Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Nothing shocking

It would be nice to consider the Glens Falls Police thought at least twice before blasting 50,000 volts of muscle-freezing electricity through a suspect wearing handcuffs and taking off at a full run. It would be nice to think a long-time police reporter with the city’s main newspaper could identify the most critical part of this whole debacle rather than focusing on a sizable but relatively insignificant haul of cocaine.

Yes, it would be nice. But in reality, there was nothing shocking about the arrest story trickling out of the police department Monday morning, or the way the Post Star downplayed an officer’s reckless use of a Taser. This use was reckless enough that 38-year-old Darren Robinson, an alleged cocaine trafficker, remains in serious condition at the Albany Medical Center Hospital.

Update: Having the luxuries of facial surgery, a week-long stay at Albany Med and around-the-clock guard service ain’t cheap if you’re under the custody of the Glens Falls Police. Chances are pretty good it could cost “hundreds of thousands of dollars” and perhaps eclipse what the Warren County Jail has in it’s yearly budget for inmate medical care. County taxpayers should be proud of these yahoo cops, especially when they get their bill for 2008.

The incident started when police pulled Robinson over on a routine traffic stop. After securing probable cause, they cuffed the man and began to search his car. That’s when Robinson took off running. Police later claimed Robinson was trying to hurdle a cruiser that had blocked his path.

“Police had to use the Taser after Robinson jumped onto the hood of a stopped Glens Falls Police patrol car and leapt off the vehicle in an effort to get away from officers,” the Post Star article states.

Had to indeed. First of all, catching former Canadian sprinter Ben Johnson at the peek of his anabolic steroid abuse wouldn’t be that difficult if the guy had his arms cuffed. So it’s a bit suspect that the officers didn’t try to nab this guy the old fashioned way: by chasing after him on foot. Let’s also not forget that Robinson wouldn’t have escaped had he been placed in the back of a cruiser after the officer decided to arrest him.

By their own account, police nailed the man while he was trying to jump off the cruiser’s hood. And as physics would have it, he fell on his face. With his hands and muscles immobilized, Robinson had nothing but pavement to break his fall. Common sense and even a cursory understanding of gravity might have prompted the officer to think twice about using this tactic.

But for the police and the Post Star, none of this matters. Robinson was a crook; a two-bit con man and drug dealer at odds with the law for decades. The reporter waited until the third paragraph to mention a Taser was used and halfway through the story to note the weapon was used while the suspect was handcuffed.

Ask any agents of the law about Tasers and they’ll offer them as a non-lethal tool that prevents close-contact injuries to both police and suspects alike. Pose this same question to Robinson’s soon-to-be-hired civil attorney and you’ll likely get a markedly different answer.

Were the suspect carrying weapon or combative with officers, perhaps they would have been justified in there use. However, Robinson was frisked and cuffed before the Taser was administered. And by their own accounts, he didn’t make any hostile moves toward police, which leaves them with the ‘too fat and lazy’ defense. It’s going to be a tough lump to swallow if a guy like Robinson makes off with a multi-million dollar police brutality payout.

Update: Did somebody say lawsuit? Ali Robinson, the brother of the alleged crack dealer, is seeking an ambulance chaser to chase some cash out of the “Taser now, ask questions later” taxpayers of Glens Falls. These folks are certainly going to enjoy paying Robinson’s post-release retirement fund. Nothing like having a “crackhead with a cracked-head” and several hundred thousand dollars of settlement money running around the streets. Keep up the good work guys!

Other communities in the northeast have crafted legislation after their police began using Tasers for just about everything under the sun, whether it be herding drunks or removing protesters. Take for instance the large hippy commune some call Brattleboro, Vt., which recently adopted a Taser policy in wake numerous instances of Taser misuse instances.

Most recently, the police were filmed repeatedly zapping a pair of innocuous protesters that didn’t comply with their demands. The town’s police chief was fired over the incident and the protesters are now embroiled in a civil suit against the town.

