Friday, November 30, 2007
A biomedical engineer with ties to the company that makes Tasers insists that the stun-guns are safer than Tylenol. "You have Tylenol in your home? As far as an electronic controlled device killing you, this stuff is safer than Tylenol," Dr. Mark Kroll said Thursday in Las Vegas.
Kroll, an adjunct professor at California Polytechnic State University who specializes in electrical currents, made his comments while addressing a group of 360 doctors, police officers, lawyers and medical examiners attending a three-day conference on sudden death and in-custody deaths.
Kroll and some of the other medical specialists and law enforcement officials who spoke at the conference stressed that Tasers do no harm, despite the outcry over the death of Robert Dziekanski, a Polish man who died last month after RCMP officers stunned him with a Taser gun at the Vancouver International Airport.
The federal government is examining the case, as are officials from Poland and the B.C. Coroner's office.
Kroll insisted Tasers are safe under all circumstances, and have never been proven to have directly killed anyone. He said they don't output enough electricity to kill, even if people are stunned several times.
There are several myths surrounding the stun-guns that are not true, Kroll said.
"One myth is that these devices can affect the heart. That myth has almost died out but you still see it once in awhile," he said. "Another myth is that they're more dangerous [if the person being hit with a Taser is on] drugs, but one of my favourite myths is that these devices can harm pacemakers."
Kroll said even though he consults with Taser International, the maker of Tasers, and sits on the company's advisory board, he said he does not speak for the company. (HUH??) Others at the sudden death conference, which ends Friday, also had ties to Taser International — three researchers in attendance are consultants with the company, while Taser paid for 10 of its employees to attend.
John Peters, who directs the U.S. Institute for the Prevention of In-Custody Deaths, said his organization is not influenced by Taser International, despite the ties. "We're not funded by Taser, we teach at the Taser academy a couple of times a year, but that's it," he said. He conceded that his conference did not include the work of researchers who raised safety questions about Tasers. "Their studies were very small, they were isolated," he said. "I thought it wasn't a good fit."
WELCOME to TRUTH ... not TASERS
Friday, November 30, 2007
Friday, November 30, 2007
November 30, 2007
Man was jolted 13 times during arrest, legislator says
Rankin Inlet North MLA Tagak Curley is demanding the Nunavut government look into what he called the excessive use of a Taser by RCMP, alleging that police used the stun gun on one of his constituents 13 times during an arrest.
As a result of being shocked by the Taser that many times, Curley said the man received a shoulder injury and did not work for a whole year.
"His mortgage defaulted because his arrears were so high. And as a result, he eventually lost his house and his job," he told CBC News on Thursday.
Curley brought up the matter in May with Justice Minister Paul Okalik, but he said Okalik told him the individual should go to the RCMP's public complaints commission.
The issue was revived this week, after RCMP told CBC News they follow national policies on when and how to use Tasers to ensure the devices are used appropriately.
The RCMP's policies on Taser use are currently under review by the chair of the police force's complaints commission.
Nunavut RCMP Sgt. Mike Toohey said police did investigate the Rankin Inlet incident and concluded that the arresting officers did not do anything wrong in that case.
Toohey said the use of Tasers or other weapons is determined at the time of the arrest. Afterwards, officers who use a weapon must explain to their commanding officers why it was used.
"With any use of [the] Taser, you know, the supervisor, the line officer, is going to review that and see if it's an appropriate use," he said.
"If the person that is subject of that feels that it was improperly used, then there is a recourse for those individuals. They can either lodge a complaint to their local detachment or go through [the] public complaints commission."
But Curley said the territorial government should step in and investigate the case, arguing that it shouldn't be only RCMP investigating Taser-related complaints.
November 30, 2007
CAROLINE ALPHONSO AND JESSICA LEEDER AND OMAR EL AKKAD, The Globe and Mail
I have long held that Dr. Cairns is/was in a conflict of interest, but no one else seemed to notice. In May 2005, I wrote a letter to the Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services outlining several concerns I had with Dr. Cairns in respect to tasers - some from as far back as December 2004, six months after my brother died. In August, I finally received a letter from the Assistant Deputy Minister which shrugged off my concerns and instead gave the doctor a glowing reference. The media deserves much credit for picking up on this issue and staying with it - there's still so much that people don't know. Keep connecting the dots!
