Tag: taser

My thoughts about no charges being filed against the police officer who killed Tony Robinson

Earlier today, Dane County, Wisconsin District Attorney Ismael Ozanne announced that he would not file any criminal charges against Matt Kenny, a member of the Madison, Wisconsin Police Department, despite the fact that he shot and killed 19-year-old Tony Robinson, who was unarmed at the time of the shooting.

Here’s my thoughts about this:

Right Decision, Bad Law

Given the description that Ozanne of what led to Kenny’s decision to shoot and kill Robinson, I believe that Ozanne made the right decision, given the current Wisconsin state law regarding law enforcement officers using deadly force. However, I believe that the law gives police officers in Wisconsin too broad of authority to use lethal force, and that many other states have similar laws on the books. Because Wisconsin state law allows law enforcement officers to use deadly force if, for whatever reason, the officer reasonably believes that someone is threatening to either kill or cause great bodily harm to the officer, the police shooting of Robinson was justified in the eyes of the law, but not justified in the eyes of my personal opinion. I believe that deadly force should never be used against an unarmed person like Robinson was at the time he was shot and killed by Kenny, and that deadly force should only be used if the suspect(s) is/are armed, the suspect(s) show(s) intent to use the weapon(s) against law enforcement officer(s) and/or others, and the officer(s) have no other option but to use deadly force.

Madison’s Police Taser Policy is Absurd

If you’re wondering why Kenny did not use a taser in order to stop Robinson without killing him, that’s because of an absurd policy in Madison that prohibits law enforcement officers from using a taser except when another officer is present at the scene. Madison’s taser policy should be amended to allow for officers to use tasers to stop suspects without another officer being present, and similar policies in other jurisdictions should be amended as well.

Racial Disparities are Systemic in Madison

Despite being America’s most progressive city, there’s systemic racial disparities between white people and black people in Madison. If you’re a black person in Madison, you’re anywhere from 8 to 11 times more likely to be arrested than a white person in Madison:

The Race to Equity report also found that black adults in Dane County were more than eight times as likely to be arrested as white adults in 2012, which was higher than the black-white arrest disparity in Wisconsin (4-to-1) and the entire nation (2.5-to-1) in 2010. While black men made up only 4.8 percent of the county’s total adult male population in 2012, they comprised more than 43 percent of all new adult prison placements that year.

Updated numbers for only Madison may be even worse: Erica Nelson, who authored the Race to Equity report, told PolitiFact Wisconsin that black adults are 10.9 times as likely as white adults to be arrested in the city, based on a preliminary analysis of the Madison Police Department’s 2013 annual report.

I Strongly Support a Peaceful, Constructive Movement Against Police Brutality and Systemic Racism

So as long as the protests are peaceful and constructive in nature, I strongly support protests against brutality by law enforcement officers and systemic racism in our society. A lot needs to be done to make America a truly equal place. Protests should be non-violent, raise awareness of the problems of police brutality and systemic racism, and raise awareness of various solutions to hold police officers who engage in brutality accountable and end the systemic racism in this country.

The problems of police brutality and systemic racism in this country go beyond Madison, Milwaukee, Cleveland, Baltimore, New York City, and Ferguson. They are nationwide problems that need to be addressed by the people, the media, and public officials. Most importantly, there needs to be a concerted effort in this country to, through non-violent protests, supporting progressive-minded candidates for public office, and implementing new laws and policies, to end police brutality and systemic racism in this country once and for all.

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How pregnant women in Wisconsin are treated like second-class citizens

Tamara Loerstcher at 35 weeks pregnant (photo by Wendi Kent)
Tamara Loerstcher at 35 weeks pregnant (photo by Wendi Kent)

In Wisconsin, pregnant women are treated like second-class citizens. Republicans, who control Wisconsin’s state government, have enacted numerous laws that, among other things, require pregnant women who wish to have an abortion undergo an ultrasound regardless if they want or need an ultrasound or not and cut public funding to women’s health clinics.

