UCLA Taser Incident Just Keeps Getting Worse

kerckhoff.jpg The LA Times and Daily Bruin reported yesterday that the names of the UCPD officers involved in last Tuesday’s infamous taser incident have been released. It may not be a surprise to anyone following this past week’s events that the cop who shocked UCLA student Mostafa Tabatainejad has a shady record.

According to the Times, Terrence Duren, has been a UCPD officer since the late 1980s and was charged with excessive force soon after.

In May 1990, he was accused of using his nightstick to choke someone who was hanging out on a Saturday in front of a UCLA fraternity. Kente S. Scott alleged that Duren confronted him while he was walking on the street outside the Theta Xi fraternity house.

Scott sued the university, and according to court records, UCLA officials moved to have Duren dismissed from the police force. But after an independent administrative hearing, officials overturned the dismissal, suspending him for 90 days.

A second incident involving Duren occurred much more recently. I remember it vividly since at the time I was working in Kerckhoff Hall, home to student government, publications and students groups. The Daily Bruin covered the incident and the ensuing trial in detail (Frazier released from hospital, After near dismissal, Frazier heads to trial, Frazier opts to represent himself, Frazier’s mental state questioned):

Police say UCPD Officer Terrence Duren confronted Willie Davis Frazier, Jr. in the Kerckhoff Hall second floor study lounge on Oct. 5 [2003]. A physical confrontation ensued and Duren, reportedly in fear for his life, shot Frazier (link).

Frazier was later convicted of assault, but his attorney contends that he was “mentally ill and didn’t do anything to provoke the shooting” (LAT).

I wonder if the outcome of that case would have been different if a student had captured the incident on that Sunday night 3 years ago on his camera phone. Would Duren still be around? Maybe, maybe not. I hope this time administrators don’t second guess themselves and do more than just suspend him for 90 days.

Post updated with more information on Duren’s past, after the jump.

UPDATE
The LA Times reported in yesterday’s story (see link above) that Duren was fired from the Long Beach Police Department in the late ’80s. A contact in the LBPD claimed that Duren never worked thera and offered this summary of Duren’s career.

“A Southern California native, Duren became a police officer nearly 20 years ago after serving in the Marine Corps immediately after high school.

He joined the UCLA police department in 1988, and, at the time a member of the Marine reserves, was called to action in 1991 and served seven months during Operation Desert Storm – the U.S. military operation in Kuwait.

In 2001, Duren, a husband of 19 years and father of two, was named UCLA’s Officer of the Year.

The award is based on the three categories: performance of duties, contributions to the department and a commitment to the goals of community-oriented policing, said UCPD operations lieutenant Manny Garza.

“My support of his recognition as Officer of the Year speaks volumes. He does a very good job for us,” Garza said.”

15 Replies to “UCLA Taser Incident Just Keeps Getting Worse”

  1. ” contact in the LBPD claimed that Duren never worked thera and offered this summary of Duren’s career.”

    Why would LBPD have Duren’s bio? Something is wrong with your report.

  2. Your conclusion that the OFFICER was the problem is insane. Based on one incident of excessive force 16 years ago, you interpret the other incidents in the worst possible light for the officer, then extrapolate again to conclude that he used excessive force in this case.

    From my viewing of the video, I hear the protestor being hysterical and out of control before any tasering, and I hear very little emotional intensity from the officers. They repeatedly gave him orders, and he repeatedly and profanely refused to comply. When they tried to escort him, he refused to cooperate. How long are they supposed to put up with this kind of self-indulgent nonsense?

    Why is there no mention of the obligation we have to obey a legal order from a peace officer? It was the “protester” who drove the confrontation. He was told to stand up at lest 20 times and refused to comply. He cursed at the officers, insulted them, caused a disturbance in a LIBRARY, and refused to leave when asked, over and over again.

    Yet you assert that the POLICE were unreasonable?

    I think you have this one wrong.

  3. Paul,
    That’s what the trusted contact sent us. Just putting out another opinion.

    Tomjedrz,
    Yes, I do believe that the police were wrong to repeatedly shock a student who did not pose any threat. The crime of refusing to show ID and leave when asked does not merit the punishment of 5 shocks. If that makes me wrong, oh well.

    I suggest reading an eyewitness account of the incident by the student who asked for a badge number and was then threatened.

  4. Cindylu wrote ..
    “Yes, I do believe that the police were wrong to repeatedly shock a student who did not pose any threat. The crime of refusing to show ID and leave when asked does not merit the punishment of 5 shocks. If that makes me wrong, oh well.”

    One is obliged to follow police orders. It is the law. We don’t have the right to decide whether or not to obey. They asked him for ID. He refused. They asked him to leave. He refused. They attempted to escort him out. He refused, flailed around and screamed, and fell to the ground. When they tried to cuff him and drag him off, he continued to flail and resist. So they used the taser.

    How else are the police supposed to get a person to comply? Are they supposed to take as much time as the person wants, and negotiate the conditions under which he is to be led away?

    The guy behaved like 5 year old whose mom won’t buy him candy at the grocery store, and was treated appropriately. Since he did not respond to verbal direction, he received non-verbal direction.

