Taser Overuse – The Saga Continues in Court

Tasers are devices that are becoming more commonly used by law enforcement officers across the country and as a former cop, I was glad to have one in the event that things "got ugly".  Fortunately, I never encountered the need to use it.  As a tool, I believe the taser to be more humane than most of the other "tools" that a cop has on her belt, but the video below shows a clear abuse by the officer in what I believe is a violation of Buckley’s civil rights as provided for by the US Constitution’s 8th Amendment against "cruel and unusual punishment." 

Very recently the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals reviewed this case and in a 2-1 decision ruled against Buckley, the complainant, but it now appears that the case is headed for review of the Court en banc, meaning the entire Court.  Depending on how that goes, and even if Buckley wins his claim, I believe this case will be one to watch that may go before the US Supreme Court, as the "cruel and unusual punishment" portion of the Constitution has been reviewed, but tasers are one of the more recent tools that needs review.

If the en banc decision goes against Buckley, he will likely review it.  If it goes for him, the Department or maybe even Taser International will seek review.

In the video , what we see is a sobbing, hysterical man who is non-compliant with the officer’s directions and who is already handcuffed.  At no time do we see a man that is out of control or someone that poses a risk to the officer.

Clearly, there were other officers available to help this one get Buckley to the car because you hear him call for backup in the video, after deploying the taser twice.  Clearly, the backup was not far away because it arrives before the video ends, which is only approximately 6 minutes in length.

The Court’s opinion is available here for further review. 

It would be interesting to see what the department’s official policy is on taser deployment.  In my opinion as a lawyer and as a former cop, I believe calling for backup first would have been the most prudent course of action, as there was not a threat to the officer’s safety, any more than normal given that the Buckley was handcuffed. As for the claim that Buckley was in danger of being struck by a passing motorist, he was sitting off the roadway, not in it.  And, it did not take much effort to move him further to the side, out of the danger zone between the officer’s patrol car and his own.

Again, what is the utility of tasing an individual who is restrained and non-combative?

This blog is run by The Law Office of Dax Garvin in Austin, Texas.  Dax Garvin is a criminal defense attorney practicing in state court. To learn more about Dax and his firm, please visit http://www.daxlegal.com.