Police say an alleged jaywalker, who was Tasered three times for refusing to show his ID to officers, was handled in a "necessary and appropriate" manner. The American Civil Liberties Union strongly disagrees.
Zikomo Peurifoy's arrest in Casselberry, Fla., on July 7 made headlines after video showing him being repeatedly zapped was posted on YouTube.
Police told WFTV that officers did "nothing wrong" in their arrest of Peurifoy and that their actions were so perfectly appropriate that the video of the arrest was being used to train officers on the use of force.
Emma Andersson, staff attorney for the ACLU Criminal Law Reform Project, doesn't see it that way.
"Plainly, this situation did not call for the deployment of a Taser," she said in an email to The Huffington Post. She cited the Fourth Amendment, which protects citizens from excessive force and pointed out that there have been 500 fatalities caused by police using the shock weapons. "The police's characterization of this incident as a perfectly appropriate use of force runs contrary to longstanding Supreme Court precedent."
City of Casselberry spokesperson Sara Brady told HuffPost in an email that Peurifoy's "obvious resistance" to local police officers "is something he intentionally did in order to manipulate news media and get attention."
She also said Peurifoy and his friend, Noelle Price, who can be heard on the video, "crossed one of this region's deadliest highways against the light and into oncoming traffic, which is not only an infraction, but posed a danger to themselves and to motorists."
There is no indication that anyone was hurt by Peurifoy and Price crossing the street.
According to Brady, after Peurifoy was subdued and handcuffed, officers discovered he was carrying a concealed handgun, for which he had a permit.
Andersson said Peurifoy's refusal to show his ID was no excuse for bad police behavior.
"The minor infraction at issue here -- jaywalking -- was not serious, there was no indication that Mr. Peurifoy was armed or posed any immediate danger to the officers' safety, and he was not attempting to flee the scene," Andersson said. "Captain Del Rosso's allegation that the officers found a legal concealed weapon on Mr. Peurifoy after he was handcuffed is an after-the-fact excuse that neither justifies the excessive use of force, nor changes the legal analysis a court would undertake to determine whether Mr. Peurifoy's constitutional rights were violated."
Brady and Andersson also disagree on who is to blame for the situation having escalated into a violent confrontation.
Brady said Peurifoy and Price "deliberately and unnecessarily escalated the matter by continuing to resist the officers. It was their increased resistance that forced officers to take the necessary and appropriate step of using a Taser device to subdue and handcuff Mr. Peurifoy."
Andersson doesn't see it that way. Police not only violated Peurifoy's rights and put him in danger, they actually exacerbated the situation, according to Andersson.
"By Tasing Mr. Peurifoy, the Casselberry officers unnecessarily escalated the situation, making it more dangerous to everyone involved," Andersson said. "Tasers should not be used as a first response to unruliness and verbal noncompliance, but rather only as an alternative to lethal force. Police officers are supposed to be peace officers -- their mission is to resolve threats to public order and safety, not create them."
Andersson posits that the Casselberry officers in the video aren't the only ones misusing Tasers. It's become a national problem.
"Too many police departments offer inadequate training and insufficient Taser guidelines to their officers," Andersson said. "The result is stories like this one, and many that are even worse, including police officers deploying Tasers against suspects who are already handcuffed, and lethal use of Tasers.
Police shouldn't be zapping suspects just to make their jobs easier, Andersson said.
"Because Tasers are now a standard issue weapon for many officers, police departments must do more to ensure that these weapons are only used when necessary -- not as a convenient short cut that endangers us all."