Law and Orders #3: John Gardner of the Utah Highway Patrol tasers Jared Massey in front of his family for questioning why he was pulled over
Update 2007-11-29: Some of the quotes from commenters were re-ordered to correct for a misplaced copy-and-paste.
Cops in America are heavily armed and trained to be bullies. They routinely force their way into situations they have no business being in, use violence first and ask questions later, and pass off even the most egregious forms of violence against harmless or helpless people as
self-defense or as the
necessary means to accomplish a completely unnecessary goal. In order to
stay in control of the situation, they have no trouble electrifying small children, alleged salad-bar thieves, pregnant women possibly guilty of a minor traffic violation, or an already prone and helpless student who may have been guilty of using the computer lab without proper papers on hand. They are willing to pepper spray lawyers for asking inconvenient questions and to beat up teenaged girls for not cleaning up enough birthday cake or being out too late at night. It hardly matters if you are an 82 year old woman supposedly benefiting from a
care check, or if you are sound asleep in your own home, or if you are unable to move due to a medical condition, or if the cops attack you within 25 seconds of entering the room, while you are standing quietly against the wall with your arms at your sides. It hardly even matters if you die. What a cop can always count on is that, no matter how senselessly he escalates the use of violence and no matter how obviously innocent or helpless his victims are, he can count on his buddies to clap him on the back and he can count on his bosses to repeat any lie and make any excuse in order to find that Official Procedures were followed. As long as Official Procedures were followed, of course, any form of brutality or violence is therefore passed off as OK by the mainstream media, while a chorus of sado-fascist bully boys in the newspapers, talk shows, and the Internet will smear the victim and howl for the obliteration of any notion of restraints on the use of force in securing compliance with police demands. Then they will sanctimoniously explain how cops need to be able to shove you around and then beat and torture you with impunity so that they can
protect you. Whether or we ever wanted or asked for their
protection in the first place.
One increasingly popular means for out-of-control cops to force you to follow their bellowed orders is by using high-voltage electric shocks in order to inflict pain. Now, in fact, tasers were originally introduced for police use as an alternative to using lethal force; the hope was that, in many situations where cops might otherwise feel forced to go for their guns, they might be able to use the taser instead, to immobilize a person who posed a threat to them or to others, without killing anybody in the process. But in practice, police culture being what it is, any notion of limiting tasers to those situations very quickly went out the window. Cops armed with tasers now freely use them to end arguments by intimidation or actual violence, to coerce people who pose no real threat to anyone into
complying with their
instructions, and to hurt uppity
civilians who dare to give them lip. They often do so even when the supposed offense that they’re responding to is completely trivial; they often start tasering, or keep on tasering, after their victims have already been rendered helpless by the circumstances or by an earlier use of force. Among civilized people, deliberately inflicting severe pain in order to extort compliance from your victim is called
torture; among cops it is called
pain compliance and is considered business as usual. So shock-happy
Peace Officers can now go around using their tasers as 50,000-volt human prods in just about any situation, with more or less complete impunity. In those rare cases where media criticism, mass riots, or a lawsuit does force some minimal accountability on the police force, the handful of low-level officers who face punishment are portrayed as
bad apples and the whole thing is written off as yet another isolated incident.
Last week, the latest isolated incident came to light thanks to a pending lawsuit and a dash camera video posted on YouTube. John Gardner, who works for the Utah Highway Patrol, pulled over Jared Massey on U.S. highway 40. Here is what happened:
The nearly 10-minute video clip, which has drawn nothing but negative comments toward the trooper on YouTube, shows Gardner approaching Massey’s SUV and asking for his driver’s license and registration. Massey asks how fast he was going, which prompts Gardner to repeat his request.
I need your driver’s license and registration — right now,the trooper says.
Massey continues to question Gardner about the posted speed limit and how fast he was going but hands over his papers. The trooper walks back to his car.
Gardner returns to the SUV and tells Massey he’s being cited for speeding. On the video, Massey can be heard refusing to sign the ticket and demanding that the trooper take him back and show him the 40 mph speed limit sign.
What you’re going to do — if you’re giving me a ticket — in the first place, you’re going to tell me why …Massey says.
For speeding,the trooper interjects.
… and second of all we’re going to go look for that 40 mph sign,Massey says.
Well you’re going to sign this first,Gardner says.
No I am not. I’m not signing anything.Massey says.
Gardner tells Massey tohop out of the car,then walks back to the hood of his patrol car, setting down his ticket book. Massey is close behind the trooper pointing toward the 40 mph speed limit sign he’d passed just before being pulled over.
Turn around. Put your hands behind your back,Gardner says. He repeats the command a second time as he draws his Taser and takes a step back.
The trooper points the Taser at Massey who stares incredulously at him.
