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Thursday, November 16, 2006

Taser Attack on Student: abuse of power, banality of evil, lack of judgment and creative problem-solving skills...

As a graduate of the UC system, I am disgusted and appalled -- based on the facts as I currently know them -- by the apparent laziness of campus cops apparently preferring to rely on the ease of brute force over appropriate problem-solving strategies in their role as community servants.

I also have to seriously wonder if the fact that the student's name is Mostafa Tabatabainejad has any bearing on their readiness to use (potentially) deadly force against him for NOT HAVING HIS STUDENT I.D. CARD WHILE BEING IN THE LIBRARY after 11:00 PM. Lordy mercy! Has anyone else ever forgotten their ID or driver's license or Sam's Club card?

Tabatabainejad was hit by the Taser five times and suffered "moderate to severe contusions" on his right side.

The university said earlier, however, that Tabatabainejad was asked for his ID as part of a routine nightly procedure to make sure that everyone using the library after 11 p.m. is a student or otherwise authorized to be there. Campus officials have said the long-standing policy was adopted to ensure students' safety.

UCLA also said that Tabatabainejad refused repeated requests by a community service officer and regular campus police to provide identification or to leave. UCLA said the police decided to use the Taser to incapacitate Tabatabainejad only after the student urged other library patrons to join his resistance.

Some witnesses disputed that account, saying that when campus police arrived, Tabatabainejad had begun to walk toward the door.
If you're not yet familiar with the story, see the LATimes, Daily Bruin (Daily Bruin's first story here), and of course the raw video is at YouTube with an L.A. TV news report here which interviewed an eye witness who strenuously objected to the actions of campus cops.

The guy may have been an asshole. He may have been rude to campus cops. He may not have been totally cooperative. No reports indicate that he was violent. How does rudeness or being uncooperative require being brutally tasered as opposed to being given the old heave-ho so favored by bouncers and others who deal routinely with unruly patrons? Haven't these people taken assertiveness training and communications classes?

Don't forget Stanley Milgram's Obedience to Authority research, further explored so chillingly by Philip Zimbardo of Stanford in the Prisoner/Prison Guard experiment which had to be halted because the 'guards' became so enthusiastic and abusive in their powers over the 'prisoners' -- all were randomly chosen students.

There are so few incidents requiring campus security staff to ever use their force training, that there are some (too many) who are unusually ready for any excuse to go overboard -- they all drool for the possibility to carry weapons, especially guns -- that I am not surprised that given a taser, they will gleefully use it. (I also worked and taught on college campuses so this statement is knowledge-based, not speculation).

These kamikaze cops also threatened to taze other distraught student witnesses who demanded to know their badge numbers as well. I smell multi-million dollar lawsuits on the horizon.

Unfortunately average citizens who are not students will not have access to the legal resources available at major universities -- and with the Patriot Act and other erosion of constitutional and civil liberties, citizens yet have fewer rights than ever before.

Just an aside, but: Ever notice law enforcement and military proclivity for fascist-style facial hair from the WWII era?

UPDATE: Yep, the LA Times reports the student has hired well-known civil suit attorney Stephen Yagmen (who has successfully sued LAPD and other law enforcement agencies). Go get 'em Yag!

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