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Mayor Potter Responds to Citizen Inquiry on Tasering of 16 Year Old

This is a letter I received from Mayor Potter in response to my inquiry of what happened on Sept 8. Since I know very little about this incident, other than what I read on PIMC, I wanted to hear what others have to say in response, and perhaps let Mayor Potter let you know how you feel or what you think. I left out my name to protect my privacy on the web.
From:  mayorpotter@ci.portland.or.us
Subject: RE: 15 year old kid tasered twice while on the ground!
Date: September 21, 2005 6:15:57 PM PDT
To: XXXXXXXX
Cc:  mrubio@ci.portland.or.us,  DBenson@police.ci.portland.or.us

Dear Mr. XXXX:

I appreciate the time you took to write me regarding the incident on September 8. Anytime police officers are forced to use force as they perform their duties it is rightly a cause for concern for both the public and the Police Bureau. The Police Bureau carefully reviews uses of force from a number of perspectives to determine if the use of force was justified. This includes if there were other options available, could have the officer(s) used other tools or techniques, were the communications skills used by the officers appropriate just to name a few of the considerations.

In this situation the officers on-scene were dealing with a suspected drug dealer who was later found to have illegal narcotics on his person and admitted to illegally selling them. When officers attempted to arrest him he struggled with them and refused to allow them to control his hands and handcuff him. When individuals struggle and wrestle with the police it poses a significant risk of injury to both officers and the person involved. One of the primary reasons the Taser was introduced was to limit these struggles so that they could quickly be resolved and reducing the injuries received by both the arrested subject and the officers. To date, the adoption of the Taser has drastically reduced injuries to both officers and the subjects they encounter both in Portland and around the country.

On the issue of the subject's age. Officers consider a variety of factors including age, size, strength and behavior. In this instance officers were dealing with a 16 year old male that was physically capable of injuring them and/or himself in the struggle. The application of the Taser was, in the officer's judgment, the best method to cut short this struggle. The subject was Tasered while on the ground because he continued to refuse to comply with the officer's verbal instructions. It is also worth noting that the subject did not appear to suffer any ill effects from the use of the Taser. It is also important to remember that it was a young teenage boy who shot and seriously injured Sergeant Damon Coates of the Clackamas County Sheriff's Office on January 9, 2003. To assume, that by virtue of their age, a teenager is not a threat to the safety of officers is simply not true.

I do appreciate your comments and thoughts. Public comment makes us consider what and how we provided service and work with our community. However, if you don't feel this response adequately addresses your concerns you are free to contact the Independent Police Review Division at (503) 823-0146 who will review your concerns.

Sincerely,

Tom Potter

Mayor
Poor Mayor Potter 22.Sep.2005 03:19

longtime observer

How many police lawsuits is the city going to have to pay out in his first year? He can't be unaware of how poisoned the Portland Police Department has become. But making the needed changes to the force is a full time job (and then some) and there is so much else that needs work, time, and commitment. Unfortunately, for everyone in the city, the problems with the police are going to get far worse before they get better unless changes are made soon. The mentality dominating the police was not created overnight and will not disappear overnight but will continue to degenerate until either the city officials or the citizens of the city demand the changes that are needed. Already most citizens in this city talk badly of the police, refuse to call them, and some (perhaps many) even talk openly of fighting back against them. What is needed is not much but even that little bit is needed to prevent hostilities from rising between the police and the citizens. Making small changes would benefit everyone in the city, including the police force, city officials, and the taxpayers. But it will take some courage, and some commitment. I don't don't that Potter has both; but I do doubt whether he'll choose to exercise them anytime soon. We shall see...

Hmm 22.Sep.2005 11:22

bEn

This is an interesting peice of literature by Tom Potter. I appreciate XXXXX for sending my story to Tom Potter. I am amazed he wrote back, and am glad he did. This is a message for Tom Potter.

