Commentary

Tasers, tasers and more tasers: this time at an Oakland A’s game

It’s becoming clear that “the taser” will have to be one of the things we think through…  Another incident, this time right here in the East Bay:

According to Oakland Police spokesman Jeff Thomason, the unidentified man was allegedly drunk and yelling profanities, prompting A’s security to ask the cops to have him removed. Police say he appeared to be intoxicated, refused to leave and took a swipe at one of the cops. “Given his size and his condition the officer thought it appropriate to taser him,” Thomason said. The tased fan was hospitalized and held on a “5150″ crazy hold.

via Matier And Ross : Taserball.

What’s more, the tasing officer has himself been the object of much scrutiny over the last several months, including some of the corollary incidents that occurred in the wake of the Oscar Grant shooting.

Now, I don’t think it’s very helpful if this blog serves just to document the many tasing incidents that occur–as our own socdeputy points out, by many important measures the use of these non-lethal implements is rather paltry.  On the other hand, and I think Brian would agree with me here as well, the fact that these incidents captures the public imagination is inself something that we probably need to reflect on.

Now, some of you may have read an article that I’ve been preparing (and finally submitted!) which argues that paying attention to the figure of the taser in the French banlieue riots of 2005 and 2007 offers insights into the very form of political action at stake in France today.  I call this emergent space, briefly, the “problem of a post-social police”– a pervasive set of open questions (ethical, social, political, technical) that are being negotiated around the goals, orientations and forms of legitimacy associated with the police once one of its founding objects, The Social, has lost its sway.

Now, from that perspective, one of the interesting aspects of the video (which can be seen below, after the break) is the way that, even as the incident is unfolding, there is a high degree of quite public negotiation of the scene: you can hear people off-camera debating the police action (“i can’t believe you guys tased him!”  “He was being belligerent!”); some people move away, while one man tried to move forward, causing a minor incident of its own; and, if I’m not mistaken, you can see some uncertainty among the police themselves as to how to move forward–after the man is (literally) done thumbing his nose at the cops, he appears to actually be putting out his hands to be cuffed.  One of the officers in physical contact with the man actually jumps back, apparently surprised by the second “tase”.  To add to everything a foul ball happens to be hit right into the middle of the fracas.

At the very least, I would hope that an anthropology of policing would be able to account for the complex levels at which incidents like this occur…

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2 thoughts on “Tasers, tasers and more tasers: this time at an Oakland A’s game

  1. socdeputy says:

    The officers in this video did an outstanding job. They use talk and ameliorative touching to try and gain compliance. They never appear to become angry or loose control. When that doesn’t work one of the officers goes “hands on” and meets resistance. When the taser is initially deployed through the darts, it is apparent that the spread is ineffective as their is a loud and audible clicking indicating failed contact. One of the officers completes the circuit by touching the prongs on the taser device to the body, for a fraction of a second.

    As for the putting the hands out to the side issue, I have never seen anyone present themselves to me or any other officer to be cuffed in that manner. Spreading the arms out and opening the body in that manner is often an open challenge for further engagement, usually accompanied by language like, “come and get it.” More importantly, in the very next moment the suspect continues to pull away from officers with his right and left hands. That is not an act of surrender.

    Even once the circuit is complete and the suspect falls to the ground, you still see officers tugging at arms to gain full control.

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  2. For one, you can only really say that the officers did a good job if we knew what went on beforehand. That is, nothing in the video itself shows him doing anything worthy of tasing. From what can be overheard from the video, it’s clear that at least some people there didn’t think they he had done anything up to the point that required getting thrown out… It’s a frickin’ A’s game: part of the point is to be loud and drunk (at least for a portion of the people, this is one of the faultlines of contention). That was part of my point, after all, to try to highlight the degree of negotiation actually occurring in the situation.

    Second, you’re right that the officers did a good job in trying to keep the individual calm. But again, *if* we know that he needed to be removed–and I’m not sure I am sure, but i’ll go with it for now–it needs to be pointed out that they’ve gone from a loony drunk guy in a seat to a large convulsing body slumped in the middle of the walkway which is stirring up portions of the crowd to want to enter the situation… I’m not sure things are drastically more manageble there

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