Jeff Smith 4 p.m., Sept. 23
Reactions Mixed Over School Taser Incident
POINT LOMA -- A San Diego police officer’s use of a Taser against a 6-year-old boy Wednesday has fueled a debate over whether such force is appropriate on school campuses.
The incident at Coriolanus Elementary School in Point Loma Hollow has generated mixed reactions, ranging from outrage at the officer’s actions to complete support.
Kenneth Quill, a spokesman for the Society of Helpful Officers Correcting Kids (SHOCK), said Tasers are commonly carried by school officers. News headlines from around the country show stun guns have been used on students to enforce naptime and to restrain youths who insist on running with scissors.
"Almost no one enjoys the prospect of pouring 50,000 volts of electricity into some snot-nosed brat who won't sit still during someone else's show-and-tell presentation," said Quill. "But sometimes, officers have only a few dozen other choices. We have to trust them to use their best judgment, and remember that we're not the ones having to listen to 'Ring around your booty/Stick your head in doody' repeated a thousand times in succession."
In the San Diego incident, the 3-foot-10-inch, 50-pound child was being questioned by four police officers and the vice principal in a room off the library about the theft of 20 school-owned iPods, worth about $5,000.
When officers found two of the stolen gadgets on the boy, they told him he was under arrest. The boy allegedly replied, “No, you’re not going to handcuff me. You're a big, fat meanie. I want my mommy!”
He then started holding his breath, and punching and kicking at officers who tried to handcuff him, said San Diego Unified School District police Sgt. Tony Halliday. The room was crowded with bean bag chairs, complicating the situation, he said.
A San Diego police officer fired the Taser at the boy, but the barbs struck his Harry Potter Wizard Club Badge and bounced off, police said.
The officer shot the Taser again, and police were able to gain control and handcuff the boy. He was then made to sit in the corner and think about what he had done, and how wrong it was for him to make the nice police man have to shoot him with enough electricity to interrupt his brain's ability to control his own urination.
There is no legal requirement for parents to be contacted or be present while police question or arrest an underage suspect, especially if the incident is school-related, Halliday said. Police or school officials often contact parents after the fact.
“When parents are there during an interview, it really taints the investigation,” Halliday said. “Parents start speaking for their kid, even though they weren’t there. You don’t get the true facts of what happened. Sometimes, they'll say things like, 'He's only a child, for God's sake,' or 'Don't those plastic wrist ties seem a little tight?' They don't know how slick these little bastards, er, little rascals can be.”
Some parents of Coriolanus Elementary School students on Thursday called the police action excessive and questioned why a Taser was needed with four officers in the room.
“Instead of Tasing the kid, can’t they restrain him?” said parent Lorenzo Valmont, who has a 7-year-old daughter at the school. “I think police were wrong. And by wrong, I mean totally insane.”
Other parents supported the officer, saying the boy’s behavior justified a harsher reaction.
“Resisting arrest is resisting arrest no matter how old you are. If this juvenile thought stealing $5,000 of school property didn’t warrant an arrest, he clearly doesn’t understand the law,” said Andrew Justice, president of the school’s parent group. “And don't give me any of this crap about how he doesn't read so well yet. I can’t speak for all parents, but most of us believe in raising our children to obey the law, respect authority and deal with the consequences of one’s actions. I myself tase my children regularly for taking extra cookies after dinner. The little shits have to learn.”
Police said the Taser was one of the use-of-force options available to the officers.
Authorities said pepper spray was probably not a good option in this situation, because it would have contaminated the officers and the library. Impact weapons or going hands-on can leave longer-lasting injuries, from scratch marks to pinched buttcheeks, Quill said.
“The Taser reduces the amount of officer and suspect injuries. If they didn’t have the Taser, what would they have done?” Quill said. “If some kid is willing to stand there and throw a tantrum against four grown men trained in combat restraint - well, what are we supposed to do? Plus, it's flu and cold season, and who knows what diseases that kid was carrying? It's not like these little guys are careful about washing up and wiping their noses.”
The incident comes one day after Amnesty International issued a statement condemning the use of Tasers, reporting that 500 people have died in connection with stun gun shocks. What a bunch of whiners.
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