TORONTO; LAS VEGAS -- Taser International and another company closely linked to the manufacturer have paid the way for Ontario's deputy chief coroner to lecture at their conferences on the phenomenon of "excited delirium," a medically unrecognized term that the company often cites as a reason people die after being tasered.
James Cairns, one of the country's most high-profile coroners, who publicly advocates the use of the stun gun, has become one of the top Canadian experts Taser officials turn to for help shoring up public support for their products in times of crisis. Since the death of Robert Dziekanski, a Polish immigrant, at Vancouver International Airport last month, Taser has repeatedly urged journalists to contact Dr. Cairns for his pro-taser views.
Dr. Cairns has recently given seminars at two conferences hosted by Taser International - one in July in Chicago and another last year in Las Vegas. He has also spoken at a Las Vegas conference for the Institute for the Prevention of In-Custody Deaths, a small private company with ties to Taser. It is headed by John Peters, a communications specialist who often acts as a course instructor for Taser International. Its only other director is Michael Brave, a Taser legal executive.
Dr. Cairns was slated to deliver a talk yesterday, titled "Excited Delirium Deaths: Public Inquiry Process; ED Training for Ontario Provincial Police Officer and its Impact on the Coroner's Office" at the institute's 2007 conference. He dropped out because he was testifying at an inquiry in Ontario, where he admitted to shielding disgraced pathologist Charles Smith.
In an interview with The Globe and Mail yesterday, Dr. Cairns said he doesn't believe his participation at the conferences is a conflict of interest. He said he attends the conferences on vacation time and paid his own way to attend the first one.
However, he allowed Taser and the institute to pay his hotel and travel expenses for subsequent conferences.
Bonita Porter, Ontario's chief coroner, said it is not uncommon for members of her staff to have expenses paid by conference hosts. "If he's going to share our experiences and it might improve public safety anywhere, I don't see how that could be considered to be a conflict," she said.
But Dr. Cairns's attendance raises questions about the appearance of bias when probing the issue of whether tasers can kill. While he has not presided over any taser-related inquests, his expert opinion on the role of tasers in certain in-custody deaths has often been solicited. At a 2005 inquest, he testified that an Ontario man, who was tasered three times by police and died less than an hour later in hospital, was not killed by the taser because of the time lapse between the shocks and his death.
The year before, Dr. Cairns urged the Toronto Police Services Board to expand the use of tasers, saying: "I am absolutely convinced tasers will save lives instead of taking lives. And I hope some day, if I am in the position, please taser me before you shoot me."
Dr. Cairns defended his attendance at various Taser conferences. He said he doesn't accept a fee for speaking to avoid any potential conflicts of interest. "I am not an agent for Taser or anything else. I do not own Taser shares. I wanted there to be no conflict of interest," he said, adding: "I have been invited to many other conferences across the world to talk about things. In those situations, it's always the same."
Taser International did not return phone calls.
According to Mr. Peters's write-up of the 2006 Taser conference in Las Vegas, Dr. Cairns gave a talk in which he "graphically emphasized ... that none of the numerous in-custody death cases which he has been intimately involved with were caused by the deployment of Taser devices."
On the subject of hosting a seminar on excited delirium at the Taser conferences, Dr. Cairns said: "I think the more that we understand about all these issues, the better."
November 30, 2007
OMAR EL AKKAD, The Globe and Mail
Critics say the medically unrecognized condition is a way to protect police officers from allegations of wrongdoing
LAS VEGAS -- In an aging ballroom at Las Vegas's Imperial Palace hotel usually reserved for a celebrity impersonators show, 360 cops, doctors, lawyers and others have gathered to talk about why people sometimes die in police custody.
The second annual Sudden Death, Excited Delirium and In-Custody Death Conference is under way in Las Vegas, bringing together dozens of experts on a controversial area of research. Most of the speakers - who range from emergency medicine doctors to researchers to current and former police officers - know each other on a first-name basis, having given talks at similar conferences for years. Most of the attendees have paid between $600 and $700 to be here.
