Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Review of the News, November 22

Tased and Confused

In the welter of partial disclosures and contradictory eyewitness accounts that are emerging about the Taser attack on UCLA student Mustafa Tabatabainejad, two facts have achieved saliency:

First, the UCLA officer who used the Taser, 43-year-old Terrence Duren, who has been a policeman since 1988, has a somewhat dubious employment record, having joined the UCLA force after being fired from the Long Beach Police Department sometime in the late 1990s. Officer Duren, who at first glance appears to be a solid and respectable guy (that's an important part of this story, one I'll return to shortly), has been involved in controversial use-of-force incidents on at least three previous occasions, including an incident in which he shot a mentally ill vagrant.

The second interesting fact is that Officer Duren served in the first Gulf War. This is significant, in my view, because it illustrates the ever-deepening amalgamation of law enforcement and the military, both in terms of the shared talent pool and the increasing reliance on military tactics, training, hardware, and – most importantly – mind-set by local police agencies.

Consider the explanation given for the fact that Duren used his Taser five times on the UCLA undergraduate. As paraphrased in the Los Angeles Times:

“The officers decided to use the Taser to incapacitate Tabatabainejad after he went limp while they were escorting him out [of the computer lab at the UCLA library] and after he urged other library patrons to join his resistance, according to the university's account.”

If the student was “limp,” nothing prevented the officers (there were four of them, after all) from lifting the student and carrying him bodily from the room. Yes, it looks bad, albeit not nearly as bad as resulting the Abu Ghraib mise-en-scene -- a screaming student, surrounded by armed, uniformed men, with other students looking on in horror.

Both Tabatabainejad and several eyewitnesses add a key element missing from the official account, specifically that the Taser was used because he went limp. The student insists that he went limp when one of the officers refused to let go of his arm. He was leaving, in other words; he simply didn't consent to being dragged bodily from the room like a criminal.

Tabatabainejad, after all, is a California-born American citizen. He objected to the demand to show his ID, according to his account, because he suspected he had been singled out for harassment on account of his Iranian ancestry. (As someone who has been mistaken for an Iranian, a Saudi, an Egyptian, and various other ethnic types, I can sympathize somewhat with his complaint.) It's understandable to me why Tabatabainejad would insist on retaining a particle of dignity, and any legitimate peace officer – whose priority in a situation of this sort is to de-escalate – would permit the young man that insignificant moral victory.

But Officer Duren, like nearly everybody else employed by the Homeland Security State, is not a peace officer. His objective was to make the subject submit to the State's power – to “win” the engagement and hold the territory. His actions, and those of his comrades, reflect a military mind-set.

In chapter seven of my 2001 book Global Gun Grab (which may still be available from my erstwhile employers; if so, snag a copy), I cite a key insight from Diane Cecilia Weber, a law enforcement analyst at the Cato Institute: “[T]he mindset of the soldier is simply not appropriate for the civilian police officer. Police officers confront not an `enemy' but individuals who are protected by the Bill of Rights. Confusing the police function with the military function can lead to dangerous and unintended consequences – such as unnecessary shootings and killings.”

Tabatabainejad was shot five times – by a Taser, a “non-lethal” weapon that has proved to be quite lethal in too many recorded incidents. I'm of the opinion that providing Tasers to police officers has actually abetted the unnecessary use of force, rather than containing it.

What we're dealing with here is not a hardware issue – firearms vs. Tasers – but a “software” issue – a military mindset vs. that of a peace officer.

For decades – beginning in the late 1960s, and escalating through the Nixon years – Americans have been indoctrinated to believe that the struggle to contain street crime is a literal “war.” (Go here for a clip from a very popular 1980s prime-time cop show that offers, via a very badly written and dubiously directed monologue, a version of this propaganda trope.) The “war on crime” soon spun off subsidiary “wars” on drugs, child abuse, and other marketable pathologies that dealt with discrete portions of the population.

With the advent of the “war on terror,” everyone's a suspect – and when the demands of State agents are met with anything other than instantaneous and unqualified submission, a citizen/subject/suspect becomes the “enemy.”

As I mentioned above, Officer Duren doesn't strike me as a malefactor. He's probably a decent guy, as are most of those who fill the ranks of the Homeland Security State. But as Isabel Patterson warned, most of the evil done in the world is done by “good” people.

The Wrong End of the Telescope

Here's a very brief excerpt from my next book, which is very much a work in progress:

“When it comes to protecting individual rights, too many Americans are examining the issue through the wrong end of the telescope, as it were. They tend to obsess over distant and improbable threats posed by governments half-way around the world, while ignoring or minimizing the very tangible dangers to liberty posed by the government ruling us right now. Americans also dwell on the atrocities committed by the worst regimes in history – National Socialist Germany, Soviet Russia, and other mega-murdering tyrannies of that type – while ignoring clear and compelling warning signs that our own country is rapidly succumbing to similar totalitarian tendencies right now.”

