:55 AM:

Jules @ 107:

As described, he was in the process of leaving when the cops approached him.

Leaving a location you've been asked to leave is not trespassing.

If both leaving and not leaving counted equally as "trespassing," the moment someone was asked to leave a location, there would be absolutely nothing acceptable they could do, including following the instructions of the police or other authority. That would not only be illogical and immoral, it would be stupid from the viewpoint of the authorities: you don't get people to cooperate by punishing them as badly for doing what you want as for not doing what you want.

#145 ::: Caroline ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2006, 11:15 AM:

I've been in situations where people around me were mouthing off to the cops, in potentially much more volatile situations that this was, and no one got tasered. For example: October 11, 2000, during the protest of the presidential debates in Winston-Salem, NC. [Yes, yes, God help us, we were demonstrating for Nader. I was just 18 and my knowledge was inversely proportional to my idealism.]

We turned a corner at the end of the march and faced a wall of riot cops. Yes, we all proceeded to sit down to demonstrate our peaceful intentions. After about an hour, though, one of the guys I was with decided to get up in one of the cops' faces and start teasing him, saying bizarre things, dancing, trying to make him react.

In retrospect this was a pretty dumbshit thing to do. The cops were obviously there prepared for violence. There were a lot of us. They were backed up against a fence. The cop couldn't see that my friend was unarmed, because he was wearing a medium-heavy jacket. He was getting close enough to be dangerous if he wanted to be, and he was acting erratically.

And he was brown-skinned and had a beard.

But the cop didn't react. He knew he was in control of the situation if he needed to be. My friend didn't get tasered; he didn't even get a reaction.

I imagine the training for riot police is different; they probably put more emphasis on not escalating the situation. This was also pre-9/11. They probably thought more of Kent State than terrorism.

But still. One brown-skinned guy, in the front of a fairly large demonstration, mouthing off to a cop in a situation where people on both sides are obviously prepared for things to turn violent -- no taser. Compare to another brown-skinned guy, by himself, in a quiet library, mouthing off to a campus cop as he's on his way out -- tasered repeatedly. Doesn't really add up.

#146 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2006, 11:17 AM:

I couldn't make it all the way through the video.

The thing that troubles me the most: where is the media coverage? Are the wire services embarrassed to pick up a story that YouTube beat them to?

And something else is especially troubling after recent uniform-abuse in Iraq. I'm a student sitting in a library and I get up from my desk to see why someone is screaming. I see guys in uniforms tasering a handcuffed person and threatening to taser people who ask for their identification. What grounds do I have for believing they are actually police officers?

#147 ::: Anon ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2006, 11:40 AM:

We?re ruled by people who have determined that torture is okay. Do you think it stops in Iraq?

This is a bewildering point -- do you think that police abuse never happened in America until the Iraq war? Do you think there's any causal connection? What's your evidence for *that*? Indeed, a more accurate sentiment would have been: "Police abuse has always happened in America. Do you think it wouldn't happen in Iraq?"

#148 ::: Laurence ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2006, 11:59 AM:

But to digress for a moment, consider the burn-out rates among people who do tech support. They start out happy and friendly, and within about 6 months, most of them are laughing at stories of the BOFH tormenting users. . . . Imagine a real-life BOFH, equipped with a cattle-prod and a bit of privacy.

Oh, come now. I've spent too much time doing tech support. I laugh at BOFH stories. I complain about users constantly. But I wouldn't actually taser any of them. I'd just fantasize about it, for the worst cases.

Whatever causes some people to resort to violence, it's not merely having to deal with individuals who are difficult, annoying, hostile, mendacious, and sometimes, indistinguishable from the psychotic or mentally deficient. I can testify to that.

#149 ::: Lisa Spangenberg ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2006, 01:08 PM:

There is media coverage; even off campus, there's a lot but this is, understandably, a huge issue on campus. The Chronicle of Higher Education has covered the story; I tried to link here, but you need to be a subscriber. There's a Chronicle reporter on campus now.

