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Paging Prof. Zimbardo…

November 16th, 2006 · 1 Comment

John Aravosis links to this YouTube video captured by a student at UCLA’s student library. An Iranian Muslim student had been asked to leave after being unable to produce ID. When he stayed anyway, campus police were called to eject him. It looks like he was on his way out, but the confrontation with the police turned angry, and they tasered him. Then, after hitting him with an incapacitating weapon, they tasered him again when he didn’t stand up on demand. Then they did it again. And again. Horrified students screaming for them to stop were threatened with a dose if they didn’t back off.

Now, all things considered, a Taser’s probably better than, say, a billy club when it comes to subduing an unruly subject. But it is, by all accounts, extremely painful and does risk some serious medical effects. It’s hard to imagine how anyone who’d been trained in their use could think it was appropriate to shock someone once under the circumstances, let alone four or five times.

But this is, at least, an indication of how increasingly ubiquitous tech can help check abuses of power. Lots of people already have cell phones that record video; presumably in a few years almost everyone will. Because it’s on a networked device, it’s harder for people caught in the act (whether police or ordinary criminals) to confiscate the device and prevent the images from getting out. In the instance, the video was on YouTube was in hours and less than two days after the incident making the rounds on blogs. And when the inevitable inquiry comes, the officers at the scene are going to have a hell of a time explaining what’s on that recording.

It’s also, incidentally, a nice way to deter street crime. Mugging becomes a much riskier proposition if a pinhole camera on the victim’s glasses, say, captures a photo of the assailant and uploads it to a server as soon as he approaches.

Tags: Tech and Tech Policy



1 response so far ↓

  • 1 johngalt2112 // Nov 24, 2006 at 3:35 am

    I’m torn between two angles, because I don’t have enough information. Some people are under the impression that it was staged, but at the very least the student was using it as a soapbox. He might have been staying on the ground on purpose as a protest -tased people should be able to get back up unless it’s to the head or something.

    They require students to have id’s to prevent homeless people from sleeping in the library. He was mad because he was the first one picked even though everyone is.

    In any case, the reactions are interesting. YOu can see some of them on facebook. One friend is making two commercial parodies, one pro pd and the other anti pd (featuring babies and professors being tased in the new future for failure to produce id). Some students tape a piece of paper to their t shirt “Don’t tase me I’m a student.”

    IF it were me, I probably would’ve let the student go; I dealt with far more obnoxious people when I was a substitute teacher. It’s just not fair that you can tase one and not the other.

    The student will now sue UCLA for money that could be used for educational purposes for students like me.