Here's a splendid example of what I'm describing:

"The dirty little secret of the computer industry is that leading American computer companies are helping the Communist government of China spy on Chinese citizens. Firms accused of enabling the Chinese police state include high-profile names like Microsoft and Google. Now, another company, Cisco Systems, is facing investor backlash for its part in helping the Communist regime in Beijing....Every so often it is important to be reminded that evil triumphs only when good people do nothing. The shareholder revolt at Cisco highlights the importance of an informed citizenry taking an active stance against the perpetuation of evil.”

Bully for Cisco's rebellious shareholders, I say – even as I ask what may be a more pertinent question: When can we expect a similar shareholder revolt against the tech industry's collaboration in the efforts of our Regime to build a comprehensive surveillance system in this country?

Civil liberties advocates of various stripes have filed a total of 48 lawsuits against various telecom giants – including BellSouth, Cingular Wireless, Sprint, MCI, Verizon, AT&T and Comcast – for their involvement in the Regime's warrantless wiretap program. A federal judge has ruled – suh-PRIZE! -- that the Regime is not required to comply with a freedom of information act request filed by advocacy groups seeking documents about the number of wiretaps and the program's chain of command.

It's a “national security” issue, y'see.

Beijing says exactly the same thing about its domestic surveillance program, too.

And many – if not most – of the people building Beijing's Big Brother system are doing exactly the same thing here, only our version is much more advanced than theirs.

So ... isn't it an exercise in mote-plucking and beam-avoiding to focus on what's going on in China?

Hey, I'm just asking.

Heroic Security Officers Wounded in Fatal Clash with Insurgent ...

... or, at least, that's how the killing of 92-year-old Atlanta resident Katherine Johnson during an armed drug raid is being depicted in the “free” press.

Imperial Outsourcing

Every time I read something extruded by Max Boot of the Council on Foreign Relations, I'm prompted to remember that “Caligula” meant “little boots" (the despicable little creature's given name was Gaius). Little Max is Caligulan in his perverted appetite for power and his disdain for freedom. Taking a page from the syllabus of mortal errors made by ruling class of late Imperial Rome, Max – along with a fellow think-tank Babbitt -- insists that the US should look to rented foreigners to defend the empire's far-flung garrisons:

“Michael O'Hanlon, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington, and Max Boot, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, have proposed allowing thousands of immigrants to serve for four years in the military in exchange for U.S. Citizenship....More than 40,000 noncitizens are serving in the U.S. military on active and reserve duty, and about 8,000 permanent residents enlist for active duty every year. Margaret Stock, a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve and a professor at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, said that a recent change in law has given the Pentagon authority to bring foreigners to the United States to serve in the military, but that the Pentagon has not exercised the option.”

Call it Imperial Outsourcing – turning to immigrants for coffin-stuffers because going abroad to kill and die on behalf of our ruling elite is a job Americans increasingly won't do.

It could also be a case of importing people to serve in the Leviathan's domestic army, as well.

This sort of thing has been done before. During the War Between the States, it was common practice for immigrants freshly arrived in New York to be stuffed into a Union uniform and sent off to kill Confederates. And thinly assimilated immigrants were often used in frontier duty, “chastising” or “pacifying” Indians.

Immigrant officers were used in the round-up of the Navajo for interment at New Mexico's Bosque Redondo gulag, as described in Hampton Sides' Blood and Thunder (to which I've referred before). Referring to the officers who served under Kit Carson as the Navajos were rounded up, Sides writes:

“Time and time again they demonstrated themselves to be a uniquely inept and unruly bunch. Overworked and underpaid, many of them drunks, a good number of them immigrants fresh from paces like Ireland, England, and the Netherlands, they hated having to do this depressing work in a desert wasteland.... [N]early half of the officers serving on the Navajo campaign were either court-martialed or forced to resign.... [A]mong other things, Carson's officers were charged with `murder, alcoholism, embezzlement, sexual deviation [one was caught in bed with an enlisted man], desertion, and incompetence.'”

This army of degenerates was given orders by James Henry Carleton to break the spirit of the Navajo, compelling them to submit to the central government under the threat of literal extermination.

Carson, who hated this duty and did what he could to mitigate it, was given this message from Carleton to pass along to the Navajos:

“This war shall be pursued against you if it takes years, until you cease to exist or move [into the reservation]. There can be no other talk on the matter.”

For some reason, I find myself wondering if this sort of thing could happen on a much grander scale now that our nation is being turned into the modern equivalent of one vast Indian reservation....


Chris said...

A trip to would reveal that the tasers in use by our police forces are not "non-lethal" weapons, but "less-lethal."

dixiedog said...