This is not, by the way, the first taser problem/unacceptable use on campus. I'm trying to find a Bruin report on the previous incidents, but I'm not finding one. I know I saw reports of past problems though.

#150 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2006, 01:40 PM:

Cliff: His point, it seems to me, is that the undisputed facts already indict the cops' actions -- why go making unwarranted assumptions? I.e., even if the cops' story is true, they're still wrong.

First, accepting the official report as a true account is as much an assumption as formulating plausible hypotheses from eyewitness accounts and knowledge of typical human behavior.

Second, I think it's clear that most of the people in this discussion are clear that what the police did was wrong even if the kid had been a raging putz. What's wrong with taking the discussion to the next level in this venue, then, and asking if that was actually the case? Why assume the kid was acting like a jerk, and assign bad behavior to him that may not be his, when it's just as likely that he wasn't? If the police have more wrongs to their credit than just the Tasering--although that must certainly be the worst--why should they not be held responsible for them all? Why should the lesser be dismissed?

Because once you start getting down into the nitty gritty, the details of whether or not he lusts for nukes, of whether or not the student was leaving/being a dick -- you can be taken, and will be taken, as implicitly endorsing the view that those facts would change the judgment.

Look around on other boards. As far as some people are concerned, those details do make a difference. What people here have done, time and again, is to say, "It doesn't matter if he was a jerk or not, that behavior was unjustified. And why assume those are the facts, anyway, when there's evidence to support otherwise?" In other words, to reject that the details justify the behavior, but to call them into question as well. Because they do matter. It matters if the kid was profiled because he looked a certain way. It matters if he was physically restrained as he was complying with an order to leave. It matters because those things would have been wrong even without the Tasering, and bringing them to light--bringing into the open the full set of wrongs done--may save somebody else from being discriminated against, may save somebody else from being manhandled. That matters.


A.R.Yngve: The cops in the library who tasered that student -- I don't know what they could have been thinking (not much conscious thinking, perhaps)... but I'm fairly sure they weren't thinking "As servants to the Republican administration, we must do our Master's bidding... by your command, President!"

Few people actually consciously think such things, but don't you think their knowledge that "the authorities" (as defined by them) approve of such actions against "similar" (again, as defined by them) people makes it more likely they will be willing to resort to such actions? IMO, it's the stuff you absorb and play out unconsciously that's more dangerous, because it can't be logically countered.

#151 ::: Janet Brennan Croft ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2006, 02:00 PM:

Emma at #115, thank you. As I was reading these comments I was thinking along the same lines. Here at a medium-sized state university library in the heartland, we only require ID to enter the building after midnight during the two weeks a year we are open 24 hours for finals. It's for the reasons you stated -- our staff is spread too thin at those times to ensure the security of both students and their property and library property. Those extra hours are for students to study, period, in safety (as much as possible) and without distractions -- the community can use the library any other hours we are open. We can't serve everyone all the time, though we'd like to. We are paid first to serve the students, faculty, and staff of the institution, then both directly and indirectly the taxpayers of the state. Part of that means being stewards of the building and collection and protecting the students, and when we can't be everywhere, all we can do is limit access. I's not just a bureaucratic bit of grandstanding.

#152 ::: Lisa Spangenberg ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2006, 02:43 PM:

Regarding the question of ID, the lab in question is housed in the library, and it is not open for public use, because of the way it's funded.

A non-campus user can't even log onto the computers, since it requires a UCLA network ID. Usually when you enter the lab your card is checked. Random spot checks are common, even in day time, and very common at night. The "random" has more to do with the time than the check. Usually a CSO officer (a student) will just ask everyone to show an ID. The practice is not to isolate an individual; I don't know if that was done in this case.

