The incident involving Celeste Thomas began unfolding just after midnight Saturday when Officer Stephanie Glueck and Jennifer Myers were driving on West McMillan in Clifton Heights when they saw a 2004 Toyota Corolla hit a city garbage truck at 73 West McMillan.
When it seemed the driver, Demetri Washington, was not going to stop, the officers initiated a traffic stop.
A video of the arrest of Washington, 33, on charges of resisting arrest, drunken driving, driving without a license and a burglary warrant and of Celeste Thomas, 26, on charges of obstructing official business and open container, shows what happened next.
Washington pulled over and Glueck walked up to the driver’s side window and asked Washington for his license and proof of insurance. He didn’t immediately comply. When officers found Washington was wanted on a warrant for burglary, he was arrested and handcuffed.
Here is video of the incident:
The officer who tased Thomas is Anthony Plummer who has had his police powers revoked and is currently being investigated for using excessive force. Police Chief Thomas Streicher has already stated publicly that Plummer did not follow proper police procedures and that improper force was used. In addition, it appears that Plummer has a past history of using excessive force. Again from the Enquirer:
Plummer joined the force in 2001 and his personnel file shows a suspension for use of force, two reprimands and an incident that led to his being fired.
Plummer was fired in August of 2006 for violating procedure during an arrest in which he used a Taser. An arbitrator reinstated Plummer in September of 2007.
If Plummer is found to have violated department policy in Celeste Thomas’ arrest, he will face a disciplinary hearing. A hearing officer will make a disciplinary recommendation to Streicher, who in turn will make one to Cincinnati City Manager Milton Dohoney.
If disciplinary action is taken, it cannot be based on that prior incident because as per police contract, incidents are cleared for an officer’s record after three years.
While the quick response and candid reaction of Chief Streicher is rare, it is has drawn praise from Christopher Smitherman, the local President of the NAACP:
“I give them an A-plus to this stage,” Smitherman said. “The collaborative agreement was about trying to change the police culture, and we’re seeing here that that’s happening.
“When the police chief feels comfortable enough at this early point in an investigation to say publicly that he thinks the officer was wrong and used excessive force, that shows me we’re getting closer to where we all want to be in terms of police-community relations,” Smitherman added.
This recent local situation is only one in a long series of police actions from across the country that have resulted in children, the elderly, and the handicapped being subdued by the use of tasers.
digby writes often about civil liberties and tasers and recently wrote the following:
Tasers were sold to the public as a tool for law enforcement to be used in lieu of deadly force. Presumably, this means situations in which officers would have previously had to use their firearms. It's hard to argue with that, and I can't think of a single civil libertarian who would say that this would be a truly civilized advance in policing. Nobody wants to see more death and if police have a weapon they can employ instead of a gun, in self defense or to stop someone from hurting others, I think we all can agree that's a good thing.
But that's not what's happening. Tasers are routinely used by police to torture innocent people who have not broken any law and whose only crime is being disrespectful toward their authority or failing to understand their "orders." There is ample evidence that police often take no more than 30 seconds to talk to citizens before employing the taser, they use them while people are already handcuffed and thus present no danger, and are used often against the mentally ill and handicapped. It is becoming a barbaric tool of authoritarian, social control.
This is a pattern that we have seen time and time again and in case after case. Tasers are not always substituted for the use of lethal force, but rather for the use of dialogue. People are tased not always for posing a danger to the safety of the police officer, but for mouthing off to the police or not fully complying with commands. This is a dangerous path to continue down with a device that has proven itself capable of causing death.
In this most recent local case, the police admit that Celeste Thomas was on her knees with her hands in the air when she was tased in the back. Regardless of the fact that she got out of the car against the commands of the police, she was not posing a danger to the officers who were on the scene as she was on her knees with her hands in the air. If tasers are to be used in place of lethal force, are we to believe that Officer Plummer would have shot Thomas? I have seen many comments on local news websites that have been posted by users suggesting that Thomas got what she had coming because one should expect these consequences if one does not comply with the commands of the police. I think we are better than that as a society.
We should expect citizens to have a certain level of earned respect for law enforcement officers, but we should also expect these same officers to use force sparingly when other tactics are exhausted. We should expect that tools of force should not be used simply because they are easier and create a sense of fear within the public, especially with a tool that has been known to have deadly effects. As a society we should continue to examine tools such as the taser as it is used more liberally during situations that once seemed routine and ask ourselves if this is truly an effective tool, or if it is exerting more authoritarian controls over the greater population.
This is crossposted here.