I have images of Rome flowing through my mind whenever the words “immigrants,” “military,” and “war” appear in the same paragraph in a column or during a discussion. Rome increasingly used mercenaries during the twilight era of the empire and I view our use of immigrants as cannon fodder for imperial warmongering also as mercenaries. And, IF they survive the imperial adventures, to receive a fast-track to citizenship is also very similar to what Rome did during their latter days.

You’re one of the few that make a critical distinction between law enforcement and the military. Alleged criminals are not the same as genuine enemy combatants! But, we all know how the term “enemy combatant” is becoming hackneyed to the point that it’s meaningless since anyone and everyone can be so designated at the F├╝hrer’s discretion. There’s indeed supposed to be a difference between law enforcement and the military and the Regime has gradually been combining the two in terms of arms, tactics, and mindsets not to mention increased centralization.

I also can see in this the log-in-the-eye principle you mentioned as well. Ian Smith, the former prime minister of the former Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), was often savagely criticized by the various U.S. administrations about the alleged mistreatment of blacks in that country. I’ve heard that he said at some point something to the tune of, “What about the Indians? Before berating me for my dirty house, clean your own bloody house.” Later on, of course, South Africa became the prime target and we all know what happened to it.

Of course, I don’t know if what he was alleged to have said was true or not but, if he indeed said such, it would be dead right. Americans manage to always see a twig inserted into another’s eye, while half-blinded by the log crammed into their own eye.

On another note, I’ve noticed an ominous trend on the booby these days. There seems to be an endless parade of pro-police documentaries SWAT, COPS, Shootouts, Car Chases, Most Scariest…[insert activity], etc., etc., ad nauseam. Yes, COPS has been on the booby for years, but it just seems that there's now a plethora of COPS-like shows on the booby, many more so than in the past. I think these programs are produced for the implied purpose of subduing the commoner mind and to accede to to the state’s preeminence and power without question.

Perhaps, some would view that as a bit overblown and paranoid, but that’s how I see it.

Anonymous said...


You wrote: Tabatabainejad was shot five times – by a Taser, a “non-lethal” weapon that has proved to be quite lethal in too many recorded incidents. I'm of the opinion that providing Tasers to police officers has actually abetted the unnecessary use of force, rather than containing it.

Taser has been on many a federal docket. They emerge from the court victorious since most, if not all, Taser related deaths have one thing in common: drugs in the body of the subject (we're talking product liability, not excessive force by thugs).

Many agencies seem to be tripping over each other to secure the coveted Taser. There is a belief among some that the Taser fills in a fuzzy little gap in the use of force continuum. With its popularity and its actual safety record comes a level of comfort and dependance. Along comes excessive use.

While the Taser is a useful tool for the policeman who doesn't want to strike a bad guy with a baton or can't spray them with pepper spray, it must be used when the circumstances would not call for the use of a lower level of force, such as an escort hold, pressure on a pain sensitive area, etc. Going limp is a SCREAM to take advantage and cuff the guy before he escalates to a brawl. Him being seated and limp is even better if he is to be arrested.

If he was Tased and there was no intention of him being arrested, there certainly are some questions to be asked.

I nice option on the newer Tasers is a built in video camera which captures a subject's actions prior to application.

Tasers are a good tool in a responsible policeman's hand if he is trained and has adequate supervision.

Captain Kirk said...


Good points...I'd like to add too that the mercenaries that worked for Rome as well as the Germanic tribes that were ingratiated to Rome, or so thought the Romans, were key elements in handing the Roman Empire its own butt when the "barbarian" hoardes invaded and sacked Rome at the end. They say that those who do not study history are doomed to repeat it...I add to this that those who ignore history are in the same boat.

It seems that the same folks on high in the government who claim that they are protecting us from the invading "barbarian" hoardes are poised to let them in with promises of perks like citizenship, not unlike the Romans. The enemy at the gate will soon be the enemy invited into the gate as Will has so aptly observed.

Anonymous said...


You wrote:

officers have an obligation, under levels of force, to start at the bottom and work their way to the top.

That can be misleading to many becaue it isn't true. No one can really expect an officer to start "at the bottom" and work their way to the top. An officer places himself in peril if he starts too low. The safest option for all is for the officer to be at he same level as the subject, plus one level higher, e.g. a bandit is seen pulling a pistol from his waist band while engaged in a brawl with a rival gangsta. The cop might have about 1, maybe 2-3 seconds to prevent gangsta #1 from punching a hole in the head of gangsta #2 (or whomever the future vicim happens to be). It's unsafe to expect anyone to warn the shooter, spray the shooter, strike the shooter, or whatever if the action must be stopped quickly. In this example there was no lower level of force applied -straight to deadly force. Now dealing with a subject who is using or applying a lower level without escalating is another story. If this is the case, the copper, while telling the dude what he wants him to do so the dude has an opportunity to de-escalate, can be at the same level, plus one to control the one to be arrested.