However, arguably the worst piece of anti-abortion legislation that has been enacted in recent years in Wisconsin is the so-called “Cocaine Mom Law” (officially 1997 Wisconsin Act 292), enacted in 1998, that allows Wisconsin officials to arrest, detain, and imprison pregnant women for up to the duration of their pregnancies if said officials believe that the pregnant woman is abusing substances, such as alcohol and other drugs, to the point that the egg, embryo, fetus, or child upon birth will be “seriously affected”. In effect, Act 292 gives fetuses more legal rights than pregnant women.

One of the worst examples of Act 292 trampling over the constitutional rights of Wisconsin women is the case of Tamara Loerstcher, who was jailed, had her constitutional rights violated, and was subjected to horrible treatment after she went to an Eau Claire hospital in order to receive a pregnancy test and treatment for a thyroid condition and Loerstcher told the hospital that she had self-medicated with drugs prior to going to the hospital:

According to Loertscher and her attorneys, unbeknownst to her, as hospital workers were preparing a prescription to treat Loertscher’s thyroid condition, they were also initiating unborn child protection proceedings on behalf of Loertscher’s then 14-week-old fetus.

Loertscher and her attorneys claim that within days of Loertscher seeking care, hospital workers had already turned over Loerstcher’s hospital records to the state without Loerstcher’s knowledge or consent. They also claim that with those records in hand, state officials filed a petition accusing Loerstcher of abuse of an unborn child and held a hearing in which the state had appointed an attorney, known as a guardian ad litem, for the 14-week-old fetus, but granted Loerstcher no meaningful representation.

At the hearing, Loertscher and her attorneys allege she was ordered by the court into in-patient treatment even though she had not used drugs recently and voluntarily sought medical care. When Loerstcher refused to go to in-patient treatment, she was held in contempt of court and sent to jail, where she was held for 17 days without prenatal care and subject to abuse and harassment.

“This was my first pregnancy, so I didn’t know what to expect,” Loerstcher told reporters. “I was having lots of cramping and a lot of stress from everything and they [jail officials] wouldn’t allow me to see the doctor. They told me I would have to see a jail-appointed doctor who told me she wanted me to take a pregnancy test to confirm the pregnancy even though that’s why I was in jail, because I was pregnant. They knew that’s why I was there.”

Loerstcher claims she refused the pregnancy test, and in response, correction officials put her in solitary confinement and threatened to use a taser on her. “The jail doctor told me if I chose to miscarry, there wasn’t anything they could do about it anyways,” Loertscher said through tears.

[…]

In order to be released from jail, Loertscher had to sign a consent decree agreeing to additional drug tests, so she remains under state custody to some extent, her lawyer said.

Even worse, despite the fact that she was never tried or convicted of child abuse, Tamara Loerstcher will appear on Wisconsin’s child abuse registry for the remainder of her life unless this is overturned on appeal.

To summarize, Wisconsin officials jailed Tamara Loerstcher, granted her then-14 week old fetus legal counsel but refused to grant her any meaningful legal representation, took her medical records from the hospital without her knowledge or consent, ordered by a court into in-patient treatment despite not needing in-patient treatment and not having been tried or convicted of substance abuse, held in contempt of court and jailed for 17 days without prenatal care, subjected to abuse and harassment while jailed, forced her to take a pregnancy test despite her pregnancy having been already confirmed, and even threatened to use a taser on her while jailed. How Tamara Loerstcher was treated by the legal system in Wisconsin is some of the most barbaric treatment of someone I’ve ever seen in my entire life, in fact, Loerstcher’s story is so shocking, I’ve had nightmares about it. Her constitutional rights were repeatedly violated, she was not granted due process of law, and she was effectively convicted of child abuse without a trial. Sadly, Loerstcher isn’t the only one who has had her constitutional rights violated by Wisconsin’s Act 292.

I hope that Tamara Loerstcher gives birth to a healthy child in a few weeks (she is expecting to have a son) and that her name is cleared by the legal system.