Police to SCOTUS: Need Blank Check to Tase Anyone


    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?




    She refused to get out, was warned she would be tased if she did not, was tased three times,

    it all comes down to how one interpets this scene.  she was told to get out of the car by the police and she refused.  did she have a right to do so?  if a police officer tells you to get out of your car, regardless of whether you feel you are innocent of breaking any law (or the law you were breaking, say doing more than the speed limit, is not worthy of getting out of the car), do you have the right to refuse?  Does the police officer(s) have to just stand by your car while they try to convince you to get out?

    And if they warn you will be tasered if you do not comply, and you do not comply with is basically a simple request, and you get tasered, does one have any room for complaint.

    My friends and me on the wrong side of the track were pulled over and dealt with by cops many times growing up.  In spite of our punk rock demeanor, there was never a time any of us refused to do anything the police asked us to do.  Get out of the car, empty our pockets, explain what we were doing an hour ago, and in one instance, what we planned to do in our future. 

    LOL!  Unless your name is Skip Gates.  Hilarious how things change when it's not an upper-class privileged Harvard professor FOO (Friend of Obama).

    As this comment seems to have passed like ships in the night, let me give it a shout out.

    Yes, people who were arguing racism in the case of Skip Gates - where he was being uncooperative to police investigating a report of him actually breaking into his own house, and where he *was not* tased or physically abused - are now saying police should be able to use tasers on a pregnant woman for not getting out of the car.

    Why not thumb locks? Why not pepper spray? How about dart guns to render her unconscious. None are permanently debilitating.

    But did the police ask if she was a Friend of Obama? If not, we may have a case of police negligence.

    To tell the truth, I'd tase Skip Gates just because he strikes me as a bit of a prick. Hell, when it comes down to it, I'd like to tase Obama as well. Maybe even a coupla times. Just to see if there's any part of him left that responds like a human being.

    It's not a racial thing though, cause the list of who I'd like to tase is actually pretty long. Some might even call it comprehensive. For instance, I think every cop should be tased just to give 'em a taste of it. And all of Wall St should be tased til they sign over every fucking penny they ever stole, which is every fucking penny they ever touched. Hollywood, you hafta tase, just because we need to balance all the unnecessary abuse we just gave Wall Street. Then there's any churchmen who've ever been on TV, plus the ones not good enough to make it. Professional athletes PLUS basketball players. And the state of Florida, with double helpings for anyone who worked on the 2000 election, Al Gore gets tased just for marrying Tipper, you get tased for arguing too much, Genghis for knowing Articleman, Trope should be tased, by cops, and forced to shout "thank you sir, may I have another," Dick should get it just because he'd enjoy it so much, plus he'd have one hell of an experience to write about, the entire medical profession, from big pharma to the insurers through to your friendly family doc, who secretly hates dogs and roams the streets at night putting the to sleep, anyone who believes it's worthwhile fighting the war on drugs, people who stand up at sporting events to sing the national anthem, Democrats because they're pretty much guaranteed to be self-righteous blow-hards without the guts heart brains or commitment required to the Republicans, a party led by the biggest morons since Milli Vanilli, plus I'd tase anyone with more than 2 cars, 3 cats, 4 bathrooms or 5 years in college, every Victoria's Secret model, hell, every model period, just a little tase though, cause too much and they'd gain weight, Nebraska, the dumb fucks, and Oklahoma just because they all look like Nebraskans, the makers of Kill Bill, people who blog about tennis, any French tourists, because after all, what kind of a Frenchman are you to come to America in your spare time, I mean, Jesus, people, and so, I guess what I'm saying is, when you come down to it, my list is pretty much all-inclusive. Which means....

    Drop your pants and bite your belt, America. You got some voltage coming your way.


    I am reminded of a song 



    If following law, the police can ask her to get out of the car and if she doesn't comply, can force her to.

    That of course doesn't give them the right to fire a gun at her head, and considering the number of people who have died from tasers, and in general the high level of anguish causes, shouldn't be used except in dangerous situations.

    Refusing to obey the police should not be an automatic death sentence or approval of torture. Additionally, there are numerous cases of mentally impaired people being tortured by police in this way because they didn't understand the orders. Enough times that it shouldn't just be standard operating procedure to taser someone as if it's benign.

    Even criminals do not deserve torture.

    Exactly. There are numerous additional means that could have been used to encourage compliance. Heck, even though it's slightly dangerous, I would have been happy if they had towed her car with her in it down to the police station. I find it impossible to justify tasing in this situation, whether it is a pregnant woman or a young male. If the driver were acting belligerent, then maybe, depending on the nature of the belligerence.

