Police Taser Pregnant Woman

A police officer in Trotwood, Ohio recently used a Taser gun on a pregnant woman because she tried to leave their police station with her own child. You can view a partial video of the incident at the link provided.

Trotwood Public Safety Director Michael Etter said the incident happened on Nov. 18. He said the woman arrived at the police department asking to give up custody of her 1-year-old son, WHIO-TV in Dayton reported.

Etter said an officer spoke with the woman as she held onto the child outside the police department.

“(He) attempted to obtain information on both the mother and the child, at which time the mother refused to give any information and became very agitated,” Etter said.

Surveillance video from the police department shows the woman trying to leave with the child. The officer then grabs her coat in an effort to get her to stop.

Etter said the officer was doing what he thought was in the best interest of the boy.

The video shows the woman struggling with the officer, who then takes the child from her and gives the boy to another officer. The first officer then forces the woman down on her stomach, and he then uses a Taser on her neck.

It’s an interesting incident. And since the video is grainy and there is no sound, it’s difficult to know exactly how it went down. But most people seem to know that the police’s version of “asking questions” is often a lot different than the average person’s version of “asking questions.” The way that police “ask questions” is generally intended to scare the shit out of you. And clearly when you’re dealing with a woman who is trying to give up custody of her child in this way, it would generally be safe to assume that she is not going to be in either the best or most rational frame of mind.

In this article, Etter claims that if she cooperated, the police probably “would have called her a minister, called a crisis counselor.” And she was supposed to know this . . . how? Did they tell her? Etter gives no indication that they did, nor did the police report that I dug up. None of the articles mention it, but for several reasons I do think that it’s important to note that the woman is black. The most important of those reasons are that police have a strong record of brutality towards women of color and that the black community tends to have a strong distrust for law enforcement. Why? Well, because police have a strong record of brutality against people of color. And because in those communities, police officers who say that they “just want to ask questions” often mean that they want to make some arrests. How exactly a person with this relationship to the police is supposed to know when “we want to ask questions” means “we’re going to call your minister” instead of “we’re going to arrest you,” I’m entirely sure. Especially since in this case, you know, they did arrest her. And used a Taser on her neck.

As is usually the case, though, the police explanation for their actions is the most interesting part:

Etter said the officer did not know the woman was pregnant.

“She did not disclose, even after she was arrested, that she was pregnant,” Etter said. He said the woman was wearing a large winter coat and had her child on her lap when she was talking to the officer.

Etter said the department is cooperating with the FBI investigation, and there is also an ongoing internal investigation to see if the use of force was warranted for the situation.

Etter said the officer involved is still on duty.

Trotwood’s policy on use of force states that officers should “greatly evaluate each situation with discretion when anticipating the deployment of the Taser on young children, elderly persons and pregnant females.”

Really, you didn’t know that she was pregnant? That’s precisely why you shouldn’t use Tasers. You don’t know who’s pregnant, or who has a heart condition, or epilepsy or a history of strokes or medical devices in their bodies, or high blood pressure, etc. Which is why you shouldn’t use them.

The Trotwood police department also apparently has a policy in place that allows Tasers to be used on young children, elderly persons and pregnant women, so long as it’s done with “discretion.” What the fuck does “discretion” mean to them? If that person has a gun, or is about to stab you, I can see that some force would be necessary. And yet, that was surely not the case here — nor is it the case in many Taser incidents. I’m also interested to know just how often a police officer’s safety is threatened by a “young child.” Hmm.

Last week, the U.N. called Taser use a form of torture:

A United Nations committee said Friday that use of Taser weapons can be a form of torture, in violation of the U.N. Convention Against Torture.

Use of the electronic stun devices by police has been marked with a sudden rise in deaths – including four men in the United States and two in Canada within the last week.

Canadian authorities are taking a second look at them, and in the United States, there is a wave of demands to BAN them.

The U.N. Committee Against Torture referred Friday to the use of TaserX26 weapons which Portuguese police has acquired. An expert had testified to the committee that use of the weapons had “proven risks of harm or death.”

“The use of TaserX26 weapons, provoking extreme pain, constituted a form of torture, and that in certain cases it could also cause death, as shown by several reliable studies and by certain cases that had happened after practical use,” the committee said in a statement.

