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« Justice for Macacas and Monkeys | Main | Amazing Lack of Grace »

November 17, 2006


Actually, it doesn't surprise me. The college I attend is increasingly becoming a police state, and they are incredibly rude and PRE-WRITE your tickets when they pull you over and tailgate constantly when you're driving around on campus. I know, this isn't as neary as bad as the incident you mentioned, but just wanted to mention that it's not going on just there.

I feel that it's more of an issue of law enforcement's overuse of the taser, compounded by the 'sitting in the library while brown/middle-eastern in appearance' syndrome.
We keep reading constantly about how innocuous citizens get tasered without provocation, even horrific cases like this lady in a diabetic coma getting tased (link)
All mind games by the authorities ( note the quick squelching of dissent on the part of other students present in the library), as in " This could happen to you, unless you are compliant".

I think police conduct is influenced by societal norms - guns, violent movies and TV shows and a street culture of crime. On top that the national zeitgeist is also molded by a political climate of suspicion, authoritarianism and unnecessary muscle flexing by the elected leadership.

The heavy handed behavior of the American law enforcement is so scary sometimes that one has to wonder if some of them hide their own criminal tendencies behind an official uniform.

People can behave rudely, irrationally and dangerously for any number of reasons. Police are not just there to punish, they are also entrusted to protect. They should be trustworthy enough to exercise good judgement and caution. To distinguish between the truly dangerous and the merely obnoxious and strange.

A few years ago in Houston, a severely disturbed woman who was off her medication needed to be taken to the hospital. She resisted all attempts by her aged parents to calm her down and drive her to the hospital. Her family called the police to help. When the police arrived, the woman came out of her home with a knife in her hand and was weaving towards the officers who were some twenty feet away from her door. There were several police officers and they knew she was mentally incompetent. The woman was five foot one and weighed some 120 pounds. Those huge hulking, physically fit officers shot and killed her from a distance like a cornered animal! I couldn't believe that so many of them could not effectively overpower this lone disoriented woman who was half their size. And if they couldn't, why are they on the police force? Mostafa Tabatabainejad didn't even have a weapon. He was verbally sparring with the campus police. So what reason did they have to taser him if not to show their power and authority? It is really very scary and disturbing. Let us see how UCLA handles the situation.

it is interesting in that people often emphasize the totalitarian uses of surveillance and technology. and yet the cellphone video shows that technology also enables the watchers to be watched.

Thank goodness for those cell phone pictures.

The difference here is that the students used the technology to record something that occurred publicly. They didn't go snooping after the policemen to record their private behavior.

Most of us have learnt to live with compromised privacy for the sake of security. Banks, stores and gas stations have been using surveillance on customers for ages. And the amount of info we give out to get a bank loan or insurance leaves hardly any thing to imagination.

That is not what most people were complaining about regarding authoritarian use of technology. The NSA snooping by Bush, Cheney and Rove went beyond plain surveillance, we suspect. They used it for political gain I am sure. Which is why they are so dogged in their efforts to keep it all under wraps. The latest attempt by Bush to confirm his fellow bully John Bolton as the UN ambassador was declared "dead on arrival" by Sen Joe Biden and others. One of the reasons is Bolton's refusal to divulge the contents of the ultra secret intercepts that he had requested and received from the NSA. It is widely believed that the data involved subordinates employed under him.

Police officers repeatedly battering a student at the library, and assaulting other students. That video is the most frightening, disturbing, and disgusting thing I have seen in a long time.

Stand up or we're gonna tase you again! ZAP! Stand up! ZAP! Stand up! ZAP! (It is of course by this time physically impossible for him to do so.) ZAP!

BACK INSIDE PLEASE! Go back inside right now or we're going to tase you too!

Students demanding the officers' badge numbers were also assaulted.

Every officer there needs to be fired immediately, in my opinion. I wonder if the UCPD will do the opposite to attempt to distance itself from potential liability.

