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Editorial: A Taser lesson learned

Original post made on Jan 17, 2014

Imagine your 16-year-old son riding his bike on Palo Alto streets and, like too many bicyclists, cruising through a stop sign without stopping.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, January 17, 2014, 12:00 AM

Comments (55)

Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 17, 2014 at 4:04 pm

Having been hit by an egg while walking with children on Halloween, I would support using Tasers on teens throwing eggs. (The egg throwers drove off in a new BMW.)

Posted by Sean
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 17, 2014 at 4:26 pm

If it is understood that Tasers WILL be used to stop crimes, the teenagers might stop to think, before they break the law. If they don't, then they deserve what they get...ouch!

Posted by Brian
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jan 17, 2014 at 4:44 pm

Whew! Pretty scary, huh? The first two posters seem to feel it's OK to use potentially deadly force against a teenager who is not posing any threat to them. One who the police had no knowledge of committing any crime except running a stop sign and not stopping when they told him to.
Would they have been OK with using a gun to shoot him? The result could easily have been the same as using the Taser, i.e., a dead citizen.
Sounds like they would welcome a "police state" to me.

Posted by Sean
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 17, 2014 at 5:44 pm

"One who the police had no knowledge of committing any crime except running a stop sign and not stopping when they told him to."

Duh, that is TWO crimes!

Posted by midtown resident
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 17, 2014 at 7:03 pm

Are you guys crazy? A 16yr old is a child and the only time it would be ok to use a Taser on him is when he is likely to hurt someone else. I'm LIVID! WHAT THE HELL WAS THIS POLICEMAN THINKING? I want him to do jail time. What he kids did is an infraction. What the cop did is a crime.

Hey policemen. Do you guys read this? I'd like an reply..

Posted by Joe
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 18, 2014 at 1:56 pm

This is a truly odd editorial.

It’s not clear whether the editor is more interested in removing Tasers from the police, or suggesting that Palo Alto teenagers should not be subject to any law enforcement. Pushed to its logical extent—this editorialist would seem to be suggesting that the police should not have stopped this young man for blasting through a stop sign, and certainly they should not have pursed him once he ignored their demand that he stop.

Also missing from this editorial is the fact that the young man in question also had stolen the bicycle he was riding—making him a three-time offender in this scenario. Given the extent of property crime in Palo Alto, the Weekly’s ignoring this aspect of the story speaks volumes about the left-of-center view of the world that the public has come to expect of this publication.

What’s also interesting is the fact that the Taser did not perform as expected—requiring that the youth be apprehended by a car chase. Given that Tasers have been involved in hundreds of deaths since their being introduced into American policing—the fact that the Taser was ineffective seems to have been ignored, with the editorial focusing on the fact that it was even used instead.

At least one poster has suggested that it’s difficult to hit a moving target with a Taser. That tends to make sense. So, if the officer involved used his Taser ineffectively—what’s the basis for the Weekly’s concern?

When the youth was apprehended, it was through the use of a cruiser. Seems that a lot more harm could have come to the youth through misadventure here, than with the Taser.

What’s most interesting to me is the seeming endorsement of the illegal activities of the youth—rather than the fact that the police were able to apprehend the little villain during what seems to be the commission of a crime. Little crimes lead to large crimes—something that the Weekly seems to be unaware in their narrative.

It’s not clear that the officers did anything wrong here—except perhaps discharge a Taser without stopping the suspect—which has generated a lot of paperwork, and smoke, but not much fire.

For those who are opposed to Tasers, this incident will not be of much value to their campaign. Sadly, for those opposed to crime—the Weekly doesn’t seem to have much sympathy for your belief that we should live in a community where our young people don’t feel secure stealing other peoples’ property without their being meaningful consequences.

Posted by little
a resident of South of Midtown
on Jan 18, 2014 at 2:06 pm

''little crimes lead to large crimes''. if that's the case, the criminal police are preparing to commit larger ''crimes'' than ''tazing'' bike riders!

Posted by Joe
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 18, 2014 at 2:10 pm

> if that's the case, the criminal police are preparing to commit
> larger ''crimes'' than ''tazing'' bike riders!

It's a shame that this is the only thing that some people will take away from this incident.

Posted by Sean
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 18, 2014 at 4:42 pm

"A 16yr old is a child"

Most 16 year old males I know have gone through pubescence...this means they are now young men, not children. They don't need their mommies to be sticking up for them anymore(that only hurts them in the long run). If they did the crime, time to pay the price.

Posted by midtown resident
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 18, 2014 at 10:01 pm

@Sean - there are a lot of 13-yr olds who have gone through puberty. Do you want to classify them as adults? Tasers have killed grown ups. Legally too a 16yr old is a child. What the hell are you thinking - trying to justify the use on a child. Even if the child stole a bike, we treat children differently since they do not have the judgement of an adult.