    There are two strands to the issue here:

    1) the use of tasers in any situation (is it torture or a legit tool for law enforcement)


    2) the use of tasers in this particular situation (was the use of tasers appropriate, and if so, was it used excessively).

    What I object to is the painting of the officers as racist sadists.  There is no evidence this woman was mentally impaired and she was informed that if she did not get out she would be tasered.  Personally, even if I felt like I was in the right, I would have gotten out of the car at this time.

    And, yes, when we start making a series qualifications about when a citizen cannot just choose to ignore police officers, we definitely weaken our ability to actually address the real criminal element in society.

    As Donal says, she should not have resisted arrest. (However, she does have the right to remain silent, and in my opinion that includes refusing to sign anything.)

    I have no idea if the officers would have used a taser if she were a pregnant white woman, but I find it plausible that they would have, so I don't think the racial aspect of this case is relevant.

    However, using a taser on someone because they are unwilling to get out of a car is wrong (whether or not it is legal). Using a taser on a pregnant woman is doubly so.

    So, no, I don't conclude that they are racist sadists, just that they are sadists.

    As someone well versed in the liberal arts, I have to ask you, WWTD? (T=Thoreau) Yes, the police must have the ability to perform their duties, but we don't want to give them a blank check, either. Civil disobedience is an important part of our society, and is a means for addressing the "real criminal element" in our government.

    As we learned in the Milgram and Stanford Prison experiments, the sad thing is that you don't have to be a racist or a sadist to do this sort of thing, you just have to be told that it is acceptable.

    You're right, of course. You don't have to be a sadist to follow order. However, have you seen footage from the Milgram experiment? Many of them clearly enjoyed delivering the shocks (while many others clearly did not).

    We need a system where police officers get promotions and raises for ending nonviolent confrontation nonviolently, even if it takes a lot more time and means marshaling more resources.  I'm sure the career minded peace officer doesn't call in a negotiator to get an unarmed woman out of a car, but maybe they should.  Maybe that's what we need to reward.

    We also need to realize that the current deal around arrests, where the wrongfully arrested must comply with orders and then hope that they have the resources to go in  front of a judge, or even a jury, later, just doesn't work.

    Civil disobedience is an important part of our society, and is a means for addressing the "real criminal element" in our government.

    I couldn't agree more with you on this statement.  But I haven't seen any evidence that this particular woman was attempting to address the real criminal element in our government (or economic system).

    I wouldn't shed a tear if tasers were done away with entirely.  But let's remember that one of the reasons we have a tasers is that too many people were getting killed or seriously injured by police when they were attempting to physically restrain individuals.  Lets all wonder what would have been the response had the police tried to just drag the woman out of the car and there had been some injury to her and her baby. 

    TV shows like Cops for all of their downside, at times do reveal the violent realities that police officers face with people who don't want to comply with the police.  Some procedural method needs to be in place so law enforcement officers know as best as they can that they are doing their job in an appropriate matter.

    In the court records, it describes how the three officers stood around and discussed how to approach the situation.  At this point in the matter, I believe all three felt they were following protocol.  It is unfair to them that after the fact others step in and say doing so means they were sadists and therefore should face criminal charges or lose their livelihood.

    Hopefully, the outcome of this event will be new protocols about how to handles such a situation without using tasers. And if so, then should something happen like this, the reaction should be different.

    There are sadists, racists, and sadistic racists within the ranks of the police department.  I applaud the DOJ whenever they go in to investigate institutionalized criminality and civil rights abuses - and there is enough of that to keep them busy.  At the same time, the officers potentially put their life on the line every time they respond to domestic violence call or pull someone over for a traffic violation.

    We need to hold police to a higher standard of conduct, but they still need to be able to do their job.  This creates a tension that I doubt will disappear anytime soon.  But I don't think we will make progress on these issues, and find some workable solutions, if people on any side of the issues, make broad generalizations about who is inherently on the side of good and who is on the side of the bad.

    I think that we need a higher standard than simple nonviolent disobedience to warrant use of force.

    Another case of 'driving while black'?

    Further more, I know plenty of white people who have been pulled over for doing  5 to 9 mph over the speed limit in non school zones.  Also, I know in my community, the school zones with their 20 mph are notorious speed traps, regardless of race.  So the notion she was pulled over for just being black, while possible is not a given, in spite of how much you want it to be.

    I knew I could count on you Trope to back the men in blue, while simultaneously coming up with ample snippets of anecdotal personal history to prove not only that the citizen victim brought it on themselves, but also that there is absolutely none, nada, zero racial profiling anywhere within the professional law enforcement community in America.

    Clearly, the only course of action for the cops was to taser shock the pregnant mother, with the kid in the back seat, and drag her onto the street.  What else could they do? Just give her the ticket unsigned?