While the three-day conference is specifically about in-custody death and excited delirium - an unrecognized medical condition - many of the nearly 20 talks inevitably touch on the role of tasers. As such, the conference has attracted greater Canadian attention since the death of Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski at Vancouver International Airport last month.
In fact, Canadians play a major role in this conference, as well as excited-delirium research in general. Officers from Ottawa, Vancouver and Edmonton police forces are here, including members of the RCMP. Two of the conference's key scheduled speakers are Canadian, including James Cairns, Ontario's deputy chief coroner, who dropped out at the last minute.
"The goal is to educate as many people as we can about excited delirium," says John Peters, conference organizer and head of the Institute for the Prevention of In-Custody Deaths. "There's a wide array of issues."
However, the key issue is excited delirium, a collection of symptoms that is quickly becoming the leading explanation offered when a person dies in police custody or after a taser is used. According to the various speakers at the conference, signs of excited delirium can include erratic behaviour, profuse sweating and superhuman strength.
Critics, who include civil-liberties groups and plaintiffs in myriad lawsuits against both Taser International and police departments, say the condition is actually a vague collection of descriptors designed to protect police officers from allegations of wrongdoing. But there are virtually no such critics at this conference, only hundreds of researchers and front-line officers who'll readily stake their reputations on excited delirium being a very real medical emergency.
"I would have used agitated delirium," says Christine Hall, a Canadian emergency medicine doctor and leading expert on excited delirium. "When people hear the word excited, they think of birthday parties or going on a trip to Hawaii."
Dr. Hall, who is at this year's conference and has been asked to speak at next year's, says much in the same way that abdominal pain can be a symptom of a medical condition such as appendicitis, excited delirium is a collection of symptoms that could point to serious underlying medical problems. The end goal of such conferences, she says, is to allow police officers to spot the signs of what could be a medical emergency.
But as many people at the conference point out, the first step to getting medical help for someone showing signs of excited delirium is to get them restrained. "People say, 'You should just get him to a hospital,' " Dr. Hall says. "But how?"
There are, however, many problems with legitimizing excited delirium. For one thing, the myriad symptoms can blur the line between someone suffering from cocaine-induced excited delirium and someone with low blood sugar - especially for police officers, who generally aren't trained to make a medical diagnosis.
While excited delirium is not a recognized medical condition, it has been listed as a cause of death in several coroner jury inquests in Canada and the U.S. - Taser International has often said that excited delirium, not its devices, is the cause of death in many cases where people were hit with a stun gun and subsequently died.
The presenters at the conference are well aware of the possibility that they could be perceived in conflict of interest. Some of them disclose that their research is funded by Taser. Two such presenters conducted research on the negative effects of taser use on the human body; they found very few.
November 30, 2007
The Canadian Press
And this is the man who will lead a nation-wide review of RCMP use of tasers and their use by RCMP officers on Robert Dziekanski?!?! The investigation into the death of Ian Bush was a joke and,if the man who shot him to death had not been an officer in a uniform, he'd be in prison ...
VANCOUVER - The RCMP Public Complaints Commissioner has ruled an officer's use of lethal force was necessary in the death of Ian Bush in Houston, B.C. In a report released Thursday, Commissioner Paul Kennedy also ruled the RCMP's North District Major Crime Unit conducted a "highly professional" investigation into Bush's death.
Earlier this year a coroner's inquest heard that Const. Paul Koester wasn't formally interviewed by police for three months after Bush was killed in October, 2005.
Bush was arrested outside the local hockey rink for giving a false name and 20 minutes later, Koester shot Bush in the head after what the officer said was a struggle for his life.
"After carefully considering the circumstances I conclude that Const. Koester had a reasonable apprehension of death and believed that he could not otherwise preserve himself from death other than to use lethal force," Kennedy said in his report.
"Accordingly, Const. Koester acted in self-defence."
