[Marxism] LA students protest cop brutality
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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