Monday, April 26, 2010

Tasing Is About Sending A Message. Send One Back.

Taser, Frank Meek, Jackson WY

JH Underground's Jim Stanford takes a break from his Jazz Fest duties to alert us to another report on Tasering, this time from my hometown paper:

The Teton County attorney said Wednesday he plans to dismiss criminal charges against a man whom police subdued with a Taser last week during a traffic stop.
County Attorney Steve Weichman said the pretrial publicity in the case against Frank Meek makes him uncomfortable.
Meek, 60, was arrested during a traffic stop April 7 on a misdemeanor charge of interfering with a police officer and cited for improper vehicle registration. Meek has Colorado plates on his car. He said he is a Colorado resident who lives part time with his girlfriend in Driggs, Idaho, and works at the Jackson Hole Twin Cinema.
Meek accused police of using a Taser on him more than 10 times during the traffic stop. Police released a video of the traffic stop that shows Meek repeatedly calling officers profane names and displaying generally defiant behavior.

This isn't the first time area cops have had fun with a Taser. They famously Tased a harmless streaker at a demo derby a few years ago in front of a large family crowd, literally torturing him and causing him to urinate on himself before losing consciousness. This, of course, was their way of making sure that the event was kept safe for kids to view.

No doubt the cops are glad to have the Tasers. It would be terrible if they had to do what they presumably did before they got them. I suppose they would have had to just shoot that streaker, and the guy who had the audacity to argue with a cop would presumably have been filled with lead as well.

I don't believe that all cops are evil or anything. But to become a cop, you kind of have to have an authoritarian streak. You need to be interested in telling people what to do, as well as in the power that you get when you get a badge, a gun and a Taser.

And in a society that has decided to simply criminalize social behavior that it finds distasteful, like drug use or profanity, you just aren't going to get a lot of people applying for police positions who don't buy into that philosophy. So it's more symptomatic of American society's rightward lurch toward authoritarianism than some narrow indictment of law enforcement.

Look at what is already happening in Arizona, as a result of the new law that requires everyone to carry papers with them at all times to prove they are legal residents:

PHOENIX – A Valley man says he was pulled over Wednesday morning and questioned when he arrived at a weigh station for his commercial vehicle along Val Vista and the 202 freeway.

Abdon, who did not want to use his last name, says he provided several key pieces of information but what he provided apparently was not what was needed. 
He tells 3TV, “I don't think it's correct, if I have to take my birth certificate with me all the time.”
3TV caught up with Abdon after he was released from the Immigration and Customs Enforcement office in central Phoenix. He and his wife, Jackie, are still upset about what happened to him.  
Jackie tells 3TV, “It's still something awful to be targeted. I can't even imagine what he felt, people watching like he was some type of criminal.”
Abdon was told he did not have enough paperwork on him when he pulled into a weigh station to have his commercial truck checked. He provided his commercial driver’s license and a social security number but ended up handcuffed.…
Both were born in the United States and say they are now both infuriated that keeping important documents safely at home is no longer an option. 
Jackie says, “It doesn't feel like it's a good way of life, to live with fear, even though we are okay, we are legal…still have to carry documents around.”
Let's leave aside the obvious and eerie similarities to the way the Gestapo, the KGB and the East German Volkspolizei typically operated. What will happen when people become understandably upset at the fact that they are being arrested for the crime of not carrying their proper papers with them?

I don't think we should be surprised when we start seeing more completely innocent people brutalized and killed by cops who Tase them for protesting their innocence.

The goal, of course isn't to just subdue the person on hand. It's to send a message loudly and clearly: If you argue or protest your innocence or do anything other than immediately lie on the ground and submit to arrest, you will be immediately and repeatedly shot with 50,000 volts of electricity, which will result in extreme pain or death. After that, you will probably be charged with resisting arrest or assault on a police office so that the officer can justify the shooting.

In other words, the goal is to terrorize people into complying.

This is how police states begin, and the use of psychological terror is a hallmark of each and every one. But it's not too late. It's not too late to call your mayor's office or city councilman or county commissioner and demand that they remove the Tasers from law enforcement agencies.

If you live in Jackson Hole, here are some numbers:

Mayor Mark Barron: 307-733-3092
Teton County Commissioners: 307-733-8094

Call them. They won't think you care if you don't.

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