Sarah Graham has been accused of no crime, and the Naples News found no record of criminal history. She was stopped by a deputy-in-training and he asked to search her. When she responded that she knew her rights and declined to search, the deputy didn’t take it very well. She alleges that she started to leave and he proceeded to Tase her until she collapsed to the ground, and that he tased her again while she lay on the ground convulsing. The deputy, Brian Gardner, was subsequently reprimanded for improper use of non-deadly force, and reassigned from road training to the corrections department.
First, Ms. Graham is absolutely correct. She has a right to decline being searched. While a deputy may engage in a consensual encounter if he has no reasonable suspicion of a crime going on, the key word is consensual. He can only talk to someone as long as they consent to continue the encounter. They have a right to walk away, and he has a duty to let them go. Cops frequently don’t understand this. The report indicates he was reprimanded for his use of force. Secondly, he should also have been reprimanded for the illegal detention that he attempted. Ms. Graham has a strong suit against the department and Mr. Gardner, though I don’t know if her injuries warrant the maximum, which she is requesting.
A friend who was formerly in law enforcement feels that tasers can be the worst tool available to police. Where high restraint must be used before an officer is justified in using a firearm (deadly force), a much lower bar can be used to argue justification for a taser. That leads to officers overusing the taser, and freqently, as there are often no consequences. I applaud Ms. Graham for seeking to impose consequences for this dereliction of duty.
This lawsuit comes right on the heels of another lawsuit that was just settled by LCSO. They paid a “substantial” unnamed settlement to the family of Nicholas Christie, who was pepper sprayed to death while restrained to a chair in the Lee County Jail. Sheriff Mike Scott indicated that money will be paid by insurance. Both these cases represent substantial legal expenses that find their was from our tax dollars, either through legal fees, insurance premiums, or costly payouts. Both represent failures in training and restraint by the deputies sworn to protect us. Also see the story from a few days ago about the Collier deputy who punched a guy after he surrendered.
UPDATE: Settlement is for 4 million dollars. See link in the comments…