Oak Creek is a small town outside Steamboat Springs. Late Friday night, the police followed former Mayor Kathy "Cargo" Rodeman, apparently believing she may have been driving under the influence of alcohol. Rather than stopping her vehicle when the officer activated his flashing lights, Rodeman drove to a nearby residence and went inside with her companions. When she refused to answer the door, the police, including Sgt. Erik Foster, broke it down. Then, they tasered her twice and arrested her. Kris Hammond is the attorney representing Rodeman. From the Steamboat Pilot & Today:
Hammond said Foster burst into the home without a warrant and "terrorized" the women inside. He said the women called 911 out of fear and that Rodeman was stunned twice with a Taser while "cowering on the floor begging for mercy." Hammond also was critical of Foster, who has had numerous complaints filed against him.
The police chief defends the officer's actions with this curious comment:
"I have no reason to believe the actions that were taken were not appropriate. The use of the Taser is the most humanitarian tool we have. It has a low probability of injury both to the suspect and the officer."
Tasers are humanitarian with a low probability of injury? Guess he hasn't seen these reports from Amnesty International. Or their latest press release. Since June, 2001, 290 people have died after being tasered. An updated version of Amnesty's 2004 report is expected this year.
More problematic to me is the officer's breaking into the home without a warrant. What were the exigent circumstances? Hot pursuit of a fleeing suspect? (Does suspicion of d.u.i. even qualify as a serious enough offense to invoke this exception?) Fear of the imminent destruction of evidence? An emergency threatening the life or safety of another? Locals have been wary of the Oak Creek Police in recent years:
Some residents have complained about over-aggressive enforcement that borders on harassment; others say it's simply a case of law enforcement officers doing what's needed to protect residents and enforce the law.
It sounds to me like the officers didn't want to lose their window of opportunity to make Rodeman submit to a Breathalyzer test. Rodeman, who resigned as mayor in 2006, has had her share of run-ins with police. But can suspecting she had resorted to past activity justify breaking into her home and tasering her? Stay tuned.