Pontiac Tribune 


Chatsworth Ga, (PT)   Officers from Chatsworth Police Department in Chatsworth, GA may have used excessive force when they tased an elderly woman gathering dandelions as an ingredient for a salad she is accustomed to making for her husband on Friday 10th August. However, due to a number of legal anomalies posed by Georgia state law, which allow special privileges for police officers, attempted prosecution of those involved may prove fruitless.

Image Source: MURRAY COUNTY JAIL Public Domain

According to a report on the CNN website, officers who arrived on the scene, following a call from a member of the public in relation to an elderly woman carrying a knife, were already aware that the lady in question, who apparently suffers from dementia, was unable to speak English. It therefore should have occurred to them that she would have been unable to understand any verbal requests or shouted commands for her to drop the knife. In spite of this, she appears to have been tased without mercy, before being placed in handcuffs, arrested, and later charged with criminal trespass and obstruction of a police officer, according to the New York Post.

Postings on the official website of Georgia Tech Police Department, which offers a number of courses to students as part of its Community Programs and Safety Programs schedule on campus at Georgia Tech, seem to suggest that officers across the State should have been aware of all of the basic self defense techniques necessary to get control of this situation without the use or deployment of a Taser. The use of Tasers has been associated with a number of health and safety anomalies such as cardiac arrhythmia and cardiac fibrillation, even in healthy subjects, and has also resulted in deaths in a number of cases. A fact which calls into question the decision of officers on the ground, who included local Chatsworth Police Chief Josh Etheridge, to deploy such a policing tool in the first place.

A reference to the recording of the 911 call that had resulted in the initial dispatch of officers to the scene on the NBC news website seems to suggest that the woman was not only old, but clearly couldn’t “get around too well” either. It would also appear from the previously referred to CNN report that Police were also aware of the fact that she hadn’t tried to attack anybody, and was clearly just “walking around looking for… vegetation to cut down.” This would tend to suggest that Chatsworth Police Chief Josh Etheridge’s claim that “it was the lowest use of force we could have used to simply stop that threat at the time” doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. Especially when the individual who alerted police at the outset had already made it clear that she wasn’t trying to attack.

A notice on the website of Montlick and Associates, a prominent Georgia law firm, suggests that nation wide there are over five hundred thousand reports of police abuse filed by victims of this type of brutality annually. Among the most high profile local cases involving excessive use of force to have hit the headlines in recent years was that of a schizophrenic Georgia man, who appears to have been shot in excess of fifty nine times by a group of law enforcement officers in August 2016; according to lawyers acting for the victim’s Mother. The fact that those involved subsequently tampered with evidence in an attempt to cover up their actions only seems to have added insult to injury as far as his Family were concerned.

Although the United States Department of Justice claims on its website that it “vigorously investigates and, where the evidence permits, prosecutes allegations of Constitutional violations by law enforcement officers.” According to an archived report posted by Human Rights Watch on its website, “Georgia state law allows a number of special privileges for public officials, including police officers, during grand jury proceedings.” These include granting the defendant the right to make a statement to jurors at the conclusion of a hearing, whilst simultaneously preventing prosecutors from issuing a rebuttal of the defendant’s version of events. Experts who gave evidence to the compilers of the HRW report are alleged to have claimed that these procedures are completely unique to the State of Georgia, and said that they believed that no other states in the US permitted their police officers and public officials anything remotely resembling those privileges that appear to have been granted to their Georgia counterparts.

In view of this it is perhaps unsurprising that very few excessive-force cases ever reach the stage of charges being filed in Georgia because, according to one of the previously referred to experts interviewed by HRW, “they seem to ‘wash out’ with the Office of Professional Standards; a division of the Georgia Department of Public Safety. The OPS is described on the Department’s website as being ‘dedicated to protecting the integrity of the department through ensuring adherence to ethical standards, performance criteria, and commitment to public service.’” According to an Amnesty International Report published in 2015, however, all fifty “US States fail to meet global police use of force standards.” A situation described by the UK Guardian as manifesting a “shocking lack of fundamental respect for the sanctity of human life.” A matter severely compounded by the fact that, at the time of the report’s compilation, as many as “nine states have no laws to deal with police force.”

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