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Richard Day: Cold in Minnesota, and in the Hearts of Men
The case involves Malaika Brooks, who was seven months pregnant and driving her 11-year-old son to school in Seattle when she was pulled over for speeding. The police say she was going 32 miles per hour in a school zone; the speed limit was 20.
Ms. Brooks said she would accept a ticket but drew the line at signing it, which state law required at the time. Ms. Brooks thought, wrongly, that signing was an acknowledgment of guilt.
Refusing to sign was a crime, and the two officers on the scene summoned a sergeant, who instructed them to arrest Ms. Brooks. She would not get out of her car....
Then came the multiple taser shocks, and dragging her from her vehicle. The 'use of force' case is now on appeal at the Supreme Court of the United States, over legal use of tasers by police. As to whether there are any limits on taser use, a painful police action and compared by some to torture. The Ninth Circuit federal court has implied there are limits, enraging the police community. The cops are appealing that part of the ruling to the Supreme Court, they want a blank check to use tasers on just about anybody, for any minor offense, or any small lack of cooperation.
Perusing the hundred pages of so of court documents on this case at Ninth Circuit Decision, and the Los Angeles County Police Chiefs Amicus Brief to SCOTUS, the Amicus brief of the City of Seattle to the SCOTUS, and the New York Times article, you could sum up what happened:
1. Ms. Brooks, (who is apparently black) was clocked doing 32 MPH in a 20 MPH school zone, with an 11 year old in the car and 7 months pregnant, was stopped, ticketed by Seattle police, but she refused to sign the ticket, although she did say she would take it.
2. The 3 officers confronted her, while she was still stopped in her car. She refused to get out, was warned she would be tased if she did not, was tased three times, dragged from the vehicle, arrested, later treated by paramedics, examined by a doctor, booked at a Seattle jail, and charged with the misdemeanor of not signing a ticket.
3. The Ninth Circuit Decision pdf explains:
The officers took Brooks to the police precinct station
where fire department paramedics examined her. The same
day, Brooks was examined at the Harborview Medical Center
by a doctor who confirmed her pregnancy and expressed
some concern about Brooks’s rapid heartbeat. After this
examination, Brooks was taken to the King County Jail.
On December 6, 2004, the City of Seattle filed a misdemeanor
criminal complaint against Brooks, charging her with
refusal to sign an acknowledgment of a traffic citation...
4. The Ninth Circuit decision said that the use of force was excessive, but that the officers had not violated any known court decision or police guideline in applying it, so they could not be held personally liable for damages or violation of Constitutional rights. The City of Seattle brief agreed that the force was excessive but not the officers fault, and want to end the case without further review by the Supremes. The LA County Sheriff's Association Amicus SCOTUS brief says the force was legal and absolutely necessary, the Sheriff's warn any move by the Supremes to limit taser use will result in havoc and death:
"This unprecedented and unjustified re-writing of
Fourth Amendment jurisprudence flies in the face of
this Court’s long-established case law and puts at risk
the lives and safety of peace officers and the citizens
they are sworn to protect. More than that, this decision
damages the rule of law itself..."
Aren't police officers 'at risk' every day they put on the uniform?
Isn't that part of the job? Isn't thinking before the use of force, serving the community and the citizens in a decent and humane fashion part of the job too, in fact, the main part?
Were the cops 'at risk' from this woman, or were they just assholes for taser use on her three times, and dragging her from her car? Why would the LA County Sheriff's think the Ninth Circuit ruling 'damages the rule of law'? Are cops that stupid, helpless and dumb?
Dagbloggers? Tasing pregnant women for not signing a ticket?
Another case of 'driving while black'? As in the case of the New Jersey man strip searched by police and jailed because the police wrongly thought he had not paid a past traffic fine, for which police error he was arrested, strip searched and jailed. Justice Kennedy in that case:
Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, joined by the court’s conservative wing, wrote that courts are in no position to second-guess the judgments of correctional officials...
(my note- seems its OK for them to question the judgment of the Congress or the President on the healthcare program, but they can't question correctional officers)
I know the Trope has been big on defending police busting heads of Occupy demonstrators, is this going too far by the men in blue?
Is this all the woman's fault? Should there be virtually no limit on taser use, as the Sheriff's Association seems to believe?
Should there be any concern for the costs of this case, could better police training, or a check box on the ticket 'Ticketee refuses to sign' have headed off the whole incident?
Is this a case that is really important and preeminent and good use of our underfunded and often up for sale justice 'system'? Will all hell break loose if the Supremes agree force was excessive? Are they likely to back the police no matter what, as they usually do?
Any doubts on where would the Founding Fathers be on this one?