    It isn’t about whether he was a threat or not, it is about whether he obeyed police commands or not. The taser was not a punishment, it was an inducement to comply. Police are allowed to use force to obtain compliance. 5 shots was the correct number, because it was the number required to obtain compliance.

    As an aside … do the students (including the eyewitness you who cite) who were interfering think they were helping the situation? In all likelihood they increased the officers perceived urgency and so reduced their willingness to wait the guy out.

  5. If you would have actually read the initial report of the incident you would have read that he was *ALREADY* handcuffed/subdued PRIOR to the Tasering.

  6. “It isn’t about whether he was a threat or not, it is about whether he obeyed police commands or not.”
    It is completely about whether he was a threat and a person, handcuffed and on their knees surrounded by officers, is not a threat. Which means that you want the officers to be able to use this painful and sometimes lethal device to ensure compliance.
    “One is obliged to follow police orders” and “The taser was not a punishment, it was an inducement to comply. Police are allowed to use force to obtain compliance”
    You could use the same logic for using a beat stick across the knees. To my knowledge, officers aren’t allowed to use their batons for beating suspects into compliance. Like any police weapon, such as tasers, stun guns, pistols, it is to be used for defense only.
    “How else are the police supposed to get a person to comply?”
    I’m certain there are plenty of situations where compliance was forced simply by the use of manpower. Heck, on COPS I’ve seen it. They know how to handle suspects within the law. It can be done. Tasers are too ubiquitous and it seems way too easy to dismiss accountability for their use. It makes them too easy to use, and too easy to forget why we need them in the first place.

  7. A 3 to 5 second tase can result in an inability to stand up for 5 to 15 minutes. Perhaps he could not “STAND UP”. In any case, if he is handcuffed it doesn’t seem to me to be that hard to drag a person across a tiled floor. Maybe dragging him across the floor and down a set of stairs would have convinced him that he needed to walk the rest of the way out. Tasing him sure didn’t work.

  8. I served with Duren during the Gulf war. One thing I can tell you about him is that he had a mean stroke to him and did not forgive. If he set his mind on hurting someone he was going to do it. I did not like him then and still do not respect him now. As a leader he showed poor leadership skills and had integrity issues. I am not surprised by this account. What I am surprised by is that after all the incidents he has had, he is till serving to protect. After this incident that is actually an oxymoron term for him (to protect). He needed help then and I see he still needs help now. Every dog has his day. Let’s hope someone wakes up at UCLA and sees that Duren is a liability and not an asset to the faculty, students, and the department he works in. I read the piece that he recieved police of the of the year in 2001. You figure if he started there in 1980 after 21 years of service someone felt bad for him.

  9. Sick fuck… and yes i saw the video and read his background. This is torture and I hope he serves time. At the very least I hope he has a multi-million dolla judgment against him, which means he will spend the rest of his assets making up for his foul missjudgements. The student was a jerk but this guy is a sadist. UCLA doesnt need any people as sick adn with an extensive past of abuse. FIRE HIM NOW!

  10. Rosa Parks wasn’t compliant either. If they had tasers back then, should they have tased her five times too for refusing to move to the back of the bus?

    Not saying that the student’s protest was correct. I personally think he was being a self-righteous idiot. Only that it is unnecessary to taser someone in passive resistance. Even the LAPD’s official policy is to taser people only when they’re a physical threat.

    And yeah, the cops should have either waited for him to get up and leave at his own pace, or lifted him up and carried him out (there were 4 of them). I don’t want cops using force on people just because they’re feeling impatient. What if they were dealing with a hysterical suicidal jumper instead? “Get down from that ledge right now or I’ll tase you”? Come on.

  11. Mostafa Tabatabainejad is Bipolar. He has no respect for authority and believes he does not have to abide by any rules. He did not deserve being tasered five times, but i do not think he should get anything out of this.

  12. I agree and disagree with many of the views presented above. The fact is that we do not have all of the details involving this incident.

    I watched the video and was not suprised. In my opinion, police brutality is rampant and must be controlled. Having the authority to enforce the law is a privilege. With that said, officers have NO rights to abuse that privilege.

    I could get into a full-length discussion on police culture, brutality, agression and the use of non-lethal weapons but that would take up too much time.

    Although the taser is used in an attempt to gain compliance, it can cause heart failure/damage.In addition, the taser can temporarily paralyze the muscles as well as shut-down the nervous system. Well maybe this is why the individual could not “GET UP.”

    Officers should be trained to understand the both the pros and cons of using a taser gun, how it can effect the individual as well as how many times and with what frequency it should be used. Unfortunately, there are many underlying factors to the use of a taser and although it may be somewhat effective in subduing a suspect, it can also be deadly.

