[Marxism] LA students protest cop brutality

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Sat Nov 18 06:32:12 MST 2006

UCLA orders outside probe of Taser arrest
The move comes hours after a protest march by more than 200 students.
By Richard Winton, Rong-Gong Lin II and Charles Proctor
Times Staff Writers

November 18, 2006

Hoping to calm the furor created when UCLA police 
used a Taser to subdue a student studying in 
Powell Library, the university's acting 
chancellor announced Friday that a veteran Los 
Angeles law enforcement watchdog would head up an 
independent investigation of the incident.

Norman Abrams said he ordered the probe after the 
university received numerous calls and e-mails 
from parents and alumni raising concerns about 
the officers' actions during the videotaped 
Tuesday night arrest, which has been widely seen 
on TV news and the YouTube website.

"I want to assure them that the UCLA campus is a 
safe environment. Student safety and treatment 
are of paramount concern at UCLA," Abrams said. 
"We plan to move ahead promptly with a complete and unbiased review."

Abrams appointed Merrick Bobb, who was a staff 
attorney for the Christopher Commission and 
currently works as the Los Angeles County Board 
of Supervisors' watchdog over the Sheriff's 
Department, to handle the probe. Abrams said Bobb 
has a proven track record looking into 
allegations of police misconduct, including the 
Rodney King beating and more recently the riots at the L.A. County jail system.

The move came hours after more than 200 students 
marched to the UCLA police station calling for an 
independent investigation into the Taser incident 
as well as the suspension of the officers involved.

Wearing signs reading, "I am a student, don't 
Taser me" and chanting, "Tasers out of UC," the 
protesters said it was an inherent conflict of 
interest for university police to handle the 
investigation of their own officers.

"What was done was unnecessary," said Rahmatullah 
Akbar, a senior majoring in psychology. "We as 
students don't deserve to be Tasered."

Tuesday's incident occurred about 11 p.m. in a 
library filled with students studying for midterm examinations.

According to the university, Mostafa 
Tabatabainejad, a 23-year-old senior, was asked 
for his ID as part of a routine nightly procedure 
to make sure that everyone using the library 
after 11 p.m. is a student or otherwise 
authorized to be there. Campus officials have 
said the long-standing policy was adopted to ensure students' safety.

Authorities said Tabatabainejad refused repeated 
requests by community service officers and 
regular campus police to provide identification or to leave.

UCLA Police Chief Karl Ross said the officers 
decided to use the Taser to incapacitate 
Tabatabainejad after he went limp while they were 
escorting him out and urged other library patrons to join his resistance.

Mavrick Goodrich, a chemical engineering major 
who observed the incident, said Tabatabainejad shouted, "Am I the only martyr?"

Some witnesses disputed the officers' account, 
saying that when campus police arrived, 
Tabatabainejad had begun to walk toward the door.

Tabatabainejad's attorney, Stephen Yagman, said 
his client refused to show his ID because he 
thought he was being singled out because of his 
Middle Eastern appearance. Tabatabainejad is of 
Iranian descent but is a U.S. citizen by birth and a resident of Los Angeles.

The student was shocked five times with the Taser, Yagman said.

Another student used a cellphone camera to record 
portions of the incident, in which Tabatabainejad 
can be heard screaming in pain when the Taser shocks are administered.

One of the issues Bobb's investigation will 
examine is whether the officers complied with the 
university police rules for using Tasers.

Several local police agencies — including the 
LAPD and Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department 
— allow officers to use Tasers only if a suspect 
poses a physical threat or is acting combatively.

The sheriff's policies expressly say deputies 
can't use Tasers simply to move someone.

"We look for assaultive conduct," said Bill 
McSweeney, chief of the sheriff's leadership and 
training division "We generally don't use the 
Taser on passive resisters except when an 
individual indicates explosive action to follow, such as a verbal threat."

But UCLA police are allowed to use Tasers on 
passive resisters as "a pain compliance 
technique," Assistant Chief Jeff Young said in an interview Friday.

Under UCLA policy, Young said, officers can use 
the weapons after considering the potential 
injury to police and to the individual as well as 
the level of resistance and the need for prompt resolution.

Young described Tabatabainejad as a "passive 
resister" who refused to cooperate with officers. 
He acknowledged that the student didn't actively resist the officers.

"He was 200 pounds and went limp and was very 
hard to manage. They were trying to get him on his feet," Young said.

The officers used the device in stun mode — which 
affects only the part of the body being touched — 
rather than the dart mode, in which tiny 
electrodes are fired into a person and pass a 
current through them, disabling the person entirely.

Young said police have used the Tasers "on 
several occasions" before but said he didn't know how many times.

The officers involved in Tuesday's incident were 
off duty Friday but had not been placed on administrative leave.

On Friday, many students remained outraged over Tabatabainejad's treatment.

"Once you have him subdued, you don't have to 
keep Tasing him," said Rohit Mahajan, a 
psychobiology major who watched the video. "You 
could see him crying. He's not a threat. He's 
maybe acting like a smartass, but he doesn't" deserve that.

The protest march was organized by leaders of the 
campus Muslim and Iranian American student 
groups. They support Tabatabainejad, though some 
demonstrators said they didn't think the 
officers' actions were motivated by his ethnicity

The American Civil Liberties Union also said that 
it was examining the incident.

"It is an appalling and traumatically excessive 
use of force on someone passive-resisting," said 
ACLU attorney Peter Bibring. "The officers seem 
so confident in what they are doing. They need to 
change their policies and training."

UCLA officials urged students and others to 
withhold judgment actions until the investigations are completed.

"Not all the events of Tuesday evening can be 
heard or viewed on YouTube," Ross said at a news conference with Abrams.

The acting chancellor expressed confidence in and 
respect for the UCLA police, and noted that Ross' 
department would continue with its own internal investigation.

"But there are times when it is helpful to turn 
to an outside review as well," Abrams said.

richard.winton at latimes.com

ron.lin at latimes.com

charles.proctor at latimes.com

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