Pages Menu
TwitterRssFacebook
Categories Menu

Posted by on Mar 28, 2010 in Breaking News, Society | 39 comments

Pregnant Woman Tasered For No Reason At All? No Problem!

I really cannot think of anything to add that would improve on what Digby has written about this barbarity, so I will just quote from her post, which opens with an extended quote from the news article:

Three Seattle police officers were justified when they used a stun gun on a pregnant mother who refused to sign a traffic ticket, a federal appeals court ruled Friday in a case that prompted an incredulous dissent.

Malaika Brooks was driving her son to Seattle’s African American Academy in 2004 when she was stopped for doing 32 mph in a school zone. She insisted it was the car in front of her that was speeding, and refused to sign the ticket because she thought she’d be admitting guilt.

Rather than give her the ticket and let her go on her way, the officers decided to arrest her. One reached in, turned off her car and dropped the keys on the floor. Brooks stiffened her arms against the steering wheel and told the officers she was pregnant, but refused to get out, even after they threatened to stun her.

The officers — Sgt. Steven Daman, Officer Juan Ornelas and Officer Donald Jones — then stunned her three times, in the thigh, shoulder and neck, and hauled her out of the car, laying her face-down in the street.
[…]

The article goes on to say that Ms. Brooks had her baby two months later, and the baby was healthy, but Brooks sustained permanent damage from the tasering.

The police officers’ rationale for tasering Brooks was that she was resisting a lawful order and that, although “… Brooks was not going to be able to harm anyone with her car at a moment’s notice […] [n]onetheless, some threat she might retrieve the keys and drive off erratically remained, particularly given her refusal to leave the car and her state of agitation.”

The dissenting judge in the case (it was a three-judge panel) blasted the decision:

The majority’s opinion outraged Judge Marsha Berzon, who called it “off the wall.”

“I fail utterly to comprehend how my colleagues are able to conclude that it was objectively reasonable to use any force against Brooks, let alone three activations of a Taser, in response to such a trivial offense,” she wrote.

She argued that under Washington law, the officers had no authority to take Brooks into custody: Failure to sign a traffic infraction is not an arrestable offense, and it’s not illegal to resist an unlawful arrest.
[…]

Digby:

Oh no, she needed to be electrocuted and arrested because there was a chance that she might drive off erratically. Or shape-shift into a lizard and levitate. You just can’t be too careful. In any case, what these judges seem to be saying is that there is no lawful reason that an officer cannot taser a citizen as long as he is barking some order and they fail to comply quickly enough. No reason of any kind, not even the fact that the officers had no right to issue that order at all. That’s scary.

Click here for reuse options!
Copyright 2010 The Moderate Voice
  • rfyork

    Kathy, if you think this is bad and, it is awful, take a look at the case of Peter Watts, a Canadian attacked at the Minnesota-Canada border by US border guards.

    Google “Peter Watts”. He is a brilliant science fiction writer and marine-mammal biologist. His case is mind-boggling and he was found guilty of “disobeying a direct order” because he asked the guards why they were searching his car.

    Please read about his case and try to give it some attention. His website/blog is http://www.rifters.com/crawl/.

  • oaechief

    One would have to conclude that any order given by any police officer, no matter how far-fetched, no matter how unlawful, is by definition, lawful.

    My observation is that any police officer can do anything they want and the jury (if it ever gets to court) will find then ‘not’ guilty.

  • adelinesdad

    “Failure to sign a traffic infraction is not an arrestable offense, and it’s not illegal to resist an unlawful arrest.”

    I think this is where the case hinges. But according to the majority opinion, failure to sign a traffic ticket is in violation of the law (http://www.ca9.uscourts.gov/opinions/view_subpage.php?pk_id=0000010396)

    Anyone know for sure or can shed some light on that question?

    • shannonlee

      Or maybe the case hinges on the question of whether or not you can tase someone for jaywalking.

      • CStanley

        Yeah, I think adelinesdad is correct about how the court interpreted it but that doesn’t mean that most people should or would agree with that interpretation. I think some of the backlash against tasering is exaggerated but this one seems a clear violation of common sense. If the regulations on their use don’t clearly include some standard about whether or not the person is a threat in any way as well as whether or not the legal violation was a serious one, then the regulations should be amended.

