21 November 2006

A Short Trip from Abu Ghraib to UCLA

Not that anyone is physically making that trip, mind you. But psychologically, the growning acceptability of extreme, but non-lethal, force has enabled the mental leap from one place to the other. With the presidential precendent set via the recently signed Military Commissions Act for making it up as you go along, police seem to be using increasingly out-of-proportion measures to ensure "compliance." Witness the recent incident in which a UCLA student was brutally tasered for failing to produce student ID in a library. And when I say "witness," I mean witness: the incident was captured on video by a fellow student using his mobile device and posted to YouTube [Warning: The video itself is disturbing. In particular you may want to turn down your speakers, as his screams of agony will stay with you for a very long time.] Towards the end of the video, police can be seen and heard threatening innocent bystanders with equal treatment if they don't "get back."

The police may view the taser as a better solution to ensure compliance than lethal force, but I doubt very much that the facts of this case - student who is sitting, minding his own business and doing his research without ID in the library - would have justified an arms-drawn response. Rather than a replacement for the handgun, it seems that at least the UCLA police are considering the taser as an acceptable alternative to handcuffs, or even conversation. As for UCLA's administration, the acting chancellor defends the action, because anyone in the library after 11 p.m. without student ID could be a terrorist, dontcha know.

What a shameful state of affairs.

[Technorati tags: | | ]


Anonymous said...

I'm with you most of the article, but the piece where you say the student "is sitting, minding his own business and doing his research without ID in the library" is just not proven and likely not completely true. Being tasered repeatedly is overstepping the mark by miles and hopefully the student is okay and the police is brought to justice.

Mark Federman said...

Actually, he was using a computer in the library, didn't have his ID, and was leaving as he was requested to do when the cops showed up to torture him. That last bit of editorializing is not hyperbole - apparently the cop in question has a history of brutality, sadism, and disrespect for due process. The cop is quoted as saying, "If someone is resisting, sometimes it's not going to look pretty taking someone into custody." All of that is fine and well, except for the fact that there was no justification to take the student in question into custody in the first place, no justification for extreme force even if there was just cause for arrest, no justification for repeatedly tasering the incapacitated victim, and no justification for uttering threats to innocent bystanders, including the woman who was attempting to get the name and badge number of the cop (something he is legally obliged to provide). Hopefully, the cop will be indicted and tried (and presumably convicted, given the evidence, and UCLA will be sued for enough money to make them think twice about hiring fired, rogue ex-LAPD to enforce the ID after 11 in the library rule.