Christopher Bauer: Tasered while Not Hearing (Ear Buds)

I generally start my presentations on police use of force and disability by talking about a deaf man shot in the back. I like to end (or at least end the section), by talking about non-white men killed while wearing ear buds, talking on cell phones, or not speaking English. It’s a way to point out that one major issue – the issue that endangers people with disabilities more than any other – is when police decide to escalate based solely on non-compliance, absent any threat indicators.
I call it, when it comes to policing, the #CultOfCompliance.

Here’s the case of Christopher Bauer:

On January 22, 2008, then Officer Mitchell responded to a false burglary alarm and assumed the first person he saw was the suspect. But Christopher Bauer was just an innocent bystander walking home with his hands in his pockets and listening to his iPod. From his moving vehicle, without warning or provocation, Mitchell tased the oblivious teen in the back of the head, causing him to fall forward onto his face. Mitchell then cycled the TASER a second time on the unconscious victim. Bauer suffers permanent neurological complications from the incident, including memory loss. Mitchell told Bauer he tased him because he refused to comply with his command to stop.
Mitchell’s statements at his disciplinary hearing offer a window into his highly prejudicial, preemptive thinking. Note the hypothetical thinking (emphasis mine):

Officer Mitchell stated that if the hold up alarm was in fact a “good alarm” this personwould be a likely suspect or witness. Officer Mitchell felt it imperative to stop this person and identify him in case the alarm turned out to be a real robbery.

Officer Mitchell further stated that if the hold up alarm was “good,” in his experience, hethought the suspect would most likely be armed with a weapon, probably a handgun. Officer Mitchell stated that he decided to use the Taser to stop Mr. Bauer without warning him because Bauer might be armed and might try to avoid apprehension. Officer Mitchell also stated that he wanted to stop Mr. Bauer before he reached a position in the parking lot that might endanger the lives of other civilian pedestrians.

Captain Stephen Luebbe found Mitchell used excessive force and did not give Bauer the opportunity to submit to arrest. But his statements went beyond the issue of force to challenge Mitchell’s logic. He found Mitchell’s extreme application of the precautionary principle to be in dereliction of his primary responsibility to investigate the alleged crime:

Police Officer Andrew Mitchell used more force that was reasonably necessary to stop and detain Christopher Bauer Jr. Whether or not Mr. Bauer was wearing earphones and listening to an IPOD is not important to this hearing. Officer Mitchell was not justified in the use of force to stop anyone. There was no confirmed crime to investigate. Officer Mitchell’s primary responsibility, as first car on the scene, was to respond directly to Jersey Mike’s Restaurant to investigate and determine the validity of the alarm. In doing so he would have discovered the alarm was false and no other action was necessary. Had the alarm been “good” as Officer Mitchell feared, he would have been in a position to render aid to victims, obtain and broadcast a description of the suspect, protect the crime scene, and collect evidence.

The page goes on to collect a news report and some documents on the case. It’s a classic example of, as I see it, the worst kind of decision-making and threat-assessment that endangers people.

Bauer’s case is collected here on a page dedicated to the death of David “Bones” Herbert, who was told by one police officer to bring over his knife, and shot by another officer for showing a knife.

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