        • shannonlee

          I have a friend that is a cop. They are taught that pulling out their baton carries the same responsibility as pulling their gun.

      • adelinesdad

        I’m assuming you are referring to jaywalking as a comparable offense to refusing to sign the ticket. I’m not sure if that comparison is legally valid. In fact, that is exactly my question: is it arrestable offense to refuse to sign the ticket? I’m not saying it is, I was just asking if anyone has some additional knowledge on that question beyond speculation.

        Specifically, this is what doesn’t make sense to me: If it is not an arrestable offense, but still illegal (similar to jaywalking), then what does the law say should happen to someone who doesn’t sign the ticket? Do they get another ticket (what if they don’t sign that one:))? Is the police officer supposed to just say “OK, but you’re breaking the law, you know.” Arresting does seem harsh, but I’m confused on what the alternative would be.

        • shannonlee

          Whether or not the offensive is arrestable wasn’t really my point….more how silly the offense was in comparison to the reaction from the police.

          3 cops decided they were incapable of containing a pregnant women and using a taser was their only option. In LA they might have shot her.

          I understand your legal concerns about the case.

          • EEllis

            “3 cops decided they were incapable of containing a pregnant women and using a taser was their only option. In LA they might have shot her”

            That does not follow from the information given. In some departments, which can vary, use of the taser comes before physical force. So while the officers may have felt they could easily of pulled the lady out of the car, police training my have been that she should be tasered.

    • EEllis

      “failure to sign a traffic ticket is in violation of the law”

      It’s not a violation but in my jurisdiction you are being ticketed instead of being arrested. You are given a summons if you agree to show up. The signature is your agreement. If you don’t agree then you must go before a judge, be arrested. Nothing makes you sign a ticket, you don’t get an additional charge, but then you go to jail right then.

  • Don Quijote

    To ask Digby’s question: Where are all those libertarians when they are needed?

    Giving Health-Care to poor people? Oh, the horror… It’s the end of America… Totally unacceptable!

    Tasering poor people? No Biggie!!! What’s the problem? They should know better than to spwak back to a police officer…

  • Leonidas

    Saw this on another forum I frequent, both the Conservatives and the Progresives and everyone in better has condemned to cops on this one. Some things we all do agree on.

  • DLS

    I believe the use of the Taser, specifically, is a side issue (and in any case there’s no excuse for being neurotic about it, demonizing it), and the real issue is police-community relations in that neighborhood.

  • JSpencer

    Clearly neither common sense nor common decency are common. I hope there are enough lawsuits resulting from improper tasering that the proper message is sent to powers that be. Just another realm where accountability will be required to make needed changes.

  • SteveK

    … there’s no excuse for being neurotic about it, demonizing it

    There’s no excuse to demonize tasering a pregnant woman for refusing to sign a ticket? Whatever world DLS lives in I’m glad it’s not in my neighborhood.

    • DLS

      [yawn] I’m not supporting any mistreament of anyone, much less a pregnant woman.

      • SteveK

        Mr. Hyde: “I believe the use of the Taser, specifically, is a side issue (and in any case there’s no excuse for being neurotic about it, demonizing it)”
        Dr. Jeckle: “[yawn] I’m not supporting any mistreament of anyone, much less a pregnant woman.”

        [THBPBPTHPT!] Thanks for clearing that up.

        • DLS

          Some need help, I know.  So I’ve seen…

  • 11B40

    Greetings:

    I grew up in the Bronx of the ’50s and ’60s, back when the beat cop would come down the street flipping his nightstick on its thong. You kind of got the impression, especially after an application or two, that it was best to give the officer some leeway. Now, this procedure might not have be legal, but it did result in the imposition of some degree of order on the disorderly at a relatively low cost to the overall society.

    One of the results of our current societal fixations on discrimination and civil rights is the assessment of the amount of disorder or incivility that are authorized therein. It is apparent to me that there are segments of our population that believe that contesting the directions of police officers is both a wise and noble endeavor. A couple of New Year Days ago, a young Negro man was killed by a police officer in Oakland CA, perhaps mistakenly, perhaps not, as a result of such a contest. Either way, he is just as dead.

