In a situation where a taser was used on a pregnant woman, you would expect her to be the one asking for justice, but in this case it’s cops who are asking the supreme court to appeal a ruling that they used excessive force. According to the New York Times:
The [Seattle] 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.
When Brooks refused to get out of the car, Officer Juan M. Ornelas showed her his Taser and asked if she knew what it was. She said she did not and told the officer, “I am pregnant. I’m less than 60 days from having my baby.” The petition for certiorari shows the officers didn’t believe her story as they wrote that she was a: “large, strong (230 pounds) heavy woman” and they “recognized that trying to manually extract her from the car presented a risk of injury to her and themselves.”
To avoid that risk, they thought tasing in drive-stun mode was the best route to go, as they’d learned in training it would not hurt a pregnant women—although they stated they could not objectively verify the woman’s claim to be pregnant due to her size. The three men assessed the situation and conferred. One said,“Well, don’t do it in her stomach. Do it in her thigh.” But that’s not all they did. They tased her in her thigh, which caused her to cry out and honk the car’s horn. A half-minute later, another officer applied the taser to her left arm, then six seconds he pressed it into her neck. Brooks fell over, and the officers dragged her into the street, laying her face down and cuffing her hands behind her back.
In the following months, Ms. Brooks gave birth to a healthy girl despite the incident and was convicted of refusing to sign the ticket (a misdemeanor), but not of resisting arrest. She sued the officers who ended up winning in a split decision because even though the majority of the 10-member panel said the officers had used excessive force, it was determined they could not be sued because the law on the question was not clear in 2004, when the incident took place. Despite winning, the officers are appealing the Ninth Circuit’s ruling on the excessive force issue because they say it “effectively strips officers of the authority to use any pain compliance technique to control an actively resisting arrestee.” In other words, they want to be able to do this to someone else.
The Supreme Court will decide whether to hear the case next week and the news comes at the same time that a Mississippi mother was tased twice in front of her child’s school yesterday. Michelle Lee Eaton was there to dispute disciplinary action against her child when she was asked to calm down because she was raising her voice too loudly. The mother stormed out of the office and was followed by an officer who said he was placing her under arrest. When the woman kept walking, he tased her to the ground twice on the walkway outside of the building then arrested her. She’s now been charged with disorderly conduct, public profanity, resisting arrest, and failure to comply with a law enforcement officer.
Obviously there are times when a taser is needed but police officers seem to be increasingly taser-trigger happy these days and instead of using the devices are as a next-to-last resort, they’re becoming the first choice.
What do you think about these cases? Does it seem officers are too taser happy these days?
Brande Victorian is a blogger and culture writer in New York City. Follower her on Twitter at @be_vic.
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