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by Peter Moskos

September 22, 2009

Tasering a Unarmed Legless Man in a Wheelchair

RougueRegime sent me a link to this story in which a legless man in a wheelchair was tasered.

This tasering could very easily have been "by the books." And that's what bothers me. The man didn't comply. He got tased. The taser should be banned as a compliance device (except perhaps in situations where an officer is alone and backup is unavailable). And maybe it takes an unarmed legless man to make this point.

This man, who may or may not have hit his wife (Let's assume he did. Since cops went to arrest him, it's a fair assumption that his wife had obvious signs of injury).

There is no reason an unarmed legless man should ever be tasered.


Arresting and searching a man in a wheelchair is not something any officer looks forward to. There was once a drug dealer who used roll around Wolfe St. in a wheelchair. Cops generally refused to go near him, for fear of a harassment complaint from a handicapped black man. They don't teach wheelchair arrests or search-incident-to-wheelchair arrests in the police academy.

So here's a domestic violence situation where, thanks to ineffectual mandatory arrest laws for domestic violence, and officer is required to arrest a legless man in a wheelchair.

What would I do? Key up my radio and get my sergeant. And then I would ask him what to do and how to do it. It's called passing the buck. For the patrol officer, it's about the only good thing to come out of the police chain-of-command structure.

And if worst came to worst, instead of tasering him, couldn't you just wheel guy away?


Anonymous said...

Well said Peter. Let me just add that if an officer feels the need to deploy a taser to deal with an unarmed, legless man, that person should no longer be a police officer.

This is either an example of unacceptable cowardice or sadism. If the department won't fire the officer, and the state's attorney won't file charges, then his/her fellow officers should shame him into an early retirement. To paraphrase Frank Serpico, we must get to a point where the unethical officer fears the ethical officer, and not the other way around. Obviously we aren't there yet. Moral courage should be even more valuable than physical courage in the field of law enforcement.

As a potential police recruit, I find these all to common stories to be especially disturbing...and perplexing. If officers are allowed to use electricity to deal w/ any sign of resistance, why have I had to take physical agility tests? Should I just flex my trigger finger 100 times a day? Stories like this are sure to make things worse for street police everywhere. Shame on these bastards!

Dave H.

Anonymous said...

My department allows tasering even for verbal non-compliance. It prevents us from having to go "hands on." Officer safety is paramount.

PCM said...

Dave, I agree with you.

Anonymous, does your dept allow tasering or want tasering in such circumstances? It's one thing to allow tasering. It's another for police to actually do it. We were taught to mace as a compliance device (though not to clear corners). But we didn't. It would have been bad policing. It would pissed off all the other police. And it would have started riots.

But let me say something about officer safety. It is not paramount.

Protecting lives is paramount. Officer safety comes next. It's very important, but it's not paramount.

If officer safety were paramount, officers would never leave the police station except maybe in groups of 10.

If officer safety were paramount, officers would run away from gunshots.

If officer safety were paramount, police officers would always wear their seatbelts.

Police have a job to do, and police know that job can put them in harm's way. Tasering instead of going "hands on" in the name officer safety? That is, in my humble opinion, pussy-shit bullshit.

I'm not saying go hands on one-on-one. But with four officers? And against a guy has no legs and is in a wheelchair?! Chris almighty, I feel like the sergeant in Ali G at the Philly Police Academy: "You gotta touch him! Let's go!" People generally don't put handcuffs on themselves. That's the job of police. At least for now.

Policing is a "hands on" job. What happens when the shit really does hit the fan? What happens when the taser doesn't hit? Have officers forgotten how to get somebody under control because they never go "hands on"? Give me my old Sector Two anyday. We knew how to police.