Monday, June 15, 2009

Tazing Great Grandma

I'm a little late to the party on this one, but a Travis County Constable's deputy made headlines by tazing a 72-year old great grandmother last month after she dared him to - essentially for non-compliance. A flurry of media attention accompanied the release last week of the dashcam video. According to KEYE-TV:
Deputy Chris Bieze pulled over Kathryn Winkfein on May 11th at 2pm for speeding on Highway 71 and Bee Cave, but the Great-grandma refused to sign the ticket.

"Take me to jail, go on and take me to jail," she yelled at Deputy Bieze.

Winkfein got out of the truck and walked close to the line separating the shoulder from the traffic zipping by.

"Give me the (expletive) thing, and I'll sign it," she yelled about the ticket.

Then came the push.

"You're going to shove a 72-year-old woman," Winkfein screamed?

Sgt. Major Gary Griffin said Bieze moved Winkfein to prevent her from stepping out onto the busy and dangerous stretch of highway.

"He didn't push her into a ditch tumbling down like a rock, he moved her," he told CBS 42’s Katherine Stolp.

After Bieze repeatedly told Winkfein to step back or get tased, the 72 year old dared him to do it.

"He told her nine times, nine times,” Sgt. Major Griffin exclaimed.

“Go ahead tase me," Winkfein told Bieze. "I dare you."

So, he did. Sgt. Major Griffin admitted to us his Deputy could have handled the situation better.
The deputy's boss said the tazing followed departmental policy, but if so their policy is flawed. The deputy could have simply arrested the woman, there was no need to fire the taser. As it turns out, the same deputy is the person responsible for training everyone in his department on taser use!

Maybe deputy constables shouldn't be out making routine traffic stops if the folks training them think using force under such circumstances is okay. The Travis County Sheriff has the same use of force policy, according to KEYE, but Sheriff Greg Hamilton publicly criticized the deputy constable and said the use of force was unacceptable. (I'll see if I can't lay my hands on a copy of the policy and follow up.)

The Department of Justice earlier this year criticized the Austin PD's failure to provide good supervision and training on using tasers and other intermediate-range weapons, and this incident makes me think that shortcoming may be more widespread than just at APD.

55 comments:

Anonymous said...

I say Tazer her! She will remember it next time.

Anonymous said...

Constables should not be making traffic stops or even possessing a Taser. In general, they have a low level of professionalism and are the cast-offs of more professional police departments. Texas needs to abolish the office of Constable. Or limit them to serving civil papers.

Don Dickson said...

DPS has plans to replace Troopers' telescoping batons with Tasers in the near future. The batons have proven to be very ineffective particularly when dealing with subjects who are under the influence of drugs. The Taser will momentarily incapacitate virtually anyone.

But Tasers should not need to be used on every noncompliant subject. And they are not always completely harmless.

Roy said...

The 'safety' excuse the cop gave was a lie. She was safe behind the wheel. From that place of safety, the cop made her get out onto the roadway, putting her at risk of getting hit by a car. When he pushed her, he put her at risk for breaking her hip in a fall. Then he tasered her and she of course fell, again risking breaking a hip.

The cop should be prosecuted for aggravated battery and torture.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Don, there's an element of mission creep in switching to Tasers because officers will use them in situations (like this one) where a baton could never be justified. (Think of the outrage if the deputy took a baton out and walloped her!)

Tasers were pitched initially as a "non-lethal alternative" to firearms, but in practice they're used a lot more widely than that. Now we're to the point where nearly every agency using them authorizes their deployment for routine non-compliance, as in this case, which has many benefits for the officer, certainly, but the choice of technology also has the de facto effect of escalating the number of times force is used.

Anonymous said...

Although she should have been cited for the non-compliance, and thus arrested for her own safety it would seem, tazing someone for something non-violent should have some criminality to it. The constable needs to be charged with assault on the woman and stripped of his job. If granny had a pacemaker or a defib in her chest they would have buried her after that incident...

Anonymous said...

If he wouldn't be justified in using another intermediate force weapon, then the use of the Taser was inappropriate. As you stated, what would reaction have been if he had used a baton on her? That says it all.

Obviously, what should have happened is a laying on of hands to control the woman and then a set of cuffs.

Anonymous said...

From the video, it appears that he did try to cuff her before the taser but she struck out at him and (as I recall) got them closer to traffic

Anonymous said...

More of this coming, not less. We are over the tipping point with police. The probable reaction will be to limit public access to police video.

