UPDATE: I want to point out that I discuss this particular video because it is the one that is being widely circulated and debated at the moment. It is NOT the worst example of excessive force, nor does the suspect exhibit model behavior, but it is a good example of what I believe is the misuse of what I believe is still a dangerous weapon. Also it should be noted that I perhaps identify most closely to the suspect as a white, 30-something with a young family...
This video has been all over the internet, so you may have seen it already. It's ten minutes long, but worth watching to really understand exactly what a fucking fear-based, authoritarian country we have become. If for some reason you can't watch it or want to cut to the (non-)chase, I put a transcript of the key moments in the comments. Check it out:
Holy. Shit. Pulled over for (possibly) speeding and you end up getting 50,000 volts, cracking your head on the highway, and under arrest—all in front of your hysterical pregnant wife and child—because you questioned the cop.
There's an excellent thread on this incident at John Cole's place, and a reader named Kirk does a really valiant job trying to explain the cop's POV and possible motives/fears (here, here, and here). He makes some really good points, but it all boils down to a confused, if somewhat belligerent, motorist getting assaulted for no good reason by a taser-happy asshole cop who loses control of a situation he handles poorly from the outset.
I want to point out that I have limited experience with this type of situation, I think I've gotten two traffic tickets in my life, and they were both a long-ass time ago. The circumstances were pretty cut and dry, and I was completely deferential to the officer in each case. I would expect to behave the same way if it were to occur again. As such, I don't particularly relate to the way this motorist behaves in terms of challenging the cop, but he IS within his rights. Personally? I would take my ticket and fight it in court (or pay it), but things get confusing here in a hurry, thanks to the cop (hopefully, you've watched the video or read the transcript)...
So the cop issues a ticket, but is unclear exactly what the infraction is, and simply demands the driver sign it. After reading various accounts, it seems that in Utah, you are expected to sign a ticket as a promise to either appear in court or plead guilty and pay the fine. But this motorist has never gotten a ticket, and has no reason to know that—and neither would I. I would not want to sign it either! Hopefully I could better communicate my confusion and get an explanation from the cop, but with this douchebag, that might not have happened for me either.
According to the Utah Highway Patrol, "In the event that a motorist refuses to sign a trooper has two options. One is to write "refuses to sign" on the citation, which is then given to the driver. The second is to arrest the driver."
Once the driver refuses to sign, this cop clearly never considers the first, and more appropriate option, and takes the refusal to sign as immediate grounds for arrest—but never informs the motorist of any of this, and casually asks him to "hop out of the car." The driver thinks they are going to look at the speed limit sign, and the next thing he knows there is a screaming cop with a taser in his face, and within seconds, he's been shot without warning.
That's all it takes. Failure to comprehend what's going on and you are "resisting" and subject to a horrific bodily assault. You are not threat to yourself, the officer or the public. No attempt to flee. Nothing except perhaps failure to completely submit without question for an minor traffic infraction you believe you are innocent of. To a cop that has given no indication by his behavior or words that the situation has escalated to a level requiring arrest, never mind extreme force.
Commenters elsewhere have pointed out that the motorist is “reaching for a weapon/pocket”. That’s bullshit. He appears to be putting his wallet back in his pocket, and if that ever went through the cop’s mind, I’m pretty sure we would have seen/heard evidence of it on the tape. Either at the moment, or after the fact when the suspect asks what caused the tasing, and especially when he describes the incident to the other cop—”I thought he was going for a weapon…”
Officer Asshole decided he was going to show this guy who was boss, and arrest him. For speeding.
He either has no hesitation about using excessive force or he simply mishandles the situation so poorly that he panics and fucks up. Either way, he is wrong, and doesn't deserve to be carrying waepons and dealing with civilians. Put that dick behind a desk or better yet, fire his ass.
But this is part of a bigger problem. First, tasers are fucking dangerous. No, they are not deadly weapons in the same sense as a handgun, but as three separate taser-related deaths last weekend indicate, they should not be used without justification. But they clearly are—in some cases even more outrageously that the Utah speeding case:
• Here's one where an intoxicated, but hardly dangerous, Ohio woman is tased repeatedly by a cop that has a good hundred pounds on her, simply because, it appears, he doesn't feel like bending over to restrain her.
• A bicyclist tells his story of a confrontation where he ended up getting tased for trying to ride home from the airport.
• But the most blantant abuse of force appears in this video of a student in the library at UCLA. If you can get past the horrendous cell phone cinematography, this one is disturbing for what it reveals about the police and their techniques.
We are now in a era when people can be detained, wiretapped, surveilled, questioned, or whatever for no reason whatsoever and expected to comply without protest. No warrants issued, no charges need to be filed, no habeas corpus, the government is assuming powers they should not have, and at the same time introducing new torturous techniques to enforce compliance.
At a time when governement and police actions most deserve to be questioned and scrutinized, that will be met with hostility, excessive force and pain. Great combination.
Andrew's right. President Rudy should fucking scare the shit out of you. I suspect many of the people who think they have "nothing to fear" aren't too different than Jared Massey—they are just driving down the highway with their family, minding their own business...
UPDATE: CNN interview with the motorist, and a UHP representative.
It's hard to tell in the video but according to this story Massey is tased a second time for not rolling over fast enough.
It's probably also worth noting that Utah is one of the states that has yet to outlaw ticket quotas.