The RCMP came under fire for using its own officers to investigate the controversial incident. But Kennedy endorsed their handling of the case.
"I concluded that the North District major crime unit conducted a highly professional investigation into Mr. Bush's death and exemplified the best practices for major crime investigations," he said.
Kennedy made several recommendations including installing recording equipment in every RCMP detachment where prisoners are handled, and that RCMP develop policy for police investigations involving their own members.
Besides his report on Bush's death, Kennedy also announced another probe into RCMP officers who have investigated fellow officers involved in death or injury cases over a five-year period between April 2002 and March 2007.
Kennedy launched his review in September 2006 into the circumstances surrounding Bush's arrest and death, as well as how the Mounties subsequently handled their investigation of it.
The RCMP investigation, which was reviewed by New Westminster police, concluded that no charges should be laid against the Koester.
A coroner's inquest later recommended only policy changes such as increased surveillance in police detachments to prevent similar deaths in the future. The jury also suggested last July that Mounties should not be alone with suspects at police stations.
The parents of Bush were disappointed by the recommendations and urged better recruitment and training for officers, while saying police should not investigate themselves.
Bush, 22, was arrested outside the Houston, B.C., hockey rink with an open beer in October 2005. Less than an hour later he was dead, lying in a blood-spattered room in the RCMP detachment.
Const. Paul Koester testified he shot the young man in the back of the head in self-defence while the two were alone in an interview room.
The case raised allegations that Koester got preferential treatment, including advance notice of the questions investigators would ask him. Three weeks went by before he gave a written statement to police investigators and it was more than three months before he was interviewed.
At the inquest, a blood-spatter expert disputed the officer's version of the events, saying it wasn't possible for Bush to have been behind Koester trying to choke him when the fatal shot was fired.
Joe Slemko, an Edmonton police officer and private consultant, said the evidence, based on blood patterns, showed the young man had to be under the Mountie.
The inquest also heard that Bush's body was left unrefrigerated in the Houston detachment for at least 24 hours before it was taken to the morgue in Prince George and then on to Kamloops for an autopsy three days later.
The dead man's mother, Linda Bush, has said the family will push ahead with its civil lawsuit against the RCMP and the B.C. solicitor general and Attorney General.
The B.C. Civil Liberties Association, which believes a civilian agency should investigate such cases involving police, is also proceeding with a judicial review.
The release of the report comes amid the controversy over the videotaped death of Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski after he was zapped with a Taser and subdued by RCMP officers at the Vancouver International Airport. The Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP is also examining that case.
November 30, 2007
The Canadian Press
DIGBY, N.S. — A widow who is suing the RCMP for negligence says an officer shot her husband in the back with a Taser before he died during an altercation in 2005.
Helen Saulnier alleges in her civil suit in Nova Scotia Supreme Court that her late husband, Paul Saulnier, was Tasered outside the Digby RCMP detachment while he was arguing with another officer. She is suing the RCMP and three specific officers.
Saulnier, 42, of Waldeck, N.S., died July 15, 2005. He had been taken to the police station for questioning and was told he would be fingerprinted, the statement of claim alleges. It does not say he was ever under arrest. Some information in the statement of claim came from the provincial medical examiner’s report, said Saulnier’s lawyer, Jamie MacGillivray. ‘‘It was based on the RCMP’s own version of what happened,’’ he said.
When an agitated Saulnier decided to leave the police station through a back door, two Mounties followed him outside and ordered him back inside, the statement of claim alleges. One officer went back inside to grab a Taser, then returned and fired the darts into Saulnier’s back. An RCMP spokesman said shortly after Saulnier’s death that they had been planning to charge him with criminal harassment. The spokesman admitted that officers used pepper spray, batons, and a Taser to subdue him.
Saulnier fell to the ground and both officers jumped on him, the statement of claim says. A third officer came outside to help. Nova Scotia’s chief medical examiner found that Saulnier died of cardiac arrest due to excited delirium caused by paranoid schizophrenia, MacGillivray said. On Thursday, the RCMP said they would not comment on the lawsuit. The allegations have not been proven in court.
