The National Lawyers Guild (NLG) calls for an independent investigation into the use of a Taser by the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) Police Department against 23-year-old student Mostafa Tabatabainejad on November 14, 2006. The Guild rejects the use of, and threats to use, Tasers as an excessive use of force and urges an investigation into the incident and UCLA's Taser policy.
The Taser used by the UCLA Police Department delivers an electrical shock to a specific part of the body. This type of shock could reportedly severely incapacitate a person for up to 15 seconds, thereby prohibiting the victim from standing or walking on his or her own. According to a report by Amnesty International, 148 people in the United States and Canada have died as a result of the use of Tasers since 1999.
The police officers asked Mr. Tabatabainejad, an Iranian student, to leave a campus library after he was unable to produce proper identification during a random ID search. Mr. Tabatabainejad believes he was targeted for his racial identity as he was singled out from all of the other students in the library for an ID check. Video evidence taken by another student shows Mr. Tabatabainejad asserting his rights to a UCLA police officer before they began shocking him with a Taser, which they did at least five times. Witnesses, including the person videotaping and others who insisted the officers stop and requested badge numbers, were threatened with Taser abuse by the police officers if they did not disperse.
"The use of Tasers constitutes torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment which violates the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, a treaty ratified by the United States and thus part of U.S. law under the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution," said NLG President Marjorie Cohn.
As James Lafferty, Executive Director of the National Lawyers Guild in Los Angeles points out, "This is not an isolated occurrence. On November 15, a 43-year-old man in Rocky Mount, North Carolina died in custody after being Tasered by local police officers. Tasers are dangerous weapons that must not be used by law enforcement officers as tools of repression in any circumstance."
The National Lawyers Guild supports the efforts of community members and people of color—who are frequently victims of excessive use of force—protesting this use of excessive force on the UCLA campus.
The National Lawyers Guild, founded in 1937, is a progressive bar association working in the service of the people. Its national office is headquartered in New York and it has chapters in nearly every state, as well as over 100 law school chapters. The Guild has a long history of challenging police misconduct around the country.