LAPPL Blog: The official blog of the Los Angeles Policy Protective League

The Ninth Circuit's year-end 'gift' to law enforcement

By LAPPL Board of Directors on 12/30/2009 @ 11:55 AM

Tazer

Stun guns like this Taser X26 are supported by law enforcement. (Photo: Herb Swanson / AP)

On the heels of an appalling district court decision overturning the California law banning the possession of body armor by violent felons, another court decision has us scratching our heads in disbelief.

This time it was a Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel, essentially ruling that unless an officer is actually under physical attack, he/she cannot use a Taser to subdue a suspect. And, for good measure, these starry-eyed jurists, who probably have never been in a physical fight in their lives, opined that police officers should not fear irrational suspects defying officer commands as long as the suspect stays 15 feet from the officer.

As every street cop knows, any suspect within 15 feet who is actively resisting verbal commands is a threat to officer safety.

If a suspect complies with an officer’s commands, the use of force or a weapon is unnecessary. When a suspect fails to comply with verbal commands, it means the situation is rapidly escalating and some form of force will be required to gain compliance.

Non-lethal force is the safest and best way to obtain the needed compliance. Non-lethal force instruments are designed to avoid injury to both officers and suspects by swiftly incapacitating the suspect. Stand-off instruments such as Tasers ensure officer safety. Inhibiting officers from using the Taser option puts them, suspects and innocent bystanders in greater danger.

About the only positive thing we can find in the opinion is that Judge Stephen Reinhardt, one of the authors of this decision, was recently reversed 9-0 by the U.S. Supreme Court in a death penalty case where, unbelievably, he was found to have fabricated facts in his opinion. We can only hope that either the Ninth Circuit en banc, or the U.S. Supreme Court, reverses yet another terrible ruling by Reinhardt.

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