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Oct. 14 2009 - 5:52 am | 215 views | 1 recommendation | 20 comments

Media decides tasered grandmother was asking for it

A police officer tasers 72-year-old Kathryn Winkfein (Image from ndnforum.com)

A police officer tasers 72-year-old Kathryn Winkfein (Image from ndnforum.com)

Kathryn Winkfein, a 72-year-old great-grandmother, is better known as the woman who became the target of an officer’s taser after she was pulled over for a traffic offense. The video footage below shows Winkfein arguing with the cop before he tasers her (twice,) while she screams and writhes on the ground.

Winkfein has returned to the news again, this time because she has been compensated $40,000 by local authorities, an outrageous sum, according to Travis County Constable, Richard McCain, who told the Today Show he was unhappy about the payment. “When the County wrote a check for $40,000 it rewarded this defendant for bad behavior, which is wrong” said McCain.

Fascist apologists like McCain aside, Winkfein has also hinted that she somehow deserved to be tasered. “I just lost my temper,” Winkfein told the Today Show. “I do that maybe twice a year, but that day I lost it.” She added that she had learned her lesson and would stay in the car if she was pulled over again.

This is all a little bit like when Harry Whittington apologized to Dick Cheney after Cheney shot Whittington in the face. The media is portraying Winkfein as an irrational hag, who somehow deserved to be shocked with 50,000 volts of electricity after getting mouthy with a police officer.

Winkfein’s civil liberties were violated after she was pulled over for a traffic offense. There was nothing warranted or excusable about the officer’s behavior, and yet the media and average Americans have become active apologists for this kind of fascist, violent behavior.

Citizens, who have never been tasered and who know nothing about the degree of damage taser guns inflict on human beings, frequently laugh at video footage of taser victims. We all remember Andrew Meyer, the “Don’t taze me, bro” victim, who became a late night punch line after he was assaulted by police officers during an address by Senator John Kerry at the University of Florida.

Americans have become apologists for the inexcusable behavior of their oppressors rather than showing solidarity with a 72-year-old woman, who clearly had her rights violated. One Youtube commenter says Winkfein was “asking to be tasered.” Another says Winkfein clearly has to take some “responsibility” for being tasered. Another adds, “That reporter is hoTT.”

Okay, so maybe Youtube commenters aren’t the cream of the crop, but the problem of people acting as apologists rather than outraged citizens extends to the media, the supposed “responsible players” in our society. A local Texas television channel, KVUE, ran the story with the headline, “Tasered Texas woman says next time ’say nothing’” as though Winkfein was the guilty party for having the nerve to resist police orders. The Philadelphia Inquirer repeated the same headline. Local Australian news channels ran the story with the Winkfein line as a lead as though to say, “The old hag finally apologized!”

Tasers are not safe. They kill people all the time, and yet we’ve become so desensitized to their presence, and so brainwashed into believing tasers are a “safe alternative” to guns, that people not only laugh at taser victims (because “no real harm” is being done,) but also then claim that taser victims deserve their fates.

After all, citizens have no right to question the authority of police officers, and if they do, they should be put down immediately. All dissenters must be crushed. If a 72-year-old woman has a bad day, and has the nerve to yell at a cop, she should be assaulted by the side of the highway with a weapon that sends 50,000 volts of electricity coursing through her body, daring her heart to stop beating.

This brainwashing is so systemic that now taser victims like Winkfein are offering Whittington-style apologies to their attackers. Why should Winkfein be afraid to get out of her automobile if she’s pulled over for a ticket? It’s not as though a law was written anywhere that reads citizens don’t have the right to verbally challenge the police.

Verbal altercations have existed since towns first handed out uniforms to a tier of average folk and invested that bedecked tribe with the right to oppress their neighbors. Naturally, the oppressed get mouthy sometimes. We never voted to then allow officers to kill the mouthy people. In fact, cops undergo extensive training to learn how to handle such altercations so no gun is ever fired. Unfortunately, tasers create the illusion of a second “safe” option, and some cops are getting trigger-happy.

Additionally, Americans have been conditioned by television programs like Cops and DEA to believe they are weak and defenseless, and should always unquestioningly obey police officers even if officers jam the prongs of deadly electrical weapons into their spines. If they resist, they should expect to be crushed, and anyone who resists is a troublemaker, or stupid.

The reality is that tasers are not safe, and yet the companies that make the electrical guns continue to claim the guns are a safe alternative to deadly force — to be used only as a last resort. Yet many recent stories show that tasers have become authoritarian tools for the police that are used excessively, while an unthinking pack of blood hungry Americans cheers on the violence.