#153 ::: Zed ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2006, 03:01 PM:

#75 the UCPD (who, by the way, are considered CA state police, not LAPD)

That's a little misleading. The California Highway Patrol is the California state police (the CSP existed as a separate organization until the two were merged in 1995.) University police are defined as having the same powers within their jursidictions, on and near campus, as the CHP [830.2(b)], but they're not a part of the same organization. But, yes, not LAPD, as you say.

#154 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2006, 03:14 PM:

#148: Re: tech support burnout

I've spent too much time doing tech support. I laugh at BOFH stories. I complain about users constantly. But I wouldn't actually taser any of them. I'd just fantasize about it, for the worst cases.

Indeed. Most institutions or entities that deal directly with the public - very definitely including ISPs - have to deal with that certain challenging segment of the public, which includes not only difficult people but some who are genuinely delusional and/or psychotic. It's a measure of the institutional or corporate culture how well and considerately they deal with such people - and you know what, many do pretty well.

My ISP sales and tech support staff was always proud of their nearly legendary ability to deal with problem customers. One of the extreme examples among our customers was the rightful Emperor of China. He did not make as good an emperor as Emperor Norton of San Francisco, and was rather a difficult person to deal with, but our staff did their best to treat him with fairness and respect because he was as much a paying customer as everyone else. (I had to deal with him sometimes too.) In the end, we were all a bit proud, because after all, having the Emperor of China for your customer is bragging rights of a sort.

#155 ::: Laurence ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2006, 04:17 PM:

In the end, we were all a bit proud, because after all, having the Emperor of China for your customer is bragging rights of a sort.

I certainly can't top that.

#156 ::: murgatroyd ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2006, 05:27 PM:

Indeed. Most institutions or entities that deal directly with the public - very definitely including ISPs - have to deal with that certain challenging segment of the public, which includes not only difficult people but some who are genuinely delusional and/or psychotic.

I once phoned a corporate customer support center (Pitney Bowes) with a question about postage machine tapes and the rep got really agitated about it (I asked whether postal tapes could be cut in half for a particular model, because older models would let you do so, and the half-tapes saved money). She got so irrationally angry I wound up hanging up the call, and she called me back to continue the rant with "I don't appreciate you hanging up on me."

Me: "Oh, really? Well ... " [slam]

I wound up calling the number again and asking for her supervisor, who apologized profusely.

I am perfectly capable of being annoying to customer service people (I just hate it when some Webmaster dweeb says "you must have cookies enabled in your browser" when it's clearly not the problem), but I didn't instigate this one.

#157 ::: murgatroyd ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2006, 05:30 PM:

Oops. Sorry -- that was clearly way off-topic.

#158 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2006, 05:40 PM:

Except in a way you weren't off topic, murgatroyd, because I think you've managed to reduce this to the root of the problem: some times people are unreasonable; the real pros don't use that antisocial behavior drive them to reciprocate in kind.

Some of us, for instance, react badly when we're tired, in the middle of doing something on deadline, and interrupted by mere reality in any form.

#159 ::: NelC ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2006, 08:27 PM:

#146, Lila: You know, if they'd been enforcers from the local Mob -- about the only possible group I can imagine that would have the resources and chutzpah to dress up as police -- sent to teach the student a lesson for whatever infraction, they probably would have escorted him quietly from the building before tasering him half to death, ironically.

#160 ::: Calton Bolick ::: (view all by) ::: November 21, 2006, 01:49 AM:

University police are defined as having the same powers within their jurisdictions, on and near campus, as the CHP

I was given to understand that ALL peace officers in California, since they derive their powers from the state constitution, have the same powers statewide. Meaning an LAPD officer has the same arrest powers in San Francisco as a San Francisco PD officer, and the whole divving up of jurisdictions is a purely bureaucratic convenience. When I was in college at Berkeley, the UCPD and the Berkeley PD were negotiating all the time about turf.