I also wonder why the large crowd of students, witnessing this ongoing torture, did not forcibly interfere. And on an emotional level, I really wish they had and that these UCPD officers had been beaten to a bloody pulp.

I don't know how I missed this story until today. Contrary to your post, Ruchira, I think this took place on Tuesday night, as UCLA's initial statement is dated November 15 and refers to "an incident late last night..." In any case, I am frustrated by the prospect now of waiting on an investigation. Time will pass, our justified anger will subside or be distracted by another provocation, and the dispute will become a local one between the handful of interested parties present at the occasion. We call it justice.

I have no faith whatsoever in cellphone or video images of ordinary cops doing their ordinary brutal work. Here, the images were unnecessary, anyway. Testimony appears to suggest that the (non-)student was at most slightly resistant, perhaps only verbally so. Only inept officers would have allowed this situation to escalate to such a point.

I too am surprised that you missed the story, Dean, you being in the same university system.

The cell videos do not provide much in the way of recording the "action." But you can hear the student's screams. The investigation will no doubt rest primarily on the account of the eye witnesses, of whom there were many. I think the police here went beyond inept - they acted in a sadistic manner. The question keeps popping in my mind if the victim's middle eastern heritage had some thing to do with the "escalation" or could it have happened to a caucasian Bob Smith.

You are right. It is clear from the statement by the university that the incident took place on Tuesday night. I will correct it.

Sadistic, indeed. See the OED, for instance: "A form of sexual perversion marked by a love of cruelty. Now understood as cruelty that evidences a subconscious craving and is apparently satisfied, sexually or otherwise, by the infliction of pain on another by means of aggressive or destructive behaviour or the assertion of power over that person; also loosely, deliberate or excessive cruelty morbidly enjoyed."

News among UC campuses is not necessarily automatically shared by virtue of the relationship. Each campus is a huge organization, struggling just to keep up with its own recent events. (I recently heard a couple UC staffers with work experience in the federal government and the US Army remark that UC is far more bureaucratic than either of their respective former employers!)

The Berkeley news page doesn't appear to be forthcoming about the UCLA situation. But ironically it did just post this story during the past week: Boalt Hall prof explores changing demographics of police. In addition to the curious (and no doubt unintentional) timing of the story, it features a professor here at the law school who arrived recently from UCLA's law school. Prof. Sklansky is widely admired by students, faculty, and staff alike. I'd like to hear what he has to say about the development at his former campus.

American Libraries, an organ of ALA, adds this to the mix:

"The incident [at UCLA] came one day after Paul Allaire, 42, was forcibly taken from the University of Missouri at Columbia's Elmer Ellis Library. Allaire reportedly kicked one of the eight police officers summoned to the scene by library security. He was restrained, arrested, and charged with resisting arrest, threatening to assault a library security guard, and assaulting a university police officer.

"'[The library] had some past problems with him,' Doug Schwandt of the campus police told the Columbia (Mo.) Daily Tribune. 'He had stayed in the library one night last week when it closed.'"

There is some evidence that Allaire has a history of violent confrontations. See this story in the Missourian. Nevertheless, it's interesting to me that libraries are the sites of these recent disturbances.

Dean, have you considered taking karate lessons?

No need for martial arts so long as libraries continue to promote the book arts. Our copy of the GPO's Constitution of the United States of America: Analysis and Interpretation, for instance, at over 2600 pages, will protect me.

Hey, it's good to know that you are protected behind hefty tomes. (I hope your throwing arm is in tip top shape!)

In any case, according to Brian Leiter's latest report on the dire state of California's university system, you guys have bigger matters to worry about than unruly library patrons. :-)

Prof. Leiter's post refers primarily to the CSU system, one of two California state university systems, the second being the University of California (Berkeley, UCLA, Irvine, etc.). In many respects, these are two quite distinct organizations. Not that there haven't been similar controversies abrew recently surrounding UC...

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