Monthly Archives: November 2015

Use of force in Lock-ups

“You’re talking about people who have no rules.”

That’s what deputy Scott Lewis of the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Department was quoted as saying in “Tasers used weekly at county jail” in The Press Democrat on Wednesday, November 4, 2015, about people in custody who are subdued with Tasers and other forms of control when they refuse to submit to control, something that reportedly occurs at the Sonoma County jail about once a week or so.
He also said, “This isn’t a college campus. These are people who, for a million different reasons, don’t have the same behavior control as other people.”

Other people, for various reason, are saying these methods are also used as extra-judicial punishments, or, at the least, as an unnecessarily extreme method when lesser methods may be just as effective, or even more so.

When Esa Wroth, a young man of 28 years, was being booked for DUI, he was apparently uncooperative enough to be tasered 23 times. There is apparently a 29 minute video in support of his claim for three million dollars. It does seem to be a bit excessive–both the 23 times and the three million dollars. You have to wonder what he did that he had to be zapped 23 times.

Seems to me it would have been better to just delay booking until he is sobered enough and calm enough to cooperate. If there is a policy requirement that booking must be completed immediately upon his arrival at the jail facility, that may be one of the problems. Maybe they should take another look at their policies and question if they are in need of improvement.

I my days behind the badge, I took in good number of people to be booked who were less than cooperative. One way to handle them was to pound them until they did cooperate, although, I actually never did that myself, nor did I ever see it done. Another way was to con the guy into cooperating. It’s not all that hard to do with some of them. I arrested a guy for fighting in the street. Since he might still be around, I’ll just call him The Mountain (he was big, like one click was all I could get on the cuffs when I put them on his wrists).¬†Fortunately, he didn’t resist arrest or give me any problems until I was almost finished with booking. In those days, we had to do three separate, original fingerprint cards, one for our records, one for the state, and one for the FBI. I finished everything with The Mountain’s booking except for the last two print cards. That’s when he said he wanted to make his phone call. I told him he had to wait until we finished booking. He said, he he wouldn’t let me finish booking until after he made a phone call. I could have hit him over the head with something, or maced him or some other senseless violent act, none of which would have convinced him to let me finish the booking. I could have just locked him in a cell until he agreed to complete booking, something that I had done with many others. If he had to sit there for a day or so…oh, well, his choice. Instead, I said, “I’ll tell you what, Mountain, if you’ll let me do just two more of these cards, I’ll skip the rest for now and let you make your phone call. Okay?” He thought about it for a few seconds and said, “Okay. It’s a deal.” We finished the two cards, he made his phone call, I put him into a cell, and he went to sleep happy. Our policy was to complete booking on any arrested person–if they cooperate. ¬†they don’t, they go into a cell until they do. However, they could not be bailed out or get released in any way until booking was completed. And in those days, when we used actual ink on paper for fingerprinting, we did not want to try to book a falling-down drunk who might have to hang onto my shoulder with his inky hands while I rolled the fingers of his other hand. He would just wait until he had slept it off in the tank.

In today’s law enforcement, there seems to be an urgency to regain control. At times, I agree, there is a legitimate reason for the immediate restoration of control. But there are a lot of times when a little patience will accomplish more that tasers, batons, pepper spray, and fists, and a lot of times even quicker. If a policy demands something to be accomplished immediately, whether it is booking an uncooperative arrestee or overcoming a barricaded gunman, maybe it should be reconsidered. Few things–other than a brick wall–are justifiably inflexible. And, it would be beneficial if even a brick wall could flex at times, like in an earthquake.

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