#161 ::: Bruce Arthurs ::: (view all by) ::: November 21, 2006, 01:55 AM:

#152 ::: Lisa Spangenberg ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2006, 02:43 PM:

Regarding the question of ID, the lab in question is housed in the library, and it is not open for public use, because of the way it's funded.

A non-campus user can't even log onto the computers, since it requires a UCLA network ID. Usually when you enter the lab your card is checked. Random spot checks are common, even in day time, and very common at night. The "random" has more to do with the time than the check. Usually a CSO officer (a student) will just ask everyone to show an ID. The practice is not to isolate an individual; I don't know if that was done in this case.

I'm a little confused here. Let me see if I have this straight:

1) An ID is required to work in the computer lab. Further, a special network card is required to log onto and use an actual computer.

2) Therefore, everyone IN the computer lab must have ALREADY presented their ID, and most of whom ALSO must have had the second ID necessary to activate the computer lab's computers

3) Campus Security Officers will enter the computer lab (filled with people who can ONLY be working there if they've already presented ID and only be working with the actual computers if they've already presented a second ID) at semi-random intervals and ask everyone to present their ID.

Is it impolite to ask: WHAT THE HELL FOR?

If I was working someplace where I couldn't BE working unless I had ID and had already presented it, I'd be put off and probably less than cheerful about being "requested" to show ID, when my BEING in that area was prima facie evidence that I had ALREADY presented ID when I'd entered the area.

If that was the situation, then the CSOs requesting ID was nothing more than beaureacratic dick-waving.

#162 ::: Jen Roth ::: (view all by) ::: November 21, 2006, 02:00 AM:

Just a small clarification:

Further, a special network card is required to log onto and use an actual computer.

A network ID might not be a card; at the university where I work, it refers to a username.

#163 ::: Kevin Andrew Murphy ::: (view all by) ::: November 21, 2006, 02:15 AM:

Well, if the UCLA library computer room is anything like other computer rooms with secure systems, I suspect you don't so much "present" your card to the computer as you use the student ID number on it and your password to log into the system. So it's completely possible for a student who has a valid student ID somewhere to have simply memorized it and typed it in without looking at the card.

If UCLA is anything like UCSC--and I suspect it is--the computer room at the library would hardly be the only one on campus and the "show your ID" nonsense becomes even more suspect since I'm guessing, judging from Emma's comments above, that it was put in place to safeguard the books and the various students wandering the relatively deserted stacks at the wee hours of the morning.

The computer rooms? Anyone typing on a university computer is, by the fact of them using it, obviously a student. Unless the CSOs are required to do an ID check at all the computer rooms on campus, I can't see any point in checking at the computer room at the library. And hassling someone in the middle of writing a paper is just being a pain in the ass.

#164 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: November 21, 2006, 02:31 AM:

One the one hand, somebody using the commputer knows something that a student would know.

On the other hand, just knowing something doesn't prove you are who you claim to be.

On the gripping hand, nothing I've seen or read justified using a Taser.

Bruce wossname would tell you about the security importance of combining knowledge and tokens. What went wrong is headology, not computer security.

(All together now.)

What Would Granny Weatherwax Do?


#165 ::: Lisa Spangenberg ::: (view all by) ::: November 21, 2006, 06:51 AM:

Normally, a student presents a UCLA ID card to a human attendant and is "checked in."

The UCLA ID card, the Bruin ID card is not the same as the login id/network ID--the network ID or BOL ID is derived from the student's UCLA email address.

During the night hours, when the Main CLICC lab may not be staffed, it is common for CSO student security staff to request a UCLA ID--there are for instances issues with Extension students using the lab.

It is common for CSO or UCLA PD officers to ask to see the card, or for other staff and faculty to see the card, for acess control and ID, among other reasons.

That doesn't make the tasering acceptable.

#166 ::: Kit ::: (view all by) ::: November 21, 2006, 09:24 AM:

The outstanding thing about the video is the incredible cowardice of the guards. They could easily have picked him up and carried him out, for example, but hey, he might have struggled and kicked one of their shins. Bruised shin for me? Someone else screaming in pain? Heck, I think I'll use my taser.