What the hell is wrong with you?Massey asks.
Gardner repeats the command toturn aroundtwo more times as Massey, with part of his right hand in his pants pocket, starts to walk back toward his SUV.
What the heck’s wrong with you?Massey can be heard asking as Gardner fires his Taser into Massey’s back. Immobilized by the weapon’s 50,000 volts, Massey falls backward, striking his head on the highway. The impact caused a cut on Massey’s scalp.
The newspaper account omits that at this point Massey is screaming in pain. While the cop kneels and handcuffs him, he gives Massey a lecture about how he
should’ve followed my instructions.
Massey’s wife Lauren, who was seven months pregnant at the time, gets out of the SUV screaming and is ordered to get back in the vehicle or risk being arrested. Gardner handcuffs Massey and leaves him on the side of the highway while he goes to talk to Massey’s wife.
He’s fine. I Tasered him because he did not follow my instructions,Gardner explains to the audibly upset woman.
You had no right to do that!she responds.You had no right to do that!
While Gardner is still talking to Lauren Massey, her husband gets to his feet and approaches the trooper from behind. Gardner takes the handcuffed man back toward his patrol car and again orders Lauren Massey to stay in her vehicle or risk being arrested.
Officer you’re a little bit excited. You need to calm yourself down,Jared Massey tells Gardner before being put into the trooper’s patrol car where he continues to demand an explanation for his arrest.
Gardner’s response was to sanctimoniously tell Massey, who never made any threatening motion, and who hardly even raised his voice until a weapon was pointed at him, that
No, you’re a little excited, because you weren’t following my instructions. As he marches Massey to the police car, and informs him that he’s
going to jail, Massey demands to be read his rights. The officer’s response is to threaten Massey with another shock from the taser. Please note that, at this point, Massey is already handcuffed and has done nothing other than talk back.
The video concludes with a demonstration of the cavalier buddy-buddy culture of policing:
When a backup officer arrives on the scene and asks Gardner what happened he tells them Masseytook a ride with the Taser.
Oh, how was it?the unidentified officer asks.
Painful, isn’t it?Gardner responds.
After they’ve finished jeering at their handcuffed victim, the other cop asks what happened, Gardner tells some plain lies about the sequence of events, and gets a clap on the back for his efforts. Meanwhile, the bellowing blowhard brigade chimes in in the reader comments:
This reminds me of what is wrong with America, and what, if not rectified will be the recipe for our demise. Respect. I could go on and on, but suffice it to say, I was taught to respect authority. That meant my elders, law-enforcement, teachers, whatever. Kids now have this sense of entitlement that is unmatched anywhere else on this Earth. They think that if they make a mistake they can just hit the ‘reset’ button like on their video game and start over. Well, life is not like that. There was once what is called the Greatest Generation. This is not it. What we have is the Worst Generation. No wonder other countries hate us. We are gluttons in every thing we do. This sniveling little brat needs the full measure of the law brought against him and that trooper needs a pat on the back for doing his job. I’m still dumbstruck by this. To have it called into question like the officer was in the wrong. WAKE UP MORONS! It’s not the teacher, the officer, the bus driver, or etc. IT’S YOUR KID.
—Erick, 12:44 a.m., 21 November 2007
Accept to sign the paper … Than between a trooper and a driver could be argue, misunderstand, etc. Next step to see a judge to have speeding charge or dismiss the ticket, which the judge, the driver and the trooper have neutral and work together. The trooper has a reason is protect himselif when the driver was too close to him. (the school or the trooper training trained him the rules).
—Anonymous, 6:17 a.m., 21 November 2007
Those officers out in the desert put their lives on the line every day. They don’t know when stopping someone if they are a housewife or a murderer. If an officer places you under arrest you don’t turn around and walk away. The guy was way out of line. Sign the ticket and fight it in court.
—not right, 8:28 a.m., 21 November 2007
I think releasing the video is Massey’s way of testing the waters for his lawsuit. But as he should see, he’s not getting everyone on his side. He started the who incident by his disobedience to an officer. He left the officer no choice, and a jury will see that.
—Testing the waters, 9:04 a.m., 21 November 2007
As for some requirement to show him the sign I have never heard of anything of the sort. The kid kept ranting about his rights. Funny. Too much tv for him
—Relax, 9:44 a.m., 21 November 2007
Please also note that attempting to ask a police officer a question constitutes
resisting police, and that a 50,000-volt electric shock is just a natural
consequence of the resistance. Cops certainly haven’t any discretion in whether or not to escalate the use of force:
It amazes me that people think that they can resist police and expect to not suffer the consequences. The man was willfully disobeying a lawful command from an officer, and got tasered for it. Why should anyone be surprised? If it were otherwise, everyone would be non-compliant towards officers. If the guy felt that he was being ticketed erroneously, he should have fought his battle in the courtroom, not on the street.