  13. They need 2 fire this sick fuck!!!
    Some1 needs 2 tell him he aint in the army anymore and american students arent the ememy!!!!
    He needs that taser stuck up his facist ass 5 Times !!
    See how he likes it!!!!
    Seriously tho, This guy needs to go 2 jail for this!
    He needs to get a mental evaluation, he obviously gets off on TORTURE of the weak and defenseless!!!
    Fucking facist nazi shit for brains…
    MAY YOU ROT IN HELL SIR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  14. This is an incident that showed, at the very least, extremely bad judgement on the part of the officers. I also feel, as someone long out of college, that students can “live in a bubble” at times, believing idealistically that the campus is a different world than the ordinary one, where different rules, and certainly more ‘flexibility’ about rules in general, are the norm. While there is some truth to this, once police are involved, that extra tolerance usually fast shrinks to zero. This particular student, from various accounts, may have carried a bit of a chip on his shoulder, and/or had some actual medical/mental issues. Officer Duren has apparently had at least a few prior judgement issues. It’s a bad combination. I actually fault the other officers for not speaking/interceding with Duren. Someone rightly observed that the officers might have felt threatened, or at least nervous as large numbers of students began surrounding and confronting them. THIS WAS NOT WRONG, but it may have made it more difficult for fellow cops to get Duren to stand down. THAT IS NOT AN EXCUSE, just an observation about human behavior. To me, the most pertinent facts are these. The student refused a reasonable and posted request, not once but many times. As a senior UCLA student, who did have the right to be there, I am sure he was irked, offended, etc., and thought maybe he could ‘buffalo’ the CSO’s. Nevertheless, his own response did “escalate” the incident. The CSO’s were within their rights and responsibilities to call UCPD, and UCPD were within their rights to escort him from the premises, question him etc. Because he was not complying in a prompt manner, they were justified in laying their hands on him. (This may, however, have escalated the matter further as many mideastern peoples are very ‘sensitive’ about being touched, and the video seems to support the view that this student reacted vehemently when the officers attempted to take his arm. Again, not the UCPD’s fault, but another ‘friction point’ that led to this fiasco.) I would even agree that given the events up to this point, that the UCPD were within proper procedure to cuff the student, although I’m not sure it was really required. All that being said, once the student was cuffed, there was absolutely no reason to taser him once, much less repeated times. As there is some discrepancy in accounts of the timing of the first tasering, even giving the officers the benefit of the doubt over the first incident, there was absolutely no justification for the subsequent applications. Given that tasers are already somewhat controversial re how much damage they really do, officers should be judicious in their use. Unfortunately, I suspect that because they are provisionally ‘non-lethal’ officers may feel they need not be as circumspect as they are with armed reactions. (But they should be!) The officers were in no immediate personal danger. No on else was acting in any physical way to free the student or threaten the officers. The subject was certainly “inconveniencing them” and defying their authority, and being a pain in the ass — as someone else wrote — acting like a 5 yr old. Exactly! Do you taser a 5 yr old in cuffs? Given Duren’s background as a long time college police officer, he should have been able to RISE ABOVE THIS (as most parents do re tantrums). Instead, I believe, he gave in to the impulse to force recognition of his authority, (just as parents sometimes do). This was a serious mistake, and does justify investigation and punitive measures. To repeatedly taser the student while cuffed and with multiple officers in the immediate vicinity “raises the bar” of the permissible behaviour, not just by Duren, but by his fellow officers. Duren was not alone, not in the dark, not under immediate threat, had fellow officers not only on the scene but actively helping him, and with further officers just outside the building. If nothing else, UCPD should realize how much this single incident has damaged their reputation and their relations with all other students, not to mention their parents, and potential students and parents of the future. And to what purpose? To remove a student who forgot his ID, and got pissed off about it? That’s what it really amounts to. There are PLENTY of other ways to control a cuffed suspect, and UCPD training should certainly have included some of them. Mostafa is by no means blameless in this. His position as a “victim” has to be mitigated somewhat by his arrogance (for lack of a better term)in believing he was either “above the rules” or capable of evading them. Nevertheless, the UCPD crossed a line that should not have been crossed, DESPITE Mostafa’s behavior. Lastly, and at least as important, if not more so, is the officers responses to being asked for badge numbers. This should NEVER result in a physical threat, much less to unarmed students. This is still a democracy, and we are still allowed to question govermental authority. University police, even more than municipal ones must be able to “cool down” situations BEFORE they escalate. That’s what tragically, did not happen here. I have had both extremely good and extremely bad experiences with police, and lots in between. Police are human beings who are subject to all the emotions and temptations we are all subject to. However, when they put on an uniform and a badge, they are voluntarily taking on the promise to hold themselves to a MUCH higher standard. That standard broke down in this case, with Duren using excessive force, and his fellow officers not interceding. All of the officers involved in this incident need some serious ‘downtime’ and retraining. Duren probably should be retired, or at the very least confined to office work. I temper my view of his actions with the many years of service he has provided — but given several incidents of the same sort of bad judgement, it seems prudent to remove him from duties that involve confrontations.

    I encourage everyone, but particularly students, to consider these matters with less emotion, more consideration to the “grey areas” of the incident, and to understand that you weaken your arguments considerably when you respond with violent epithets and blanket generalizations. Lastly, I encourage some of you to consider law enforcement as a career — better people make better cops. If our police forces become paramilitary organizations as opposed to “peace officers” we will continue to have less desireable results.

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