I wouldn't say that they consciously decided that, but they clearly didn't have the skill or courage to handle a difficult situation without resorting to horrible violence. If they'd been calm and firm, even an agitated student would have left without incident. It looks to me like a situation that got horrendously out of control because the guards were, at bottom, panicking.

But if you can't take backchat without reaching for your taser, you shouldn't have a taser. Those men were unfit for the positions of authority they occupied. Who the heck gives these people such terrible weapons?

#167 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: November 21, 2006, 10:39 AM:

There's a story about the cop who used the taser in today's LA Times. 18 years on the UC force (ie, not a CSO) and been in trouble for use of force before. More than once. (I suspect he may be off the force in a few weeks. This time may be once too many for them.)

#168 ::: Kit ::: (view all by) ::: November 21, 2006, 11:11 AM:

The cop sez:

'In this line of business, you have to have a thick skin.'

How does he square that with the fact that he electrocutes somebody for getting on his nerves? This is a man who can't take any kind of frustration at all. If he'd had a thicker skin, he would have kept his head and refrained from tasering the kid.

Let's review the article: he shot someone, he choked someone with a nightstick, he tasered someone five times for lying down.

That's three counts of potentially murderous assault with three different dangerous objects.

This man is a classic example of a lethally dangerous type: the armed coward. I say again: why in the name of all that's holy was this man allowed weapons?

#169 ::: odaiwai (formerly dave) ::: (view all by) ::: November 21, 2006, 12:14 PM:
What Would Granny Weatherwax Do?

She'd make the over enthusiastic security guards think they were frogs and they'd be terrified of anyone wearing boots.

Of course, Nanny Ogg would have got the young man to to leave the building in the vague hope that he'd probably have more fun elsewhere, which is closer to what a real security staff would do.

#170 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: November 21, 2006, 12:45 PM:

In the other strand of this thread, today's LA Times has this story:
A high-profile Houston win for 'invisible' janitors
After a monthlong strike, a contract increases pay, work hours and benefits.
By Lianne Hart, Times Staff Writer
November 21, 2006

HOUSTON ? In a major step for labor in this right-to-work city, striking janitors reached an agreement with five major cleaning companies Monday on a contract that guarantees the workers higher wages, more work hours and medical benefits.
[snip]
The contract is a first for the 5,300 Houston janitors who affiliated with the Service Employees International Union last year. Under the agreement, pay for SEIU janitors will increase to $6.25 an hour on Jan. 1. That will go up to $7.25 an hour in 2008, and $7.75 in 2009.

I hope they get more pay raise that that, but it's a start.

#171 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: November 21, 2006, 03:47 PM:

As I understand it, (I work with a lot of cops): Yes, all cops in Calif. are possessed of innate powers (what we, in the Army, call "General Military Authority: which allows me to tell colonels they are out of uniform, and chide lieutenants for trying to get out of saluting).

But the question of what is, or isn't, an infraction, or misdemeanor, varies from locale to locale (what we, in the Army, call Specific Authority, my ability to tell my troops to clean a specific latrine, at a specific time).

Since, in Calif., an arrest can only be made for things committed in the officers presence (or sworn to by a witness), unless the offense is a felony; in which case he has to have, "good reason to believe" the person arrested committed the crime (this, BTW, is the same standard to which citizens arrests are held, save that one can't make one on a sworn statement; misdemeanors require eyes-on).

This greatly reduces a cops abiltity to act outside of jurisdiction. Further (as I've been told by a lawyer friend who was irked at some off-duty cop behavior) when off duty they are, basically, civilians again, with no special powers of arrest, outside of circumstances which pose threat to life and limb of others.

I do know that, from seeing them in action; back when I spent time in Westwood, I've not got much warm fuzzy for UCLA cops.

