Partially as a result of recent events involving the alleged misuse of Tasers on the UCLA campus, a proposal to purchase the devices for UCSB Police Dept. officers has been scrapped.
According to UCPD public information officer Matt Bowman, the plan to arm officers with Tasers had already been delayed due to a lack of funding, but the incident involving the questionable use of the devices at UCLA against a student raised additional doubts about the need for the stun guns.
Bowman said the plan to buy electric stun guns for the department was originally proposed after the Santa Barbara Sheriff’s office acquired the devices. Isla Vista Foot Patrol officers have been equipped with the weapons for over a year and a half, and have used them on UCSB students.
Ordering the devices was also delayed in order to evaluate the community’s reaction to their use, Bowman said.
“[Buying Tasers was planned] years ago, when the S.B. Sheriff’s Dept. brought them online,” Bowman said. “We were going to do it in conjunction with them, but we waited to see how the community would react.”
Now, Bowman said, letters of concern addressed to Chancellor Henry T. Yang’s office regarding the UCLA incident have added another reason to shelve the plan.
On Nov. 14, UCLA student Mostafa Tabatabainejad was involved in an altercation with campus police. Initially, a Community Service Officer approached Tabatabainejad while he was using a computer, and asked for his identification to prove he was a student.
When Tabatabainejad refused, UCLA UCPD officers were called to the scene. According to a UCPD statement, the student was stunned when he refused to leave and asked other students present to “join his resistance.”
Another student filmed the incident using a cell phone video camera. The footage – which has been uploaded to www.youtube.com – shows Tabatabainejad screaming in pain and being hit with a Taser multiple times, at one point telling officers he has a medical condition.
A group of concerned students then gathered around the officers asking them to stop using the stun gun. Officers told one student, who requested the officers’ badge numbers, to stop interrupting the arrest, and threatened him with the Taser.
Tabatabainejad was subsequently dragged from the library, arrested and charged with “resisting/obstructing a peace officer.”
The incident spurred a UCPD investigation. However, UCLA students held a protest on Nov. 17 demanding an independent inquiry. While he did not say that it was in response to the rally, UCLA Acting Chancellor Norman Abrams released a statement the same day saying he had hired Merrick Bobb, a police conduct authority who has investigated the Los Angeles Police Dept. in the past, to look into the matter.
“I have decided to accept the recommendation of [UCLA UCPD] Police Chief Karl Ross and my senior advisors to establish an independent investigation of this incident,” Abrams said in the statement.
Undeclared UCLA first-year Logan Craig said he felt stunning Tabatabainejad with the Tasers was a questionable use of force, and the officers acted wrongly in threatening bystanders.
“It was clearly an abuse of power and unnecessary force,” Craig said. “I think the biggest thing I saw was that the police officer threatened to use the Taser against people in the crowd who asked for his badge number. Personally I felt that was the biggest overstep.”
Third-year UCSB psychology major Ariana LeBrun said she felt UCPD officers do not need Tasers, however, such weapons can be used prudently.
“I don’t really think [Tasers are] necessary,” LeBrun said. “I’m not really against them; watching the video of what happened at UCLA, I don’t really know what the guy was doing beforehand. As long as they’re used responsibly I don’t really think they’re a problem.”