The union representing rank-and-file Los Angeles Police Department cops on Wednesday decried a U.S. district court ruling that severely limits officers' use of Tasers to subdue suspects.
The decision, states the Los Angeles Police Protective League, "has us scratching our heads in disbelief." The U.S. Ninth Circuit court of appeals ruled that "unless an officer is actually under physical attack, he/she cannot use a Taser to subdue a suspect," the LAPPL states. "And, for good measure, these starry-eyed jurists, who probably have never been in a physical fight in their lives, opined that police officers should not fear irrational suspects defying officer commands as long as the suspect stays 15 feet from the officer."
Needless to say, the union is feeling hamstrung by the ruling, which observers say will open the door to lawsuits by suspects who have been Tasered by cops. Amnesty International reports that, between 2001 and 2008, 334 people have died as a result of the strong, electrical pulses from Tasers.
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The court case involves the 2005 stop of a then 21-year-old named Carl Bryan in Colorado. The man was wearing only boxer shorts and tennis shoes and was swearing at himself for forgetting to fasten his seatbelt when he exited his car during a traffic stop. Police said he ignored orders to stay in the car.
And, at a distance of 15 feet or more, he took a step toward a cop (Bryan denies it) and was subsequently Tasered. The suspect fell on his face and suffered broken teeth as a result. He was arrested on suspicion of resisting arrest, but charges were dropped. The Ninth Circuit court's decision affirms his right to sue.
"As every street cop knows, any suspect within 15 feet who is actively resisting verbal commands is a threat to officer safety," the union states. " ... Inhibiting officers from using the Taser option puts them, suspects and innocent bystanders in greater danger."
The LAPPL opines that the only good thing about the ruling is that Judge Stephen Reinhardt, who it says had another ruling overturned as a result of "fabricated facts," was involved and might provide fodder for another U.S. Supreme Court overruling.