Then again, I have a decided distrust of them; as they have power, and I don't. Experience probably tells; false arrest on the statement of another, subsequently made to disappear; thus preventing a lawsuit from the clumsy way in which the arrest was conducted, etc., all combined to make me more skeptical of them than my general disrust of authority already did.

The threat to taser the person who was demanding accountable information; that bothers me more, in some ways, than the incident itself, which I suspect to be massive over-reaction by the cops.

#172 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: November 21, 2006, 03:51 PM:

I wish, from time to time, that Tasers had a 5% (or thereabouts) backfire rate. One time in twenty, you share the zap with the guy you're zapping.

If the situation were dangerous enough, I'd risk the zap. But maybe it would make the zapper think it through sometimes.

#173 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: November 21, 2006, 04:11 PM:

On the contrary, abi, that would ensure that the taser ONLY got used when you were CERTAIN your life was not in danger. I wouldn't risk paralyzing myself unless I were SURE the other guy wasn't out to get me.

#174 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: November 21, 2006, 04:15 PM:

Yes, I know, wishful thinking. Maybe just pain but not paralysis? Some cost to the user, because at present the process is essentially consequence-free.

#175 ::: Kathryn from Sunnyvale ::: (view all by) ::: November 21, 2006, 05:24 PM:

On Profiling:
Jim MacDonald commented (in Open Thread #73) about the 6 Imams taken off a flight because a passenger was nervous.

As always seems to be the case, the passenger didn't try to talk to the Imans before or after boarding the plane. And I bet that passenger flew on to Phoenix, smugly bragging to themselves about how wonderful and brave they were.

This reminds me of Brad Templeton's blog post: Complain Someone is Suspicious, You Miss Your Flight Too.

"...This is not the first time. People have been treated as suspicious for speaking in all sorts of languages, including Arabic, Hebrew, Urdo or just being Arabs or Sikhs. Sometimes it’s been a lot worse than just missing your flight.

"So here’s a simple rule. If you want to report something as suspicious, then you don’t fly until the matter is resolved. After all, if you are really afraid, you wouldn’t want to fly. Even with the nasty foreigner pulled off the plane, you should be afraid of conspiracies with teams of villains. So you go into the holding cell and get a few questions too.

"Now frankly, I would want to do much worse when it turns out the suspect is very obviously innocent. But I know that won’t get traction because people will not want to overly discourage reports lest they discourage a real report. But based on my logic above, this should not discourage people who think they really have something. At least not the first time.

"TSA employees are of course in a CYA mode. They can’t screen out the paranoia because they aren’t punished for harassing the innocent, but they will be terribly punished if they ignore a report of somebody suspicious and decide to do nothing. That’s waht we need to fix long term, as I’ve written before."

I'm also imagining that the poison-pen-letter* passenger is very likely of a type that never has to worry about being profiled. And I imagine on Sunday they'll go to church, they'll hear the phrase 'do unto others as you'd have them do unto you,' and not the tiniest nerve in their body will signal a flinch.

* Is that the term / what is the term for people who'd write anonymous letters to the authorities, saying how wicked a neighbor is? example: In the US during WWI, saying that your neighbor speaks German.

#176 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: November 21, 2006, 05:30 PM:

I like that one. After all, innocent people should be willing to put up with a little inconvenience for our safety and security.

#177 ::: Kaz ::: (view all by) ::: November 22, 2006, 03:55 AM:

#141 Kit:

Until the conditions were lifted from my green card a few years ago, I went through what every visitor to the US goes through when entering the country: You line up and have to stand behind a yellow line. Beyond the yellow line is an armed immigration official. If you put your toe beyond the yellow line, you are screamed at to move back; the official usually has her/his hand on her/his gun while screaming at you. I first encountered it in 1994, and was terrified. I had not known anything like it before in Europe. Coming from the UK, it was mindbending.

