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City of Seattle
Ed Murray, Mayor

SUBJECT: U.S. Supreme Court won't review Seattle Taser case

5/29/2012  12:00:00 PM
Kimberly Mills  (206) 684-8602

The U.S. Supreme Court has decided against weighing in on the use of Tasers in a case where three Seattle police officers Tased a pregnant woman during a traffic stop in 2004.

“Fortunately the Court recognized this regrettable but unique case to be inappropriate as a basis for judicial guidance for using Tasers consistently with the Fourth Amendment,” City Attorney Pete Holmes said Tuesday. “It is important to recognize that the Taser use under the circumstances in Brooks is no longer permitted under SPD policy.”

Holmes had urged the justices to reject the appeal brought by the police officers who were dissatisfied with the decision of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals that the use of the stun gun amounted to excessive force and that the woman, Malaika Brooks, could pursue her state law claim for damages. The officers sought review by the nation’s high court against the wishes of Holmes and Police Chief John Diaz.

According to the friend-of-the-court brief filed by the City with the Supreme Court, “Petitioners misread the Ninth Circuit’s decision. Rather than establishing a blanket prohibition on the use of pain compliance techniques, the decision only addressed the use of Tasers in drive-stun mode in the particular, atypical circumstances of this case. The Ninth Circuit’s decision does not address whether other types of force would have been appropriate under the same circumstances, nor does it address the differences in pain levels or injury risk between Tasers in drive-stun mode and other types of force.”

Brooks was Tased after she refused to get out of her car when she was stopped for speeding in a school zone; she also refused to sign the traffic ticket the officers gave her. Since then, SPD has changed its policy to no longer require drivers to sign tickets, in line with state law.

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