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Mon Sep 23, 2013, 08:48 PM

Deaf Boy Tasered for being Deaf [View all]

Deaf Boy Tasered for being Deaf

by LollardfishFollow


For the past year, I have been writing about a persistent pattern of police violence against people with disabilities. I wrote about it in The Nation and have been particularly focused on the Ethan Saylor case.

But the stories proliferate, with a new one almost every week. I've argued that you can read both the Times Square police shooting and the Ferrell case through the lens of police not knowing/caring how to respond to people acting "differently." The racial reading is of course front and center for that second case, of course, but seen through the lens of trying to explain how Ferrell is acting, temporarily disability following an accident makes sense.

Alas, the stories proliferate, many of them following the general pattern that I call the cult of compliance, a pattern of behavior in which police respond to non-compliance with violence. I argue that the pattern extends beyond disability, but that cases of disability are particularly acute.

Digby, who is one of the leaders on this topic, brought this story to my attention as the latest example of the horrific consequences of the cult of compliance.

A deaf boy was escaping abuse and ran away from a school. The police found him, approached, then tasered him when he didn't respond. Here's the key paragraph -

Police arrived at the construction site after dark. Knowing the boy was deaf, they allegedly made no effort to warn or communicate with him, but Tasered him from behind. As A.M. writhed on the ground from the “burns, paralysis and pain” caused by the Taser barbs, the two police officers rushed him and placed him in handcuffs.

There's a lawsuit, some money will change hands, and in no way will the cult of compliance be threatened.

It's worth thinking through this scene from the perspective of the police officer. It's dark. He knows the boy is deaf so can't be verbally controlled. At that point he just decides to solve the problem with a quick jolt of 40,000 volts. Does he talk about it with his partner first? I suppose they are worried he'll run away again (a reasonable guess given the awful situation).

We need to assert our right NOT to be tasered just because the police want us to comply. It's crazy that we have to even argue for this. But we do. To protect the deaf. Other people with disabilities. And every one of us.

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