on cell phones and tasers

From The Chronicle of Higher Education, the issue dated August 17, 2007 (link may not work if you’re not a subscriber):

UCLA Police Officers Used Excessive Force in Taser Incident, Independent Report Concludes

Police officers at the University of California at Los Angeles used excessive force and poor judgment last November when they repeatedly used a Taser stun gun to subdue a student, according to an independent report released this month.

UCLA officials commissioned the independent investigation in response to the controversy that ensued after police officers used a Taser on Mostafa Tabatabainejad, a student of Iranian descent who refused to show his student identification card in the computer laboratory at a campus library.

Immediately after the incident, Mr. Tabatabainejad publicly accused the police officers of racial profiling, and more than 400 students participated in a protest.

Further fueling the controversy was a widely publicized video of the incident posted on the YouTube Web site.

The article goes on to report that, despite this independent finding, the UCLA internal police investigation found no violation of policy by the officers, and no one will be reprimanded for these actions.

Without getting into the politics of racial profiling and discrimination, or police brutality or neutrality, I think that this story is really interesting from the perspective of the library.  For a few reasons.

  1. The crime in question was failure to show ID.  How do we feel about that, as a profession that prizes the freedom to read and access to information?  What do we sacrifice in the name of ‘safety’, ‘security’, ‘accountability’, and compliance with institutional policies?
  2. Police.  In the library.  See above re: sacrifice.
  3. This incident only became news because of students with video-capable cell phones and YouTube.  Granted, it was reported locally, and it might have been reported in higher-education news regardless, but this video made it inevitable.  We talk about the ubiquity of handheld devices, always-on connectivity, and the read-write web — but we, as librarians, focus on what that means for us, and our libraries.  I think it’s far more interesting to add to that discussion the question of “what does it mean for our world?”, particularly in light of this moment, when students made news with cell phones.

One comment

  1. Security is dismal at libraries. We want to be open to everybody, but I have to remove the urine soaked chairs. We believe in freedom, but I return the empty DVD cases left behind by the theives so the movies can be removed from the catalog. How dumb a concept is self check out? We do minimal preparation for emergencies because we have a minimal budget. Expectations of security are low; after all, this is an outfit run by little old ladies.


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