Thursday, November 29, 2007
COLUMBIA COUNTY, Fla. -- A Clay County man being transported to an area hospital was stunned with a Taser gun when, according to police, he became violent inside an ambulance. Deputies said a friend of 28-year-old Ashley Stephens called for help at about 5 a.m. Thursday after she realized the man was not feeling well. An ambulance came to take Stephens to an area hospital, but once en route investigators said the man became violent.
Deputies said Stephens was not only sick, but also on drugs, making the early-morning ambulance ride anything but normal. "They traveled for about a mile when the subject became very violent in the back of the ambulance. He began struggling and fighting. He actually kicked out a rear window of the ambulance," said Columbia County Sheriff Bill Gootee.
Investigators said things got worse when Stephens jumped from the ambulance, crossed two lanes of traffic and ended up in a median, where he was shocked with a Taser gun. "They tried to subdue him, and in doing so he became extremely violent," Gootee said.
Deputies told Channel 4 the Taser gun was deployed toward the 5-foot-8-inch, 350-pound man a total of three times, but he said only two of the bolts hit him. An ambulance then took Stephens to a local hospital, where deputies said he died. Stephens' death and the incidents leading up his death are under investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
"We are here for a fact-finding investigation, and those facts will be gathered and turned over to the state attorney's office," said Dennis Norred, of the FDLE. Channel 4's Emily Pantelides reported Stephens' prior arrests record dated back to 1999 and included various drug arrests.
The two deputies involved in the incident were being questioned by the FDLE. Gootee said because of Thursday's incident he would look into his department's use of Taser guns and whether the weapons should continue to be used.
Posted by Reality Chick at 18:23
November 29, 2007
CBC News (Associated Press)
More tests will be needed to find out what caused the death of a 36-year-old man who was pepper-sprayed, hit with batons and stunned with a Taser by RCMP in Chilliwack.
The RCMP said Thursday that an initial autopsy failed to uncover the cause of death of Robert Knipstrom, who fought with Mounties at a rental store on Nov. 21.
Police said they needed to use the spray, their batons and the stun gun to bring Knipstom under control. He was seriously injured in the takedown and died four days later without regaining consciousness.
The RCMP investigation into the conduct of officers involved in the arrest continues, and investigators are now awaiting results of further pathology tests and the coroner's report into the cause of death.
A recent autopsy also failed to find what killed Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski after he was jolted with an RCMP Taser at Vancouver airport on Oct. 14. Several investigations into that death are also underway.
The conduct of the officers in both incidents is also the subject of separate investigations by the Public Complaints Commissioner for the RCMP.
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
November 28, 2007
Kristy Rich, CJAD
QUEBEC CITY - The Parti Quebecois is calling on the government to follow the lead of Newfoundland and Labrador, and put in place a moratorium on the use of Taser guns. Public security critic Jacques Cote made the demand following the RCMPs decision to take another look at its use of stun guns, in the wake of the death of a polish immigrant who was stunned last month at the Vancouver airport.
"The minister must act on the side of precaution," says Cote, who said the government should put a hold on the use of Tasers until a group of experts commissioned by the government to look at the use of Tasers releases its recommendations. That report is expected next month.
But, the public security minister says the government will wait for the report before taking action. Jacques Dupuis warned the PQ not to "create unnecessary alarm." Dupuis says only specialized police tactical squads in the province have access to Taser guns. He says there are only 114 tasers owned by police in the province.
New Zealand stungun foe Keith Locke has found out that the NZ Superannuation Fund has a $780,000 investment in Taser International.
The Green Party MP said yesterday he had been "amazed" by his discovery. "They should quickly disinvest, particularly now that the United Nations Committee on Torture has designated the Taser as a torture weapon," he said. "Such disinvestment would be consistent with the fund's earlier decision to quit its tobacco company shares."
Mr Locke said that legally, the investment was inconsistent with New Zealand's adherence to the UN Convention Against Torture. He acknowledged that Taser International might be a growth stock.
"That's partly because it is promoting a home consumer model, so that ordinary Americans can zap each other."