Under the policy passed this week, Brattleboro Police can use a Taser to defend an officer or a third person from an immediate threat of physical injury, or to prevent a suicide or serious self-inflicted injury. Among other provisions, the devices are not to be used against passive resisters or to rouse impaired subjects.

Cities and towns in New York could learn from the crunchy communities to the east. Providing a guideline for Taser use would at least give cops a framework for when its proper to use them. Absent this sort of policy, officers are bound to start using the devices with alarming frequency and in ways that might later prove a harbinger for expensive litigation.

11 Comments:

Blogger shotinthedark said...

Today's KOS

"Dems chose Darrel Aubertien, a lifelong dairy farmer. He was supposed to be stomped by the GOP in a district they have dominated for over a century, a huge district with more livestock than people.

Tonight, he and a people powered army handed the GOP their asses on a silver platter and, in the process, essentially killed the New York Republican Party. No joke."

I think things are looking up for Spitzer.

11:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The way you write it, it seems that the cops used the Taser like a starting gun make him run. In your mind he just wanted to hang around but they forced him to run. Tasers are used instead of night sticks, (sorry, batons), in the hope that shocking sense in alleged criminals is better than beating it into them.

5:54 AM  
Blogger Horatio Alger said...

5:54,

That's an idea...a starting gun. Seriously, I have no problem with cops using Tasers, just they should have a clear-cut idea when they should use them. Frankly, given the uncertain nature of how these things affect the body, I would offer them as a last resort before an officer uses deadly force.

See, cops rationally use this device like they use many of the modern advents in law enforcement -to the utmost of their advantage. When they're use to stop a guy from killing himself or others, I've got no problem; when a 300 pound monster hopped up and range and crystal meth is flailing about in the street, no problem; when and officer is uncertain whether a combative driver is armed or not, no problem.

The problems come when the guy is already proven to be unarmed and handcuffed. He is left defenseless even to protect himself from something like a fall. In this case, it sounds like they blasted the guy while he was in mid-air, essentially dropping him like a bag of wet cement. Had he not been cuffed, maybe he could have broken his fall.

The point is they would have caught him anyway; a guy in cuffs can't run far in Glens Falls. Only someone would have had to chase after him; something that's pretty difficult when you're trying to box the guy in with your cruiser. In my limited opinion, good cops would have ditched the cruiser, gone on a foot chase and aprehended the guy.

8:19 AM  
Blogger Dave said...

www.democracynow.org has covered Taser guns and their use extensively.
Search "Taser" in the DN! search engine.
In the end you'll find yourself yelling...
"Don't Tase me Bro!"

8:26 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well to quote Poor Elijah: "Robinson was a crook; a two-bit con man and drug dealer at odds with the law for decades." Maybe you latte-sipping criminal coddlers in artsy-fartsy Saratoga think that's just cute, but in Glens Falls they can't afford to put up with that shit, and good for them. People like Robinson are poison for working-class communities.

11:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

RE: Anonymous 11:44 AM

I couldn't agree with you more. Cops should really taser people first, then ask questions. The rule of fear will really teach those criminals – and citizens – to respect the law.

What would be better is to give all people with prior convictions some sort of marking, so good folk will know who to abuse when they act out of line. Set taser on "roast."

And I speak for all of Saratoga when I say that we look at Glens Falls as a funny ant farm. We sit around sippin' our lattes admiring art saying, "Wow, those people in Glens Falls really are hilarious and cute." Then we head over to the jail and read bedtime stories to the inmates.

Dude, you nailed us.

But please... don't talk shit until you bring back a hockey team.

3:29 AM  
Blogger Horatio Alger said...

11:44,

Criminal coddlers, indeed. Look, I have no problem with this guy being locked up. From the sounds of it, he'll probably get seven to 15, and then be back on the streets in under four, depending on his priors of course. My problem is with yahoo cops that act reckless and give guys like this settlements totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars. And worse yet, cops who don't know how to do their fucking job.