@Joe - Did anyone suggest no consequences for the crime? I suggest you work on your reading comprehension skills. A Taser is NOT appropriate even if the kid went thru a stop sign on a stolen bike. The effect of being tased is terrible and people have died. Do you really think this matches the crime? Neither is it ok to stop a bike with a car. LET IT GO! The police force is limited, I'm sure they have better things to do.

After reading some of the posts I understand why we regularly invade other contries and kill their citizens for ridiculous reasons - it seems that we are a country of violent lunatics with no regard for life.

Posted by veritas aequitas
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 18, 2014 at 10:21 pm

veritas aequitas is a registered user.

The Palo Alto Police and their bought and paid for junk science auditor do nothing more than mislead the community. The fact is the PAPD is a highly secretive organization bent on violating the freedoms guaranteed in the Constitutions of California and the United States.

If you are so open and honest and transparent, who is this training officer who tasered this teen for running a stop sign Palo Alto Police Department, Chief Dennis Burns?

Posted by veritas aequitas
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 18, 2014 at 10:33 pm

veritas aequitas is a registered user.

Why did it take over a year for this so called police auditor Michael Gennaco to provide his report? It's not what is in the report, it's what is missing from the report and those reports Gennaco has filed in the past for the organization that pays his salary.

Web Link

Web Link

Web Link

Posted by dailylarrna
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 19, 2014 at 4:17 pm

I wonder who the author was. An editorial without an author?

It would be interesgting to know if this was a
laywer, member of Amnesty, or the ACLU

Posted by bikes
a resident of Community Center
on Jan 19, 2014 at 4:25 pm

[Post removed.]

Posted by Fed up
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 19, 2014 at 5:03 pm

Using a taser on a cyclist for a minor traffic infraction, no matter what the age of the rider, is inappropriate.

That said, Palo Alto cyclists are among the rudest I know. Such arrogance, cyclists will look you right in the eye and before cruising through a stop sign even though they don't have the right of way. I see this behavior at least once a week.

It's about time the police enforced the rules of the road against cyclists. If you're on the road, you should follow the rules of the road just like cars have to.

But I wonder, why cops need tasers--in Palo Alto of all places? Look at the crime reports. We have mostly property crimes not the kind of entrenched violent crime where taser use might make sense.

Posted by Hilda
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 19, 2014 at 6:05 pm

Use the taser on muggers and thieves not innocent bike riders.

He at least did not hold anyone up or mug them!

Posted by Sean
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 19, 2014 at 7:06 pm

"not innocent bike riders"

What innocent bike rider? He was guilty. If the cop had used his billy club on him, would you feel better?

Posted by veritas aequitas
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 19, 2014 at 7:25 pm

Sean, the taser didn't work and the officers went hands one with the cyclist which represents how most taser uses end up. Thus, 99% of the time tasers are used by officers they do not work as intended to.

Here is the report: Web Link

Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 19, 2014 at 9:12 pm

Policing and justice can sometimes be a non-optimal messy business. I support the use of reasonable tactics to stop people who have committed crimes, however cruising through a stop sign on a bike is on the edge ... though occasionally it can be dangerous and is worth making a point about ... especially when it is done blatantly in front of police. I can see why they police did not want to let this kid go. It's on the edge ... and to me, this is one of the times I come down on the side of the police.

If we want the police to be responsible when they do stuff like shot a young boy with a plastic gun we have to shrug it off when a minor thing like this happens ... that's how I see it anyway.

Don't run the stop sign, and if you do, and we all make mistakes, don't run from the police, take your medicine and learn from it. I have a cousin who I was shocked to learn tried to outrun the police in Los Gatos and I was happy to hear from the story that he was unharmed, but did have to spend 3 days in jail.

The law is serious, even when it may not seem like the most important thing in the world we need to respect it so that when there is really something wrong we can focus on that, not this kind of triviality.

Posted by Frank
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 19, 2014 at 9:13 pm

While it is true that the officer apparently didnt know this when he initiated his conduct, it is really unfair to gloss over the fact that this 16 year old was running from the officer because he was riding a stolen bicycle.

The article should have begun, "Imagine your 16 year old riding a bike he just stole down the streets of palo alto, and running from a police officer to avoid be arrested."

I don't support using a taser on a fleeing person, absent other circumstances. But I also don't support shoddy journalism.

Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 19, 2014 at 9:15 pm

veritas aequitas - at the risk of sounding like Donald Rumsfeld - police have to use the tools they have in their jobs, not the perfect tools we all wish they had ... I guess that includes their brains and judgement as well.

Posted by ndtown
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 19, 2014 at 9:39 pm

I would have thought that running a stop sign is a very serious infraction. Pedestrians have been killed that way and cyclists have been killed when crashing against vehicles when bikers ran stop signs. Running a stop sign has not resulted in more accidents because others have taken care to avoid accidents resulting from stop sign running (all kinds of vehicles). It is entirely proper for the police to pursue the "stop runners". Should the police use the their means to stop people trying to get away?
You tell me how should the officer have stopped the biker?