    I live in the San Francisco Bay area, where the politicians and police have developed procedures to allow demonstrators to verbally and sometime physically abuse our sworn officers and disrupt the commerce and travel of rest of the citizenry. Summons are sometimes issued but convictions rarely seem to materialize. Lather, rinse, repeat. Eventually, order will result, but eventually can be a very long time.

    As to the pregnancy aspect, it seems to me in our advanced 21st Century logic, that we have assigned the police have a greater responsibility to modify their behavior than the we have the offender. That a woman’s reproductive condition can require others to yield to her misbehavior may be an interesting philosophical question, but it is a secondary one. The primary question is, if she is indeed pregnant, why is she not modifying her behavior. These days, our military services have pregnant members, so no matter how quaint or chivalric our need to kowtow to an asserted pregnancy condition seems to us, it seems to me to be more of an excuse than a reason. And, as my dear old dad used to say, “The difference between a reason and an excuse is that an excuse is a bad reason.”

    • TheMagicalSkyFather

      Are you speaking of the BART shooting where the person was in custody on the ground AND not fighting when the police officer(on video) stood up aimed his pistol and blew the kid away?

      Sorry, I do disagree with most of what you are saying but I want to make sure what incident you are referencing since that one was a pretty over the top example of police abuse. Though to be honest the shooter looked just as horrified and confused as everyone else after it discharged, new father+little sleep + possibly thinking it was a taser not a gun(another danger to keep in mind with these) may have been the cause but it is a rather hard incident to defend.

      Also the threat of violence from law enforcement is not sanctioned by our laws, do you think it is acceptable to be used against just those you don’t like or everyone you and your family included? I can probably find the video of the Texas preacher being tasered due to his “noncompliance” as well if you would like to see it, he was daring to speak and ask questions like a libertarian.

      • 11B40

        Greetings: especially “TheMagicalSkyFAther”

        Para. 1) Yes, I was referring to the BART shooting. I was concerned that the BART reference would not mean much to the general public. I don’t know that I can conclude that the individual was “not fighting”, but he was certainly on the ground.

        Para. 2) I haven’t yet concluded that the BART incident was “abuse”. There will be a trial, or more likely several trials, to decide if it was criminal abuse or a tragic mistake in the heat of the moment.

        Para. 3) The point I was trying to make was that social order can be maintained by executive as opposed to judicial action. It was in the Bronx of my youth, and you probably wouldn’t have gone home and told your parents that a police officer felt it necessary or advisable to give you a taste of his ‘stick. Just as we sometimes use corporal punishment on children, there are times and types that I find acceptable for use on adults. The “don’t touch me” supporters rarely seem to show any understanding that these are not two-party disputes. Society, at large, has an interest in the maintenance of good order with the least use of its scarce resources. At the very least, the woman was, by her non-cooperation, using up resources, that could have been used elsewhere, to satisfy her anger. She may have also been giving a future generation a very bad example of how to deal with society’s sworn officers.

  • EEllis

    I will say that the key issue seems to be if failure to sign a ticket is arrestable in Seattle. Seattle has decriminalized traffic tickets if I understand correctly. This changes things in many ways including that since it is not a criminal offence there is no duty to sign a ticket. Now the story may have things wrong but as is it does seem out of bounds. On the other hand if she failed to follow a lawful order then her pregnancy does not give her an out. If the cops believed they were legally justified in ordering her out of the car then they could use necessary force to do so and there was nothing to the story that makes me believe it would of been excessive.

