Lessons from the Milgram experiment; or why cops want to tase your groin
I recently watched the Christohper Hicthens/Tony Blair debate on whether religion is a force for good in the world. To paraphrase Mr. Hitchens; “You can expect good people do good things, and bad people do bad things. To get a good person to do a bad thing you need religion.” The idea being that one can bypass ordinary human decency and morality by stating that an act is divinely warranted.
The parallels with statism, positive law, and the War on Drugs, are evident to a front line observer of the Texas criminal justice system. The state may not claim divine authority, but it does share religion’s ability to get good people to do horrible things.
Which brings me to our appellate case of the day- Hereford vs. State.
Facts- from the 7th Court of Appeals
One thousand-one, one thousand-two, one thousand-three, one thousand-four, one thousand-five, one thousand-six, one thousand-seven, one thousand-eight, one thousand-nine, one thousand-ten, one thousand-eleven, one thousand-twelve, one thousand-thirteen, one thousand-fourteen, one thousand-fifteen, one thousand-sixteen, one thousand-seventeen, one thousand-eighteen, one thousand-nineteen, one thousand-twenty. That was the amount of time Officer Arp initially tased Anthony G. Hereford, Jr., according to the instrument’s log. At the time, appellant was handcuffed and being held down in a hospital emergency room. Arp wanted appellant to spit-out what he had in his mouth. When appellant did not comply after Arp’s first foray, the tasings resumed. No one viewed appellant as a threat to others during the episode. Nor had he attacked anyone. Arp simply wanted appellant to comply. When asked if “repeated taser use [was] acceptable” and whether “20 seconds worth of tasering” was “okay,” the policeman answered “yes” to both.
Arp was not the first to tase appellant, though. Officer Williams had already done so twice at a locale miles away from the hospital. He too wanted appellant to remove the items, which Williams thought to be drugs, from his mouth, and met with no success. So, Williams decided to take appellant to the hospital in effort to gain medical assistance.
In continuing where Williams had failed, Arp said he administered all but one of the electrical shocks to Hereford’s inner thigh region; others saw them being administered to appellant’s “groin area.
Fortunately, the Court of Criminal Appeals agreed that the 4th Amendment prohibits electro shock torture as an evidence gathering tool (Keller dissented).
Let’s talk about Officer Arp, the man who decide to tase Hereford’s groin. Let’s assume, arguendo, that Officer Arp is not a sick twisted sadist who enjoys electro torture. What could motivate an otherwise decent person to an act of utter depravity?
Officer Arp testified that he believed Hereford had crack in his mouth. Our State has decreed that simple possession of any amount of cocaine is a felony offense. The State pollutes society at large, and especially LEOs, with Tuff on Crime/Drug War propaganda. Officers are trained to arrest as many crack users as they can to please the bureaucracy and…. out comes the groin taser!
It’s been a few decades since the Milgram experiment , in which college students were given orders to deliver (fortunately fake) electric shocks to an innocent person. The shockee would feign heart failure and death, still the students would continue undeterred by the screams of their “victims”.
The lesson, summarized by Milgram-
Ordinary people, simply doing their jobs, and without any particular hostility on their part, can become agents in a terrible destructive process. Moreover, even when the destructive effects of their work become patently clear, and they are asked to carry out actions incompatible with fundamental standards of morality, relatively few people have the resources needed to resist authority.
This act of electro torture is the end result of our state’s idiotic drug laws, the inflamed War on Drugs rhetoric, and the modern milliatirez LEO mindset.The State is to be obeyed, laws enforced, and if you have to torture a defendant to make a crack arrest, that’s just collateral damage.