Posted by Aquamarine
a resident of Stanford
on Jan 19, 2014 at 11:17 pm

No, it's irrelevant that the bike was stolen, because the idiot cop wasn't in possession of adequate facts. PAPD opening itself up to more lawsuits based on this type of behavior is ludicrous.

Posted by beingconcise
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jan 20, 2014 at 4:20 am

Taser - much better than shooting him for running away, or running over him with a car like other states do

Posted by common sense
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 20, 2014 at 9:04 am

Bicycle riders want to have all the rights of automobile drivers for use of the road, so they should be subject to ALL OF THE RULES of the road.

If an automobile drive ran a stop sign, and wouldn't stop, this would be highly suspicious, and police would take action to stop the automobile, given the probable cause. The same should be held for bike riders.

The bike rider is responsible for 3 crimes:

* potentially felony grand theft of property (if the bike value is greater than $400)
* misdemeanor traffic violation: failure to stop at a stop sign
* fleeing from arrest

And police are allowed to use non-deadly force to stop a possible felon from fleeing. Tasers today are classified as not deadly force. Some disagree with this, and should work with the state legislature to reclassify Tasers; otherwise in my view the police office was using one form of non-deadly force to apprehend the criminal. Pursuing the criminal has it's own risks.

As mentioned earlier, there have been cases where bike riders have ran stoplights/stop signs and killed pedestrians.

I'm surprised that the boy was released in the parent's custody, given the a possible felony crime involved.

Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 20, 2014 at 9:16 am

Just one comment to make on this.

Many 16 year olds, both males and females, have the bodies of an adult, look like an adult, but still have the maturity level or minds of a child.

16 year olds are legally old enough to drive, but it doesn't mean they are mature enough to deal with the responsibilities of what happens if they get into a situation they are not mature enough to deal with. This is the same whether they are driving a car or riding a bike.

I am not commenting on the taser issue itself, but when young people look older than their years, they are often treated as mature adults when they shouldn't be.

I personally would like to see the driving age increased to 18 and student ids include the date of birth which is more accurate than the grade level of a student. I know many students turn 18 as juniors as well as seniors.

But I do wish we would give young people some more leeway. I don't mean that they should get away with law breaking, but when they do, they should be treated with a little more understanding. We have all been 16, we have all ben 17 and we have all been 18. Can we all remember how we felt at that age? Can we remember how scary being in a bad situation would have been at that time? We probably all wanted to be grown up and independent, but when something bad happened, were really pleased that our parents were there to deal with it for us. We should remember that feeling when we see young people misbehave, particularly when it is accidental, when they have been misled by older people, or when they have made an error of judgment.

Think about it, please. They are not adults yet and something like this will possibly make them better adults as a result - depending on how they are treated now.

Posted by Garrett
a resident of another community
on Jan 20, 2014 at 10:46 am

I don't agree with the attempt use of the Taser, using it while someone is operating a bike or a vehicle can be dangerous./

But breaking the law, running from the law can be dangerous. Most 16 year olds are considered adults or should start behaving like one.

Posted by Dennis
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jan 20, 2014 at 10:55 am

In addition to Joe's comments let me add that previous writeups suggested that the bike rider tried to run over the policeman. That makes the rider a possible 4 time offender.

I also read previously that the rider appears to have been charged only with stealing the bicycle. If the reports are true (and I do not believe everything I read), the rider should have been charged with this. As a practical matter, the use of a Taser/hospitalization with possible counter suit would confuse the entire issue and so I can see why the rider's culpability has been officially ignored.

Posted by senor blogger
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jan 20, 2014 at 11:00 am

If I was in a stolen automobile and ran a stop sign and then tried to get away from pursueing Police.

What would the Police Do?

Posted by Elizabeth
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 20, 2014 at 11:14 am

Tasers in Palo Alto? I agree with Midtown. I don't see the need here, and wonder if they aren't inviting a need just because they have the "boys and their toys" mindset.

Cyclists have enough risk on the road (my son has been hit and thrown onto the hood of a truck, slammed off his bike by a thoughtless BMW driver opening her door (we know such entitled people think they're the only people in the world more often than not) and in various other ways had painful encounters with drivers, when he was abiding by the rules of the road.

We encourage bike riding for the sake of the environment so lets not add the risk of Tasers to an already threatening environment.

There seem to be an inordinate number of idiots on the road these days. Lets not have them regulated by another collective of them.

Posted by Charlie
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Jan 20, 2014 at 11:26 am

This was the ideal place to employ cops on bikes!