In 1995, the US Embassy in London screwed up my fiancee visa and gave me an appointment for a time when no INS staff were available to see me. My parents had taken time off work to take me down to London, and had gone off sightseeing for a couple of hours before coming to pick me up. The Embassy staff refused to let me wait in the building, so I waited for 2 hours in the pouring rain. My Dad thought if we went back in and spoke to the officials we could surely get a rescheduled appointment. We were told we'd have to start all over again. I was cold, wet, ill, worried that I wouldn't get to marry my fiance, and burst into tears. The armed Marine in the corner cocked his weapon and screamed at us to leave immediately. My Dad said, "Or what? You'll shoot a girl for crying?" The Marine shouted, "You will leave US territory immediately! Leave the building NOW!"

You can understand that I was a tad concerned when I encountered armed police officers in the US. Actually, mainly they were ordinary, friendly people. I had the right kind of accent (English), and having a police officer for a father, I knew to look them in the eye and smile. But in the decade I lived over there, it became glaringly obvious that the police culture is more macho, and that, in general, America makes far more of the ideal of the uniformed officer than Britain does. I'm amazed that incidents like this aren't absolutely commonplace, given the pervasive fear post-9/11.

#178 ::: Alexandr Kazda ::: (view all by) ::: November 22, 2006, 06:17 AM:

The US is, unfortunately, not alone in this. I live in the Czech Republic and just yesterday an attorney refused to bring to a court a case of policeman who beat up a woman during a demonstration because she did not obey his order to stand back fast enough. It's a long story (and I can offer it only
in Czech
) but there are quite a few common points: We have a video of the beating, the policeman tries to justify his actions by saying that he had to keep peace, there were several other policemen on the scene (including our brave hero's superiors) who did nothing and the police and witness versions don't quite match.

Here's what happened after the demonstration:
The police tried to justify the beating for a while but in the end they fired the policeman in question. Court actions started taking place. I thought that the battle on police violence was won. But now this attorney says: "Nobody is going to prosecute you for beating people." The legal battle is not over yet, but this does not look good. I hope California's justice will do a better job.

Btw, yes, getting a US visa is quite a humiliating experience. I'm waiting for the time when the encouraged response to immigrantion officer's yell "Jump!" will be "How high?".

#179 ::: Alexandr Kazda ::: (view all by) ::: November 22, 2006, 06:20 AM:

Sorry, I did not get the link code right. This should work.

#181 ::: asimovina ::: (view all by) ::: November 23, 2006, 03:33 AM:

I work in that library and I can tell you for the past five years I've been there, when 11:00 pm rolls around, the CSOs come by and check IDs. Students know, even if they are there from the morning and stay through the evening, that after 11:00 pm, you have to have ID. This is for the safety of not only the students, but the staff that works there. I've worked that shift a number of times and I've been threatened with rape and physical abuse by a number of people who randomly walk into the library. While, as someone mentioned earlier in the thread, even students can be horrible people, at least it narrows the risk down a bit.

The library itself closes at 11:00pm, and the only part open at night is the reading room and the computer lab. The CSOs, students who are armed only with walkie talkies start checking for IDs. When they reached this particular student, according to a co-worker working that night, he claimed to have his ID, but he didn't want to bother showing it. He started to become aggressive, started cursing the CSOs and staff, and refused to leave. At this point, according to protocol, the CSOs warned that they would call UCPD. The student continued to curse and shout and refuse to leave, becoming overly aggressive. When the student saw the CSO actually radio UCPD, he bag to pack his bags, and start to leave, while still cursing at both the staff and students, claiming racial profiling. When the cops do show up he actually stops leaving, continues to curse and, well, you all saw what happened next. I believe that up to this point, the CSOs and staff acted in a responsible and fair manner. The student was not asked to show his ID because he was Middle Eastern, but because he was in the library after 11:00 PM. The student has the unfortunate luck to have a cop with a history of police brutality show up when called by the CSO. An interesting note: the university asked for his dismissal but UCPD did not comply.

