Pregnant Woman With Child in the Car Tased Three Times After Being Pulled Over for Speeding
What is it with cops and tasers? Why do so many of them seem compelled to use them in highly inappropriate ways? “Highly inappropriate” is about the only way to describe what happened to Malaika Brooks, who was seven months pregnant and driving her kid to school one day in 2004 when a routine traffic stop went terribly wrong. The New York Times’s Adam Liptak reports:
The police say she was going 32 miles per hour in a school zone; the speed limit was 20.
Ms. Brooks said she would accept a ticket but drew the line at signing it, which state law required at the time. Ms. Brooks thought, wrongly, that signing was an acknowledgment of guilt.
Refusing to sign was a crime, and the two officers on the scene summoned a sergeant, who instructed them to arrest Ms. Brooks. She would not get out of her car.
The situation plainly called for bold action, and Officer Juan M. Ornelas met the challenge by brandishing a Taser and asking Ms. Brooks if she knew what it was.
She did not, but she told Officer Ornelas what she did know. “I have to go to the bathroom,” she said. “I am pregnant. I’m less than 60 days from having my baby.”
The three men assessed the situation and conferred. “Well, don’t do it in her stomach,” one said. “Do it in her thigh.”
The cop did “do it in her thigh” — and then her arm, and then her neck. Then they dragged her out into the street and handcuffed her.
Brooks sued the cops, who won the case. It was found that “the officers had used excessive force but nonetheless could not be sued because the law on the question was not clear in 2004,” according to the Times. However, they were warned that crossing such a line in the future would amount to excessive force.
Despite winning, the officers are now trying to take the case to the Supreme Court. Staci Zaretsky at the blog Above the Law discusses why:
So why are the police appealing to the Supreme Court? After all, they ultimately won the case. According to theABA Journal, they argue in their cert petition that the Ninth Circuit’s ruling on the excessive force issue “effectively strips officers of the authority to use any pain compliance technique to control an actively resisting arrestee.”
That’s a really broad reading of the ruling. The “resisting arrestee” here was a pregnant woman — a woman who was “especially vulnerable,” according to Michael F. Williams, a partner at Kirkland & Ellis, which represents Brooks. Are the police asking for permission to tase pregnant women for minor infractions? Because really, how often do pregnant women commit crimes that warrant the use of a Taser?
In all honesty, it sounds like the police are overly eager to create a situation where a pregnant woman is forced to scream, “Don’t tase my baby, bro!” And that’s just sad.