Posted by coooper
a resident of another community
on Jan 20, 2014 at 11:41 am

Common Sense has it right that we need a state law limiting Tasers. In reality they are a lethal weapon. In recent years, Tasers have "accidentally" killed many Californians who had some issues but didn't deserve to die. A partial list: Anton Barrett, Vallejo, 2012; Darnell Hutchinson, San Leandro, 2011; Kelly Thomas, Fullerton, 2011 -- causing a community uproar resulting in murder charges against police; Allen Kephart, Crest Park, 2011; Anastacio Hernández-Rojas, San Diego, 2010; Richard Lua, San Jose, 2009 (plus 5 more in San Jose since 2005); and the list goes on.

We mustn't forget the Taser's role in Oscar Grant's BART police death.

These deaths result from statewide police policies permitting their use for behavior control and intimidation, not as a last-chance alternative to deadly force. The Taser company has been proactive, lobbying and propagandizing this misperception of safety. And coroners have most often exonerated police, faulting drug use in combination with the fatal Taser shock, yet policies continue to permit police pull out their Taser in their frequent interactions with drug users on the street. Other frequently fatal combinations with Tasers are obesity, damaged hearts, and holding an arrestee face-down.

That is why we need the legislature to define Tasers as lethal weapons. The expanding list of victims deserves nothing less.

Posted by dailylarrna
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 20, 2014 at 11:55 am

coooper your stories have nothing to do with tasers
they are gun deaths and beatings

maybe you should say cops should get rid of gun instead

the true and accurate facts are

Oscar Grant III was fatally shot by BART police officer Johannes Mehserle in Oakland, California, United States, in the early morning hours of New Year's Day 2009

Vallejo police shoot unarmed man anton barrett going for wallet

Kelly Thomas was beat to death and the cops cleared

Posted by coooper
a resident of another community
on Jan 20, 2014 at 12:06 pm

All Taser-related: look 'em up and see for yourself.

Posted by Jeff
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 20, 2014 at 12:21 pm

There is no safe way to stop someone on a bike who doesn't want to be stopped. As Joe brought up early on, is using a car to stop a bike rider any safer than a taser?

Should the police be trained that it isn't safe to stop a bike rider, so don't stop them unless they are firing a gun as the bicycle down the road? This editorial should have told what the accepted way to stop a bike is then a more informed judgment could be made about the taser.

Posted by dailylarrna
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 20, 2014 at 12:24 pm

could you please post the coroners reports and cause of death for each in summary????
it would be interesting to see the REAL CAUSE
not just if a taser was near by or if it was used
but what a medical examiner said

note a gun death is pretty finite and nothing to do with a taser, and you reported SEVERAL of you above people who died of a GSW and nothing to do with a taser

Posted by coooper
a resident of another community
on Jan 20, 2014 at 12:41 pm

This forum works because it usually doesn't descend into cockfights. I have presented data and invited readers to look into them. If Larr has something original to contribute, I hope s/he moves on to it, and the discussion will be more interesting.

Posted by SteveU
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 20, 2014 at 12:48 pm

SteveU is a registered user.

16 Year old is an Adult in many jurisdictions, just not here.

a 16 year old can operate a deadly weapon in California: A 4000lb motor vehicle.
a 16 Year old can sever in the US military with parental permission
16 is the lowest age of 'consent' for the UCMJ

Posted by Mike
a resident of Mountain View
on Jan 20, 2014 at 1:20 pm

Taser is a potentially deadly weapon that should be treated as such, like a lowpower firearm, and used as an alternative to a firearm; but police use it like it was Sister Mary Louise rapping knuckles with a ruler.
On MLK day, it is appropriate to recall:
Battery powered cattleprods were used in the South in a similar manner on minority populations.

Posted by sammyjammin
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jan 20, 2014 at 2:13 pm

Tasers have saved almost 120,000 lives

Too bad Mr coooper is ill informed about the real cause of those deaths
Guns killed them
Drugs killed them
and police beat them

We mustn't forget coope did not post any actual coroner or medical reports
the true and accurate facts are that tasers did not kill those pople

look them up and see the truth

what is coooper hiding?

Posted by SteveU
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 20, 2014 at 2:35 pm

SteveU is a registered user.

There is no truly safe way to stop a car either.
Tire shredders can lead to loss of control, flip overs, crashes.

Too bad. Stop means STOP.
Take the 5th or your Miranda rights after you stop, if needed.

Posted by KP
a resident of South of Midtown
on Jan 20, 2014 at 3:31 pm

If Billy Bad Ass wouldn't have stolen the bike, he may have stopped at the stop sign, and he wouldn't have needed to be tased! Go ahead and tase - it's better than being shot!

Get real parents, if your kids are bad and do bad things, bad things can happen to them.

