Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Alleged Jay Walking Leads to Taser Incident in Florida

I first saw the following video on Bossip a few days ago, and since then it has gone quite viral.



The video, which runs 10 minutes, shows Zikomo Peurifoy being stopped by Casselberry, Florida police for ignoring crosswalk signals. When an officer asked Peurifoy for ID, he refused to give it to him.

"It's not a lawful command," Peurifoy says.

He was then cornered by officers in a parking lot and tasered three times until he fell on the ground.

Police claim that the officers' actions in the above video are so textbook, the clip is being used as an example of a perfectly appropriate use of force. [source]

In the comments at Huffpo, many are ready to discount race and claim that the two involved in this incident were looking for the opportunity to sue. When being stopped by an officer you have the right to ask why you are being detained.  The officer did not at anytime cite the legal ordinance that Peurifoy supposedly broke.  I further doubt that they would have even bothered to stop him had he not been a Black man.  Let's be clear, when it comes to race relations, police in Florida do not exactly have a stellar history.

He stated repeatedly that he was not resisting arrest, as he was initially being handcuffed and one officer still had a taser touching his person. Who was escalating the situation then?  Peurifoy had a right to be in fear for his life when the taser was brought into the situation because though the taser is viewed by law enforcement as non lethal, it has in fact resulted in several deaths.  It's like playing Russian roulette, you could be the unlucky person who dies.
According to data collected by Amnesty International, at least 500 people in the United States have died since 2001 after being shocked with Tasers either during their arrest or while in jail. Amnesty International recorded the largest number of deaths following the use of Tasers in California (92), followed by Florida (65), and Texas (37). The Oklahoma City Police Department led all law enforcement agencies in deaths (7) following by Las Vegas Metropolitan Police, Harris County Sheriff’s (Tx), Phoenix, Az and San Jose, Ca., all with six deaths.

In a 2008 report, USA: Stun weapons in law enforcement, Amnesty International examined data on hundreds of deaths following Taser use, including autopsy reports in 98 cases and studies on the safety of such devices.

Among the cases reviewed, 90 percent of those who died were unarmed. Many of the victims were subjected to multiple shocks.

Most of the deaths have been attributed to other causes. However, medical examiners have listed Tasers as a cause or contributing factor in more than 60 deaths, and in a number of other cases the exact cause of death is unknown.

Some studies and medical experts have found that the risk of adverse effects from Taser shocks is higher in people who suffer from a heart condition or whose systems are compromised due to drug intoxication or after a struggle.

"Even if deaths directly from Taser shocks are relatively rare, adverse effects can happen very quickly, without warning, and be impossible to reverse," said Lee. "Given this risk, such weapons should always be used with great caution, in situations where lesser alternatives are unavailable."

There are continuing reports of police officers using multiple or prolonged shocks, despite warnings that such usage may increase the risk of adverse effects on the heart or respiratory system. [source]
Considering the higher levels of police interactions with people of colour, I would be willing to bet that a significant percentage of those people who are now dead were people of colour.

The bottom line is when a cop approaches, because they have been invested with authority, any questioning of their right to detain you, illegally search you, or intimidate you is seen as being uncooperative, never mind the fact in the communities of colour, they behave little better than armed thugs.  Just look at New York's racist stop and frisk policy and how it emboldens this kind of behaviour.  Cops are meant to supposedly uphold the law but when it comes to people of colour, they abuse it at will. 

In defense of officers, people usually say something along of the line of who are you going to call when you are in danger? (this btw was said repeatedly at Huffpo) To which I respond, it depends, because sometimes those causing the danger are the police.  Abuse happens every single day and perhaps if the Florida cops had a better history with minorities Peurifoy would not have seen the cop as a threat from the moment of first interaction. Their actions prove that his assumptions were not wrong.