October 20th, 2006

Brad @ Burning Man

Why isn't the Ali Jones case national news?

Even the St. Louis Post-Dispatch buried the story in crime news. If I hadn't picked up a St. Louis American while waiting for a bus, I would never have seen this story:
To summarize, Ali Jones, whose big claim to fame is being a backup singer for Nelly, was pulled over for improper lane usage. It's the kind of thing that everybody I know has done at least once: you realize at a light that you're in the wrong lane, you look behind you and see there's nobody in the way and nobody coming, you back up and pull into the right lane. Presumably somebody can tell me some reason why this particular driver got pulled over for it that doesn't relate to his being a black man in a Camaro in Hazelwood, Missouri; I suppose it's possible the officer was just trying to meet his ticket quota. He also had an expired license plate, but apparently even the officer admits that he hadn't noticed that before pulling Jones over, so that can't justify the stop.

Jones was driving on a learner's permit, with a licensed driver in the car, after letting his driver's license expire 5 years ago; when the officer asked for his license, he seems to have absent-mindedly handed him the expired license (you know, what the cop asked for) instead of his permit. The cop, apparently concluding that someone driving on a 5-year-expired license was unlikely to show up to pay a ticket for improper lane use (I'm trying hard to give the cop the benefit of the doubt here, and not assume that it has something to do with the person being ticketed being a black male), decided to arrest Jones and and require bail.

Everything after that is in dispute, and the Hazelwood PD hasn't released the dashboard camera footage yet. But the worst that the officer accuses Ali Jones of is being verbally abusive, of kicking the officer once, and of doing some kind of unspecified damage to the police car. Two of these are very serious accusations, and the other (the first) a serious error in judgment. I'll acknowledge that up front. None of which explains what Ali Jones and his witnesses claim happened next. Despite the fact that Jones was already handcuffed and already seated in the back of the patrol car, that is to say no longer capable of resisting arrest in any way, the officer hit him with a Taser. FIFTY SIX TIMES. And according to his wife, who counted the burn marks and jabs, Ali Jones has the injuries to prove it.

Now, frankly, if she and the passenger in Jones' car are telling the truth, I don't care what Ali Jones did. I don't care if he shot the officer's dog, set the officer's personal vehicle on fire, threatened the officer's children and kicked the officer in the nuts. Is there any possible legitimate version of a use-of-force doctrine that permits any officer to use a Taser at all on an already subdued, already arrested individual, let alone fifity six times? Any? Would anybody like to step up and defend that officer's actions?

And, I repeat, why isn't this a front-page national news story?