Friday, December 14, 2007

At last, some Taser guidelines for Utah

Now we won't have to hold our breath waiting for the Utah Highway Patrol to clarify its Taser policies. This week, our federal appeals court did it for them, issuing a ruling that should help Jared Massey's lawsuit, and put a stop to the use of Tasers as a first resort.

On Monday, the Tenth Circuit issued Edward Casey v. City of Federal Heights. Casey alleged that he was tackled and Tasered in a Colorado parking lot while walking toward a courthouse to return a court file that he had improperly taken out to his car. Applying the Fourth Amendment, the Tenth Circuit first noted that removing the court file was a low-level misdemeanor, "not a severe crime." Nor was it a violent offense. Jared Massey's offense? Speeding, a low-level, non-violent misdemeanor. (Refusing to sign a ticket is not a separate crime; it simply allows an officer to arrest you for the original speeding offense.)

The court then said that the officer did not have reason to believe that Casey posed an immediate threat to anyone's safety. The fact that he was upset and argumentative in court a few minutes earlier was nothing out of the ordinary, and did not suggest dangerousness. Jared Massey being upset and argumentative when stopped for speeding? Nothing out of the ordinary, and not suggestive of violence. Check.

"Officer Sweet grabbed and then tackled Mr. Casey without ever telling him that he was under arrest. Nor did he give Mr. Casey a chance to submit peacefully to an arrest. . . . [A] reasonable officer should, at a minimum, have ordered Mr. Casey to submit to an arrest or used minimal force to grab him while informing him that he was under arrest." Trooper McTaser not giving Massey a chance to submit peacefully to an arrest, and refusing to provide even a basic explanation? Check.

The court concluded:
"[I]t is excessive to use a Taser to control a target without having any reason to believe that a lesser amount of force — or a verbal command — could not exact compliance."
Use of Taser without reason to believe that he couldn't exact compliance with a lesser amount of force, or a specific verbal command other than just yelling? Check.

Under Casey, before law enforcement hit the zapper for a non-violent misdemeanor, they'll actually have to communicate with people, you know, like tell them that they're under arrest. They'll also have to consider using lesser force or a verbal command first. Hope they remember how to do all that.


BKelloggSr said...

This does put a litigious bridle on the Peace Officer, but I am much more concerned about the attitude displayed by the people we hire, supervise and train to serve us. It is impossible to hold a rage addict in respect.

Anonymous said...

This officer really needs to be fired. He did not communicate with Mr Massey. Mr Massey was still pointing to the MPH sign when the trooper pulled his tazer. He should have explained to Mr Massey signing the ticket was not admitting guilt. Or at least told him he was under arrest. He endangered the life of Mr Massey when he left him laying in the road near the traffic lane. He terrorized the pregnant lady. He should be charged with unnecessary force or excessive force. There was no violence or threat in this traffic stop. The world is watching the outcome of this injustice to Mr Massey. What is taking the Attorney General so long to investigate? The proof is on tape. The trooper also lied to the other policeman about what really happened. His credibility is lost. He could never testify in a traffic court case again.

Anonymous said...

This might sound crazy, but here's an idea: STOP RESISTING!!! Nearly every single incident you hear about involves a person who either has a problem with authority or refuses to follow simple instructions. Do any of you anti-taser people have a clue what police officers have to deal with every day? Do you realize how many officers are killed while making "routine" traffic stops? Sure, this Jared Massey brat might not have been the violent type, but when he put his hands in his pockets and walked away do you think the police officer was willing to stake his life on it?

Anonymous said...

Mr. Anonymous exactly how many cops are killed every year during routine traffic stops? A number would help back up your point about how dangerous it is. Also was this person resisting under the letter of the law or is the just your opinion? Just wondering if you have some backup for your argument? Please reply, thanks.

Anonymous said...

I did some homework for you.....notice how the officers killed in traffic related incidents died.

Law enforcement officers killed in traffic-related incidents also increased, from 73 in 2006 to a new high of 81 this year. The previous high was 78 in 2000. 2007 is the 10th year in a row in which traffic-related incidents were the leading cause of officer deaths nationwide. Of the 81 traffic-related deaths this year, 60 officers died in automobile crashes and six in motorcycle crashes, and 15 were struck by automobiles while outside their own vehicles.
Furthermore after peaking at 277 in 1974, officer fatalities have generally declined over the past three decades, with the exception of the increase in 2001 (72 died in the 9/11 attacks). The annual average number of officers killed was 228 in the 1970s, 190 in the 1980s, 160 in the 1990s and 167 from 2000-2006.

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