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Taser tragedy reaction

Nayaba Arinde | 4/12/2011, 4:34 p.m.
"There appears to be a pattern developing of either a lack of concern or inappropriate...
Taser tragedy reaction

"There appears to be a pattern developing of either a lack of concern or inappropriate level of response in poor minority neighborhoods," charged Anthony Miranda, executive chairman of the National Latino Association of America. The downpour over the weekend washed remnants of 35-year-old Inman Morales' blood down the crevices of the gray sidewalk outside 489 Tompkins

Ave., in Bed-Stuy.

Drenched flowers and a row of multi-colored candles mark the spot where the naked, emotionally disturbed man fell off a ledge last Thursday, after he was inexplicably Tasered by an Emergency Service Unit officer. In the pouring rain this past Sunday, there was yet another press conference, this time to demand changes and to decry the senselessness of the police action which led to the death of the man who had been shouting for about 20 minutes on the ledge above a door that was probably less than a foot in width. His mother, Olga Negron, had called cops to help her with her bipolar son, who had just begun a new medication, and had climbed out on to a fire escape with a fluorescent tube in hand. She implored the responding officers not to hurt the obviously emotionally disturbed man who fit into the NYPD criteria for special consideration. His nakedness and ranting made that clear to the shocked crowd of residents and area workers who witnessed the distressing incident. The NYPD itself is at a loss to explain the unforced error that led to the death of Morales. "Surely we can get justice in the case of Inman Morales where we did not get justice with Amadou Diallo with 41 shots and Sean Bell with 50 shots," said Brooklyn councilman Charles Barron. "The Amsterdam News had a front-page article in June predicting that the use of Tasers in New York was a tragedy waiting to happen; and here we are. This man did not have to die.

What did the police think would happen when they shocked him and he was standing on a narrow ledge?" Such a nondescript building, which ordinarily would go completely unnoticed by the average person. Now it just might represent the doorway--like that of Amadou Diallo--which inspires great demand for change in the Police Department. Morales only fell 10 feet, but stunned by 50,000 volts he froze and fell head first onto the sidewalk. Lt. Michael Pigott gave the order to fire the Taser, and Officer Nicholas Marchesona followed the command. According to Deputy Commissioner Paul J. Browne, Morales had been jabbing at an ESU officer on a fire escape with an eight-foot-long florescent light, so "an ESU lieutenant directed another ESU officer on the sidewalk to employ a Conducted Energy Device (CED), commonly known as a Taser, against Morales, who fell to the sidewalk, striking his head. He was removed to Kings County Hospital, where he was pronounced dead." Browne admitted that an "inflatable bag had not yet arrived at the scene when Morales fell. None of the ESU officers on the scene were positioned to break his fall, nor did they devise a plan in advance to do so." Activists cite the fact that the release of a camera phone video and the outcry from witnesses is what prompted the NYPD's swift response. Browne said, "The order to employ the Taser under these circumstances appears to have violated guidelines, reissued June 4,2008,which specifically state that 'when possible, the CED should not be used...in situations where the subject may fall from an elevated surface.' "The lieutenant who gave directive to the use the Taser has been placed on modified assignment; and the officer who followed the order that led to the death of Morales has been assigned to administrative duties." Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes has asked that neither officer be interviewed by cops as his investigation continues He did not respond to the AmNews' question as to whether or not he is empanelling a grand jury. "These officers need to be arrested," said Barron. "They violated the police department's own regulations. We are calling on D.A. Hynes to indict these men for manslaughter or criminally negligent homicide. Their reckless action of Tasering an unarmed man led to the death of this innocent individual." Police Commissioner Kelly told reporters, "Last year, we handled 87,000 calls to aggressive emotionally disturbed people. Obviously, the vast majority of them went well. You didn't hear about them. But we're human beings. Sometimes we make mistakes. Reporters even make mistakes. People on Wall Street make mistakes." State Sen. Eric Adams told the AmNews, "It's time for the police department to address how to approach the mentally disturbed population. In the 1980s,when I was a police officer, an overwhelming number of the people who experienced mental health issues were institutionalized; in 2008 this population is no longer institutionalized--they are given medication. When they're on the medication, they are fine; when they're off the medication, they can be extremely violent. "The police department has not evolved to address that increase in this population. We still police like we're in the Eleanor Bumpers era, and making the same mistakes when we took the life of that woman. So I'm calling for a Crisis Intervention Task Force where they bring together mental health professionals to evaluate the police department's existing procedure to determine what changes need to be made, if any." Adams again called on Kelly to put cameras on Tasers, before he has to legislate the move. "The new form of Tasers allows a camera to be placed on the end, and we need to make it mandatory for all Tasers issued within New York State to be equipped with a camera. Without the presence of the video of what took place on Tompkins Avenue, we would not have received the same response from the police department. It was because people saw how horrific it was." "We already had cameras on the scene," said Barron. "Thankfully the video shows the whole world what happened so cameras on Tasers might work as a deterrent in the future, but obviously the dozens upon dozens of witnesses watching this tragedy happen did not deter members of the ESU from disregarding the department's rules and just let this harmless man calm down and come down or be brought down off the ledge peacefully." Kelly ordered the entire 440 members of the ESU to undergo training Monday at Floyd Bennett Field. "It is not the training, it is the fact that these officers are disregarding any training they might have had, and ignored established rules because they believed there'd be no consequences for their actions," said Barron. "Bloomberg has to get these cops under control; they are acting like independent operatives with a callous disregard for the lives of the people they are supposed to protect and serve." Retired Detective Marq Claxton told the AmNews, "The NYPD's current response model is outdated, antiquated and proven ineffective. Merely offering a 'refresher course' to police officers will do nothing more than reinforce bad habits and camouflage bad policy. "The NYPD cannot rely on statistics and ignore the obvious danger that exists. From Eleanor Bumpers to Gideon Busch to Khiel Coppin and now Inman Morales, the NYPD response to emotionally disturbed persons has been proven fatally flawed. Other police agencies across the nation including Memphis and Houston have instituted Crisis Intervention Teams and it has been proven effective. It's time for the NYPD to come into the 21st century.