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Rutland, VT police sued for use of taser

Discussion in 'Legal' started by AntiqueCollector, Sep 4, 2008.

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  1. AntiqueCollector

    AntiqueCollector Member

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    I thought this was interesting, in light of my experience iN Rutland earlier this year. Excessive force or not?

    Video of incident: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dOimxqPKwfc

    http://rutlandherald.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080904/NEWS01/809040297/1002/NEWS01

    Rutland man sues city over '07 Taser incident

    September 4, 2008

    By Brent Curtis Herald Staff

    LINKS AND MEDIA
    Links:

    Video of Taser incident in Rutland





    A lawyer representing a Rutland man who is suing the city because police used a Taser on him last summer has posted a video of the incident on the Internet that he hopes will shock viewers.

    Shortly after filing complaints of excessive force and battery against the Rutland Police Department and one of its officers, Rutland lawyer Matthew Branchaud loaded a two-minute video depicting a portion of his client's arrest onto the high-traffic video YouTube Web site.

    "I did it more for the public aspect rather than the court proceedings," Branchaud said. "I wanted it brought to the public's attention that this is apparently valid practice for Rutland police."

    In a short written statement included with the video and in his four-page lawsuit, Branchaud contends that police needn't have used a Taser to subdue his client, George Griffin, Jr.

    But Rutland Police Lt. Kevin Geno said Wednesday that officer Ed Dumas' use of the Taser was warranted - an opinion shared by other officers and the city's attorney, who were all involved in an internal review of the incident.

    "There were only seven times out of 31 times that Tasers were drawn in 2007 that they were actually used so the officers here certainly aren't Taser happy or anything else," Geno said. "You have to gain control of a person whether to seat belt them or get them into a vehicle. If an officer isn't gaining that compliance, what do you do? If you can't do it with physical force, you need to resort to pepper spray or a Taser."

    The 20-year-old Griffin was arrested on July 6, 2007, and charged with misdemeanor counts of disorderly conduct and consumption of alcohol by a minor - charges he pleaded guilty to in October 2007.

    In a police affidavit filed in Rutland District Court, Dumas wrote that he was called to Center Street to deal with a young man trying to start fights. He didn't find any fighting, but along the curb of the street, crowded with hundreds of people attending a Friday Night Live event, he found Griffin.

    After handcuffing Griffin, who Dumas said he pulled to the ground, Griffin was led to a cruiser. But the officer wrote that Griffin "arched his back and hollered that he was not going to allow me to put a seat belt on him."

    Dumas said when physical attempts failed, he pulled out his Taser, pressed it against Griffin's hip and "told him three times to sit down or I was going to Taser him."

    When Griffin didn't comply, Dumas wrote that he used the Taser.

    But in his lawsuit, which seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages, Branchaud wrote that the version of events described by Dumas don't make sense.

    "Rutland City Officer Dumas turns his Taser into a stun gun then tasers a 140 pound handcuffed teen in the front seat of a police cruiser."

    Rutland City Police chief states that Dumas' actions were "lawful, justified and proper," Branchaud wrote on the Web site, which had recorded 219 visits by Tuesday evening.

    "There is no reason to use a Taser on a handcuffed teen that weighs 140 pounds, especially when that teen is not resisting arrest, threatening harm or damaging property," Branchaud wrote in the lawsuit.

    It's difficult to glean from the YouTube video whether Griffin was resisting arrest since the interaction between Griffin and Dumas is filtered through the cruiser's windshield from a distance for most of the video.

    Branchaud wrote that the Taser's jolt caused his client to vomit and urinate himself, although he added that police blamed the vomiting on the alcohol Griffin had consumed that night. Griffin registered a blood alcohol count of 0.155 after his arrest - an amount almost twice the legal limit for operating a vehicle in Vermont.

    Branchaud also wrote that city police taunted his client after his arrest.

    "Days after the incident, Officer Dumas passed by (Griffin) smiling and waving as if the incident was funny and Officer (Joseph) Bartlett laughed at (Griffin) and asked him if the Taser smartened him up," Branchaud wrote.

    But Dumas and Geno remembered the incident differently.

    Dumas wrote that as he led Griffin through the throng of people on Center Street, Griffin was "throwing himself around and at one point almost fell onto a young boy."

    "People were clapping when we took him and his crew away," Geno said, referring to four other people who were arrested as part of the same incident the night Griffin was arrested.

    No clapping can be heard in the video, although a large group of people, including off-duty city firefighters who aided police, can be seen standing around the scene.

