Electroshock torture new penalty for expired tag?

13 May 2008 by Mike Gogulski
Posted in police, torture | No Comments »

Ah it’s great how a victimless status crime such as driving with an expired license plate can lead to electroshock torture these days. Didn’t pay your tax on time? Ride the taser. Sure, the officer wasn’t “adequately trained in the use of the taser”… they know what it does. They get zapped as part of their training.

Of course we’ll wait for all the “facts” to come out in court, where the deck will be stacked heavily in favor of the trigger-happy uniformed thugs, as usual.

Just remember here, it could have been worse for Mr. Fields. The ultimate penalty, after all, for insufficient obeisance to the State, is death.

UPDATE: New at AlterNet: Why the Police Wouldn’t Tase Me When I Asked Them to

From the Mansfield News Journal, Ohio:

May 12, 2008

Mansfield man’s lawsuit alleges excessive police force

News Journal

MANSFIELD — A West Third Street man has sued Mansfield, claiming police used excessive force in a traffic stop after he suffered head wounds and a collapsed lung. The suit says the injuries required surgery to his ankle, and he spent several days on life support.

Phillip Fields Jr., 36, of 191 West Third St., contends the police department failed to properly train officers on the use of the taser and failed to use good faith investigating his complaint about the incident.

Defendants in the lawsuit, filed May 6 in Richland County Common Pleas Court, are the City of Mansfield, Officers Richard Dittrich, Terry Rogers, Philip Messer Jr., and up to 10 unnamed employees of the police department.

Fields was arrested July 6, 2007, when he pulled into his driveway at 334 West Longview Avenue.

“He was supposedly pulled over because he had an expired license tag. He exited his vehicle and gave his ID, and the officer said he was under arrest,” attorney Daniel R. Mordarski said. “When Mr. Fields tried to find out why, the police officer threatened him with a taser, then actually used the taser on him. He shot him anywhere between 5 and 10 times.”

The lawsuit contends Fields immediately fell to the ground after the taser was first used, and got tangled in the long wires attached to his body via the taser darts. Fields contends he had difficulties complying with Dittrich’s order to place his hands behind his back because of the wires and the electrical current traveling through his body.

Court filings maintain the suspect’s brother Jimmy called the police department asking for additional officers to respond to the scene to stop Dittrich from using the taser again. He tried to remove the wires from his brother, and was arrested.

“Phillip went inside the house with his mom and sat at the kitchen table and had a cigarette and waited for police to come for him,” Mordarski said.

According to the lawsuit, a team of officers entered the house and tackled Fields after he held his arms out and told police he would come with them. Fields claims he was kicked and punched by Officers Rogers, Dittrich and Messer Jr. He contends he received a serious ankle injury, a serious head injury, burns from electricity, a collapsed lung and other injuries that required him to be on a medical life support system at the hospital.

The lawsuit alleges the city tried to cover up the use of excessive force and minimize the extent of Phillips’ injuries — with only three officers filling out a Response to Resistance/Aggression Report, listing Fields only injury was a minor cut to the head or forehead.

The lawsuit said Fields was taken to the hospital and remained in intensive care and on a ventilator for several days, with severe injuries.

“It does appear that he had some memory loss and some pretty difficult emotional distress,” Mordarski said.

According to Mordarski, an internal affairs investigation conducted by the city “attempted to justify the actions of the officers, rather than actually investigate the details of the brutal attack.”

The lawsuit contends the city took no action to discipline any of the officers, and tacitly authorized their conduct.

“I don’t know anything about it,” Mansfield Service-Safety Director Ron Kreuter said. “This is the first I’ve heard of it.”

Kreuter said he wasn’t sure if the citizens police review board has looked into the incident.

“I imagine if there was a use of force case, it went through the review board, because we take everything through them, where a use of force is involved.”

Field’s attorney said the 36-year-old’s past history of arrest should not have made a difference in how officers treated him.

“The Constitution says that a police department can only use a reasonable amount of force. Mr. Fields was being arrested for a non-violent traffic violation,” Mordarski said. “They cannot use a taser to simply get a defendant to comply with the order of a police officer.”

Mordarski said Monday a jury trial will be sought, along with payment of Fields’ medical costs, as well as some changes in police department procedures.

“Just based upon what we’ve learned so far, we believe he (Dittrich) either was not adequately trained in the use of the taser, or that he disregarded what he learned. It’s a tragic situation for Phillip Fields, being abused and beaten and put in the hospital for an expired license violation.”

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