Posted by Cur Mudgeon
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jan 20, 2014 at 5:39 pm

Too bad the deputy in Santa Rosa who shot 13 yr old Andy Lopez didn't use his taser. Not that a taser was justified in that case or this one--just sayin'

For those of you who live in your Palo Alto bubble and hadn't heard the story, Andy Lopez was walking along the sidewalk, carrying a toy gun, and may not have heard the deputy tell him to drop it. (ear buds)

Posted by veritas aequitas
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 20, 2014 at 7:17 pm

Wow! So according to sammyjammin the police would have killed 120,000 citizens if it were not for tasers. So according to sammyjammin, prior to about 2002/2004 the police were killing 120,000 citizens every year because they did not have tasers.

Tell that to Kevin Piskura, Kenneth Chamberlain and Kelly Thomas.

If tasers don't kill, then Why is Taser paying millions in secret 'suspect injury or death' settlements:
Web Link

Marin settles Taser-shock suit for $1.9 million:
Web Link

The police show up at Kenneth Chamberlain's private residence uninvited. They had no reasonable suspicion of any crime and decided to break down Mr. Chamberlain's front door to force Mr. Chamberlain to go to a hospital for his physical well being even though they had been informed that there was no medical emergency and Mr. Chamberlain asked them to leave. So rather than leave as requested to, the officers taser Mr. Chamberlain and then shot him death because the taser did not work all for Mr. Chamberlain's well being.

Web Link

("Well if Mr. Chamberlain simply acquiesced to surrendering the freedoms he put his life on the line for, for over twenty years he'd still be alive")

And if the officers had upheld the Constitutional freedoms that they took an oath to protect and defend Mr. Chamberlain would be alive today as well.

Posted by Aram James
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 20, 2014 at 8:30 pm



Dear Enoch Choi, MD: (Attn: All members of the Palo Alto Taser Task Force & City Council members)

My name is Aram James I am a citizen of Palo Alto, a retired Santa Clara County deputy public defender and a member of the Santa Clara County Coalition for Justice & Accountability.

The Coalition for Justice & Accountability came into existence shortly after the murder of San Jose citizen Bic Cau Tran which occurred on July 13, 2003. Said murder was at the hands of San Jose police officer Chad Marshall.

Our organization monitors a wide variety of police practices issues including officer involved shootings, acts of racially discriminatory law enforcement, all forms of police brutality and speaks out against the use of Tasers by law enforcement.

Members of our organization meet with local politicians, community organizations, independent police auditors, members of law enforcement, members of the District Attorneys Office, expert witnesses, and others in the criminal justice system in order to make certain that our police are not acting in a lawless manner and are living up to their responsibility to serve and protect the public, not terrorize them.

Our organization initially supported the use of Tasers believing that they would save lives having naively bought the propaganda and deceptive ad campaign put out by the major manufacturer of Tasers, Taser International.

This same propaganda/deceptive ad campaign --re the alleged benefits of Tasers to both the police and those in the public that are brutalized by this weapon--has been parroted by some in law enforcement (including by our own police chief Lynne Johnson).

The most pervasive misconception/lie put out by Taser International is that Tasers would be used as an alternative to deadly force. This is simply not true. Tasers were designed to be used as an intermediate force weapon, in-other-words as a substitute for batons, control holds, mace, verbal commands, canines, etc.,--but not as an alternative to deadly force.

In fact, in researching information for my article-- What cops already know: Tasers are unsafe, I spoke to several Taser training officers (in Scottsdale Arizona and Las Vegas Nevada) who advised that officers are specifically trained not to use a Taser if the suspect has a gun, knife or other deadly weapon within close range of the officer.

In deadly force situations the officer is trained to shoot the suspect at center mass with a gun. The reasoning behind this is that Tasers only bring down their intended target 3 out of 4 times (75% of the time). In other words, to ask an officer to use a Taser in a deadly force situation would be to ask the officer to put his/her life on the line. I am sure you agree this would be an unacceptable risk to our police officers.

After much study of the subject our organization came to the conclusion that not only did Tasers not save lives but their use by police was causing many unnecessary deaths. In addition Tasers were and continue to inflict unacceptable levels of extreme torture and subsequent psychological trauma on many others.

Ultimately, after much though, research and debate we came to the conclusion that the use of Tasers by the police was not consistent with law enforcement in a democratic society and that these weapons of torture and death must be banned.

In an article I wrote for the Mt. View Voice back in January of 2006, I pointed out that many in law enforcement hide behind a dirty little secret--they already know Tasers are unsafe.

But despite this knowledge many in law enforcement continue to advocate for their use for a variety of inappropriate reasons. I will, in a separate e-mail, send you a copy of my article: What cops already know: Tasers are unsafe. I look forward to your feedback on the piece.

Fortunately, not all members of law enforcement have uncritically accepted the false advertising claims of Taser International. In fact, the police chief of our neighbor across the bay--Newark California, Ray Samuels has refused to arm the Newark police with Tasers having said the following:

"I can't imagine a worse circumstance than to have a death attributed to a Taser in a situation that didn't justify deadly force. It's not a risk I'm willing to take." (Ray Samuels--Chief of Police Newark California.)