First, if you're putting a guy in cuffs, you better damn well frisk him first. Secondly, why the hell would you start searching the guy's car while he's still outside the cruiser? That is shear overzealous stupidity. My guess is that these guys KNEW who they had or what he was carrying and jumped the gun at the big bust.

So now, you have cops ignoring proper procedure and rifling through the car, leaving a panicking drug dealer handcuffed and clearly not secured. That's just not using brainpower there. In fact, that's a mistake few rookie cops would make. It's also a mistake that can lead to an officer suffering a careless injury at the swinging foot of a criminal they chose not to secure. I know, you're asking "but weren't the Tasers supposed to stop those injuries?"

So now the guy panics. If the cops weren't videotaping or wearing pocket microphones, he can claim they were calling him a variety of choice epithets, prompting him to 'fear for his life.' Put that in front of a jury along with the fact that he's been in a hospital with his jaw wired shut for four days.

Also keep in mind, this guy was charged with offenses that were ALL non-violent. If he has a record that doesn't include prior assaults, this guy is lawsuit gold. So what you have to ask yourself is how good will the working class in Glens Falls feel if Mr. Robinson is sitting in artsy fartsy Saratoga Springs, sipping $3.95 double mocha lattes on the taxpayers' tab. Frankly, that would piss me right off. I'd probably call for the chief's head. But that's just my criminal-coddling attitude getting the better of my judgment.

7:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To 3:29
As much as I sometimes distrust the motives(anger)that cops exhibit when dealing with un-cooperative suspects I have to remember that the cops only have guns, tasers, feet and fists. If they use the gun or fists, their asses are grass. That leaves tasers and feet - tackle the suspect and is face hits the pavement - more problems for the cop. Guess what you want is for the cop to wave goodbye if the suspect wants to run. It'll be a sad day when the suspect can choose to be apprehended or not.

12:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Obviously this crack dealer is a scumbag BUT, the facts that you "cops are always right" folks are ignoring is that they all ready had him in custody, in cuffs! They messed up when he was ALLOWED to scramble away. Another thing is, it isn't always necessary to apprehend the criminal in a hot situation, when people's (the alleged criminal, the police officer's, and the public's) safety is at stake. They knew who this guy was, if he got away, they knew where he lived. If he left town, good. If he came back, and was seen, he would be arrested. "Duke's of Hazzard" car chases look good on TV but don't play so well in the real world. Thankfully, being tazed doesn't play so well on TV. Pax, PhilthyRex (P.S. I drink tea, not latte's. Don't worry Levinsky is bringing a whole world of yuppie excess up your way, that is if the bubble burst doesn't kill all everybody's grand plans!)

10:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

RE: Anonymous 3:29AM

"Guess what you want is for the cop to wave goodbye if the suspect wants to run"

Nope.

I believe cops go through rigorous training so they can handle situations like a handcuffed suspect. While I'm not an officer, I did play Nintendo Duck Hunt as a kid and the abuse of power we're seeing makes me think some cops view their work as a shoot-em-up game.

These are real people! Put down the goddamn Taser and do your job.

Or don't be a police officer.

3:35 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fallout continues :

Tasering results in medical fees
By CHARLES FIEGL
cfiegl@poststar.com
Published: Friday, February 29, 2008

QUEENSBURY -- Warren County Sheriff Bud York warned Thursday that a man recently arrested on drug charges could cost the county hundreds of thousands of dollars.

York told the Warren County Board of Supervisors Public Safety Committee Thursday to be prepared to pay for high medical bills and around-the-clock security associated with the arrest of Darren G. Robinson, who was still in serious condition at Albany Medical Center.

Robinson, 38, suffered a broken jaw and other facial injuries during a brief police chase in Glens Falls Sunday night.

Rest of story here:
http://www.poststar.com/articles/2008/02/29/news/local/13388340.txt

2:00 PM  

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