It never crosses the mob’s mind that they should, perhaps, show solidarity with their oppressed neighbors, or imagine if it was their own grandmother being electrocuted by a cop, or contemplate that they one day may be on the receiving end of a 50,000 jolt of police-issued electricity.

I agree with what Digby wrote during the Henry Louis Gates scandal: the police aren’t a street gang. Citizens should not fear interacting with them. After all, Americans pay the salaries of police officers, servants who exist to defend and serve, not electrocute and bully. Winkfein deserved compensation, but she did nothing to warrant being tasered by a power hungry police officer. Victims, stop the apologies.


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  1. collapse expand

    In my T/S blog, I write about the causes of wrongful convictions. Perhaps the primary underlying cause is “human nature”–more specifically, police and prosecutors jumping to conclusions about the identity of the perpetrator. At that juncture, law enforcement personnel begin to process information selectively, too often ignoring signs of guilt pointing to a different suspect.

    Quite a few of the irresponsible tasering cases I’ve studied are related to the wrongful conviction realm: police jump to conclusions about the behavior of the potential arrestee, conclusions frequently based on societal stereotypes. Policing is a difficult job, often poorly compensated. So showing sympathy for police officers facing perceived danger is appropriate. But sympathy should not result in giving those officers a pass when they use inappropriate force because of premature judgments.

  2. collapse expand

    I’m not sure the cop was supposed to open the door, and get the woman out. There’s the root problem. Police are so determined to win every little battle, just because they have an interpretation of the law behind them that serves their purposes. Its really absurd the lines that get crossed, then rationalized.

  3. collapse expand

    Ms. Kilkenny, Mr. Weinberg, & iskid2astop,

    This is actually a very simple case. A police officer can use force(e.g. a Taser) in self defense, to protect others, or to subdue a violent individual. The degree of violence must be proportional to the danger posed by the individual. Ms. Winkfein did not pose threat to either the officer, to herself, or anyone else so the use of any force in this situation was uncalled for, and the use such force was completely out of proportion to the situation. It is just that simple.

  4. collapse expand

    I’m a Canadian blogger and I’ve been closely following the problems with tasers for about two years now. My blog at Excited-Delirium.com now has almost 1400 posts covering all aspects of the taser issue.

    The root of the problem, as you have identified, is that tasers clearly can sometimes, almost randomly, cause death. This position isn’t only held by Internet loons. The AMA, the Canadian RCMP, the UN, Amnesty International, and even doctors that Taser International points to, Wake Forest’s Dr. Bozeman, and many more, all agree that tasers are capable of causing death.

    This risk, of death through inherent internal risk factors such as cardiac effects, is strenuously denied by Taser International. At the same time, they just issued new taser targeting guidelines that advise “avoiding chest”.

    There’s lots more on the blog including some interesting observations and ideas.

    Excited-Delirium.com (do not forget the dash!)

  5. collapse expand

    Are you serious? As right winged as the officer who tased grandma, Allison Kilkenny is the complete 180 degrees to the left. I hope she is only under-compensating for her lack of true journalistic talent. Using words like oppressors, dissenters and solidarity makes for good drama but she might as well make up some signs and start protesting at the local university.

    It blows me away how people can write about police procedure when they themselves have never been through one hour of training in an academy or on standard operating procedures. It is true that some officers push their authoritative side a little too hard but they are human too. If someone doesn’t agree with the charges then that is what the courts are for. If they don’t agree with the officer’s actions then that is what internal affairs is for. People want the officers to abide by a set of standards yet don’t want to follow any of their own.

    This constable was in a now win situation. How can we second guess what we don’t know. His department procedures may require him to arrest when people do not sign their tickets for who knows what reason so once he got the elderly lady out of the car and it went bad he never had a chance. If he laid hands on her and she resisted then can you imagine how that would have looked? If she jumped out by the road and got hit by a car then we would really have seen a lawsuit. Many times officers have to save people from themselves unfortunately. Instead he tased her and 99% of the time that will gain compliance with little to no long term affect on anyone. Even when there is a reaction to the taser 99% of those incidents usually involve another factor like drugs, excited delirium, both, etc. Is that how I would have handled it…..probably not but there are more ways than one to successfully accomplish a goal. I hate it for Grandma but he gained control of the situation and nobody ended up with lifelong injuries in the end. I bet she thinks twice about getting rousty with the cops and she should be a better example to all those younger than herself. Kudos to his boss for backing him.

    And I challenge Allison to attend a local Citizens Police Academy and walk a mile in the officers’ shoes. Maybe then she’ll truly understand why officers do and think they way they do.

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