Friday, March 25, 2005

Newsbrief: Michigan Nightclub Rave Raid Nets 118, Many Charged Only with Frequenting a "Drug House" - WWW.STOPTHEDRUGWAR.ORG details the Flint, MI rave raid. The articles references the 2002 Racine, WI, were I assisted in securing dismissal for all attendees.

Newsbrief: Michigan Nightclub Rave Raid Nets 118, Many Charged Only with Frequenting a "Drug House" 3/25/05

Dozens of Michigan police raided the Flint nightspot Club What's Next late Saturday night, arresting 118 club goers. Of those arrests, only 17 were for felony drug charges, the Flint Journal reported, while the rest were charged with misdemeanor drug possession or "frequenting a drug house." No breakdown of the numbers arrested on the latter charges was available.

Police said they raided the club after undercover officers made multiple drug purchases on the premises that evening. (Later reports clarified that the "multiple" drug purchases were actually a total of three.) They said they seized GHB, ketamine, Ecstasy, LSD, and psilocybin mushrooms, along with marijuana, cocaine, and "rave paraphernalia." They also seized some $3,500 in cash, according to Flint Police Lt. Phil Smith. Some 60 police from the Flint Special Operations Bureau, the Crime Area Target Team, the Flint Area Narcotics Group, and the Genesee County Sheriff's Posse participated in the raid.

The mass arrests of innocent club goers would appear to parallel the Racine, Wisconsin, rave bust of November 2003. In that incident, Racine police arrested more than 400 club goers, charged them with "inhabiting a disorderly house" and sought whopping $968 fines. But in the face of outrage from ravers and civil libertarians alike, the city ended up dropping all charges a few weeks later in return for a pledge from the Wisconsin ACLU not to sue.

No word yet on whether the Flint 118 will similarly go on the offensive against overreaching law enforcement. Stay tuned.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Residents Don't Believe Taser Guns Are Safe - CHANNEL3000.COM

Chief Wray May Use Community Input To Change Department's Taser Policy

POSTED: 11:37 am CST March 3, 2005
UPDATED: 12:32 pm CST March 3, 2005

MADISON, Wis. -- About 90 people attended a Madison police forum Wednesday to learn about the department's use of Taser gun weapons.

Of those who spoke, a few supported the use of Taser guns, but most were against officers using Taser guns, News 3 reported.

Police compared Taser guns, which they say cause no pain or injury to be effective, to other non-deadly maneuvers such as using a baton or physical force to take control of a situation.

"These are sound devices for use in our tactics," said Public Information Officer Larry Kamholz. "We can use them to prevent someone from being injured or killed."

Taser gun safety and usage have come under scrutiny after some are pointing fingers at Taser guns for causing the death of close to 100 people nationwide.

Resident John Peck said, "It's a misnomer to call these non-lethal weapons -- people have been killed by these things."

Residents are also raising concern after a January incident, where an officer shot a 14-year-old Memorial High School boy with a Taser gun in the school parking lot.

A recent Madison police report says since the summer of 2003 officers have shocked 83 people, and it's been effective 77 percent of the time. Some of those in attendance at Wednesday's meeting said that percentage is worth the benefits a Taser gun can bring, while others said they need more information.

Bill Keys, who is president of the Madison Metropolitan School Board, said he supports the department's use of Taser guns.

"I would like them to have all the possible resources for them to use while enforcing a safe city," Keyes said.

Resident Erik Guenther said he wants to see studies on Taser guns for people with health problems.

"There is no research right now that deals with individuals, who have heart conditions, who are on prescription drugs, or for pregnant women," Guenther said.

Chief Noble Wray plans to use the information gained from the public to possibly change and make improvements to the current policy on the use of Taser guns.

The Madison Police Department will be holding more community forums on the use of Taser guns next week.

Public Has Its Say On Tasers - WISCONSIN STATE JOURNAL

Trust, Safety Common Themes At Forum; Many Police Officers Attend
Wisconsin State Journal :: FRONT :: A1
Thursday, March 3, 2005
Lisa Schuetz Wisconsin State Journal
The dozen or so people who commented at Wednesday night's public forum on Tasers did so in a room populated largely by the very people who support their use -- police officers and the stun-gun maker's president.

Still, the majority of the private citizens who spoke asked the Madison Police Department to change its policy on using Tasers.

The change is necessary, they said, not just because of potential injuries, but the potential for degrading trust and dialogue between police and the community.