—Jim, 7:42 a.m., 21 November 2007
Note that Gardner never, at any point in the video, claimed that anything that Massey did in the encounter was threatening or that he felt he had to defend himself. He explicitly stated, over and over again, to Jared Massey, to his wife, and to a fellow cop, not that the reason for his actions was self-defense, but that it was to coerce compliance. Gardner also never told Massey that he was under arrest until after knocking Massey to the ground with his taser. However, cop enablers are not about to let the mere evidence of their senses get in the way of fabricating excuses for police violence:
Everyone knows you can’t approach a cop from behind, especailly after you have refused to sign the ticket (which you have to do). Then you walk away when he tells you 4 times to put his hands behind his head. The taser wasn’t called for, and then the reason why he was getting pulled over was shady for sure. And the cop started to lie to the other officer in the video about what happended. Both in the wrong, but the kid posed a clear threat by walking behing the officer (twice in fact). STUPID!!!
—Both are in wrong!!, 7:32 a.m., 21 November 2007
From the video I saw, the guy deserved it. He was ignoring orders, started to walk back to his car and started to put his right hand in his pocket. I can see why the officer wanted to end his refusal to obey right then. It’s easy to see that the officer might have been concerned that the guy was going to reach for a gun, or go get one from his car, or just get in his car and take off. Had the driver obeyed, there would have been no need for the Taser. But, looks to me like he asked for it. No sympathy from me.
—Deserved it, 8:41 a.m., 21 November 2007
It is pretty apparent from the you tube video that the gentleman that was tasered was not cooperative with the officer. While he had a right to ask the questions he asked, he has a responsibility to follow the directions given him by police. I stand by the officer; when someone chooses to act the way this gentleman did, and place an officer in a situation where he may feel at risk, that person has to accept the consequences for his actions.
—Derek, 9:19 a.m., 21 November 2007
Third, you start walking away from a cop that is telling you that you’re under arrest, expect something bad to happen.
—l, 10:11 a.m., 21 November 2007
I think the officer was well within his rights to protect himself. When a command is given, you obey it? If you don’t then it is considered not compliance, then you fry them.
—Funny, 12:58 p.m., 21 November 2007
Meanwhile, an anonymous contemptuous thug asks:
OK all you couch-Cops, once the guy refused the cop’s orders and was walking back to his car, clearly to drive away, what do you think the cop should have done? Some how, some way, he had to keep the driver from doing that. Had he not, how do we know there wouldn’t have been a much more dangerous high-speed chase. It’s clear the guy wasn’t going to sign the ticket, and when you don’t do that, cops are instructed to arrest. The solution wasn’t to let the guy go free just because he disagreed. The driver caused this confrontation.
—Better suggestion, 9:00 a.m., 21 November 2007
Even if it were clear, which it certainly is not, that Massey intended to drive away, the notion that the cop
Some how, some way … had to keep the driver from doing that is completely preposterous. If he just drove off, then the cop can bloody well look up his license plate number and mail him the ticket. But the notion of letting a Bad Guy temporarily get away with a minor speeding infraction is so repugnant to the nature of both cops and their sycophants that no solution other than a 50,000-volt shock on the side of the road even comes to mind.
Meanwhile, while many commenters show a healthy outrage at Gardner’s obviously abusive behavior, most of them seem to feel compelled to pepper their statements with cavils about how Massey could have acted better, or about how
I support police officers,
I have sympathy for the difficult situations policemen face,
both people behaved badly,
The public should be respectful of law enforcement as a matter of principle, etc. etc. etc. Most of those who suggest a concrete penalty for Gardner suggest that he should be reprimanded, or re-trained, or reassigned to a desk job, or temporarily suspended, or perhaps even fired. To hell with that. The behavior of both Gardner and his fellow cops, based on the contents of the video and the laggard pace of the investigation, is despicable. Gardner should be indicted and prosecuted for assault and battery, and he should be forced to personally pay compensation for Massey’s pain and suffering.
If you’re baffled that cops could feel free to indulge in this kind of outrage, and that numerous fellow cops, prosecutors, and freelance bullies would rush to defend it, while even the opponents make only timid and isolated efforts at mild criticism, it may help to remember that in most of America, there is no such thing as a civil police force anymore. What we have instead would be better described as elite paramilitary cadres, often referred to as
Troopers and organized into a chain of command with military ranks, who are occupying what they regard as hostile territory. Here as elsewhere, the occupation forces are going to serve and protect us, whether we want them to or not, and if we don’t like it then they’ve got more than enough firepower to make sure they can protect the hell out of us all anyway.