Saturday, December 01, 2007

UHP Trooper Cleared of Wrong-Doing

I had heard this story on the news and then my husband, David showed me the video. I am a strong supporter of law enforcement and my instinct was to side with the police officer in this case. However, in watching the video, several times over, I came to have a distinctly different view.

First of all, I felt respect for Jared Massey, the driver, that he was willing to stand up for himself and question the ticket he was being given. From my perspective, I think it's possible he did not see the new posted speed sign because the police car was in front of it. (However, I'm sure there were 'reduced speed ahead' signs posted previously, so I do not dispute that Massey may have indeed been speeding). Nevertheless, I think as citizens of a free society we have the right to question authority and seek evidence of our misconduct.

After that though, I think it all goes to hell in a hand basket very quickly. I do believe that Utah Highway Patrol Officer Jon Gardner uses inappropriate force in his decision to use the taser on Massey. I believe that Officer Gardner had a mandate to effectively communicate his intentions and concerns with Massey, which he does not do. He does not clearly indicate to Massey that his choices are to take his hand out of his pocket and stand still. Massey thinks they are talking about whether or not a slower speed has been posted and suddenly he has a taser pointed at him.

Obviously, though, since yesterday UHP Superintendent Lance Davenport, stated that Gardner's actions "were lawful and reasonable under the circumstances," not everyone sees the video as I do.

Perhaps I feel this way because my husband has a mechanical heart valve and if he were to be tasered in an incident like this one, he would likely die. I am all for the use of tasers in lieu of deadly force, but I am quite sure there were several options the Patrol Officer had at his disposal that did not include zapping Massey full of electricity.

An internal investigation continues in this case and I truly hope they find that Officer Gardners' actions were unfounded. Like I said, I'm not disputing that Massey may have been speeding, nor that his actions (keeping a hand in his pocket which may have concealed a weapon and walking away from the Officer when the taser had been pulled on him) could have been construed as suspicious.

I do however strongly disapprove of Officer Gardners' use of the taser on Jared Massey and feel that disciplinary action would be appropriate. If you have not already seen the video, you can watch it here and let me know what you think.