Tasing Ms. Winkfein

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A few months back a deputy employed and supervised by the Travis County Constable of Precinct 3 pulled over a senior citizen named Ms. Winkfein for speeding. She refused to sign the citation and when the deputy attempted to arrest her she challenged his authority resulting in the deputy Tasing Ms. Winkfein. While Ms. Winkfein did exhibit a lack of cooperation with the deputy constable in his attempts to cite her for speeding, I believe the danger Ms. Winkfein posed to the deputy or to the public is far outweighed by the danger in which the deputy constable put Ms. Winkfein. Further, support for the deputy’s lack of control in the situation indicates a greater risk to society than speeding.

In assessing the dangerousness of Ms. Winkfein’s actions I considered the following facts: Ms. Winkfein is under five feet tall; she is over 72 years of age; and her underlying offense was speeding. In assessing the dangerousness of the deputy constable’s actions I considered the following facts: the manufacturer of the Taser warns law enforcement that use on elderly citizens may pose a significantly higher risk to their health and warns against the repeated use of the Taser; in addition to the initial Tase, the deputy constable deployed a second Tase on Ms. Winkfein as she was laying on the ground face-down, apparently unable to move her arms; and other law enforcement entities (including our own sheriff’s department) do not agree with the deputy constable’s actions. Under these facts, I believe the recent settlement is just.

Although the Winkfein matter is now settled, a larger issue remains unsettled. The Winkfein episode elicited a troubling response from some quarters claiming that law enforcement is justified in resorting to force when met with resistance of the lowest threat. What has become of society when a uniformed, armed, and trained law-enforcement officer bypasses negotiation and skips straight to force in dealing with a citizen of any description, much less a petite woman over 70 years of age? Support for this deputy constable’s actions illustrates a troubling weakening of our civil liberties.

If you have comments or questions regarding Constable McCain’s response to the Winkfein matter, he may be reached via e-mail at Richard.McCain@co.travis.tx.us and by phone at (512) 854-2101.

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