I don't think it's wise for the fuzz to use any form of physical force if there is no intention to arrest a person, excluding certain circumstances such as violent riots, emergencies, etc.

Anonymous said...

Here's yet another Taser incident. They happen more frequently than most realize.

Anonymous said...

Uhhhh, try this one instead.

Anonymous said...

Will –

You have the best blog on the net. As far as your statement, "When it comes to protecting individual rights, too many Americans are examining the issue through the wrong end of the telescope, as it were. They tend to obsess over distant and improbable threats posed by governments half-way around the world, while ignoring or minimizing the very tangible dangers to liberty posed by the government ruling us right now. Americans also dwell on the atrocities committed by the worst regimes in history – National Socialist Germany, Soviet Russia, and other mega-murdering tyrannies of that type – while ignoring clear and compelling warning signs that our own country is rapidly succumbing to similar totalitarian tendencies right now," you are absolutely right.

When I went into the Marine Corps, I swore an oath that said, amongst other things, that I would "support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic." When a Member of Congress is sworn into office, they swear exactly the same thing.

I would like to propose a change to that oath: Instead of swearing to defend the US against "all enemies, foreign and domestic," I believe the oath should be changed so that the military and Congressmen swear to defend the US against "all enemies, domestic and foreign." If history has shown us anything, our fear should be of the totalitarians amongst us, not those on the other side of the globe.

Anonymous said...


You wrote: but i would disagree with starting one higher. why? because you just escalated the incident. warnings go a long way!

The citizens expect cops to do certain things. I don't think most would expect them to sacrifice themselves by dancing with bad guys and never going above a subject's level of force. If a copper isn't to go one above, how will he ever gain control of an arrestee? The ONLY way he'll gain control by not going one higher is if the bad guy decides to give in.

It would be like a boxing match. The bad guy starts throwing punches at da man. The fuzz can't do anything more than throw punches? If he goes to pepper or baton, he escalated his use, and properly so -IMHO.

I certainly agree that warninigs go a long way. I believe people deserve the benefit of the doubt, and repeated warnings and commands during encounters could resolve a situation without a higher level of force being used. They also help passersby and other witnesses understand what is really happeninig, and what the cops are trying to accomplish.

You also wrote: but this i will say, in the military, saying you "thought you saw something," after you've shot a person does not usually fly if it later comes back that they were unarmed and had nothing threating on them, and should not fly.

A person's belief and perception at the time of a use of force incident is what needs to be considered and given the most weight, not the evidence discovered after the fact.
In many cases citizens are shot while pretending to be armed, armed with a BB gun, etc. I'll post a link to an analysis of one particular incident I'm aware of. In it you'll see two different angles as seen from a cruiser camera. In one angle, one might say unjustified shooting. Seeing through the other angle one might say justified. But after the smoke clears all learn the "gun" was a cell phone. It was being held like a pistol. The cops "believed" the guy had a gun. In fact, at one point a cop is seen ducking to avoid being shot by the silly little cell phone. Should he have waited to be shot by a real gun so he can be absolutley certain it is a real gun? I think not.

Rick, I don't want to beat this thing to death, and it is not my intention to start a heated debate. The only reason I keep picking at this is because there are too many misconceptions out there about use of force situations. There are many opinions, and just as many questions about high profile cases. This is a good thing. But there aren't enough explanations from public officials describing why somone did what they did. This almost always has something to do with a decision from the legal bureau or insurance company for whatever agency. And yes, there are too many instances of rotten thugs using excessive force.

Anonymous said...

Cell phone shooting:

A Radical Whig in Chattanooga said...

Greetings All,

I know I'm coming in on this a little late, but does anybody remember Rodney King? If I remember correctly, the reason that the police struck him repeatedly with their billies was that the Tasers used against him failed to do what they were intended to do; incapacitate him.
In the case of the student (who appears to be much much smaller than Rodney King and was probably sober or not otherwise on drugs), he was already cuffed and "passive" on the floor. There were what - 4 or 5 police officers. Face it, these days most cops spend alot more time in the gym than they do in the coffee & doughnut shop. Two of them could have easily "frog marched" the student out to the car, taken him to the station, & booked him.
However, what did they do? In order to convince the student to "march", they used the Tasers on him. What they managed to do was to further the "voluntary" incapacitation into "involuntary" incapacitation. I doubt wether after the 1st or 2nd Taser shock that the fellow was capable of walking.
The police involved were either poorly trained, incredibly stupid, or simply vicious.
As our local police are increasingly "nationalized", the "protect and serve" will continue to change into "destroy and conquer".

Anonymous said...

A Radical Whig in Chattanooga:

You nailed with.............

The police involved were either poorly trained, incredibly stupid, or simply vicious.