In November 2006, police had an altercation in California. During the altercation with a student who refused to produce an ID card, the suspect was tasered several times. But in addition to this, a bystander who asked the policeman for his badge number, and the policeman threatened to use his taser on the student.

The ACLU protested, correctly,

“The Taser can be incredibly violent and result in death,” Eliasberg said. According to an ACLU report, 148 people in the United States and Canada have died as a result of the use of Tasers since 1999…..
Such a threat of the use of force by a law enforcement officer in response to a request for a badge number is an “illegal assault,” Eliasberg said.

Despite the possibility of racial profiling, and the fact that the student did not attack the police, but merely “went limp”,  an internal investigation found  no problems, even though the officer involved had been involved in other questionable incidents in his past career, yet he was not fired or relieved of duty after this incident.

I am noting the UCLA case because it brings up a delicate question in civil society: police brutality.

Usually, when there is an altercation between a suspect and a policeman, the policeman is given the benefit of the doubt by the police review board, and often by the public.

But the problem is that every profession has some bad apples. There are police who threaten people and get away with it. As a doctor, believe me, you hesitate before you accuse a cop of child or spousal abuse. One reason is that often you know the guy; a second reason is that accusations against husbands and ex husbands are common, but sometimes the threats are exaggerated or pure lies. But the final reason we hesitate is that cops care for their own. And they have many ways to “pay back”.

So as a doctor who has worked with abused women, I am wondering why the progressive community is up in arms about Sarah Palin’s  “troopergate”, where a state policeman in the midst of a divorce settlement made verbal threats of violence against the wife’s family.

Not knowing details of the law, nor what happened, the thing that amazed me about the case is that this guy still has his job.

The  trooper involved claims that he never threatened anyone, but several family members say differently. It’s not “he said she said”, it’s “he said versus she, her father, and several family members”.

From an article about complaints in Palin’s emails:

In the e-mail sent a few weeks later, Palin encouraged Monegan to testify for a bill that would require 99-year sentences for police officers found guilty of murder. “For police officers to violate the public trust is a grave, grave violation — in my opinion. We have too many examples lately of cops and troopers who violate the public trust DPS has come across as merely turning a blind eye or protecting that officer, seemingly ‘for the good of the brotherhood’.”…..

…“He threatened to kill his estranged wife’s parent, refused to be transferred to rural Alaska and continued to disparage Natives in words and tone, he continues to harass and intimidate his ex. — even after being slapped with a restraining order that was lifted when his supervisors intervened,” the e-mail said. “He threatens to always be able to come out on top because he’s ‘got the badge’…”

Palin wrote that the Wooten matter had contributed to “the erosion of faith Alaskans should have in their law enforcement officials.”

As for Wotten’s punishment:

When Palin entered the governor’s office in late 2006, Wooten already had been reprimanded, reassigned and suspended for five days for incidents reported by Palin’s family.

But of course, the accusation of Wooten’s ex wife and family for harassment and death threats are not the only irregularities in the officer’s past.

He also admitted that he tasered his son. From CNN:

In 2006, state investigators found Wooten guilty of “a significant pattern of judgment failures,” including using a Taser on his 10-year-old stepson and drinking beer while operating a state trooper vehicle. Wooten was suspended for 10 days as “a last chance to take corrective action.”

Speaking Thursday to CNN’s Drew Griffin and Kathleen Johnston, Wooten gave his account of the Taser incident but denied ever drinking while driving.

He said that he was a new Taser instructor, and his stepson was asking him about the equipment. “I didn’t shoot him with live, you know, actual live cartridge,”

Well, let’s ignore the rumors that the taser was used to punish the kid, and say that the incident was “poor judgement”. Would a few days suspension be a typical punishment?

In January 2007, a policeman in Broomfield Colorado was charged with child abuse resulting in serious bodily injury due to criminal negligence when he accidentally tasered a child while demonstrating how to use a taser.

The prosecution said that the charge would be a class 4 felony.

But if it was deliberate, the charges could be higher. From WSOC news, Monroe NC:

30-year-old Donald Ricci was arrested for felony child abuse. Police said he shocked his son on the buttocks, back, and chest late last year.

So in the Wooten case, we have a person who “used poor judgement” in the taser incident, a felony, and who was given a slap on the wrist for his actions.

And the “bad guy” is the governor’s family, who was on the receiving end of threats that they took seriously?

I am ashamed that the usual progressive and feminists who usually defend the victim are turning on Palin in this case.

In any case, it’s bad politics.

Those pushing the “bad governor” meme have to remember that lots of women have been on the receiving end of similar threats, and that they might actually back Palin in this case.

Of course, I do have one suggestion for the press.

Wooten has been married four times.Wife abusers tend to repeat their behavior.

Why doesn’t the press look up some of his ex wives and ask them if they had ever been threatened, or if they had divorced this gentleman for verbal or physical abuse.

If all three say no, I’ll apologize to Officer Wooten.

The Palin emails also accuse him of harassing Native Americans.

Has anyone asked the local Native American community if they have had run ins with Officer Wooten?

I have worked in the Indian Health Service, and we all  knew which cops in certain towns would stop you for “driving while Indian”, which restaurants would “lose” your order for a meal, and which doctor would make disparaging remarks about Indians. So what do the locals say about Wooten and the other local cops.

If Trooper Wooten is a serial wife abuser, and openly prejudiced against minorities, and the head of the department covered up for him, then maybe the governor was correct in figuring out how to fire him for “budgetary reasons”.

It shouldn’t take too long for a good reporter to dig up the dirt on police corruption in this case…


Nancy Reyes is a retired physician living in the rural Philippines. She writes about civil rights in Africa at Makaipa blog.

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