I don't believe the student was asked to show his ID based on his middle eastern appearance (as anyone who has gone to UCLA can tell you, half our student body is a varied combination of Persian, Armenian, Iranian, Israeli, and thanks to our bright California sun, incredibly TAN students) but I do believe the officer's reaction was wholly out of line. Whether his violent reaction was the result of his own personal racial prejudices remains to be seen, but up until the point of that officer's arrival, I don't believe the student was the victim of racial profiling.

If the student wants to sue the school for not pushing to have that officer fired for brutality before the incident, I can understand. But if he wants to sue the school for racial profiling, I would be incredibly disappointed.

I'm saddened that my school has been chosen as the whipping boy for an admittedly important national issue. I do believe that the mounting racial tension in the United States is a direct result of the current adminstration's attempts at fear-mongering, I just don't believe that it had anything to do with this incident on the university's part. I do hope that the UCPD (a division of the LAPD, a department with a history of violence) takes responsibility for keeping this man on the force and that the student CSOs are no longer blamed for something they had no control over.

#182 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2006, 01:43 PM:

asimovina: I don't believe the student was asked to show his ID based on his middle eastern appearance (as anyone who has gone to UCLA can tell you, half our student body is a varied combination of Persian, Armenian, Iranian, Israeli, and thanks to our bright California sun, incredibly TAN students)

I don't follow this line of reasoning: that because there are many individuals of a certain (perceived) ethnic background in an area, it's not as likely they're being profiled or discriminated against. Why would a large percentage of a certain group within the larger population rule out prejudice on the part of the authorities? And are those authorities similarly diverse in their composition?

#183 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2006, 09:05 AM:

As a follow up to my earlier post on UCLA's Taser policy, check out this LA Times story from earlier this week on how UCLA'a policy compares to those on other UC campuses:

Police officers on six UC campuses carry Taser guns, but UCLA appears to be alone in expressly allowing officers to stun not only violent suspects but those who are passively resisting their orders.

In interviews Tuesday, top officials at university police departments across the state stressed that officers should be given discretion when using Tasers but said they thought the weapons should be used primarily against suspects who posed a physical risk.

"They are not allowed to use it on a passive person," Orville King, UC San Diego's police chief, said of his officers. "It's not to be used on a restrained person unless a person poses a threat of serious bodily injury."

UCLA's police rules allow officers to use Tasers on suspects engaging in passive resistance, which is what police said 23-year-old senior Mostafa Tabatabainejad was doing last week.

As I said above, this looks like a bad policy which in this case was badly followed, at best. Here's betting it gets quietly changed, when all the attention passes on to something else.

Of particular interest, at least to me:

At UC Merced, Police Chief Rita Spaur said her officers would not deploy a Taser unless "it was the last means to protect themselves" or other people.

"If the person is self-destructive, dangerous or highly combative, that would be a time to use it," said Spaur, whose 1-year-old department has not yet used a Taser on duty.

Why the interest? Well, I live in Merced, and the local UC police have a pretty good reputation around here. We like the new campus too.

#184 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2006, 09:27 PM:

I saw on local TV that an officer in Sheffield OH was fired because he tased a drunk woman standing in the middle of the booking room. She was in the middle of the room, with two officers on the edge and the tasing officer off-screen. She had handcuffs on and was swaying a bit and when he tased her, she fell backwards, hitting her head on a chair which pushed away and then on the floor. I assume the video on that link is the same as I saw on TV.

I kept waiting for the UCLA tasing to be on our local TV because in DC, national news is local news, but it wasn't.

#185 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2006, 09:47 PM:

An article on taser risks (including fatalities, which lead the article) from In These Times.

#186 ::: Stefan Jones sees spam ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2011, 01:41 PM:

Nonsense message, link to suspected tourism advert

#187 ::: Sandy B. sees spam ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2011, 01:41 PM:

Germans, sex, vacation, patriot act, I got nothin'.

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