    Someone, either Griffin or one of the other people being arrested, can be heard repeatedly shouting that an off-duty police officer had punched him. In his lawsuit, Branchaud writes that Dumas can be heard saying, "I'm going to give him a little bit of juice" before using the Taser, although multiple samplings of the video on Wednesday could only pick out the word "juice."

    Dumas, who couldn't be reached for comment Tuesday, and Griffin had at least one run-in with each other before.

    Dumas was involved in the investigation of a burglary in November 2005 that led to the arrest of several people - including Griffin, who later pleaded guilty to two felony counts of burglary.

    He was sentenced to 18 months to seven years in jail but all the jail time was suspended and Griffin was placed on suspension. He ended up serving 30 days in jail after violating his probation.

    City Attorney Andrew Costello said Wednesday that he hadn't seen the lawsuit.

    "We'll review the lawsuit when we're served and respond," he said.

    Costello, who reviewed the internal report of the Taser use, said he was satisfied that police acted appropriately.
     
  2. ilbob

    ilbob Member

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    I have to wonder why cops are not taught that these dash cams work both ways and not to appear to be enjoying themselves too much when they use tasers.

    A lot of these dubious use of tasers at least gives the appearance of cops with a god complex where it looks like giving the eventual taseree a few minutes to calm down would have been a better answer.

    I predict thread lock soon.
     
  3. AntiqueCollector

    AntiqueCollector Member

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    I have noticed a trend where most threads critical of police actions are getting locked lately. Hopefully this one isn't.
     
  4. ilbob

    ilbob Member

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    In fairness to the mods, its not really gun related, unless you consider a Taser a gun.

    There seems to be no middle ground when discussing police conduct. There are people who see any use of force by police as unacceptable, and others who seem to think any level of force used by police is always acceptable. Its tough to get any middle ground with views like that.
     
  5. AntiqueCollector

    AntiqueCollector Member

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    Well, it is related to self-defense and what amount of force is legal...
     
  6. ilbob

    ilbob Member

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    There is a huge difference in the level of force the authorities tolerate when it is police using the force versus when it is not police, even when the laws on use of force are the same.

    In some respects, the problem is as much a matter of perception as it is of reality. When police misconduct is alleged, typically they investigate themselves and quickly determine there is no issue. This understandably leads to a certain level of cynicism about the fairness and honesty of the investigation. I am not sure there is a real solution to this problem, other then trying to make the process more open, but that is generally opposed voraciously by everyone on the LE side, for various reasons.

    There will always be a few bad cops, and every cop will occassional screw up, just like every other human being. Somehow we have to come up with some way of dealing with the screw ups without firing every cop on the force. You do have to have cops, and you can't just create them out of thin air.
     
  7. Norinco982lover

    Norinco982lover Member

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    I'm actually in favor of the cops in this account. It appears Griffin was a real criminal and the police officer was tired of putting up with his crap as he had already arrested him before for 2 accounts of burglary. It appears that he was following procedure and I would much rather he taser the poor fellow than beat him with his nightstick which is the "other" alternative to subdueing him with a taser. The guy was incredibly drunk. Poor guy.
     
  8. ilbob

    ilbob Member

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    I don't have much sympathy for the Taseree, but it did appear to me that just giving the guy a few minutes to stew in his own juices would have been a better choice than Tasering him. He was already handcuffed, so wasn't a threat to anyone. Let him sit on the curb and calm down.
     
  9. Tully M. Pick

    Tully M. Pick Member

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    I am wary of forming an opinion based on video postings, since you rarely get to see what happens before or after the video segment someone has decided to show you. I will say that Rutland should probably review their police force's physical fitness standards if they're looking into making any policy changes.
     
  10. damien

    damien Member

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    I have noticed a trend where most threads get locked, period. It's making the board less interesting and relevant. Oleg would be smart to restrict moderating duties to Oleg at this point.
     
  11. Jeff White

    Jeff White Moderator Staff Member

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    I have noticed a trend for off topic thread being posted. For instance this thread. In case you hadn't noticed there are rules in each of the sub forums about what topics can be posted. Here is what it says for this sub forum:

    Did you notice the phrase in italics? This thread is not remotely gun related.

    Oleg created a forum called Armed Polite Society specifically so that THR members would have a place to discuss those subjects that are off topic at THR. In the upper right hand corner of every page on THR, right next to the THR Library you will see a link to APS. If you want to start a thread that you know is off topic here at THR all you have to do is click that link and start your thread at APS.
     
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