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Friday, November 17, 2006

Never forget to carry your student ID in America

... especially if you look like your name may be Mostafa...?

Three days ago, at around 11:30pm on Tuesday night a UCLA student by the name of Mostafa Tabatabainejad failed to produce his student ID at a random check done by Community Service Officers in the CLICC Lab in Powell Library. Furthermore he allegedly did not leave in a timely manner.
Nevertheless he was said to already have been approaching the exit when the UCPD officers whom the CSO's had called arrived. One of them grabbed the student's arm.

Now, it may be unwise to yell "Get off me" in that kind of situation but getting tasered for that and tasered at least another three times for not getting up off the floor and going with the UCPD officers seems to be a rather... drastic... response to the young man's behaviour.

Go see the movie documenting most of the incident on Safiyyah's blog and make sure to follow the link imbedded in her post, as the Daily Bruin gives a much more detailed account of everything that happened than the rather bad quality movie does.

Small blame on the camera man or woman though, quite apart from a lot of people milling around, I guess the person did not wish the officers to realize that somebody was filming the incident.

According to UCPD Assistant Chief of Police Jeff Young the "drive stun" setting used by the officers involved "would not likely demobilize a person or cause residual pain after the shock was administered". Contrary to that statement a study published in the Lancet Medical Journal in 2001 states that a charge of three to five seconds can indeed immobilize a person for five to 15 minutes, which - the Daily Bruin concludes - would mean that Tabatabainejad could have been physically unable to stand when the officers demanded that he do so. (Furthermore this type of stun has been known to kill people.)

But even if the stun did not immobilize Tabatabainejad, I can't help but wonder if he might not simply have been too terrified to get up and go with these officers. After all, if they were not shy in using the taser repeatedly in front of the other students - not to mention threaten to taser another person as well when he demanded to see an officer's badge number - what were they likely to do to him out of sight of witnesses? Hell, I know I'd have been scared of those officers.


I for one would be very interested in the officers' reasons for their behaviour.

Was it "just" the overall fear of Islamist terrorism that led to a gross overreaction, was it common racism, or was it the tendency of some officers of the law to think they're allowed to do whatever they please? Or maybe a bit of all three? The latter must at least have been part of reason or else there wouldn't have been any threats against the student who was exercising his right as an American citizen by asking to see badge numbers.