Saturday, November 18, 2006

University of Kalifornia, über alles.

I was shocked to see the video of a UCLA student getting tazered at Powell Library. It was especially disturbing because I happen to be a UCLA graduate. Powell Library is one of the oldest buildings on campus, and although its library is not one of the better ones, I used to drop into Powell library in the late afternoons sometimes to read the New York Times. At that time, there were chairs in the rotunda, the afternoon light came in through some windows high on the wall, and you could sit in a comfortable chair to read the papers while listening to the acoustics of the echoing footsteps and voices and appreciating the architecture. (I hope my recollections are accurate, because my memories date from a time when the present students were pre-schoolers.) In contrast, the University Research Library on the north end of campus was uglier and less conveniently located although it had the main collection. It must have been shocking even for the students who were doing some studying to have the very calm, dignified, cultured, quiet, deep atmosphere of the library broken by the screams of a student being tortured by campus police.

There is absolutely no excuse for tazering a student in the library. Had the student been armed with a gun or knife, threatened the officers, or violently resisted them and assaulted them, I could see it as one possible way to stop the assault. The real situation was completely to the contrary: the student had already been handcuffed before the police assault began (unbelievably, but true according to the accounts that I read). It is also not appropriate to assault him in retaliation for his nonviolent resistance. The officers could have gently picked him up and removed him, if they are authorized to physically enforce the removal of people without identification; there were several officers present, so they have no excuse. Finally, the repeated tazering is dangerous and completely inexcusable. This comes close to attempted murder. In conclusion, the UC police were completely wrong, wrong, and wrong. Several people should spend a few years in prison. Experts in civil rights and the public need to review the training and procedures that are being taught to law enforcement personnel, for the University system and Los Angeles county, too.

What is perhaps even more shocking than the assault is that some people are defending the officers, saying that they have a right to do it just because they are in authority. I think that looks bad to the whole world. You do not hear of this happening in Japan or France or London. Consider the history of policing and note that the tazer has not been available for most of the time to most officers, in most of the world, hence they could not lazily resort to it, but might have to use their greatest weapon, their minds and powers of persuasion to try to effect law-abiding behaviors and preserve the public peace. These officers were doing anything but preserving the peace; "Peace Officers" sounds like a sick joke in reference to them. Most of the time these officers do not even need to be armed, really. It looks like these officers were bullies who were bored with their quiet jobs and just itching for a chance to use their tazers. Nobody else who was there interpreted the situation as calling for the use of force that was seen.

The victim claims he was singled out for attention due to racial profiling. Mostafa Tabatabainejad is a 23-year-old Iranian-American. There is a large and affluent ethnically Persian community centered around the Westwood area of Los Angeles where UCLA is located.

I think I first saw the story starting to pop up on Google news and read it here but it is no longer there. The story was posted at this educator's blog , where he cited Bitch as his source. Truthdig, YouTube and Daily Bruin have the video. The LATimes published a report.

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