A confrontation between a Utah Highway Patrolman and a motorist which took place on U.S. Highway 40 near Vernal in northeast Utah back in September 2007 has attracted media attention, particularly since it is accompanied by home video obtained by the citizen and posted on YouTube and LiveLeak. Full story on KSL Channel 5 in Salt Lake.
Jared Massey was driving along with his wife and toddler when he was pulled over for speeding. In the video, you can see that Massey is getting frustrated as the officer, identified by KUTV Channel 2 as John Gardner, refuses to tell him how fast he was going. Here's the crux of the exchange:
The trooper said, "Well, you're going to sign this first."
Massey replies, "No, I'm now. I'm not signing anything officer."
And the trooper says, "OK, hop out of the car." He then attempts to place Massey under arrest. "Turn around, put your hands behind your back."
You can see in the video that Massey ignores the command and proceeds to walk toward the car. The fact that he was walking rather than running implies that he wasn't trying to escape or evade. Yet the officer tasers him anyway.
According to Massey: "I'm laying there on the ground, and I start coming to and I hear him yelling at me another command, and before I can process it, he's telling me to roll over, he hits me with the Taser again."
Let's go to the video:
In case the LiveLeak version goes bad, here's a link to the YouTube version:
Later, Massey spoke to KSL Newsradio. "I gashed my head open and had cuts and bruises on my back, and they had to take me to the hospital."
The man has filed a complaint and is threatening to sue the Utah Highway Patrol for being wrongfully tasered. He got his hands on the trooper's dash-cam video and posted it all over the Internet.
In Utah, if you refuse to sign a citation, troopers can give you another citation or, in some cases, they can place you under arrest. That's what happened in this instance.
Meanwhile, the Utah Department of Public Safety is trying to answer some questions of its own. Sgt. Jeff Nigbur said, "I do not know what that particular trooper was thinking about, what he was concerned about, whether he felt his life was in danger, whether he was worried about the driver's life so close to traffic. I don't know." The investigation should be complete sometime next week.
Commentary: This story has already attracted 344 comments on KSL. Most recognize that both parties contributed to the problem.
First, when a cop tells you you're under arrest, you don't walk away from him. You comply with his instructions. Period.
But the cop lost control of the situation. He should have given a more detailed explanation of the infraction to the driver. If I broke the law, I have the right to know PRECISELY how I broke the law. The law enforcement obsession with secrecy is becoming totalitarian. It's time for cops to drop the "homeland security" mentality and start acting like ordinary cops again.
So what should happen to the cop? Unless he has a past record of abusing his authority, he should be suspended, probably for no more than a week unpaid. He shouldn't be fired.