Friday, August 14, 2009

Audra Harmon tasered for not speeding or talking on cell phone

I've had this story up in my Firefox tabs all day today, but I can't figure out an angle on it. The only cogent, relevant point that I have to make is to note that it's a woman who is white, relatively young, middle class, cis, het, and non-disabled being sentimentalized in the story I quote from (and in other coverage, and in my initial draft of this article). In coverage in this instance, she's not just a woman whose civil rights are violated: she's a mom, taking care of her children.

That's not to undermine the violations Harmon underwent, which are awful. Or to say that she's not deserving of media attention: it's an interesting angle that says a lot about unnecessary Taser use and overuse of police force in this country. An awful thing happened to Harmon, and my sympathies are with her.

However, I think there are probably a lot of other mothers whose bodies do not fit quite so well into cultural expectations of normality who have been needlessly Tasered in front of their children, and we haven't seen their stories on

Anyway, the analytical part of my brain pooped out after writing that, so here's the story:
A woman driving a minivan containing her two children was Tasered by a police officer in New York state when he pulled her over for driving while talking on a cellphone.
The woman, 38-year-old Audra Harmon, says she told Deputy Sean Andrews that her cellphone would show her last call was two hours ago, before he changed his mind and told her she had been speeding.
Again, Harmon says, she refuted the allegation and asked to see the officer's radar reading. When he turned back towards his car, she stepped out of her vehicle, and the officer pointed a Taser device at her.
A minute later, after the 5'4" part time school bus driver was yanked from the car by the 6'2" officer and Tasered twice, collapsing on the road as passers-by asked if she needed help. Her children, a 15-year-old and a 5-year-old, witnessed the events from the car.
"I was scared to death," she told reporters Wednesday. "I kept saying, 'Don't do this in front of my kids.'"
Harmon was charged with disorderly conduct for obstructing traffic by getting out of the van, speeding and resisting arrest. The district attorney's office later dismissed the charges after watching the videotape taken from the officer's cruiser.
Four-year deputy Sean Andrews, 37, has been removed from road patrol while internal affairs investigates the issue. Harmon plans to sue the department.


  1. Of course what happened to Audra is terrible. But your point is well-taken, RMJ.

    This makes me think of the case of Evelyn Hernandez. In May of 2002, when she was nine months pregnant, she disappeared in San Francisco. Her wallet was found several days later, near where her boyfriend worked for a limousine company. A few weeks later, her torso was found floating in San Francisco Bay, near the Embarcadero.

    This case received almost no publicity. However, an eerily similar Bay Area case received worldwide attention: that of Laci Peterson, the seven-month-pregnant woman who was last seen on Christmas Eve of 2002.

    So why did Laci Peterson's disappearance garner so much attention? Well, the cynic in me says that it may have had to do with the fact that Peterson was white, middle-class and, by most people's standards, pretty. On the other hand, Hernandez was a poor working-class Salvadorean immigrant who wasn't, to most people's eyes,as attractive as Peterson was.

  2. Actually Evelyn Hernandez was very pretty Picture but you missed the interesting part. The exact same prosecutors who went after Peterson with no evidence of guilt had everything they needed against Evelyn's killer - but let him off with 17 years (parolable) and NO penalty for killing the fetus. Makes you think, huh?


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