Wednesday, February 07, 2007

The Rambo Effect: Iraq War Veteran Tasered 12 Times

The video can be seen here: Taser Torture.

According to the report, Ashley Abbott, Iraq war veteran with 4 1/2 years in the Marines, was detained by police and shocked with 50,000 volts twelve times, many of which occured when he was already handcuffed with five officers kneeling or otherwise restraining him. He was also beaten with a baton and punched in the face several times.

According to police, Ashley Abbott was involved in a fight at the Fox and Hound Bar and Grille on 39th Street in Independence, MO. He was later pulled over by the Independence Police. Police reports indicate that Abbott did not respond to verbal commands, resisted arrest and seemed "impervious to pain".

It is unclear by the video what occurred prior to the taser incident. However, a young woman who witnessed and video recorded the incident insisted that he was not involved in the fight, that he had not threatened the officers in anyway and was clearly in pain because he yelled several times for the officers to stop shocking him, he was not moving. The video clearly shows that, after the officers had restrained him with his hands cuffed behind his back, he was punched and tasered.

The Independence police have been previously investigated by KCTV 5 along with several other police departments around the city regarding following policies on taking and resolving citizen complaints. The Duty Sergeant insisted that the undercover reporter had to speak to him first before being given the complaint form. The reporter refused, continued to ask for the report and pointed out the department's posted policy. The Duty Sergeant told the undercover reporter to leave. When the reporter refused to leave without the form, the Sergeant threw him against the wall, cutting his face, cuffed him and charged him with "disorderly conduct" and "causing a crowd to form".

The officer was not reprimanded though the Independence Police department did offer an apology and changed their complaint policy.

Unfortunately, I don't think that changed the culture of the Independence Police. The tasering incident occured in November 2006. The Independence Police refuse to comment indicating it was still under investigation.

You can make a comment on TV 5 here.

Personal Commentary

It is a practice of many police departments to have at least a second car back them up even on a regular traffic stop. There are too many incidents where suspects have pulled a gun, shot at police, wrestled with an officer, tried to run them over or evolved into some other incident that puts the police and the public in danger.

In some cases, when an officer calls in a stop or incident and reviews the person's history, he or she can ask for additional back up. This is usually done when the person/suspect has a history of criminal violence, is registered to carry a concealed weapon, has been involved in a recent violent altercation and/or has a personal history as a law enforcement officer or military personnel.

Again, this is a policy that is supposed to protect the police, the public AND the suspect from harm. The expectations of the police department when stopping or arresting a suspect is that the suspect says nothing and does nothing except follow the explicit directions of the officer. Any words, including denial of actions, refusing to turn around to be cuffed or searched ON THE FIRST COMMAND, can be construed as disobeying verbal commands and resisting arrest.

Whether or not Ashley Abbott did anything that could be construed as "resisting" is not apparent on the video. The real problem here is that after he was clearly constrained and even handcuffed, the officers continued to use the taser on Abbott who was clearly not moving and was screaming in pain. Another problem is that the use of classifications indicating possible violent behavior is clearly a problem when it results in an over-reaction by the police and assault on a citizen. In this case, an Iraq war veteran.

It would be easy to identify Ashley Abbott as a former Marine. It would be on any public records the police accessed to identify him during their stop. Maybe too easy. My local police source who spoke on condition of anonymity indicates that it is policy to treat any stop that involves a current or former military member as a "felony stop" or potentially dangerous requiring additional back up and special measures.

This is the sad effect of Rambo. While many watch the film and see it as a finger to authority, others, including police departments the country over, may have embibed the idea that veterans are simply too dangerous because they are "trained to kill".

The officers also wrote in their report that Abbott seemed "impervious to pain". This is usually written when above normal force is used to quail a suspect. Often it refers to suspects who are on an illegal substance and does not respond to normal efforts to subdue them. In this case, it was clearly written on the report (falsely) in order to justify the abuse of the taser.

Another problem is clearly the breakdown of training in the face of anger or "mob mentality". I suspect that these officers will be reprimanded, placed on leave and possibly fired for falsifying their report. I also suspect that there may be investigations into violating Abbot's civil rights along with the civil suit Abbott will be pressing on them.

Finally, as a daughter of a retired police officer with several relations who are currently officers, it pains me to relate this event that clearly tarnishes the reputation of many police officers who have and continue to serve in a dangerous job protecting the public. But, when officers clearly violate their oaths to protect, policies that control the use of force and the civil rights of a citizen, I cannot turn away and pretend it didn't happen.

Worse yet, when it involves a veteran. In any case, the Independence Police Department has problems that need to be addressed.

Related: Senior Airman Elio Carrion Shot by San Bernadino Deputy Sheriff.

Cross referenced at the Castle

No comments: