Police Taser Deaf, Retarded Man
Before turning in last night, we watched Monday’s “Colbert Report” which featured this segment on the increasing use of tasers by police forces, including on helpless old women:
|The Colbert Report||Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c|
|Current Events – Tasers|
This morning, I see that several people are commenting on a story about Mobile, Alabama police tasering a deaf, retarded man on the grounds he had locked himself in a public bathroom and was carrying a dangerous weapon — an umbrella.
Officers who used pepper spray and a Taser to remove a man from a store bathroom found out only later he was deaf and mentally disabled and didn’t understand they wanted him to open the door, police said Tuesday. A spokesman for the Mobile Police Department said the officers’ actions were justified because the man was armed with a potential weapon — an umbrella.
But relatives of Antonio Love, 37, have asked for a formal investigation and said they plan to sue both the police and the store. “I want justice,” Love’s mother, Phyllis Love, said Tuesday.
The woman said her son hears only faintly, has the mental capacity of a 10-year-old and didn’t realize that it was the police who were trying enter the bathroom. “He thought the devil was out there trying to get in to get him,” she said.
Antonio Love, in a written statement and in a television interview given in sign language about the confrontation, said he had a badly upset stomach last Friday and went into a Dollar General store to use the restroom.
Police spokesman Christopher Levy said Tuesday store workers called officers complaining that a man had been in the bathroom for more than an hour with the door locked. Officers knocked on the door and identified themselves, but the person didn’t respond. Officers used a tire iron to open the door, but the man pushed back to keep it shut. Officers saw the umbrella and sprayed pepper spray through a crack trying to subdue the man, Levy said. They shot the man with a Taser when they finally got inside, he said.
Officers didn’t realize Love was deaf or had mental problems until he showed them a card he carries in his wallet, Levy said. He was arrested on a charge of disorderly conduct, but officers released him and took him home after a magistrate refused to issue a warrant.
Levy said officers were justified in using force against Love since he had an umbrella. “The officers really worked within the limits of our level-of-force policy,” he said. “We had no information about who this guy was.”
Now, I’m less apoplectic about the particular case than Paleo Pat, digby, or William Grigg because I actually buy the police explanation that they had no idea who this guy was or that he was disabled. All they knew is that a large man was locked in the bathroom for an inordinately long time and had refused the demands of store management to leave — necessitating calling the police to begin with — and that he was then refusing police orders and pushing back on the door as police were trying to enter.
That’s suspicious activity.
It’s not the police department’s responsibility to know that an unidentified person they’re called out to respond to is disabled. And the fact that Love thinks the devil is attacking him in bathrooms and that he is unable to cope with his surroundings is perhaps an indication that he shouldn’t be out unsupervised.
The officers in question undoubtedly acted as they were trained to do.
No, the problem, as in the Henry Louis Gates case, is a police culture that sees all non-police as potentially dangerous perps and that demands instant respect and obedience from the public. Watch any random episode of “Cops” and you’ll see outrageous police conduct by officers who know that they’re being filmed for television. Police increasingly see themselves as soldiers in a war zone and behave with an arrogant, bullying attitude toward the citizenry even in clearly non-dangerous situations.