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
Meagan Fitzpatrick , CanWest News Service
Authorities in Poland said Wednesday they are launching their own investigation into the death of Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski at Vancouver International Airport last month.
"The aim of the investigation is to verify whether (Canadian police) exceeded their authority and involuntarily caused the death of a Polish citizen," said Michal Szulczynski, spokesman for the regional prosecutor's office in the southwestern Polish city of Gliwice.
"The Polish criminal code allows for an investigation in cases which have taken place abroad but which involve a Polish citizen," he told AFP. "Foreign nationals can be prosecuted in such cases."
Polish authorities say for now they just want to get to the bottom of what happened, but they warned they won't rule out laying their own charges against Canadian citizens in the case. "For the moment it's a question of clarifying the circumstances and causes of Robert Dziekanski's death, but we can't rule out that in a later phase the investigation could lead to the indictment of Canadian officials," said Szulczynski.
There are already eight separate investigations underway to determine what went wrong and what contributed to Dziekanski's death:
1. The British Columbia government is conducting a full public inquiry;
2. Paul Kennedy, the public complaints commissioner for the RCMP, has launched an inquiry;
3. The RCMP has begun an internal review;
4. Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day's department released the findings of a Canada Border Service Agency internal investigation on Monday;
5. The homicide investigation team from the RCMP and municipal police departments in Metro Vancouver is conducting a probe;
6. The Vancouver International Airport Authority is conducting an internal review;
7. B.C.'s Coroners Service has scheduled an inquest for May 5-16, 2008; and
8. The House of Commons public safety committee announced on Thursday it will launch an investigation.
"We are not going to wait for the results of the Canadian investigation," said Szulczynski. Poland filed a diplomatic protest with Canada after Dziekanski's death, demanding Warsaw receive "full and transparent results of the (Canadian) investigation." Canada's ambassador to Poland, David Preston, has reassured Polish officials the Canadian probe will be "thorough and fair."
November 28, 2007
CTV.ca News Staff
The head of the Canadian Police Association has blasted Liberal Sen. Colin Kenny for straying outside of his "area of expertise," after the senator told CTV's Canada AM there should be a moratorium on Taser use until officers are properly trained. Tony Cannavino issued an open letter to Kenny on behalf of the association's 57,000 members, to express his "extreme displeasure and disappointment" over his comments on Conducted Energy Devices.
"It is unfortunate that you have chosen to venture outside of your mandate as Chair of the Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence, to comment on matters which are apparently, from your comments, beyond your area of expertise and understanding," wrote Cannavino. "It is irresponsible of you to suggest, without any regard for the body of scientific knowledge concerning these devices, nor any understanding of police training and procedures related to same, that a moratorium should be imposed on the use of CEDs."
Kenny, chair of the Senate defence and national security committee, said Tuesday that Tasers should only be fired by officers when they are threatened or in danger. He also said police may wish to consider using a different type of stun gun that records a visual record of its use. "There are Tasers that actually record a picture of what the Taser's aiming at, and they record it on a little tape and they record the sound," Kenny told Canada AM.
He emphasized that he was speaking in general terms and not specifically about the case of Robert Dziekanski, the Polish immigrant who died following a confrontation with police at Vancouver International Airport in the early-morning hours of Oct. 14.
RCMP officers used a Taser on Dziekanski within 25 seconds of confronting him and he died soon after, although the cause of death remains unknown.
Cannavino claimed Kenny's comments suggested officers were improperly using Tasers. "Those incidents which have given rise to recent public attention are the subject of multiple layers of investigation and oversight, and the public can be assured that the interests of all Canadians will be accounted for in these processes," he wrote. "Furthermore, the officers involved in these incidents have the right, in our democracy, to the presumption of innocence pending the outcome of these inquiries. Your commentary only serves to undermine this presumption."
The RCMP officers involved in the Dziekanski incident have been reassigned.
The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) released its report into the Dziekanski incident last Monday and there are at least eight more investigations underway, including a public inquiry launched by the B.C. government and a federal inquiry into the RCMP's use of Tasers.