Informed Citizen said...

FINE ONLY OFFENSE.
I cannot see any justification for what was done. It is absurd to make a criminal charge out of a fine only offense. It is absurd to require a signature. ASK for the signature but let them go if they refuse. There is plenty of identification already established by voice and video.
The 'non-compliance' evident in this case is non compliance with the Law of our Land by a public servant who has a legal and fiduciary duty to both know, and comply, with the law.

T King said...

I'm a little confused. Wasn't the taser supposed to be an alternative to the deadly force of firearms?

If so, what is the justification for using it in a situation where deadly force is not called for?

Anonymous said...

Something comes along on this, if someone is going to make judgement calls on peoples attitudes, they must also take into consideration as to why this women was so aggresive. Diabetics who have high sugar levels and some alzheimer's victims are very agressive. Should never have removed her from the car and also waited on backup.
Taser was not the answer on an elderly person. Just because she was able to get up and go to jail, does not mean she didn't have a stress factor to the hip..I see lawyers lining up for this one.

Anonymous said...

Tasers are "less-lethal" not "non-lethal". They are intended for use as an alternative to "more-lethal" tactics.

In this incident there was no reason for the officer to use physical control tactics - let alone a taser. All he had to do was let her stay in her vehicle, give her the ticket and let her go on her way. The officer in this case chose to escalate the confrontation. Perhaps he was reacting emotionally to Granny's "contempt of cop" attitude. If so, this incident was an assault rather than a justifiable exercise of physical control tactics by an officer.

Boyness said...

Granny had a filthy mouth but she did not deserve this. In this case, the constable had no business using this taser. Aren't constables supposed to be evicting people from there apartments/homes? How did they become police making traffic stops? Aren't most deputy constables political hacks of some idiot who got elected to some obscure office? Just wondering LOL.

Anonymous said...

I love how you bleeding hearts defend the guilty. If "GRANNY" would have complied with the request, we would not be having this topic on the blog. Or been speding in the first place. (Yeah, I know , innocent until proven guilty) before u comment on my comment.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

11:31, Granny and the deputy are each responsible for their own behavior. "She started it" is a whiny child's retort, not an excuse for unjustified assault. Anyway, Granny was tazed and taken to jail, so it's not like she got off lightly. The debate is whether the deputy behaved responsibly.

To 10:48 - Tom King's recollection is correct, just a little dated. I actually met a few years back with the founder of Taser Intl about the question of whether Tasers could kill at a time when the company still claimed they were "non-lethal." After a bunch of people died, they've more recently switched to marketing them as "less lethal," acknowledging that people with pacemakers, heart problems, drugs in their system, etc., may be especially at risk, but that's not how they were originally pitched.

I don't buy 8:55's claim that the deputy tried to cuff her and couldn't. She was half his size, and on the video with a flick of his wrist he flung her 5-6 feet as casually as if he were knocking ashes off a cigarette. He could have put the cuffs on without pulling out the Taser. He just wanted to show her who's boss.

Anonymous said...

@11:31 -- " I love how you bleeding hearts defend the guilty"

Guilty of what, SPEEDING.. so I am sure you have no problem being tazed for speeding the next time right? The 'rights' of the individuals that call themselves law enforcement does not state that you may abuse your authority...

Anonymous said...

I'm quite surprised that Grits readers don't fully support our Government!

Don't you understand that the Government knows best!

Your job when as subject when confronted with government authority is to comply now and grieve latter by hiring a lawyer.

Remember, this constable is exactly the kind of person who is now rerunning Government Motors and will soon be in charge of your health care, if he's not already.

Soronel Haetir said...

I bet most people would prefer the tazing to what fines the court is going to impose. Give the speeder a choice between road-side tazing and fines with cocommintant insurance costs. I bet overall speeding rates would decrease.

Anonymous said...

The deputy behaved responsibly. Had the deputy chose to man handle granny we would still be here discussing how he behaved inappropriately. You have to abide by laws regardless of age. Had the individual been a 26 old black male, that officer would be a racist.

I would hate to be a cop these days!

Anonymous said...

If my grandmother acted like that I would taze her.Just because you or older does not give you the wright to act that way.Now he she has something to tell her grand kids when she goes to see them in TDC or TYC.Hats off to the officer good job.

Anonymous said...

dang Grits, I didn't know you had such a huge following of skinheads, err Police supporters reading ... will have to watch what I say for fear they will pull me over for low tire pressure and taze me!