Police Chief Noble Wray set up the meeting after complaints arose due to a January incident in which a school police officer used a Taser to stop a 14-year-old from fleeing during his arrest at Memorial High School. Many thought the use of force too severe for a juvenile.

Tasers have created controversy nationwide, said former Madison police officer Michael Scott, an assistant professor at the UW-Madison Law School and moderator for the nearly three-hour forum at Monona Terrace.

"We understand that for the police to carry out the duties that we as a society have set out for them, some use of force is inevitable," he said. "... But that does not mean that police alone decide how much and what type of force is appropriate. We citizens have a rightful say in that. We have exercised that right in the past and are doing so again here tonight."

Officer Eric Anderson gave the 65 or so attendees -- many who were police officers in their street clothes -- a demonstration on the types of force police use. Lt. Vic Wahl, in charge of the department's Taser program and author of a recent report on the subject, gave a tutorial on Tasers.

Tom Smith, president and co-founder of Taser International, spoke during the public comment period. He said Tasers are safe and have reduced the number of police-related deaths and injuries nationwide.

UW-Madison electrical engineering professor emeritus Theodore Bernstein was the only community member to speak in favor of Tasers.

He studied stun guns in the 1980s and wanted to elaborate on the science of Tasers.

Volts measure an electrical charge's push, he explained. The 50,000 volts the Taser uses are just enough to arc it through clothing. It is amperes that determine the danger of electricity, he said.

And in Tasers, while there's a good charge in the 2-ampere jolt, its short duration won't do serious damage, much less kill someone, Bernstein said.

Others were more concerned about the potential for officers to abuse a tool that allows them to quickly gain a suspect's compliance.

"I think we are in an arms race," said one speaker, saying officers are getting more high-powered guns and other tools, even as violent crime rates decline.

Erik Guenther, an attorney and vice president of the American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin, said Tasers should be used later rather than sooner in confrontations, especially those that don't include weapons.

The ACLU has said Tasers have a place in policing. But until independent medical studies have been completed -- a study cited by Wahl from a medical journal had two Taser International employees on the team -- they should be used with care.

Derrick Smith, father of a Memorial senior, spoke of his disgust in watching the nonuniformed officers snickering in the back of the room during some anti-Taser speakers' comments.

In his mind, it pointed to the real problem behind the use of Tasers -- the lack of trust between the public and the police.

"How can we get back that trust?" he asked. "After that Tasing incident in the schools, how can we get back that trust?"

Wray, with his department captains and assistant chiefs in the front row, told the audience that the input given at the meeting -- as well as comments forwarded to his office, from a March 8 Public Safety and Review Board meeting, and from city officials -- will be considered when reviewing the department's Taser use.

* On the Web: The Madison Police Department's report on Tasers is available at

Taser Talk: MPD Host Public Forum on Tasers - MADISON NBC 15 NEWS

Madison, WI
Updated: 5:21 AM Mar 3, 2005
Leigh Mills

Madison police put their taser use in the public eye Wednesday night.

Locally and nationwide, taser's safety and usage have come under scrutiny.

About 85 people gathered at the Monona Terrace Wednesday night to learn about the Madison Police Department's use of tasers and then express their concerns.

The department demonstrated how the use of physical force isn't always as effective as a taser.

Officer Mike Hanson says, "The police department really feels this is a great tool because it saves lives, it can save injury to officers and suspects. And use of force with a taser can now be deployed several feet away as before officers would have to go hands on."

In several videos, the department showed how officers have acted in real-life situations with tasers and without them.

"I believe we will be successful as a community and a department if number one we don't overreact," says Madison Chief of Police, Noble Wray.

Some are pointing fingers at tasers for causing the death of close to 100 people nationwide.

Wednesday night people spoke out from both sides of the fence.

"The ACLU's position is that this should be just below deadly force," says Erik Guenther of the Wisconsin ACLU, "Because there is a lack right now of independent peer–reviewed research."

Tom Smith, President of Taser International, says, "I also think it's a complete mistake for officers to have or for the ACLU to say this should be up at the level of a firearm, you don't take a taser to a gun fight."

But their presentation didn't convince Alder Andy Heidt that tasers should be allowed in Madison. He referred to the statistics in a recently released city taser report.

"In 59% of cases where they [tasers] were used only a misdemeanor was charged," says Heidt, "And in only 9 out of 90 cases were weapons involved so I think the police department has to seriously review their policies on use of taser."

Heidt introduced a resolution asking the department to suspend its use of tasers until better safety studies are conducted. That is currently in the hands of the Public Safety Review Board.