Dear Tom Potter: I am glad that you wrote back and you are doing an awesome job of mayoring this city. You cut the PJTTF and I am very thankful for that. I didn't have the chance to say that Officer Dobson was not to blame for this incident. It was very kind of him to talk to me for that long and I am sorry if I insulted him. I just can't stick up for someone who would defend something like that. That is why I cannot agree with what you say. Seeing the reaction on the young mans face was enough for any person to ask questions and I'm glad I did. Tasing someone younger than the age of 18 can be deadly. There have been numerous cases of people who have had heart problems after being tased because either they were over the age of 50, were under the age of 18, or had heart problems. I agree that tasers are a good alternative to guns, but I do believe they should be used carefully. The officer that did this did have an alternative to tasing this young man. Witnesses say the officer held his wrist on the ground and could have easily handcuffed him. Instead of handcuffing him, he put this young mans health at risk by tasering him. The fact that he lied to me about that makes me wonder what was he trying to cover up. If his decision was just as you said, why would he want to cover it up? Why didn't he include that when he told me the story? Why did they have a cop go on indymedia and tell me that I was a liar when I told the truth? I disagree with you Mayor Potter, I do not think that the decision to use a taser. Witnesses said that he could of easily handcuffed him but he chose to taser him instead for reasons we don't know.

I never said that because of his age he was not a threat to the officers, and you can read my story again if you do not believe me. A small baby could be a threat to officers to, couldn't he. A tree branch could be a threat to officers couldn't it? In fact everything is a threat because everything has the capability of injuring someone. That does not make me want to tase my dog, or tase the treated food I eat. If the officer had him by the wrist, wasn't he under the officers control? Why couldn't he have simply handcuffed him. Couldn't the other officers have held him, he wasn't running he was on the ground. I say this not because of this specific case but of the way these police are trained. If they believe that is the right situation to tase someone than we might not be so lucky that someone will have no after effect to the tasers. Tasers were introduced to defend someone who was in danger, not put someone in danger. The people who study tasers and make them say that people should not shoot someone under the age of 18 period. This could have seriously injured the young man, and was not a wise decision to use "less lethal" force on him. You say "When individuals struggle and wrestle with the police it poses a significant risk of injury to both officers and the person involved" it poses a risk to the person involved because he will be shot with a taser. Let's remember that the victim of this was just shot by 50,000 volts of electricity before he was on the ground. To experience that type of pain and not expect a reaction is idiotic. Of course he was going to wiggle, his muscles were going through spasms. To then, electrocute him again is just inhumane. They could have easily arrested him. The decision to use a taser a second time was inhumane.

Thankyou for your time.

See pdx video collective's Pharaoh's Army 22.Sep.2005 13:39

wm

Dear Mr. Potter,

Perhaps you should attend the next Videos from the Resistance show, to see Pharaoh's Army. It's all about how "less lethal" weapons are being used in order for the police to get away with torturing people. Portland police feature prominently in this film. Interestingly, people who pose a real threat to the police are still shot. (And so are many people who do not, especially if they're black.) But people who are unarmed, or maybe carrying protest signs, tend to be tased or pepper sprayed or shot with "pellets, not bullets." These kinds of weapons allow the police to appoint themselves judge and jury. They punish people for what they see as "infractions," without any due process. In other days, people got a trial by a jury of their peers before being punished for a crime. Now, they get vigilante justice on the street. Some day, we will treat the police the same way. We will punish them for their crimes, without any appeals whatsoever.

The next show is Monday night at It's a Beautiful Pizza, though you will need to check with the portland indy video collective to see if Pharaoh's Army will be showing. If not, I bet you could get them to do a private showing just for you. It's a very eye opening piece.

Sincerely,
One of your constituents who feels that less lethal weapons are going over the line.

potter goes out on a limb 22.Sep.2005 14:41

bland

I wish people reporting events such as this one involving the 16 yr old tazed in SoPk blks would think about creating a minute to minute time line outling the events as they've seen them. I read the original article by bEn and related reader comments, plus bEn's latest account here, and now potters take on the story. It's very hard to get a handle on the exact succession of events.

Was he tazed while standing? Or while on the ground? Or both? So,a cop had him face down, holding his wrists (with both hands, so he didn't have one hand free to cuff him?)and the kid was fighting/resisting, so another cop standing by tazed him as a means to get the kid to submit? It might take a total of 3 cops to get such a person (in this case, allegedly a medium build, 16 year old kid not totally wacked on a super-human strength drug induced high) that resists being cuffed: one holding his lower torso, one for his sholders, and one to cuff him. It seems as though I remember reading there were at least three officers there.