“Well, it means that it’s a very serious thing,” Amnesty International USA Executive Director Larry Cox told CBS Early Show co-anchor Julie Chen. “These are people that have seen torture around the world, all kinds of torture. So they don’t use the word lightly.”

Tasers have become increasingly controversial in the United States, particularly after several notorious cases where their use by police to disable suspects was questioned as being excessive. Especially disturbing is the fact that six adults died after being tased by police in the span of a week.

That’s right: in the span of a week six people have died from being tased. Six. That’s almost one person dead per day, due to something that is rapidly becoming part of routine police procedure. The NAACP is being particularly vocal in their call to disallow Taser use, the reasons for which ought to be obvious. All of the death instances coved in the article seem to be cases where a suspect was “struggling” with police officers, but showing no evidence of brandishing a weapon or causing any serious bodily harm.

Let me say that I can certainly see why officers would want to prevent a woman from leaving with a child that she just tried to abandon. I can also say that snatching the child from her, throwing her to the ground, using a Taser on her neck and then booking her for “child endangerment” and “resisting arrest” doesn’t sound like the best way to do it. That is violence. It was force used against her as a woman who was perceived to be a poor mother, not because she had committed any crime. And it’s a type of violence that I can’t see them using against a nice-looking, middle-class white woman.

Your thoughts?

0 thoughts on “Police Taser Pregnant Woman

  1. thordora.

    I saw this the other day and thought “the taser HAD to be used? NOTHING else would have worked?” You know, like TALKING quietly to the mother,sitting with her, trying to HELP her?

    I knew before the video it was a black woman. I cannot imagine a white woman being treated this way, and that makes me sick to my stomach. How did we get to a place where this is ok? Or where it was ok to Taser that poor man in an airport because he couldn’t speak english?

    Don’t just remove the Taser-change the training. Something is SERIOUSLY wrong if this type of aggression is the first option.

    Reply
  2. Cara Post author

    As soon as I read the story, I had a huge inclination to believe that she was black, too, and that if not, she was still going to be a woman of color. The video furthered this suspicion, but it’s so grainy that you can’t tell much about the physical characteristics of anyone with extreme confidence. Which is why I dug up the police report.

    The Taser thing is out of control and has been out of control for a long time. But the problems of police-civilian relationships has been going on much, much longer. And that’s yet another reason why bringing Tasers into the mix has always been a bad idea.

    Reply
  3. Roy

    I was actually just writing about this. This isn’t the first time a taser has been used on a pregnant woman in questionable circumstances, either. A couple of years ago, in Seattle, police tasered a pregnant woman repeatedly and left serious taser burn scars on her body after she refused to sign a traffic ticket. For that, they tasered her. And down in Florida, an 8 month pregnant woman was tasered in the stomach by a police officer after she broke up a fight between too kids.

    Again, I’m forced to question: People actually wonder why there’s so much distrust of the police? Why people don’t see the police as their friends?

    Reply
  4. kissmypineapple

    That’s absolutely sickening. Knocking her down wasn’t enough to incapacitate a woman who had not been aggressive at all? Tasering her so close to her heart was necessary? Wait, what’s that? She was black? Well, then I guess it’s okay.

    What is wrong with people??

    Reply
  5. RachelPhilPa

    IBTP.

    Yes, we need to ban Tasers *now*, but cops will find other ways to torture and abuse civilians. Police forces are still overwhelmingly male, and the attitude I’ve seen in most male cops – and in nearly every white male cop – is one of a dude on a giant power trip. Rarely do I think that a man joins a police force for altruistic reasons (wanting to help his community), even if that’s what they profess initially, their actions show otherwise.

    Maybe I’m all wet on this, but it seems to me that patriarchy uses racism as one of its tools of oppression; it’s not men that are on top, it’s white men who are on top. It seems that white men are encouraged to wield their power in the harshest way against women of color, and police forces do everything in their power to encourage that behavior. If tasers aren’t available, nightsticks, rape, bullets in the back will do.

    I note also, that the level of police harassment against trans women of color is appalling; there’s probably a whole bunch of tasering incidents that we don’t know about, because even many progressives don’t care about that population and don’t report on such incidents.

    Although my being white might protect me somewhat, the fact that I am trans means that I’m more likely to be tortured in this way. I don’t trust the police the least bit.