    • JSpencer

      use of the taser comes before physical force

      If a tasering isn’t physical force then I don’t know what is. Again, I think common sense and common decency need to be our guide here, not legal rationalizations. The fact that she was stunned after she told them she was pregnant speaks volumes to me. I don’t think the use of a taser should be an excuse for officers to avoid doing that part of their job that demands they be knowledeable about physical restraint and in good physical condition. Sure there are situations where a taser can be appropriate, but it shouldn’t be used as a shortcut… on pregnant women, old people, or citizens who the cops just might happen not to like. One more comment, if refusing to sign a ticket is grounds for an arrest, then why aren’t the libertarians screaming about it? Because that seems like BS to me. Lord, has this country ever changed…

      • EEllis

        ” I don’t think the use of a taser should be an excuse for officers to avoid doing that part of their job that demands they be knowledgeable about physical restraint and in good physical condition. Sure there are situations where a taser can be appropriate, but it shouldn’t be used as a shortcut…”

        It’s hardly a shortcut. Among the reasons that for some departments the use of tasers comes before other use of force methods is because there is less injury to both sides. When someone gets taken down and cuffed that is resisting there is a very good chance that someone will get hurt. May just be scrapes or a dislocated finger, maybe serious, but using the taser to get people to comply lessens the amount of injuries. If it is a shortcut then it should be one we are glad they are taking..

      • EEllis

        “One more comment, if refusing to sign a ticket is grounds for an arrest, then why aren’t the libertarians screaming about it? Because that seems like BS to me. Lord, has this country ever changed…”

        Because it always has been. Before tickets you would of had your but dragged in front of a judge. Think of tickets as a form of bond or bail and you would be very close to what they are. By signing you are saying you will take care of the ticket later. If you won’t give that then why should they let you go?

        • kathykattenburg

          1. I have never been asked to sign a traffic ticket in my entire driving life. I have never been asked to sign a summons in my entire driving life.

          2. What does signing a traffic ticket have to do with electric-shocking a pregnant woman? Because that’s what this is.

          • EEllis

            “1. I have never been asked to sign a traffic ticket in my entire driving life. I have never been asked to sign a summons in my entire driving life.”

            I have never seen a platypus. So?

            “2. What does signing a traffic ticket have to do with electric-shocking a pregnant woman? Because that’s what this is.”

            I was giving the legal situation. You do not care but for those who do care about the law she received a notice of violation which she refused to sign. They could not arrest her for that refusal, Seattle has decriminalized traffic tickets but her refusal to sign violated a city ordinance and she was cited for that refusal. Now she had two “tickets” and refusing to sign the citation is arrestable. The original officer may have been pissed off since she was loud, uncooperative, and abusive, but he called his supervisor to respond to the scene, he didn’t act hastily. The supervisor after speaking with Brook told the two officers to arrest her. They used reasonable force escalating in response to her actions. You response seems stuck on emotion and you refuse to consider any factors or any facts about the situation at all. She was a loud abusive 275lb woman and the cops seemed to be more worried about her being pregnant than she did. I have little sympathy .

          • DLS

            “She was a loud abusive 275lb woman and the cops seemed to be more worried about her being pregnant than she did.”

            It’s a shame that someone who behaves this way hasn’t faced child endangerment charges sometime.

          • kathykattenburg

            You are as much “stuck on emotion” as you think I am. Your characterization of the victim as a “loud abusive 275lb woman” is very emotional — as well as being revealing of your prejudices. In my view, the only reason you did not add the adjective “black” between “275lb” and “woman” is because you know that that is much less socially acceptable to put into written words.

          • EEllis

            In what way was my comment emotional? She was loud and abusive, it’s on the record and she denied none of it. As for 275lb that comment was put in there for the people who thought that 2 officers should be able to easily handle a pregnant women. at 275lb she was bigger than either of the two officers and in truth her size would escalate the situation just like if it were a 275lb man. That just shows your prejudices not mine. Size is a factor and you wouldn’t of spared a thought if I mention a mans sizes but somehow it can’t be a concern when it’s a women? BS! You nitpick that one phrase and ignore every other part of my comments that basically trash your whole post and show it to be a lie and you try and call me racist. Suck it up.

          • kathykattenburg

            Did you hear her on an audiotape or on a video? How do you know she was abusive? Loud is very subjective and I don’t even know why it would constitute a threat to the police if a pregnant woman speaks loudly. A man, 275 lbs or of whatever weight, would not have been pregnant. You don’t use a high-voltage weapon on a pregnant woman, unless under extremely narrow circumstances that define a danger to the officers’ lives, such as if she was aiming a gun at them.