November 28, 2007
OMAR EL AKKAD AND JESSICA LEEDER, Globe and Mail
Ignorance, conspiracies and media bias fuel most of the negative sentiment toward the device, company's lawyer contends
The world's most popular maker of "electrical control devices" employs an aggressive strategy that has resulted in the company, Taser International, winning virtually every lawsuit launched against it.
A recent string of deaths in Canada after taser use has put several Canadian law-enforcement agencies under intense scrutiny. In both the United States and Canada, such deaths have resulted in myriad lawsuits against both Taser and individual police and security departments.
But police departments and other organizations that end up being sued can turn to the company for more than just moral support. The company will provide scientific information, statistics and guidance on defence experts. They'll also provide information on the experts that the plaintiffs have lined up.
In a 118-slide PowerPoint presentation created and presented at a law-enforcement and security conference earlier this year by Michael Brave, Taser's national litigation counsel, the lawyer contends that most of the lawsuits and negative sentiment toward tasers are actually based on ignorance, conspiracies and media bias. He also outlines such explanations as PDPCT: "plaintiffs' deep pocket causation theories," which he describes as the belief that "He who has the deep pockets caused the death."
In the presentation, Mr. Brave also criticizes several studies on tasers for being too conservative on when the devices should be used. Specific U.S. medical examiners are also criticized for their work on several cases.
Mr. Brave, a former intelligence chief with the U.S. Department of Justice, is also listed as a director for the Institute for the Prevention of In-Custody Deaths Inc., a private, Las Vegas-based company headed by a man named John Peters, who often acts as a course instructor for Taser International at the company's headquarters in Arizona.
The company bills itself as "the clearing house and training provider for sudden and in-custody deaths and related information" and was created in spring, 2005. That same year, Taser stock took a beating amid constant criticism and concerns over the safety of its products, including a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission investigation into the company's safety claims.
(In his presentation, Mr. Brave addresses the period of criticism in 2005, which he attributes to ignorance and bias, not scientifically reliable information. This portion of the presentation is titled: "2005 to present - The hysterical attacks !!!!!")
The Institute for the Prevention of In-Custody Deaths does not publicize its link to Taser International officials. Mr. Brave is listed as a mere "adjunct faculty" member on the institute's website.
However, there seems to be a significant overlap between the two companies' philosophies. Some of the institute's most recent offerings feature lessons for police administrators on how to manage the fallout when officers are involved in an incident that results in death, including how to control media coverage.
Taser officials repeatedly say the company's products have never officially been confirmed as the cause of death.
"If you look at this history of this, not one of the deaths in Canada - not one - has ever been listed as caused by a taser," Steve Tuttle, a spokesman for the company, said in an interview last week. Mr. Tuttle did not return calls seeking comment about Taser's strategy yesterday.
However, in the United States, where deaths that have raised questions about a link to tasers far outnumber Canadian incidents, newspapers and civil- liberties groups have documented several cases where local medical examiners initially linked tasers to in-custody deaths.
In his presentation, Mr. Brave highlights some of these cases, showing in each one how, in later depositions, the doctors responsible backed away from linking tasers to those deaths.
Mr. Tuttle said Taser doesn't tell police where to place its product on the "use of force spectrum," which ranges from simply talking to a person, to using deadly force.
However, Mr. Tuttle said the taser is safer than many alternatives on the lower end of the spectrum.
"I don't see anybody asking for a ban of batons. But it's barbaric. It's a caveman tool. You're hitting somebody with something like a baseball bat as hard as you can in certain areas of the body. Then it doesn't work. Then you use a taser, which ends the situation instantly," he said. "If you compare this to a palm strike, hands down the taser is a winner."
Recently, there have been numerous calls for moratoriums on the use of electronic control devices. The use of tasers was singled out by the United Nations Committee Against Torture, which stated that "the use of these weapons causes acute pain, constituting a form of torture."
Mr. Tuttle said the calls for moratoriums are "absurd."
"It's a step backwards in law enforcement evolution that we've helped create," he said. "Ninety per cent of people you deploy this on have a quick reaction that you'll never read about in the paper.