Whoever wrote the letter to potter...congrats...that's something to actually have gotten the mayor to personally respond to a citizen's (if this is the case) request for his feelings on an incident like this, but concluding from what he writes in his letter, potter seems to have only written an account that supports the approach the police took in this case, the facts of which may or may not have been what was reported to him by the heirarchy beneath him; officers involved in the incident, superiors, etc.

This tazering biz is just the latest in the cops whiz-bang arsenal of tools to subdue what they perhaps imagine to simply be an unruly public, They can always be relied upon to come up with the most cockamamie reasons to defend it's use. In training, a known to be physically fit officer trainee, with a doctor's approval most likely, is allowed to "experience" the effects of a tazer. So with that endorsement, as well as the manufacturers glowing encouragement, law enforcement seems to think they can go out and randomly taze nearly any citizen whose medical status may be completely unknown to them. Yet potter, can come forward and blithely endorse this rather indiscriminate use of the tazer upon the public.

Fortunately for potter, the incident is out of his jurisdiction, but one wonders what exact effect tazering must have had on Fouad Kaady, who had aparrently already been writhing in adrenalin fueled, raging and destroyed nerve endings he sustained from burns in a catastrophic fire.

Unfortunately, police, having deemed transition to lethal force was neccessary to avert the danger to their lives represented by a nude, severely burned man standing atop a police car, shot Fouad Kaady dead, so he can't help to answer that question. We can hope that use of the tazer didn't induce a response from Fouad that led the police to feel the need to transition to the use of lethal force. That would make use of tazers for the purpose of subduing those who resist seem very dubious indeed.

As for the sale of illegal drugs in the SoPk blks, it's almost an open market there. Anybody selling drugs there should know the territory before they do. If they don't eventually get into trouble with the cops, they might get into it with the regular dealers in the park for cutting into their territory. That's bullshit too, but what do you expect? Whatever you do, once the cops got you, do not resist. Do not resist. Serious, experienced dealers with any wits still left in them, know this well. Resisting just gives the cops an opportunity to have fun with you.

mayor potter 23.Sep.2005 05:34

karl roenfanz ( rosey ) k_rosey48@hotmail.com

not surprizing that the mayor supports the police side, you'd probably have to have video fromthree different angles to prove how the police were acting. it actually sounds like the cops were to lazy to do their jobs, the cops use tazeing as punishment, like jail time-court time-and jail time,wasn't enough all ready, the cops in this town have been known to stop a high school teacher going into teach drivers ed, find him to drunk to drive,give him a warning ticket send him in to teach, in the AM. but they'll break your arms ,throw you in jail,noi medical until you see the judge. just for saying fuck, better hope it doesn't happen on a weekend. welcome to the homeland security police state. heil bush!

Reality vs The Propaganda 23.Sep.2005 07:43

Working Class Mama

Forgive me, I didn't have time to read everything this morning.

So tazers are supposed to be an alternative to guns/lethal force. Was this really a scenario where the cop would have shot/killed this kid? If so, this city's police have a very warped sense of morality and danger. This is clearly more evidence that tazers are being used to increase violence and use it where it was not permittable before. Not to reduce it or be an alternative to guns like we've been lead to believe. In fact, we've seen in the recent past that they often use both to make sure that their victims don't live to tell what really happened and to make sure the shot person won't defend themselves.

Disobedience is a "Tazing Offense"? 26.Sep.2005 04:07

Sixpack wabc@mutualaid.org

As I read Mayor Potter's form letter, and it is for the first half exaxtly that--a pre-formatted letter that can be customized if desired, which he did. (at least he's not too lazy)
Mayor Potter's explanation as to why the young man was tazered while on the ground really says it all..."because he continued to refuse to comply with the officer's verbal instructions." So that says that if anyone does not immediately do what they are told, they will be punished! The rest of the letter is really irrelevent. He was not tazered because he was a threat to the officer, or was violent or intimidating, or even verbally abusive--He just failed to recognize that the Gestapo had issued a supreme order!

Activists should beware---What's the definition of "civil disobedience"?
Yep! Not doing what you are told! So anyone who disobeys is fair game, even if they are not threatening the safety of anyone. Heil Potter! Du Macht Mi Spass, Ney?