Anonymous said...

In my view there is no defensible argument that can be made to support the officer's action in this case. He was not at risk injury or death, nor was anyone else at risk of injury or death, and he use a level of force beyond that needed to control Granny.

It might be good for those of you who accept or condone the officer to visit the nearest police academy and review the case with their Use of Force trainers. If can't do that try to get a copy of the Use of Force policies for your local police department. I doubt if you will find language in those policies that would support the officer's use of a taser in this incident.

Don Dickson said...

I like Soronel Haetir's idea: if you're caught speeding, you have a choice between being tazed by the officer right there at roadside, or being issued a citation and fined by the judge. I bet a lot of folks would opt for the jolt!

We could offer the same choice to 2.3 million people with outstanding warrants. Come in, get tazed, walk out free.

I agree with you, Grits - I think we're going to see a lot of officers using Tasers in situations in which they wouldn't dream of using an ASP baton.

It'll keep me busy, I have no doubt of it.

Anonymous said...

I am all for law enforcement and correctional officers being able to protect themselves, but it often steps beyond protection.

From a professional and a personal (although anectodal)standpoint, I can tell you that the inappropriate use of tasers as a means of punishment and entertainment is quite often a symptom of poor management/supervision/culture.

The cases that hit the press are likely only a fraction of the incidents which occur. You can complain all you want to the local and state entities about it, but the only thing that will get their attention are federal civil rights class action lawsuits.

That is the only way to stop it.

Anonymous said...

I heard a radio host say that the woman should have been tased because she "disrespected" the officer and taunted him with, "go ahead and tase me." If she had said, "go ahead and shoot me," then apparently shooting her would have also been justifiable by the radio host.

The officer violated the concept of proper "escalation of force."

Anonymous said...

The cop should be prosecuted for assault and battery, as well as official oppression. What a scumbag.

She had a right to say wahtever she thought. Last I heard, torture was not yet considered the proper response for rudeness.

Anonymous said...

I long for the days when men used to admire feisty women, and say things like they were full of salt and vinegar. Those were civilized times.

Why is it that in cases of police brutality like this so often the pro-cop argument boils down to one should not be disrespectful of a police officer.

In the Dymond Milburn case in Galveston, where a 12 year old child was beaten up by a team of four male officers while standing in her own yard, and then prosecuted for assaulting THEM, that was the prosecution's entire argument against her.

No one could deny she'd been badly beaten, so the cops all got on the stand and said the child said mean things about police officers. In otherwords, she'd disrespected Bull Connor's spiritual brothers, and thus deserved to be beaten to a pulp and traumatized by the legal system. Before the incident she was an honor student. Now, no surprise, her grades are suffering and she has nightmares.

Scary. These aren't men, these are wusses with guns, just as the disgusto who tasered Ms. Winkfein.

Anonymous said...

The problem with using tasers on people under the influence of drugs is that in such a state people are much more likely to die from the taser.

Anonymous said...

Will someone explain this repeated reference to an "offense" of "non-compliance"? What part of the Penal Code are you referring to?

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Non-compliance is not an "offense," it's just the reason he fired the Taser.

Charlie O said...

Cops are cowards. Plain and simple. My father was a cop and was afraid of everything around him. He put a good front and carried a gun EVERYWHERE, long after he retired. He expected Armageddon every day of his life. As I've grown older and examined my father's motivations, the bottom line is that he was a coward. A common thread amongst most in law enforcement.

Jackie Buffalo said...

http://www.jackiebuffalo.com/whitebuffalo/constable.html

I agree that constables should only be allowed to do paper duty. This one was assigned to head the command post at my complex to harass me and my child for years. Out of his league.
Then he would walk around hand in hand by the pool with his girlfriend, smoochie, smoochie.
Seriously, though, he was friends with the mailman and other quasi-cop types. Needless to say, the mailman would hold my out-of-state personal mail and helped engage in the harassment party:
http://www.jackiebuffalo.com/B_June13_06.pdf

Will they taze grandma ?! Absolutely. Take the tazer guns away from the kiddies, please.

Anonymous said...

would you taze your ma! STuPID HUNGRY QUOTA OFFICERS! thats all it is, had to get in a quota. There are many obeying the law now and when one obeys, then what do we need officers for? So officers have to find a way to get them quotas in and will stop anyone and this ma wasnt gonna go for that. SUE THE GUY AND TAKE HIS JOB AWAY. you try to do good and they still have to pick on someone. She didnt want to sign oh well let her go and deal with it at the courthouse. You got the records for that. An officer and ma both ignorant.

