Police Argue Tasers Are “Useful Pain Technique”

Arguing that a jolt from a taser is a “useful pain technique,” three Seattle police officers have made an appeal to the Supreme Court to preserve the use of tasers and to clear their names in a lawsuit brought against them by Malaika Brooks. In 2004, Brooks, who was then seven months pregnant, was driving her 11-year-old son to Seattle’s African American Academy when she was pulled over for driving 32 mph in a 20 mph school zone. She accepted a ticket but refused to sign it as required by state law at the time.

As the New York Times notes, Brooks “thought, wrongly, that signing was an acknowledgment of guilt.” Because she refused to sign, the two officers summoned a sergeant to the scene. He told them to arrest Brooks, who would not get out of her car. Officer Juan M. Ornelas showed her a taser and asked her if she knew what it was; she said she did not and told them that she was pregnant. The New York Times‘s account continues:

The three men assessed the situation and conferred. “Well, don’t do it in her stomach,” one said. “Do it in her thigh.”

Officer Ornelas twisted Ms. Brooks’s arm behind her back. A colleague, Officer Donald M. Jones, applied the Taser to Ms. Brooks’s left thigh, causing her to cry out and honk the car’s horn. A half-minute later, Officer Jones applied the Taser again, now to Ms. Brooks’s left arm. He waited six seconds before pressing it into her neck.

Ms. Brooks fell over, and the officers dragged her into the street, laying her face down and cuffing her hands behind her back.

Afterwards, Brooks gave birth to a healthy baby girl. She had permanent scars after the incident and was convicted of a misdemeanor for refusing to sign the ticket but not of resisting arrest. She sued the three officers for causing her intense pain three times.

Last October, the officers prevailed in a split decision from a 10-member panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, in San Francisco:

The majority said the officers had used excessive force but nonetheless could not be sued because the law on the question was not clear in 2004, when the incident took place. While the ruling left the three officers in the clear, it did put them and their colleagues on notice that some future uses of Tasers would cross a constitutional line and amount to excessive force.

In their appeal to the Supreme Court, the officers are now seeking to preserve their right to use tasers as, again, a “useful pain technique.”

If hearing such doublespeak applied to a taser isn’t appalling enough, so is it to read the dissenting opinions. Chief Judge Alex Kozinski described Brooks as “defiant” and “deaf to reason” and said she had brought the police officers’ tasing and pulling her from her car upon herself; he said that the officers “deserve our praise, not the opprobrium of being declared constitutional violators.” Judge Barry G. Silverman said that tasing was “a humane way to force Brooks out of her car” instead of  “fists, batons, chokeholds, tear gas and chemical spray” which could all pose risks to both “suspects and officers alike.”

Lost in all these arguments is the simple fact that Brooks was seven months pregnant and that she had been stopped for a traffic violation, as her lawyer Michael F. Williams says to the New York Times. What the three officers are seeking to defend is, says Williams, simply “inexcusable conduct.”

The Supreme Court is to decide next week about whether or not to hear the three officers’ appeal about protecting their “right to tase.”


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Photo by oldmaison


Ruth R.
Ruth R3 years ago

PLEASE BAN TASERS -- including police use.
PLEASE BAN TEAR GAS -- including
PLEASE BAN CHEMICLE SPRAY -- including police use.

Ruth R.
Ruth R3 years ago

Signed a petition to ask police to stop lieing in court ?

Ruth R.
Ruth R3 years ago

Please ban tasers. They have caused irreversable harm.
Please less police.

Barry Appleby
Barry Appleby4 years ago

Historically, they have always been prone to believing that they themselves are above the law and in many cases s have shown themselves to be little better than thugs and bullies in uniform, since proper psychiatric evaluations of prospective law enforcement officers does not seem to a common practice. Hence, the widespread attitude in this case, even among members of the judiciary, that the police had the right to use force in a situation where no crime had been committed and which was nothing more than a motoring offense. After 9/11, all I can say, to parody Gen, Wastemoreland, is "well I guess, we had to kill Democracy in order to save it."

Barry Appleby
Barry Appleby4 years ago

Like a fish, a society rots from the head. In 1941, large numbers of Japanese- Americans were interned after the attack on Pearl Harbor, since it some way they were collectively responsible for this act of war. Strangely enough, the German-Americans who were eagerly promoting the cause of Nazi Germany did not suffer the same fate. After 9/11, the USA government and its agencies and many members of Congress, were so consumed by a blind rage for revenge, that they effectively tore up the Constitution. And so we had the Patriot Act, the torture and murder of Iraqi and Afghan civilians and prisoners, indefinite detention without trial and so. Just like Madam Thatcher who was responsible for making selfishness respectable and even almost mandatory , the denial of social justice and the theft by privatisation of public utilities that were not the property of the State but of the nation, having been financed by generations of taxpayers, the Bush administration gave the green light to abrogation of hard won civil rights, the glorification of the military, who in the UK and the USA has virtually become an arm of government, and the concomitant use of force in every situation. These attitudes spread down through society and are readily absorbed and welcomed by those who do not believe in the rule of law. The police, being a force organised as a strict military-style hierarchy, are not immune to such impulses. Historically, they have always been prone to believing that they themselves a

Dominic C.
Dominic C4 years ago

A Taser is a weapon invented to assist the Police in times of exigencies where a handgun or another lethal weapon that is deemed harmful. A Taser is not a weapon and should not be used for any purposes especially against individuals who are basically defiant or recalcitrant. Officers can just detain the individual in these cases as "obstruction to justice." Officers cannot force pain on any individual who has not broken any serious laws - especially in the case of a traffic summons. If SCOTUS goes in the line to allow the Seattle Policemen to do what they do, SCOTUS is opening a can of worms in the area of torture. The US is a signatory to the Convention Against Torture. That means the US should do what it preaches. Otherwise, countries that practices torture will say the same to the US but at least they are not practising double standards.

Catherine D.
Catherine D4 years ago

A Taser is nothing more than a modified cattle prod.

It is an instrument of torture.

Both should be banned.

Jennie R.
Jennie D4 years ago

Tasers have definitely been over used. Using them is an act of violence.

Jane R.
Jane R4 years ago

Tasers should not be used except when the person being arrested is violent. Usilng it on a peaceful pregant woman is discusting! I hope these officers rot in hell!

Charles P.
Charles P4 years ago

Let's face it, the police love using those things. They can inflict a hell of a lot of pain and get away with it.