    It's an important case for the Supreme Court to set a precedent on, as if the woman got away without such treatment, the cops very lives, and the security of the nation itself, might have been forfeit.

    He just said that getting pulled over for speeding in a school zone is an everyday event for all colors. Don't get hysterical or accusatory.

    He didn't say anything about signing, tasing, whatever. Just speeding.

    Two for the cops. Trope and PP.

    Lovely. If I say that the cops wore blue and not pink, I must be defending them, right?

    Well, you are a well-known conformist…

    Photoradar tickets are sent to presumed violators and they don't require the drivers signature. 

    A warrant will be issued, for failure to appear as directed.

    Refusing to sign a ticket was dumb, refusing to get out of the car was dumber and tasing a pregnant woman was even dumber still. But I have no doubt that the Supreme Court will surpass all of that.

    Donal, you are equating the actions of a trained, uniformed, professional law enforcement officer on duty to 'protect the citizens and community', with the actions of a common citizen going about their business, by using the same descriptive adjective 'dumb'?

    That is dumb, Dagdumb from what I have read here so far, except for Resistance.

    Actually I said the officers were dumber than the civilian, but go ahead and have your fun.

    Not getting out of the car was extremely dumb. I can understand not wanting to sign something, and it's hard to say lack of signature is a threat (though the police did tase a granny not long ago for not signing a ticket).

    Also, with every cop having a camera for ID, it's hard to say what the signature serves - take her picture for proof and move on.

    But yes, it's hard to believe a cop could thing tasering a woman behind the wheel is the best or simplest way to get her out of the car. Is Jim Carrey starring in this movie?

    Maybe someone who has more knowledge about the realities of actual court rulings can answer this, but I don't think it is far fetched to believe some lawyers have gotten their clients off because the cops couldn't produce a signed document, in spite of video evidence etc.  You know, one of those technicalities about rights of the accused etc that get some people so frustrated with the court system in this country. 

    While I certainly do not condone refusing to sign a ticket, arresting someone for refusing to sign a ticket is just as stupid.  There's a far easier way to handle someone who refuses to sign a ticket.  Just have the ticket served on him using a process server.  When the person appears in court and loses his case, in addition to his fine and court fees, the judge also orders him to reimburse the police the cost of the service of process.

    What we need are better "use of force" rules for our police.  I don't think we can count on the courts for that because, as previously noted, the courts tend not to like to second guess officers in the field.  Indeed, the courts sadly see the officers as an arm of their branch of government and so they aren't truly neutral when citizens have disputes with law enforcement.

    To my mind, we've given the police a ridiculous amount of power.  Sadly, most of my fellow citizens, perhaps thinking that something like this will never happen to them (because they're "good") seems fine letting law enforcement get away with murder.

    Destor, the DOJ agrees:

    April, 2011 - SThe U.S. Justice Department on Thursday launched a formal civil rights investigation into the Seattle Police Department following the fatal shooting of a homeless Native American woodcarver and other incidents of force used against minority suspects.

    The investigation aims to determine whether Seattle police have a "pattern or practice" of violating civil rights or discriminatory policing,

    "...That 20 percent figure comes from the Justice Department. U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan explained that figure at a news conference in December: "We found in the cases that we reviewed that when officers used force, it was done in an unconstitutional and excessive manner nearly 20 percent of the time."
    Monday, May 14, 2012 at 12:38 PM

    (Seattle) McGinn: DOJ plan to cost $41M; but feds say that's 'simply wrong'

    In a radio interview, Mayor Mike McGinn asserted that the scope of the federal plan for the Seattle Police Department could saddle the city with a "shadow mayor" and cost $41 million a year.
    Comment at Crooks and Liars:

    As a Seattle resident, I can assure you that the SPD is currently out of control, accountable to no one and not to be trusted. The DOJ has issued a very damning report. A large part of the problem, in my opinion, is that the SPD is comprised of ex-urban Glenn Beck worshipers who view the population of the city they allegedly "protect" as a bunch of lazy, anti-American filth. The SPD police union publishes a broadsheet were officers routinely publish articles in which they rant against the "socialists" they have to deal with on the job. Your average SPD officer has nothing but seething contempt for the average Seattle resident, and outright open hostility for all people of color.


    From the NPR article:

    That 20 percent figure comes from the Justice Department. U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan explained that figure at a news conference in December: "We found in the cases that we reviewed that when officers used force, it was done in an unconstitutional and excessive manner nearly 20 percent of the time."

    Seattle officials were flabbergasted by that statistic. At the time, they asked the Justice Department to explain which use-of-force cases it was based on. Three months later, Mayor Mike McGinn is still asking. He says the federal government's response to his requests has been a simple "No."

    I completely agree with Destor:

    What we need are better "use of force" rules for our police.

