Police quietly removed safeguards against Taser-related brutality
A Minneapolis man who was Tased by police after surrendering and putting both hands on the hood of a squad car says he wants restitution from the police.
On Monday, Rolando Ruiz's lawyer released dashcam video of an April 30 incident in which Ruiz can be seen with his hands on the hood of a car when a police officer approaches him and Tases him in the neck. Ruiz then falls to the ground, and can be heard screaming in agony as the officer kneels over him.
As WCCO-TV in Minneapolis notes, the video begins moments before the Tasing, so it's unclear whether there was a physical confrontation beforehand. But it is clear that Ruiz was not being aggressive at the moment he was hit with a conducted energy weapon.
Ruiz' attorney, Albert Goins, says his client's civil rights were violated, and he wants the police department to settle out of court for $75,000 or he says he will bring a federal lawsuit against the officers and Minneapolis Police Chief Tim Dolan.
This is at least the second high-profile incident of police brutality in Minneapolis to make the news this year. As the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports, Chief Dolan earlier this year forced his officers to watch dashcam footage of officers beating Minneapolis resident Darryl Jenkins in a snowbank to the point he needed seven stitches. The FBI is now investigating that incident.
The fact the officer Tased Ruiz in the neck will likely cause concerns among police watchdogs. Last month, Taser International issued a memo to police forces telling them not to Tase suspects in the head, neck and chest, because doing so poses a risk of injury.
Observers of Minneapolis police note that the force had accepted recommendations not to allow officers to use Tasers on suspects' necks -- before quietly removing that guideline from its training manual.
"They removed restrictions on more than one officer Tasering a person at a time, or intentionally using the Taser on the head, neck, face, or genitalia," wrote civil liberties advocate Dave Bicking. "They did this without consulting, or even notifying, the City Council or the [civilian review authority]. They said that they had just moved the policy to their training manuals. When we finally were able to look at a training manual, it was clear that almost all of the important provisions were gone, and officers were given much greater discretion."
The Star-Tribune reported that Ruiz was arrested "after an incident involving damage to property at the Second Precinct headquarters." Ruiz is charged with felony damage to property. He also pleaded guilty earlier this year to second-degree assault and misdemeanor failure to stop at the scene of an accident, both evidently unrelated to the property damage charge.
"For an individual facing a property crime case and in custody, that's an outrageous amount of force," the Star-Tribune quoted Goins.
Goins has not divulged how he obtained the police camera footage. He says his client doesn't want more than the available 75 seconds of the video shown to the public.
This video is from WCCO-TV in Minneapolis, broadcast Nov. 2, 2009.