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Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Dirty Terry: Here's what you DON'T know about the UCLA taser incident

Heretofore, I have not commented on the outrageous UCLA taser incident, simply because I have had nothing to add to what you've already heard and seen.

Not until now.

Sure, I could've mentioned that I've spent many a satisfactory hour in the Powell Library (called the College Library in my day), one of the most beautiful buildings in Los Angeles. And I should point out that, during my own inglorious period at UCLA, the UCPD officers I met were always professional and courteous. No police officer ever asked me for identification on any occasion -- and I was all over that campus at all hours of the night.

News accounts indicate that the present incident began when the cops decided to single out an Iranian student for maltreatment. He had every right to be in that building. Witnesses make clear that the student had his backpack on and was leaving the building. At no time did he resist the officers.

I'm grateful for the courage of those students who demanded badge numbers from the officers, despite the fact that the officers threatened to taser the witnesses.

Outrageously, UCLA has neither placed the officers on leave nor changed its policy of using tasers to enforce compliance. This, despite the fact that people who have been shocked often cannot rise to their feet, as the officers demanded of student Mostafa Tabatabainejad.

Yes, I am aware that the taser was in "stun" mode. Even so, this situation underscores my long-standing opposition to non-lethal weaponry: The threshold for use becomes lowered. The lower the threshold, the greater the temptation for law enforcement to use their weapons recklessly.

We now know the names of those officers. The primary actor in this drama was a cop named Terrence Duren. His accomplices were Alexis Bickamong, Kevin Kilgore and Andrew Ikeda.

The Daily Bruin adds a bit of history which chilled my blood:
In 2003, Duren shot Willie Davis Frazier Jr., a homeless man Duren encountered in a Kerckhoff study lounge, following a physical and verbal altercation.
Frazier survived two gunshots to the abdomen.

I am reminded of Nick Berg (the fellow beheaded in Iraq), who "lived" on the campus of the University of Oklahoma during a week or two of homelessness.

I am also reminded of my own situation. I confess that -- through my own foolishness -- I had a week similar to Berg's. I spent hours snoozing in that very same lounge in Kerckhoff.

Officer Duren insisted Frazier attacked him during the 2003 incident. Now that we possess videotaped evidence proving that Duren favors reckless use of force, and now that we know that the UCPD may provide deceptive accounts of such incidents, we should take another look at Duren's history. In particular, we should study this March 16, 2005 story in the Daily Bruin (which features some fine reporting by student journalist Ari Bloomekatz):
Frazier has since spent two birthdays in jail without being convicted of any crime.
His attorney says that Frazier was mentally ill and had not done anything to provoke the shooting:
John Raphling, Frazier's public defender at the time, said Duren, a former university police officer of the year, used excessive force when arresting Frazier and had a long history of using excessive violence in past encounters.

During Frazier's hearing in January, Raphling said there is a long history of complaints against Duren and that university police have looked the other way.

"I wonder where the outrage is about an officer who shot an unarmed man who was trying to get away from him," Raphling commented about the Frazier trial in January 2004.

Raphling also added that Duren was given a notice of termination from UCLA on Aug. 16, 1990, a hearing was held and Duren retained his job but served a 90-day suspension.

Raphling also said in January 2004 that Duren testified under oath that he had been fired from the Long Beach police department.
Emphasis added.

Not only has the UCPD refused to place Terrence Duren under suspension in the wake of the current incident, his superior have even allowed him to continue with his duties.
T. Duren

Lives in LaQuinta. One hour commute to UCLA.
Can't be the same guy. Man, if I were fighting that kind of traffic every day (far more than an hour's worth at rush hour) *I* would be shooting people.
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