    BTW, this is why I support Second Amendment rights (odd for a progressive, but I’m not the only one), even though I don’t own a gun. I say this from a perspective that police do little to protect people – especially those of oppressed groups – from crime.

    Reply
  6. L

    I live in Columbus and have been seeing this story on my local news (ABC 6).

    The reason why this woman wanted to give up her child was because the child’s father is abusive and kept coming after this woman. I believe she has a restraining order against him. He’s harassed her so much, that she finally decided to get rid of her last link to him, her child. Apparently the police officer she was talking to was very hostile towards her, asking her questions meant to shame her about giving up the child. She perceived that she would get no help at the police station, and turned to go. After she was tackled to the ground the officer told her to give him her other arm, but she couldn’t, because she was laying on it and his weight prevented her from moving. Since she didn’t ‘comply’ by giving her arm she was considered ‘resisting arrest’ and then he used the taser on the back of her neck.

    The media is portraying it from the victims perspective.

    Reply
  7. Cara Post author

    At the time of these articles, there was apparently no sign of serious injury to either the woman or her fetus, but I also don’t know if she has been checked out by an OB/GYN.

    Reply
  8. dew

    I disagree strongly with the first sentence of your last paragraph. I don’t see why they felt the need to stop her at all. She didn’t dump the kid in a dumpster as people have been known to do; that would clearly have been endangerment. She walked into what she thought was a safe place and tried to do what she apparently thought she needed to do for whatever reason. Then she changed her mind. I can see that they might have wanted to try talking to her, to make sure she was ok, emotionally stable and so on, that the kid would be safe. But she doesn’t sound like she was raving and frothing at the mouth or anything. And if he hadn’t grabbed her, she wouldn’t have resisted. This whole thing is sickening, and what’s especially sad is that the woman may have been trying to give up the child so it wouldn’t be abused by someone else at home, and here’s yet another place that SHOULD be safe, but isn’t. The world must be terrifying for her.

    Reply
  9. Cara Post author

    Agreed, Dew. That was a poor choice of wording. I should have said “would want to talk with her before making sure that the child was going to be safe.” I certainly don’t think that they had any right to detain her, though, and certainly not to arrest her.

    Reply
  10. Margaret

    I am appauled and disgusted with the Police both in Canada and the United States. What have we sunk to as a nation or people. They critise the 3rd world but they are no better, some times worse in their inhumane treatment. Tasers should be a very last resort and then only used on very large persons who can not be subdued be half a dozen (strong) suppposedly fit Police officers. There is no call for it to ever be used on a woman and medical conditions should always be a factor in the use of a taser or stun gunn of any sort. I know I would be upset if any one tried to take my child from me and just for the record. I have had heartatacks and strokes and have brain tumors as well. That could have been me. And I would have died probably on the spot. Like I have said use them only on the great massive hulks who can not be restrained by a half dozen of (what we jokingly call our finest) the Police Force. By the way make sure you are restraining for a good reason too…..Not just for questioning….because he does not have to sit and be questioned by any of the Police force or any one else with out a Lawyer present ….Make sure you get him or her one (a lawyer) first before you use force.

    As a Canadian citizen I am embarrased to by the way the police acted at the airport with the Polish immigarnt. My sincere appoligies to you and my heart goes out to you as from one mother to another. Sometimes our children are not “perfect but they are still our children and we love them just the same. That is what good mothering is all about. Unconditional love.

    I am white not black but to me is does not matter. You are who you are because God made you that way and no one can help the color they were born with. Men who mark a difference by color should be ashamed of them selves and will find on judgment day that they will be held responsible for their actions.

    Actions by the Police Forces like the ones taken with tassers on people with NO JUST CAUSE as in the case of the pregnant lady or the Polish immigrant, or John Peters 68yrs who was just making money delivering papers, (whose wife explained to the police that he had a neurological problem)and the officer still tassered him like he was playing with a new toy. (Big police man tassers 68 year old 5’6” senior citzen for parking offence)are all SAS COMEMTARY on life as we know it today….WAKE UP SOCOIETY and tell the Police that they are there to protect us not to abuse their power over us. If we don’t speak up we have only our selves to blame when we become a POLICE STATE. Let’s tell them that brutality to the regular citizen and visiters to our country is not going to be tolerted.

    Reply
  11. Pingback: Stephan Wehner: Blog and Homepage » the police: competence and responsibility

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