Friday, November 17, 2006

[US] UCLA Police taser student 5 times

University of California, Los Angeles: Students protest the use of excessive force
(Genaro Molina / LAT) Nov 17, 2006)
Hundreds of UCLA students march down Westwood Boulevard, towards the University of California Police Department to protest the excessive force used against UCLA student Mostafa Tabatabainejad.

Mostafa Tabatabainejad, a UCLA student, was repeatedly stunned with a Taser before being taken into police custody.

Community Service Officers had asked Tabatabainejad to leave, after he was unable to produce his college ID card, during a random check at around 11:30 p.m.

As Tabatabainejad was walking with his backpack toward the door, he was then approached by two University of California Police Department officers, one of whom grabbed the student's arm. In response, Tabatabainejad yelled at the officers to "get off me." Following this, Tabatabainejad was stunned by a Taser. As Tabatabainejad was being dragged through the room by two officers, he repeated in a strained scream, "I'm not fighting you" and "I said I would leave."

The highly disturbing six-minute video shows Tabatabainejad audibly screaming in pain as he is repeatedly stunned by the police officers with a Taser, each time for three to five seconds. In the video, you can hear him being told over and over to stand upelse and "get Tased again."

Warning: Highly disturbing content

Tabatabainejad was released from custody after being given a citation for obstruction/delay of a peace officer in the performance of duty.

The UCPD press release differs enormously from the actual events as record on video. According to the police, Tabatabainejad went limp and refused to exit as the officers attempted to escort him out. According to the video, Tabatabainejad is clearly assaulted by the police, as he nears the exit of the library. The release also stated Tabatabainejad "encouraged library patrons to join his resistance." Again, a false statement, as when you view the video footage, and hear the eyewitness accounts of the events, there is no occurance of Tabatabainejad encouraging resistance, and it is clear that he repeatedly told the officers he was not fighting them and had said he would leave, and was in fact leaving at the first point of assault.

In fact, he was so close to the exit by this point, there was no way that Tabatabainejad's behaviour could have been seen as needing any physical assistance of any level to "escort" him from of the library. The officers' official report states that they "deemed it necessary to use the Taser in a "drive stun' capacity".

Fourth year anthropology student, Ali Ghandour said: "I realize when looking at these kind of arrest tapes that they don't always show the full picture. ... But that six minutes that we can watch just seems like it's a ridiculous amount of force for someone being escorted because they forgot their BruinCard. It certainly makes you wonder if something as small as forgetting your BruinCard can eventually lead to getting Tased several times in front of the library". Edouard Tchertchian, a third-year mathematics student, said he was concerned that the student was not offered any other means of showing that he was a UCLA student.

A Taser delivers volts of low-amperage energy to the body, causing a disruption of the body's electrical energy pulses and locking the muscles, according to a report by the American Civil Liberties Union. According to a study published in the Lancet Medical Journal in 2001, a charge of three to five seconds can result in immobilization for five to 15 minutes, which would mean that Tabatabainejad could have been physically unable to stand when the officers demanded that he do so.

"It is a real mistake to treat a Taser as some benign thing that painlessly brings people under control," said Peter Eliasberg, managing attorney at the ACLU of Southern California. "The Taser can be incredibly violent and result in death," Eliasberg said.

A Bradford University (UK) study reports that:
In 1997 Robin Cook, the then Foreign Secretary, considered electro-shock weapons, including Tasers, amongst equipment “designed primarily for torture”, saying that the UK Government would “press for a global ban.” In the intervening years the marketing of electro-shock weapons has changed significantly but their profound effects remain.
Receiving a shock from a Taser is not without its health risks. Whilst initial research carried out by the MoD’s Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) prior to the Home Office’s introduction of the Taser included that the electrical discharge is unlikely to have an adverse effect on the heart in healthy individuals, there are concerns about the increased susceptibility of those with existing heart problems (at least 2.5 million people in the UK) and those under the influence of recreational drugs, including alcohol.
Canadian Police highlighted two other safety concerns in a recent report. The muscle spasms caused by the Taser can impair breathing, particularly if a person receives multiple shocks, and this may also contribute to a lowering of pH in the body, a potentially life-threatening chemical imbalance. Also the electric shock does not affect everyone equally. Those with smaller body size and lower weight are more susceptible to potential adverse effects.
Secondary injuries to the head and other parts of the body have occurred since the victim falls to the ground once shocked. Often this fall will be on a hard surface such as a road or pavement, a far cry from the controlled conditions under which some police officers have volunteered to experience a Taser shock (with two officers supporting them under each arm and a safety mat on the floor). The barbs can leave small cuts and burn marks on the skin but worse injuries can result if they hit sensitive areas of the body such as the eye, mouth, neck and groin.

During the altercation between Tabatabainejad and the officers, bystanders can be heard in the video repeatedly asking the officers to stop and requesting their names and identification numbers. The video showed one officer responding to a student by threatening that the student would "get Tased too." At this point, the officer was still holding a Taser.

Such a threat of the use of force by a law enforcement officer in response to a request for a badge number is an "illegal assault," Eliasberg said. "It is absolutely illegal to threaten anyone who asks for a badge" that's assault," he said.

UCPD and the UCLA administration would not comment on the specifics of the incident as it is still under investigation. In a statement released Wednesday, Interim Chancellor Norman Abrams said investigators were reviewing the situation and the officers' actions. "I can assure you that these reviews will be thorough, vigorous and fair," Abrams said.

adapted from Sara Taylor's report in Daily Bruin.

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