    My question is how do we collectively develop workable rules that both protect the citizens and enable the police to do their job if we don't actually discuss the details of what was unconstitutional or excessive?  Moreover, it allows those who want to disregard the findings an easy excuse to disregard the findings.

    I suppose we must assume cops are either assholes or idiots, and give them a list of things they don't tase or physically drag people from cars for, the list could be started with (1) obvious (pregnant, kids in car) Moms who accept, but refuse to sign a school zone traffic ticket. I would not agree with the LA Sheriffs that such a rule would create bedlam and death to cops and the public at large.

    But sometimes kids are annoying, no?

    I think one could safely improve on that by omitting some of the specifics. You shouldn't tase anyone just because they refuse to sign a school zone traffic ticket. I do agree that the pregnant bit just makes it that much dumber, however. I just can't fathom how anyone, especially after apparently deliberating on it, would come to the conclusion that this is a good idea…

    I would point to my response to NCD below.  Because the state cannot just walk into people's homes (for good reason), the traffic stop does become one of the significant ways that the state is able to intervene.  Personally, I think being pulled over because one did not use one's right turn signal is pretty petty.  But if the person is intoxicated....

    As I drived across the country recently, the Illinois state police pulled me over because I drifted over the line between the two lanes on our side of the highway.  I was exhausted and had no memory of it.  Of course they thought I was drunk when they pulled me over.  They soon realized it was sleep deprivation.  But they still searched my entire car.  And I had and have no problem with that.

    Lets all remember Timothy McVeigh was pulled over.

    And how are they suppose to know that the kid in the car is hers?  Or maybe you don't believe there is ever a child abducted? Maybe get rid of Amber Alerts.  And how are they suppose to know she isn't driving while under the influence of prescription drugs (the cause of just as many accidents as alcohol now, and we just recently had a blog about babies being born addicted to prescription opiates)?  Would you be okay if the cops let her go and then she crashed killed the child in her car?

    And if we allow people to decide whether to comply with law enforcement officers - yes you will get bedlam.  Unless you can provide an exact and absolute list of exactly the individuals who can and cannot - with all the variables like the scenarios above taken into account.

    Or we might reword that and suppose the citizens are either assholes or idiots.  I have numerous personal experiences, let alone the numerous examples caught on tape, where the cops tried to just let everyone go home and they still pushed things til everyone went to jail.

    Lets go to Walmart and wait for when the first pregnant woman comes in to buy some alcohol?  How long do we think we will have to wait?

    There was the time when the guy in the house next to mine was screaming "open the door bitch, so i can fucking kill you!"  After the police showed up after we called them, she tried to hide him, then took a taxi to go bail him out.

    Of course nothing compares to the next tenet who shot a guy from the upstair window after he ran from the house (the guy in the burger kind parking lot kitty corner was shot in the leg on a richochet) when the tenet confronted him on buying his girlfriend's ring from her daughter.  The standoff made the news....more details but I won't go on about it.

    One can take the position that crime would go down if the police didn't exist, just like there would be less war if the US Military disbanded.  But that is just leftist garbage that makes legitimate leftist proposal all the more harder to grab hold.  And that is why I so pissy about these idealist pissings about The Man.

    Shoot 'em all and let Trope sort them out.

    Geez Trope, sounds like you live in the neighborhood I grew up in (Jerry Springer land before Jerry Springer existed.) Your examples remind me to be grateful (and proud) that my current Bronx neighbors do not lead lives like that, despite probably being of similar socio-economic levels and with similar background stressors.

    Whoever is at fault (i.e. the citizens themselves, the police, the laws, segregation of groups, poverty, unemployment, "welfare," the "system", changing  male roles, violence in entertainment & ubiquity of firearms, drugs, lack of education, yadda yadda whatevah, take your pick...) when the culture gets like that, one thing I believe from experience is: it doesn't have to be that way, it's not an insolvable problem.

    maybe it is because i don't try to look for who is at fault - the police and the thieves are both at fault -

    this was our role model growing up in the mean streets of Seattle

    of course this might make more sense

    and this leads to this

    It's always a bad idea for a police officer to make a situation worse. The officer should have advised the woman that refusing to acknowledge the ticket was a crime and that he would testify in court that she did refuse to sign. (presumably he had it on car cam.)  but arresting her on the spot, even if Abe was bei g difficult? Bad idea.  He could have asked her if there was anyone she could call for legal advice.

    Lotta ways to keep this one from going bad. Officers didn't use their brains, and instead provoked a fight instead of saying "I'm sorry to say we will see you in court, have a nice day."

    and tasing????  No way. That this case is going to the supreme court should provoke the profoundest embarrassment in those officers and their superiors.

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