As a representative of the Coalition for Justice and Accountability I will be asking to meet on an individual basis with as many members of the task force as possible. My goal in these meetings is to express our Coalition's view on the Taser controversy and to offer as much written and oral information as possible to each member of the Taser Task Force.

Ultimately, I hope this will assist in making certain that each member of Taser Task Force is as fully informed as possible on the Taser controversy. I look forward to meeting with you in the next few weeks.


Aram James
CC: All members of the Palo Alto Taser Task Force, All members of the Palo Alto City Council.

P.S. Dear Dr. Choi in order for the public --citizens of Palo Alto --to be as fully informed as possible re the make up of our Taser Task force I will do my best to submit questions to as many members as possible. Some of the questions will be general in nature and others designed based on the specific expertise of each member. I look forward to your responses.

Questions for Enoch Choi, MD-- re Tasers

1) Please advise how you came to be appointed to the Palo Alto Taser Task Force?

2) What is your knowledge re any independent medical testing of Tasers before they were unleashed on an unsuspecting public?

3) Do you own stock in Taser International?

4) Are you aware that many in the medical profession have raised serious issues/concerns about whether Tasers are safe to use on humans? If so, what can you tell us in this regard?

5) What are your own medical concerns re the use of Tasers, if any?

6) Questions have been raised re the ethical appropriateness of a physician sitting on a Taser Task Force whose mission it is to recommend to the city council whether to arm the PAPD with Tasers. Do you believe there are any legitimate ethical issues re an MD sitting on such a task force?

7) Do you believe you would be violating your Hippocratic Oath if ultimately you did in fact recommend that this weapon of torture and death (Tasers) be unleashed on the citizens of Palo Alto? Please Explain.

7a) Do you believe if you recommend Taser use, by members of the PAPD, and subsequently an unarmed individual dies or is seriously injured that-- you could be held legally/financially responsible for this death/injury? That any medical group or organization you are employed by could be similarly liable/financially responsible? Please explain.

8) Have you been involved in any independent medical studies involving safety concerns re the Taser? If so, please explain.

8a) Have you read any such studies? If so, please list them. Please give your conclusions re any such studies you have read.

9) What if any official or unofficial connections do you have to law enforcement? Have you ever been employed in a law enforcement capacity? As a volunteer? If so, list all such connections, jobs, etc.

10) Many have raised questions re the medical appropriateness of using Tasers on unarmed individuals --85% of those who are tased are unarmed --36% have been tased simply for verbal noncompliance--in addition to concerns re using Tasers on those with preexisting medical conditions i.e., heart problems, pace makers, age related vulnerabilities, pregnant women, those under the influence of street drugs, prescription drugs, the mentally ill, etc. What are your concerns from a medical point of view? Please explain.

11) Have you published any articles on Tasers? If so, please name them.

12) Have you participated in any Taser related studies? If so please explain/details.

12(a) Have you ever submitted to a Taser blast? If so, please describe your reaction.

13) Have you testified in any Taser related litigation? If so, please explain.

14) Have you been offered any form of compensation by Taser International for you participation on the Palo Alto Taser Task Force?

14a) Have you ever be a consultant to Taser International. If so, please explain.

15) Have you been offered any form of compensation by the Palo Alto Police or other members of city government for your participation on the Taser Task Force?

16) Do you believe you have any conflict of interest that should prevent you from serving on the Palo Alto Taser Task Force?

17) Please list any and all articles, journals, etc., you've read re the Taser controversy.

18) Do you believe it is medically sound to allow Tasers to be used on those with preexisting medical conditions, those under the influence of street drugs, prescription drugs, those suffering with mental illness, etc.? Please explain

18a) Do you believe-- as Amnesty International has called for --that at minimum--given the recent rapid increase in Taser related deaths ( 225 to date) that a moratorium on any further Taser usage should be imposed until adequate independent medical testing re Taser safety has taken place.? Please explain.

19) Would you personally be willing to submit to a five second Taser blast under controlled circumstances? On a mat, with spotters ready to catch you if you fall. If not, why not? A five second Taser blast under real world conditions on the street --no spotters, no matt? If unwilling to submit to a 5 second blast under either condition (controlled or Street) would you submit to a 1 second Taser blast under controlled conditions? Under real world conditions-- on the street?

20) Given what you know about the current limits of Taser technology re the effectiveness of Tasers (they only work on their intended target 75% of the time) do you believe that Tasers can reasonably be used as an alternative to deadly force? If so, why? If not, why not?

21) In your medical practice have you treated anyone, police officer or ordinary citizen, who has been injured by a Taser Blast? If so, please describe.

22) Based on your personal or professional knowledge would you agree with the statement that Tasers are used by police hugely disproportionately on African Americans and other people of color? Explain.