            Why do you think it’s acceptable to taser a pregnant woman? Why do you think a pregnant woman, unarmed, is such a threat to two police officers that she has to be electrocuted?

          • EEllis

            “How do you know she was abusive? Loud is very subjective and I don’t even know why it would constitute a threat to the police if a pregnant woman speaks loudly. A man, 275 lbs or of whatever weight, would not have been pregnant. ”

            It’s in the court papers but maybe yelling at someone and calling them liars and racist isn’t abusive to you?
            It’s human nature yelling is considered being aggressive.
            So you admit to being sexist? Her weight means more force must be used to control and or move her. It isn’t rocket science and being knocked up isn’t a get out of jail free card. If you check she didn’t even mention she was pregnant until after she was told she was under arrest.

            “Why do you think it’s acceptable to taser a pregnant woman?”

            For the same reasons I think it’s ok to taser any women. Why do you think being pregnant means you have an excuse to ignore the law, common courtesy, and all sense?

            It’s a baby not a get out of jail free card

          • kathykattenburg

            It’s in the court papers but maybe yelling at someone and calling them liars and racist isn’t abusive to you?

            To which you never posted a link or identified in any way as the source of your comments. But now that you have mentioned the source (no link still), I totally see why you called her abusive. The police report said she was abusive, no doubt. Obviously, that’s definitive. If the police said she was abusive, that totally ends the discussion.

            Why do you think being pregnant means you have an excuse to ignore the law, common courtesy, and all sense?

            Why do you think refusing to sign a citation and/or being discourteous and/or lacking “sense” merits being electrocuted, for anyone? And especially why do you believe that a woman who is pregnant merits being electrocuted for refusing to sign a citation and/or being discourteous and/or lacking “sense.” Why do you not consider the police officers lacking in “sense” for electrocuting a pregnant woman who posed no physical threat to them, just because they could?

            It’s a baby not a get out of jail free card.

            This is not about getting out of jail. It’s about electrocuting a woman in an advanced stage of pregnancy, which in addition to leaving her with permanent scars, could have harmed the baby. Obviously, that’s of no concern to you, but it is to me.

          • EEllis

            “To which you never posted a link or identified in any way as the source of your comments.”

            So, do a little research before you post your story. It was a court case of course it’s online.

            “Why do you think refusing to sign a citation and/or being discourteous and/or lacking “sense” merits being electrocuted, for anyone?”

            Wow she died? That is what electrocuted means. So unless I missed something it seems you can’t make a case so your creating your own story to fit your desires. I do believe that refusing to sign a citation in this case was grounds for arrest and that the means used were not excessive under the circumstances. as noted in an earlier post.

            “the appropriate inquiry is whether the officers acted reasonably, not whether they had less intrusive alternatives available to them,”Scott, 39 F.3d at 915. (findlaw)

            “Why do you not consider the police officers lacking in “sense” for electrocuting a pregnant woman who posed no physical threat to them, just because they could? ”

            Why are you creating a false narrative? That isn’t what happened by any account. One office “stunned” a women in order to effect a legal arrest. He didn’t light her up for fun or to be a jerk but to do his job as he was told and observed by his supervisor.

            “This is not about getting out of jail. It’s about electrocuting a woman in an advanced stage of pregnancy, which in addition to leaving her with permanent scars, could have harmed the baby. Obviously, that’s of no concern to you, but it is to me.”

            You don’t care about the facts. The fact is the lady was told she was under arrest before she mentioned she was even pregnant. She decided to resist a legal arrest even tho she was pregnant. The Idea of a stun harming the baby is pretty silly and without any basis. Fact is there would be just as much or more danger with any form of force used. When you escalate, and she did, then it’s her fault. Her raised blood pressure from resisting the cops posed more of a danger than the stun gun ever did.

      • SteveK

        I think common sense and common decency need to be our guide here, not legal rationalizations.

