On Tasers and “Disorderly Conduct”

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When I was a kid I used to watch “Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom” with some regularity, and learned that tranquilizer darts could stop large angry charging animals (lions, elephants, hippos) as well as much smaller critters very quickly in their tracks.   When I heard about police shootings on the news, I   wondered why police officers didn’t use guns that show   tranquilizer darts, instead of bullets. That way if the person was innocent, or even guilty of something less than a death penalty offense, they’d still be alive after they got shot and fell to the ground unconscious, eliminating whatever dangers (if any) they were posing to others. I hadn’t thought about that question in decades, but this post (which links to this article) reminded me of my childhood musings.   Violet is right: “If that had been a gun, the cop wouldn’t have fired it. If it had been a billy club, he wouldn’t have knocked the woman upside the head with it. But it was a taser, and so Mr. Asshole Cop decided to get all SWAT team.” If the same cop had had tranquilizer darts instead of a taser, would he have used them too? Below is the video of the event:

Deputy Tasers Woman In Minivan

This article reports:

… Harmon was charged with disorderly conduct, resisting arrest and going 50 in a 45 mph zone. The district attorney’s office dismissed the charges a month later — after watching the videotape, said her lawyer, Terrance Hoffmann. The prosecutor could not be reached for comment. In his report on the arrest, Andrews makes no mention of Harmon threatening him or using foul language. He said she refused his request to get back in her van, then refused to get out when he said she was under arrest, the report said. Harmon refused to comply with his commands to put her hands behind her back to be cuffed, Andrews wrote.

Here’s Harmon’s description of that day:

Harmon, a school bus driver for 11 years, was returning home from shopping and picking up her son Casey, 15, from wrestling practice. He was in the front passenger seat. Harmon’s daughter Brandi, 5, was in the back seat. Harmon was driving on Electronics Parkway in the left lane and had to slow down to get into the right lane behind Andrews’ patrol car so she could turn onto Hopkins.

Andrews made the turn ahead of her, then immediately pulled off to the side of Hopkins Road and let Harmon pass. He quickly turned on his flashing lights and pulled her over.

Andrews told Harmon he’d seen her using her cell phone while she was driving. In the video, he makes a phone gesture with his hand. She told him she’d been driving with her right hand on her cheek, but that she hadn’t talked on the phone for at least two hours. She says she offered to let him look at the phone to see for himself. He declined.

Andrews said he also clocked her going 50 mph in a 45 mph zone. No way, Harmon recalls telling him.

“I want you to show me the tape,” she told him.

“You’ll have to take that up in court,” he responded, according to Harmon. He told her the evidence was in a box in his patrol car, and started walking back toward it. Harmon followed. That’s when he told her to get back in the van.

She says she didn’t refuse the order but told him once more that she wanted to see his proof. Andrews drew the Taser and pointed it at her.

“Mom, get back in the car,” she recalls her son telling her. A witness, Staci Santorelli, was across the road at the Shoot ‘n’ Score soccer center and heard Andrews tell Harmon she was under arrest. Harmon also says she remembers Andrews at some point telling her she was under arrest.

“I just wanted to get back in my car where I was safe and where my kids were,” Harmon says. Andrews told her to get out.

“But you just told me to get in,” she says she told Andrews. She heard her daughter crying, “Mommy! Mommy!”

“I was not getting out of that car,” she says. “I was scared to death.” She gripped the steering wheel with both hands as Andrews grabbed her by the arm and pulled. Harmon stands 5-foot-4. Andrews is 10 inches taller. After some tugging, he got her out.

She and Andrews stood facing each other for a few seconds, talking. He had the Taser pointed at her.

“I kept saying, ‘Don’t do this in front of my kids,’” she says.

Andrews fired the Taser, but it only gave her a small jolt, apparently because it hit her winter clothing. She started to get back in the van. Andrews pulled her back, opening her front to him before he fired again. This time, Harmon dropped to her knees.

The Taser probe, like a little arrow with a fish hook, stuck in Harmon’s upper left chest. The jolt shook her. …

… Harmon said she wants to teach police a lesson: It’s OK to admit you’re wrong. She said Andrews manufactured the speeding charge once he realized she didn’t deserve a cell phone ticket. Andrews had not clocked her with a radar gun. Instead, he said in a report, he calculated her speed by following her for “several seconds.”

“I want the public to know these police officers apparently aren’t being trained well enough to know when it is justified to use a Taser,” she said.

The article says the woman, repeatedly described as “a mom,” is a school bus driver, but doesn’t discuss whether her job might have been jeopardized if she got a speeding ticket. I doubt many bloggers or media outlets (or President Obama) are going to see this as important, since she is not a Harvard professor. But it is.

–Ann Bartow

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