Anonymous said...

WHAT A WHIMP! YOU ARE A FREAKING WHIMP AND SURE IS AFRAID OF A LITTLE OLD LADY!! GROW UP MAN ! AND ALL YOU OFFICERS OUT THERE PRAISING THIS ARE WHIMPS. SUE THEIR ASSES

Anonymous said...

Does this mean we now need to fear mailmen?

Anonymous said...

Does anyone know, and I mean really know, with citations to statutes, etc., whether it is legal for non-law enforcement to carry the kind of tazers used by law enforcement?

Anonymous said...

anon 1:47

Thinking of becoming a mailman?

Anonymous said...

1:47

You can go to www.taser.org/laws.html and find a nifty chart that tells you the taser laws of every state. It is the website of a seller that keeps up with it. Looks as though Texas does not classify it as a deadly weapon, so it is legal and no need for a license. Of course if you used it - assault.

I had an unnanounced visit from a uniformed worker a few years ago at my place of business and he was packin' - pistol on one hip, taser on the other. I thought he was there to serve a warrant on an employee and I looked at the patch on his shirt and it said "Fire Department". He wanted to do an inspection, which scared me x 2. He pointed out a couple of things with extension cords and informed of some new BS laws (but that's another topic) that totalled to about $4000. and he left. I called the Fire Department Chief and he told me they were licensed peace officers and sometimes they interview arsonists and murderers. I told him I thought it was unlikely he would interview an arsonist or murderer during a routine inspection and I thought it was very, very inappropriate.

Are the mailmen next? They deliver mail to arsonists and murderers, don't they?

x4livin said...

Ok, as a nurse..you're granny here becomes "non-compliant" and is risking her own health by getting out of bed on unsteady legs..she has her mind..if I put granny in bed and make her stay there with restraints..chemical or physical...I will get the holy hell sued out of me. That is false imprisonment..so we're arguing that a cop(the right hand of God?) was in the right (not to mention cannot be sued) for forcing granny to do what was safe for her. She had her mind..she can step in front of a car if she wants...that's not his choice. If he decides to cite her for causing a safety risk to the passers by..arrest her. "You have the right to remain silent....." Not "get out of the road..etc" He was just being a bully because she was an obstinate old woman and irritated the crap out of him, so instead of being respectful, he was childish. If I ever decide to do this as a nurse...I'm not fit for my job.

Anonymous said...

Agreed x4livin

Those of us that don't happen to reside in the law enforcement world seem to exist with other people on the planet using only our wits, respect, and hopefully our sense of humor.

Somehow we manage. And even though sometimes we don't always get our way, we have neither the option or the inclination to shoot volts of electricity in the other person to force them to see things our way.

Imagine that.

Some might call it soft on crime. I just call it reasonable, civilized, and somehow sane.

Call me a liberal. I'll plead guilty. But only after you zap me a few times with a taser!

doran said...

The Next Big Thing:

Civilians tazering each other. And.....wait for it....

Civilians tazering law enforcement.

One of the Anons up there correctly points out that if you use a tazer on someone, it is an assault. You may have a defense -- protection of self or property, for instance -- but it is an assault.

So why isn't this Constable being charged with assault? He had no reason at all to use his tazer on Granny. It was an assault, pure and simple, not justified by any legitimate defensive theory.

Anonymous said...

TASERS FOR ALL!

Anonymous said...

Granny is lucky. She only got zapped once.

I know a 19 year old that bears 8 scars on his chest from a taser "party". Yes, he broke the law. Yes, he was under the influence of drugs. What did he do or say to prompt it? I don't know, I wasn't there. What does he remember? Not much, except being handcuffed behind his back on the ground with 4-5 officers standing over him.

No charges filed except a property crime. No assault of an officer. No resisting arrest. No injuries other than the eight scars from the taser.

He was unwilling to file a complaint or anything else out of fear of retaliation on his case and not wanting publicity. And his mother, who is Jewish of all things and even mentioned they could have killed him said, "He should not have broken the law".

How quickly some forget.

Anonymous said...

Granny might be the oldest person ever tazed.

Anonymous said...

I suppose we could give out awards:

Oldest
Youngest
Most times
Least serious crime (excuse me, reason)
Most serious spot

Anonymous said...

