Taser Tantrums & Police Brutality

taserFrom ABC Local 30/08/10:

Marin County man has filed suit against the Marin County Sheriff's Department for an incident in which he says law enforcement officers went too far. Peter McFarland was Tased  inside his own home as his wife watched, begging officers to stop.

(BTW - is it tased or tasered? - no, i don’t know either)

On June 29, 2009 McFarland and his wife Pearl were returning home from a charity fundraiser just before midnight. McFarland injured himself as he stumbled and fell down the long steps to his front door.

"Mainly it was to my knee and the front of my leg, my shin," McFarland said.

His wife called paramedics, who helped him into the house and treated him. As the paramedics were leaving, two sheriff's deputies arrived.

"All of a sudden, they just showed up, they came in here ... like a gunfight was going on," McFarland said.

What happened in the following minutes was captured on a camera mounted on the deputy's Taser.

The deputy tells McFarland he is going to take him to the hospital because he may be suicidal.

"We want to take you to the hospital for an evaluation, you said if you had a gun, you'd shoot yourself in the head," the deputy can be heard saying.

McFarland says it was just hyperbole. He was tired and in pain.

The deputy orders him numerous times to get up or else.

"Stand up, put your hands behind your back or you're going to be Tased," the deputy says.

The exchange goes on for about five minutes; his wife keeps pleading with the deputies not to Tase him, saying he has a heart condition.

As he gets up to go to bed, McFarland is Tased. Not once, but three times.

McFarland says he never had any suicidal thoughts. In fact, he considers himself lucky to be alive.

[McFarland’s lawyer] says his client was arrested, jailed and charged with resisting arrest. A judge later dismissed the charge.

Clearly this isn’t a good story for the local police, no matter how you slice it. But what makes this incident all the more odd is that one of the officers knew he had a camera installed on his Taser - meaning the wisdom of his actions could easily come back to haunt him when judged dispassionately in the cold light of day.  So did he forget - or just not care?

Arguing for better training needed is as futile as it is trite; would training have really stopped this debacle from occurring? 

Perhaps the problem is more fundamental?  Maybe those responsible for attracting trainee officers need to revise their psychometric tests to avoid attracting such impetuous officers? This wasn’t just an error of judgement – this was a complete lack of common sense! Zapping the hell out of a wounded homeowner who merely objected to the officer’s self-righteousness isn’t the kind of ‘community policing’ anybody should have to endure.

I’m all for giving police better and modernised equipment to help them do their job but is this just providing trigger-happy cops with another means of venting their frustration after a tough day at work? At least they didn’t spray themselves in the face with their own CS gas – as the British police seem to be specialists at.

But this kind taser abuse needs to be nipped in the bud. Otherwise more cases of police brutality and wrongful arrest coupled with claims for compensation will just on coming!

(And, right on cue, I noticed this collection of clips of police brutality on Digg.  Fancy that!)


  1. "Maybe those responsible for attracting trainee officers need to revise their psychometric tests ..."

    Are you suggesting that psychometric tests are valid?

  2. Nope - merely that they're used! :-)

  3. Erasers erase. Tasers tase. It makes sense to me.

  4. It is a catch 22, how many people were tasered instead of shot, how many people were tasered instead of other less violent methods being used?

  5. Michael, they were just doing their jawb! :P

  6. Seriously, I know this is an important article, but I can not get past how cool that taser is!!

    My birthday is the 13th and I am asking Handsome Swedish Boyfriend for this thing. Why? Have you looked at the picture?? I could fend off at least 20 random zombie attacks with this thing.

  7. @Paralegal Hell, I do agree. They've clearly been told to not make it look like a real gun so they've instead made it look like the ray gun of your 10 year old self's dreams. There's something primal about how cool that looks.

    I think it's really weird how the police seem to see tasing you as a good thing though. I know it's not as bad for you as being shot but it's still not exactly doing you a favour.


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