Judge: Suspects must actually pose an immediate threat to justify a TAZERin'.

Blind_Io

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http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2009/12/28/BA811BAG5G.DTL&feed=rss.bayarea

Police need reasons to believe a suspect is dangerous before firing a Taser and can't use their stun gun simply because the person is disobeying orders or acting erratically, a federal appeals court in San Francisco ruled Monday.

The decision by the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sets judicial standards for police and for people who claim they were victims of excessive force after police hit them with a Taser dart.

"The objective facts must indicate that the suspect poses an immediate threat to the officer or a member of the public," Judge Kim Wardlaw said in the 3-0 ruling.

Though stun guns may offer a valuable, nonlethal alternative to deadly force in defusing dangerous situations, Wardlaw said, they inflict a "painful and frightening blow" and must be used only when substantial force is necessary and other options are unavailable.

"It's a significant use of force, not like cuffing someone or using pain compliance or pepper spray," said Eugene Iredale, a lawyer for a San Diego-area man who was Tasered by a police officer who had stopped him for not wearing a seat belt. "It's not to be used promiscuously or lightly."

The ruling allows Iredale's client Carl Bryan to go to trial in his damage suit against Brian McPherson, a policeman in Bryan's hometown of Coronado. McPherson's lawyers were unavailable for comment.

Tasers enjoy wide support among law enforcement officials, including George Gasc?n, San Francisco's new police chief, who is considering recommending the devices for his officers and has ordered a study of past police shootings to see whether stun guns would have made a difference. On the other hand, Amnesty International says 334 people died in the United States from 2001 to August 2008 after being hit by Tasers.

McPherson stopped Bryan's car on a summer morning in 2005 as the 21-year-old was driving home. Wearing only boxer shorts and tennis shoes, and upset at himself for forgetting to fasten his seat belt, Bryan swore at himself as he stepped out of the car, and was shouting gibberish and banging his thighs as he stood 15 to 25 feet away from the officer, the court said.

McPherson said Bryan then took one step toward him. Bryan denied it, and the court said the evidence indicated that Bryan was facing away from McPherson when the officer fired his Taser. Bryan fell on his face, breaking four front teeth, and needed a hospital visit to remove the electronic dart, the court said. He was charged with misdemeanors of resisting and opposing an officer, but prosecutors dropped the charges after the jury deadlocked.

Upholding a judge's refusal to dismiss Bryan's civil suit, the appeals court said a jury should decide whether the officer had used too much force to subdue someone who was not threatening him.

Bryan was clearly unarmed and did not challenge McPherson verbally or make any menacing gestures
, Wardlaw said. She said McPherson's claim that Bryan had ignored an order to stay in the car - an order that Bryan denied hearing - would not justify a Taser shooting, nor would the officer's concern that Bryan might be mentally disturbed.

Other factors that could support a claim of excessive force, Wardlaw said, were the minor nature of the traffic offense, McPherson's failure to warn Bryan that he might be Tasered and the fact that other officers were on the way to the scene.
Discuss.
 

AiR

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Yes that's common sense.
 

Spectre

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It's the 9th Circus, the court famous for (apparently) making decisions via dartboard and going way off the reservation. Largest circuit, most overturned circuit (IIRC). IMHO, nothing the 9th says is worth paying attention to until affirmed by other circuits or the Supreme Court - that's how much they've been overturned.

Also worth noting is that this isn't the end of the road - this was just a subset of the court that issued the decision. The decision can be appealed so the entire 9th (not just three justices) would hear the case, and then there's the Supreme Court after that. So not really final or binding, even in the 9th's jurisdiction.
 
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nomix

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Great.

Sure, if the alternative is to use a truncheon to break a suspects arm or shooting them, then the tazer is a good idea.

But using a tazer against someone who does not pose an immediate threat is stupid, and potentially dangerous.
 

Spectre

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Great.

Sure, if the alternative is to use a truncheon to break a suspects arm or shooting them, then the tazer is a good idea.