        Being black in Seattle seems to be justification enough or to quote Kris Kristopherson:

        That police man said, “Mister Cool, if you ain’t drunk, then you’re a fool.”
        I said, “If that’s against the law, then tell me why I never saw
        A man locked in that jail of yours who wasn’t neither black or poor as me?”
        Well, that was when someone turned out the lights
        And I wound up in jail to spend the night
        And dream of all the wine and lonely girls
        In this best of all possible worlds.

        FWIW – I’ll stop with the links when either Kathy or Patrick resume posting music videos on weekends. 🙂

  • EEllis

    On further reading it aprears there were two “tickets” one was a “notice” for the speeding which you dont have to sign and the other a “citation” for her failure to sign the notice. The failure to sign the second the “citation” is an arrestable offence. Unfortunatly Brooks seems to have had a previous run in where she recieved a “notice” and refused to sign and then refused to sign the “citation” so she may have honestly believed it was not arrestable (which it was). Brooks was angry and disruptive durring the traffic stop going so far as to reach out and pull her liecense out of officers Ornelas’s ticket book and resisted giving it back to allow him to finish writing the ticket. Ornelas was unable to get her to sign the tickets so called his supervisor Sergeant Daman. After he spoke with Brooks and Brooks repeatedly said he was lying about it not being an admision of guilt to sign he stopped and instucted Ornelas and Jones to arrest her. They told her she was being arrested and to leave the car. She refuse. They told her they would stun her. She refused, They talked about were they would stun her, since she claimed to be pregnant, she still refused. Ornelas then tried to pull her out of the car . She was then stuned in the leg, and she fought and yelled and started honking the horn, then the shoulder and finaly the neck after which she moved enough for Ornelas to pull her out of the car. She continued to resist and even escalated her resistance after being stuned.

    To win this case she would of needed to show that the officers conduct needed to violate a clearly established constitutional right such that the officers had to have known. I think the ruling was correct.

    “the appropriate inquiry is whether the officers acted reasonably, not whether they had less intrusive alternatives available to them,”Scott, 39 F.3d at 915. (findlaw)

  • llamah

    What I want to know, is why isn’t Al Sharpton all over this? I mean, she was black, right? Were the cops black? Or light brown? Inquiring minds want to know.

    • EEllis

      One officer was spanish I have no idea on the others but since Brooks called the other a racist I doubt he was black.

  • kathykattenburg

    One office “stunned” a women in order to effect a legal arrest. He didn’t light her up for fun or to be a jerk but to do his job as he was told and observed by his supervisor.

    Your first sentence is bull. Police are trained (or are supposed to be) to manage uncooperative people without using undue force, and tasering this woman was undue force. You forget that the third judge on the panel blasted the other two for the decision, so it’s not as if there’s no argument to be made here.

    Your second sentence is completely unsupportable unless you can read minds. You have no way of knowing whether the cop got pleasure out of tasering her. I don’t have any problem believing that he did, but I don’t know either. In any event, it’s a moot point, because whatever his motivation, he acted like a brute.

    When you escalate, and she did, then it’s her fault.

    That may be the inescapable conclusion, given that the police can do anything they want to anyone they want for any reason they want, but it’s not an ethical or morally convincing argument, in my view.

    Wow she died? That is what electrocuted means.

    Fine, ellis, then she wasn’t electrocuted; she was subjected to extremely high voltage electrical shocks. Sounds much better, doesn’t it? And I know your answer is yes, so don’t even bother.

    By the way, either refusing to sign a citation is an arrestable offense, or it isn’t. So “I do believe that refusing to sign a citation in this case was grounds for arrest…” is a totally meaningless statement. Either it was or it wasn’t. The dissenting judge said it wasn’t, and if I’m recalling correctly, she also said that even the officers did not claim it was an arrestable offense. I may be wrong about that second part. In any case, directing several high-voltage streams of electricity at a pregnant woman who poses no physical threat, whether your case citations declare it “reasonable” or not, is outrageous. If there were less intrusive alternatives, they should have used them. The fact you can defend these officers on a narrowly legal level, completely ignoring the moral dimensions, is revolting to me.

    This conversation has gone about as far as it can, I do believe. Therefore, I will not be replying to any further comments from you, though you of course may feel free to make more, as you wish.

Twitter Auto Publish Powered By : XYZScripts.com