Well, I hate to tell you that the constable would indeed call on some of his fire department friends. It was a man with a firefighter emblem on his car that drove up to me one morning as I was walking to the store and this man was only driving in his boxers, ready to pull up and ask me for "directions to I30" as he began to masterbate. This is not a joke. This was sexual harassment. He wasn't at all concerned when I asked him about the Rowlett firefighters emblem on his windshield, didn't miss a beat.
So instead of calling the NEDiv of DPD, where I would be expected to call, where I imagine his buds were, I contacted Chief Wallings. Chief Wallings put me in touch with Lt. Nabors. I don't know what Lt. Nabors did but after that the firefighters left me pretty much alone.
I haven't been able to file formal complaints against this firefighter or the mailman. It was after I went to the postoffice and complained to his superior that he started to follow me in his personal vehicle (where photo was taken). Any attempts at filing complaints were met with more of the same.

Jackie Buffalo said...

Excuse me, I didn't mean to post the above as 'anonymous'.
I will put my name to my comments.

Anonymous said...

It never ceases to amaze me how people tend to de-humanize police officers.

I mean, in August 7th 2002 a Texas State Trooper (for those who understand that police are human his name was Randy Vetter) was killed by a (you guessed it!) a 72 year old man (his name is Melvin Hale).

Melvin just got out of his car with a rifle and shot Randy to death.

Lets face reality, because Randy Vetter did. Anyone can kill a police officer because police officers are human beings. They are not punching bags, movie stars, or kung fu masters.

I heard many people who have never been in law enforcement in this blog complain that the deputy constable should have done something differently.

Or that he should not have made a traffic stop because he was a constable (you know, a fully licensed peace officer recognized by our Texas constitution).

I mean WHO does that constable think HE is? When he saw that she was old he should have let her back him into traffic....

I know, most of the folks on this blog have some sort of fairy tale in their heads about what police work is.

Hell if the police have to lay hands on a combative or uncooperative citizen they should be fired or charged with assault.

If the police are faced with a fleeing suspect they shouldn't use a TAZER, the should use Bruce Lee/Jackie Chan moves that we are ALL taught in the police academy (but without hurting the suspect).

Lord knows that attempting handcuff the combative 72 year old woman wouldn't have resulted in any injury for her. Perhaps the constable could have used wrist locks, arm bars, or a finger hold (you know, when you bend someone's finger back until it is excruciatingly painful)? That would have never resulted in ANY injury for the elderly woman.

Hey, give me a break. Everyone gets tickets, even me. You sign the ticket and fight it in court if you don't believe the cop was fair.

Or you refuse to sign the ticket and tell the cop you are not going to jail. Then you get a resisting arrest charge in addition to the citation.

The constable did not do anything wrong because the "granny" backed him into a corner and forced him to make the least damaging choice. Then she lied about it on national television. She even requested that a TAZER be used on her. That constable should be on Aladdin because he grants wishes.

You have some strange followers Grits, from people who hate the mail service to the fire department. One could understand why non-law abiding citizens would not like the police but this goes to the extreme.

We even have a nurse that believes that police officers should abide by the same rules as nurses. Maybe the police officers should have given granny a sedative....

Common sense (please) cop

Anonymous said...

So, common sense cop, give us your take on the post about the 19 year old Jewish kid with 8 burns on his chest.

Anonymous said...

Don't do drugs and fight with cops.

What the hell does Jewish have to do with anything?

Common sense cop

Anonymous said...

OK. I see what is going on here. Never mind.

Anonymous said...

Huh?

Anonymous said...

"You have some strange followers Grits, from people who hate the mail service to the fire department. One could understand why non-law abiding citizens would not like the police but this goes to the extreme."

What? When they gave you a badge do they require you to relinquish your sense of humor in the process?

But now that we are on the subject I really don't want my mailman packing a taser to deliver mail - You got a problem with that? Or does that make me a mailman hater too?

And the only thing that I think the nurse was pointing out was although he was a law enforcement officer, he might have acted more like a gentleman in the circumstance. Given the 72 year old woman a bit more respect instead of shooting her with a taser. I do not see anything wrong with that.

If you get cop/constable/fireman/mailman hater or lack of respect person for any of those mentioned above out of the comments I have made, you have got a serious chip on your shoulder.

Anonymous said...

12:24 & 2:07 and following,

If you read between the lines, there are a couple of posters on this thread who, as 2:07 pointed out, are missing a chip. But it is not from the shoulder area - a little higher. Catch my drift?