But using a tazer against someone who does not pose an immediate threat is stupid, and potentially dangerous.
Actually, in the 9th Circus' jurisdiction, truncheons are pretty much banned/restricted, as are most compliance holds and other useful tools short of a Tazer. Now they're saying 'use other methods' when until recently they were saying the tazer was one of the only only approved methods.

Did I mention the 9th Circus is seriously screwed up?
 

Jay

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Fine by me. We live in America, not a lawless society where authority needs to keep the public in check by fear.

With this debate, I cannot take the typical conservative/right wing opinion I usually do. Authority needs to be reminded that it is we the public whom they should fear, not the other way around. As such, I should not fear to be tazered by some bully police officer because I spoke too loudly or looked at them funny. It happen more often than you think.
 

Spectre

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I'm not taking a position on this issue either way, as I've neither reviewed the case or read the entire decision. I'm just pointing out the idiosyncracies of the particular court that decided this; the 9th Circus has been known to reverse itself. Not once, not twice, not three times, but four times in a single year on the same case!
 

Jay

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Oh, you do not have tell ME about the idiots who are that circuit court. Believe me....
 

nomix

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Not up to date on the particular situation. But tazers really shouldn't be used just cause the cop gets irritated.
 

Spectre

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Oh, you do not have tell ME about the idiots who are that circuit court. Believe me....
I suppose that it's theoretically possible that the 9th Circus made the correct decision the first time out. But it's highly unlikely.
 

2Billion

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I basically agree with the idea. If there's a threat, tase the fucker. If there isn't a threat, don't tase the fucker. Considering it can be fatal in some people - most famous case around here is the guy who died in Vancouver Airport - caution should obviously be used.

Even if that court is a bumfuckerry jamboree, that's basically the right idea.
 

Blind_Io

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Spectre,

I know the 9th Circus is, to say the least, problematic, but I do see this as a good ruling. "Even a blind dog" and all that. San Jose is notorious for police arresting and TAZERing people for "resisting arrest." Most of the time the suspect is handcuffed, sometimes TAZERed, thrown in a cell for 24 hours for "resisting" and the charges are later dropped. Oh, and no charge other than "resisting arrest" is ever made and no report of what the person did to deserve arrest in the first place.
 

nomix

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Not to mention that someone who is a bit unruly while wearing handcuffs isn't nessisarily the same as 'posing a treath'.

Being Captain Obvious tonight.
 

Spectre

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Spectre,

I know the 9th Circus is, to say the least, problematic, but I do see this as a good ruling. "Even a blind dog" and all that. San Jose is notorious for police arresting and TAZERing people for "resisting arrest." Most of the time the suspect is handcuffed, sometimes TAZERed, thrown in a cell for 24 hours for "resisting" and the charges are later dropped. Oh, and no charge other than "resisting arrest" is ever made and no report of what the person did to deserve arrest in the first place.
San Jose had a rep for police brutality long before the Taser was ever invented. The problem isn't the tools or methods, but the department.

This is why I favor having all uniformed police required to have a personal video camera (they make some that just clip to your shirt now) going at all times that they're out of the car.
 

nomix

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No bad idea, actually.

I'm agreeing with Spectre, heaven is falling.

;)
 

Steve Levin

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I'm personally in agreement that Tazers should be recognized as something more than some casual device.

There's no doubt that police abuse has existed pre-taser and sadly is likely to continue into the future. But it's worth stating what might be obvious so that there's a solid ground rule -- a setting of expectations -- on the use of Tazers.

Steve
 

KaJuN

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Isn't that what tazers are supposed to be for anyway? A less dangerous means of dealing with violent people. It seems somewhere along the way police discovered a tazer is a handy tool for making their jobs easier by not having to make them deal with someone who is a little unruly.
 

Blind_Io

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Yup, I just saw that myself.

I'm currently in a debate on another board about this. A cop actually called the Taser a "Pain compliance option."

Funny, I thought the point was to reduce the number of shooting deaths, not give the cops another toy to coerce suspects.
 
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