23) Would you agree that since more than 225 people have died after being tased that the idea that Tasers are non lethal is not only misleading/and deceptive but is in fact an out right lie? Explain.

**Note: to 23a) (-The proposition that Tasers are non lethal has been the oft repeated claim by their manufacture, Taser International. Certain members of law enforcement--including PAPD Chief Lynne Johnson- have also perpetuated/parroted this false claim).

24) Would you agree that in the context that Tasers are actually used --against the unarmed and those who are simply verbally non compliant-- that they are in fact not only not-less-lethal but in fact the most-lethal of the intermediate force weapons ( baton, mace, control holds, verbal commands, take downs, canines, etc.)?
Please explain.

25) Given the context of questions 23 & 24 above would you agree that Taser International’s claims that Tasers are both non-lethal and less-lethal are simply not true and in fact constitute deception of the worse kind? Please explain.

26) Palo Alto Police Chief Lynne Johnson recently stated at a city council meeting –that based on discussions with San Jose Police Chief Rob Davis—that frequently all the police need to do to get compliance from a citizen is to pull out and point the Taser. Do you believe that Tasers should be used in this fashion--- as a compliance appliance? Does this potential use of Tasers by law enforcement raise troubling First Amendment concerns in your opinion?

27) Taser International and some police departments claim that the use of Tasers reduces injuries to both police and those tased. Have you seen any hard statistics to support this claim?
Would you expect to analyze any such statistics before simply taking law enforcements word for them?

28) Are you aware that a number of law enforcement agencies no longer allow their officers to submit to a Taser blast even under tightly controlled circumstances—standing on a mat, with protective goggles, while being spotted by two fellow officers---due to numerous injuries to the officers (including some career ending injuries) and subsequent lawsuits filed by the officers?

29) Are you aware that Taser International provides a public relations kit to many police agencies that purchase Tasers and that on occasion this information (PR) has been parroted by law enforcement to the public with out police having first scrutinized Taser International’s claims?

30) Please feel free to add any other information you think members of the Palo Alto Community should know about you relevant to your appointment to the Palo Alto Taser Task Force. Thank you very much.

Posted by Aram James
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 20, 2014 at 8:41 pm

Here is my current California Public Records Act request (CPRA) on the subject of Tasers here in Palo Alto:

Supplemental CPRA request: Additional Questions: (see original questions below/ dated 1/15/2014}
1. What percentage of Taser deployments have failed to bring down/subdue their intended victim, requiring officers to use some alternative method of force in order to take the victim/suspect/defendant into custody? (Time frame 2007 through January 15, 2014, for all listed additional questions).
a. In the stun mode/Taser applied directly to the person by the officer or officers?
b. In the projectile/dart mode?
c. What percentage of cases are Tasers deployed multiple times, without successfully subduing the target victim?
d. In what percentage of Taser deployments has the Taser been used where the electrical current has extended beyond one 5 second cycle? Stun Mode? Projectile Mode?
e. What percentage of PAPD officers who have been equipped/ trained with Tasers have submitted to voluntarily being tased as part of their training.
f. Has the PAPD changed the way/policy in which officers are allowed to submit to voluntary tasing as part of their training i.e., from allowing the officer to submit to tasing while standing on a mat ( in 2007) to now only allowing voluntary exposure to tasing if the officer is seated on a mat? Please provide any training manuals (memos) that cover this issue for the relevant time frame (2007-January 15, 2014).
g. Given the increased knowledge, from 2007 to 2014, re the danger of Tasers are PAPD officers currently prohibited from voluntarily submitting to any amount of Taser exposure?

h. Please describe the progression of such training, i.e., during the initial training session in 2007 what percentage of officers submitted to voluntary tasing as part of their Taser training? Please describe how the policy re voluntarily exposure to conducted energy devices by officers has changed from 2007 to January 15, 2014).
i. During the relevant time frame (2007-January 15, 2014) how many officers have accidentally been tased while in the performance of their job.
*****Please provide any additional relevant information that may touch on the above line of questioning.


Aram James

California Public Records Act Request (CPRA Request)
California Government Code Sections 6250-6276.4
From Aram B. James
832 Los Robles Avenue,
Palo Alto, CA 94306
(650) 424-1249
Cell: (415) 370-5056
E-mail and

To: Palo Alto City Attorney Molly Stump & Palo Alto Police Chief Dennis Burns, and any other Palo Alto City employee who may have discoverable documents (discoverable pursuant to the CPRA), that may be relevant to this focused CPRA request.

Dear City Attorney Molly Stump:
At last Monday’s city council meeting (January 13, 2014), I made an oral California Public Records Act request, asking for certain materials related to the implementation/introduction, maintenance, expense, and litigation costs related to the use or alleged abuse of Tasers in the city of Palo Alto.

