You got served and protected #2: Halifax cops tackle a 17 year old girl and taser her while she lies helpless in her own bed
Here's a pretty old post from the blog archives of Geekery Today; it was written about 15 years ago, in 2008, on the World Wide Web.
(Thanks to Elinor 2008-02-01 for the link.)
Last year in Halifax, Nova Scotia, a gang of three cops — Phillip MacKenzie, Tara Doiron and Brendan Harvey — showed up to intervene in a fight between a seventeen year old girl and her mother. The mother called them in when the girl threatened to damage some property in the house. By the time the police arrived, the girl was calm and it’s likely that the cops could just have left things be, or spent a little bit of time talking to everyone like civilized people in order to make sure that everything would be alright. But, of course, this is completely unacceptable from the standpoint of the police, when there are Bad Teens on the loose, so instead they escalated the confrontation and tried to force her out of the house, so they could proceed with whatever they imagined they needed to proceed with. She argued with them, which a fair number of cops seem to have been trained to treat as a criminal offense, and when the cops decided to arrest her for daring to talk back, there was what the papers call an
altercation. When an
altercation goes on between a 17 year old girl and three armed, professional cops, what that means is that she struggled briefly and the pigs responded by tackling her, and then, just for good measure, blasting her twice in a row with a 50,000-volt electric shock from their tasers while she was lying helpless in her own bed. After having three armed cops gang up on a teenaged girl to beat and shock her into submission, they then charged her with
resisting arrest and
assaulting a police officer — the first charge a bogus non-crime when the arrest itself was completely arbitrary, and the second charge an apparent exercise in dreadful farce.
Of course, when The Matter Is Investigated by the police, they will either (a) act as if the cops did nothing wrong, fabricate some incredibly tortured military-necessity excuse without questioning whether the goal of arresting the girl ever needed to be accomplished in the first place, and cite some incredibly vague Official Procedures for the use of force, as if that unquestionably ended the argument; or else (b) failing that, issue some mild administrative sanctions against the cops and write the whole thing off as Yet Another Isolated Incident. In fact, the case is entirely typical — because a massive sense of entitlement; a habit of barging in where you’re not needed and refusing to leave until things are settled to your own satisfaction; a contemptuous indifference to the perceptions, interests, needs, or consent of those you are putatively there to
serve and protect; a strategy of needlessly escalate confrontations; a habit of using belligerence to
take control of situations that your own actions have made hostile; the casual use of techniques that inflict incredible pain on your victims in order to make them
comply with arbitrary orders; a willingness to hurt or arrest your victim in order to end an argument; and an expectation of more or less complete administrative, civil, and criminal impunity, no matter how senseless your orders, no matter how needless your use of violence, and no matter how obviously helpless or harmless your victim may be — are part and parcel of the environment that cops do their dirty work in, from the first day of training to the buddy-thug culture of their departments to the cultural excuse-making and overt legal privileges that insulate them from the expectations that anyone else would be held to outside of the world of rampaging statist power-trips. We already know that cops have no problem electrifying prepubescent children and alleged salad-bar thieves; no problem
serving and protecting the hell out of 82-year-old women as part of a
care check or repeatedly shocking a young man sleeping in his own house; no problem beating the shit out of teenaged girls in order to arrest them for not cleaning up spilled cake well enough or being out too late at night, and then charging the girl that they violently confronted, and who they outweigh by a hundred pounds or more, with criminal assault. So, while this case is outrageous, why should it be surprising? The only thing that’s unusual is that, for once, somebody in the legal system — Anne Derrick, the youth court judge who took the girl’s resisting-arrest and assault case — actually drew back the veil of Law Enforcement, acquitted the girl of all charges, and called the police on their shit:
A Halifax Youth Court judge criticized three police officers Tuesday for their arrest of a teenage girl, who was tackled in her own bed and shocked twice with a stun gun last February.
The spectacle of a 17-year-old girl being Tasered in her bedroom is a very disturbing and disconcerting one,Halifax Youth Court Judge Anne Derrick said in her ruling on the charges of resisting arrest and assaulting a police officer.
I find the police acted outside the scope of their authority in arresting [the girl] and that she was entitled to resist and committed no offence in doing so, and I acquit her of the charges before the court.
Derrick also found that the police escalated the situation leading to the arrest.
— CBC News (2008-01-30): Halifax judge slams police for using Taser on teen girl
Meanwhile, the young woman, now 18, having spent an entire year of her life trying to clear away this nonsense, plans to file a complaint with the police department, now that she has finally been vindicated in court. She is also considering a civil suit. I hope that she sues the pigs personally and takes them for everything they've got. Unfortunately, if a suit is filed, what will probably happen is that the police or the local government will settle the case out of court, and then, public servants that they are, they will send the bill straight to a bunch of perfectly innocent taxpayers, while the thugs MacKenzie, Doiron and Harvey go on terrorizing innocent people in the name of public safety, suffering some mild administrative sanction at the worst.
If you're baffled that cops would go on committing these kind of outrages, over and over again, in so many different cities in the U.S. and Canada, never exhibiting any interest at all in introspection or critical re-evaluation of their institutional culture beyond a bureaucratic
review of whether cops should be carrying tasers (as if this were some kind of equipment failure!), and never addressing any issues that this might raise other than the P.R. problems that it causes for the police department, well, that’s pretty much why. Why would they ever try to act accountably or responsibly when the existing framework of immunities and legal privileges granted them by the State virtually guarantees that they will never personally be held responsible or called to account for what they do?
I completely agree, and thank you for tackling this subject. This is a breath of fresh air after skimming through an old entry of a blog I occasionally read:
In the comments, a troll named “Cassidy” insists that tasing a half-naked deaf man in a towel is okay because it was a “tactical situation” (I believe he wanted that to sound impressively militaristic) dealing with a suspect that was “allegedly armed” (the fact that he wasn’t holding a weapon cut no ice with the troll) and the cops should not be expected to risk death by magically-appearing weapon in order to satisfy our “humanistic tendencies.” Also, almost all cops are good people and we should always trust them.
I don’t know why some people feel compelled to give violent authority figures every benefit of the doubt while giving their victims none. Aren’t tasing victims in a “tactical situation”? Why do these cop-apologists never seem to turn their arguments around and say, “well, we don’t know what it’s LIKE having six armed men forcibly enter your home, and after all the victim was under a lot of pressure and very scared, so naturally she fought back against the cops, and why should she be expected to risk injury or death to satisfy our instinct to trust and respect cops”?
What’s most amazing of all is that many Americans seem to think such craven dependency on thuggish overlords is a sign of strength and toughness.