Friday, November 23, 2007

CNN's Kiran Chetry Interviews Taser Victim Jared Massey And Utah Highway Patrol Sgt. Jeff Nigbor

On November 23rd, 2007, CNN's Kiran Chetry interviewed both Taser victim Jared Massey and a designated representative from the Utah Highway Patrol, Sgt. Jeff Nigbor. The interview was completely professional; both sides were credible. Local story posted on KSL Channel 5 in Salt Lake; already there are 74 comments posted to the story in just two hours.

Click HERE to access and view CNN interview. If you get an error message about "unable to load due to firewall", or words of that nature, go back and reload, pressing the CTRL key before clicking the mouse (this worked for me).

Click HERE to review all previous posts on this incident.

Synopsis: Jared Massey was interviewed first, from Roosevelt, Utah. When he was first pulled over, he stated that he was quite confused about the trooper's intentions; there was other traffic in the area and he wasn't sure he was actually the target (the YouTube video shows trooper pulling over to allow Massey to pass, then he pulls back out and "lights Massey up", which tends to corroborate Massey's story). Massey stated that he believed he was still in the 65 mph zone when he was pulled over and wanted the trooper to show him the 40 mph sign. When the trooper pulled out the Taser gun, Massey stated that he "panicked" because he thought it was a real gun and he didn't expect such an extreme reaction to a traffic violation. He was walking back towards his car to attempt to defuse the situation. Attitude: Massey exhibited a contemplative, matter-of-fact approach, showing no hostility or anger towards the UHP during the interview.

The UHP representative was interviewed next. Sgt. Jeff Nigbor, who appeared in a civilian suit (probably to soften the "paramilitary" image), drew the "short straw". First, Sgt. Nigbor reminded viewers that because the investigation is still in progress, it would impose some limitations on what he could say. He began by characterizing the confrontation as caused by a couple of egos that got out of hand. He stated that the UHP took each Taser deployment seriously and reviewed each deployment after the fact. He characterized Trooper John Gardner's remark about "taking a ride with the Taser" as unprofessional. He spoke of the nine-page Taser deployment policy maintaineed by the UHP, and that one of the objects of the investigation is to determine if Trooper Gardner violated that policy.

In response to Chetry's question about whether the non-lethality of the Taser makes officers more "trigger-happy", Sgt. Nigbor disputed that perception, and asserted that Tasers may have saved many lives by preventing the need to deploy more lethal weapons. When asked if the UHP had a problem with the video being posted publicly, Sgt. Nigbor understandably hesitated for a moment, obviously weighing his answer, and then said that the only problem is the possibility of compromising an actual investigation or case. From a standpoint of public transparency and accountability, he said UHP had no problem, since they welcome the opportunity to be fully accountable to the public at all times. Attitude: Sgt. Nigbor was completely professional in his demeanor.

Commentary: The Utah Highway Patrol conveys the impression that they are concerned about this incident and want to reach a balanced solution. However, they are aware of the temporary anti-cop witch-hunt mentality which has surfaced in the wake of this unfortunate incident. If UHP rushes to judgment now, they will be perceived as caving in to public pressure. Here's the YouTube video again, for those who need to see it to form an opinion:

Having seen the video myself, and aware that Trooper Gardner is an experienced officer with 14 years service, his punishment must be more severe than that of an inexperienced junior officer. When Gardner tased Massey a second time while Massey was still on the ground, before Massey had sufficiently recovered to voluntarily comply with Gardner's instructions, Gardner crossed the line into actual police brutality. Either a long-term suspension without pay or outright termination, depending upon his previous track record, are appropriate options.

My Prediction: Trooper Gardner will incur a long-term suspension without pay, anywhere from 30 to 90 days, but will not be terminated. The State of Utah will reach an accomodation with Jared Massey, in which Massey will not sue the state, in exchange for a public apology from the state and the quashing of Massey's speeding ticket. This would be the smart way to go - restoring the primacy of reason over emotion.

Oh, by the way, my other prediction, for this Saturday: BYU 24, Utah 17. The "Y" will win the MWC.

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