Said request is to cover the time frame Tasers were initially rolled-out or introduced into the Palo Alto Police Department weapons’ arsenal in the year 2007 up to and including January 15, 2014.

After my oral CPRA request, City Attorney Molly Stump requested that I submit my request in writing to facilitate its initiation. I have gladly done so.

Although it is not legally necessary to my CPRA request, I wish to offer some reasoning/rationale for this particular CPRA request:
Since the Palo Alto police department has now had Tasers for at least six years, I think it is time we have a community conversation re whether Tasers are still necessary and appropriate for our city/community.
In order to facilitate said conversation I am requesting the following items:

1. Number of Taser discharges since Tasers were first rolled out in the city of Palo Alto in the year 2007 through and including today’s date (January 15, 2014).

2. Initial cost for the purchase of Tasers needed to equip all PAPD officers in 2007.

3. Initial cost for the training of all officers issued Tasers in the year 2007.

4. The subsequent Annual cost for Taser training, broken down on a yearly basis and the total cumulative cost of training 2007 –January 15, 2014.

5. The annual cost for the purchase of new/replacement Tasers (2007-January 2014).

6. The annual cost for repairs and replacement of Tasers each year (2007-January 2014).

7. The number of times the city and police department have been sued, as a result of a Taser discharge.

8. This should include suits filed by citizens who have alleged injuries to their person and or to their legal/constitutional rights.

9. The number of Palo Alto Police Officers who have sued the department and or taken other legal actions (workmen compensation claims, etc.) resulting from the use of Tasers.

10. The legal fees paid by the city of Palo Alto to defend such suits both as to suits brought by citizens and or
members of the Palo Alto Police Department.

11. The number of Citizen Complaints filed against the police department based on Taser deployment on a yearly basis since the initial roll-out of Tasers in 2007.

12. Total of all costs related to the introduction of Tasers into our police department broken down on an annual basis.

13. Any and all medical costs related to the use of Tasers, to include the cost of such items as defibulattors, training for their use, etc.

14. Any and all costs related to the purchase of cameras to employ with the use of Tasers.

15. The cost of all electronic/computer equipment needed to store/record information re Tasers and Taser use.

16. Any and all related documents that either City Attorney Molly Stump and or Police Chief Dennis Burns believe would be relevant to this particular CPRA request.

**** (Note: Given the CPRA’s mandate that government officials assist citizens in locating materials relevant to a focused CPRA request, I am calling for your assistance/collaboration in this request/project).
I am happy to meet with both of you if necessary to ensure that I have made this CPRA request as easy to comply with as possible.
Best regards,

Aram James

Posted by tim
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jan 20, 2014 at 9:07 pm

so it is ok to taser a white boy? This is an injustice when it is not ok to taser a black kid but ok to taser a white one because of fear of racial profiling!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 21, 2014 at 7:34 am

> The Coalition for Justice & Accountability came into existence
> shortly after the murder of San Jose citizen Bic Cau Tran which
> occurred on July 13, 2003. Said murder was at the hands of
> San Jose police officer Chad Marshall.

Is my memory in error or was this not the case of the woman
who was in her home and shot and killed for having a potato
peeler in her hand when the police barged in? What does this
have to do with Tasers?

In this case, if the police had carried and used a Taser that
poor lady would still be alive.

Aram James, why are you posting a mile long list of stuff
unrelated to bicycles or Tasers here?

Posted by n_s_sherlock
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 21, 2014 at 8:22 am

who is Aram Byer

Aram Byer James is a former Santa Clara County, CA Assistant Public Defender, police watchdog, social activist, and civil rights attorney.

ramblings of a lawer

[Portion removed.]

Posted by Deadly Force
a resident of Greene Middle School
on Jan 21, 2014 at 11:30 am

Tasers can kill people and often have. They simply should not be used on an unarmed suspect.

Posted by anon
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 21, 2014 at 3:07 pm

The most shocking part of this story is that the Palo Alto police are pulling bikers over for blowing through stop signs. When did that start?

(P.S. -- shame on the weekly for trying to inject race into this story by insisting the auditor include the race of the bicyclist. Does that make the facts of this incident any different? I mean are the cops worse for doing this to a black kid than they would be if it was a white kid?)

Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jan 21, 2014 at 4:38 pm

Hmmm is a registered user.

Anon, given PAPD's history or racial profiling it really is necessary.

Posted by startup
a resident of Southgate
on Jan 21, 2014 at 5:02 pm

[Post removed.]

Posted by anon
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jan 22, 2014 at 9:16 am

All i can say is, TPARS!!!

Posted by Dave
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 22, 2014 at 8:11 pm

I believe the CPRA has a clause that obviates the need to follow and track frivolous and/or overly burdensome demands. Therefore, I would advise that the city of Palo Alto ignore any and all such requests from Aram James. His sand-in-the-gears strategy should not concern rational PA residents.

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