"Has it saved lives? Absolutely. Is it the most effective non-lethal tool out there? Hands down. We've found the winning ingredient."
STUN GUN CASES
In his PowerPoint presentation on legal issues surrounding taser use, Taser International legal counsel Michael Brave highlights a number of cases involving stun guns.
In one case from 2005, a Sacramento police officer was sued for excessive force after he shot a man with a gun in the buttocks. The officer intended to draw his taser, but instead pulled out his firearm.
A similar incident from June of last year is also included. A man in Washington State had climbed a tree and remained there for several hours, according to the presentation.
"Deputies were unsure whether the man was intoxicated, on drugs, or possibly experiencing a psychotic episode," the presentation reads. "One deputy attempted to discharge a TASER device at the man, but when it did not work asked another deputy to fire a TASER device. Instead of grabbing the TASER device, the deputy grabbed and fired her gun."
The presentation also lists a couple of incidents of accidental taser and "Electronic Control Device" discharge. In one case from February of 2006, a Florida officer accidentally discharged a taser on his daughter.
The presentation also lists, without elaborating: "Recent incident of officer accidentally discharging ECD into daughter's eye."
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
November 27, 2007
The Canadian Press
HALIFAX — It could be up to a year before officials clearly understand what killed a Nova Scotia man who died in custody after being tasered by police a day earlier, the RCMP said Tuesday.
Sgt. Mark Gallagher said there are specialized tests that might be needed to determine why Howard Hyde, 45, collapsed and then died last Thursday at a correctional facility following a struggle with guards.
"Toxicology and some of the other samples need to be forwarded to laboratories," he said. "One of the processes could take up to a year." Sgt. Gallagher wouldn't reveal which tests might be needed, but said few labs do them and they are backed up with other cases.
Preliminary autopsy results from tests on Mr. Hyde's organs have been inconclusive, possibly raising the need for the more specialized examinations, he said.
Mr. Hyde, who had been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia in his 20s, died after being forcibly subdued twice by security guards at the facility in nearby Dartmouth.
Fred Honsberger, executive director of Correctional Services with the provincial Justice Department, said Mr. Hyde refused to enter the admissions office and four or five other officers were called to help subdue him. As he was being lowered to the floor or shortly after, he stopped resisting and stopped breathing. Health staff were immediately called in and attempted to revive him using CPR. It's not clear how much the security guards knew about his health before trying to restrain him, but Mr. Honsberger said Hyde would have been evaluated by nurses when he arrived.
Health Minister Chris d'Entremont said an ongoing RCMP investigation into the case should shed some light on what happened to the amateur musician who had previous run-ins with police. When asked if he was concerned whether health-care workers at the jail might not have told guards of his mental illness for confidentiality reasons, Mr. d'Entremont said there might have been some "miscommunications going on."
"It's always a concern that certain informations are not made public or shared for those kinds of reasons," he said Tuesday. "I don't know until I see a full report on that."
Mr. Hyde had been arrested for assault last Wednesday and was tasered once or twice as he was engaged in a violent struggle with officers at the police station. Critics say Mr. Hyde, whose psychiatric problems were well known to mental health officials, should have received special treatment for his illness rather than being placed in a correctional facility.
Mr. Hyde was tasered by police in 2005, and was convinced the shock had hurt his heart. After he was tasered last Wednesday night, Mr. Hyde went into "medical distress" and was taken to hospital, examined and later released into the custody of correctional officials, police said.
The Trial Lawyers Association of British Columbia (TLABC) calls for an immediate ban on taser use throughout the province following a disturbing series of taser-related deaths in Vancouver, others parts of Canada and beyond.
"While our association is pleased that a public inquiry will be conducted regarding the death of Robert Dziekanski, who was shot with a taser twice at the Vancouver International Airport, the further use of tasers cannot be justified until all police protocols are thoroughly reviewed and re-assessed," said TLABC president Rose Keith. "As well, the degree of harm caused by tasers may render a permanent ban necessary. That is a matter which must be addressed through public processes in Canada and in other jurisdictions."
TLABC urges Solicitor General John Les and Premier Gordon Campbell to impose a ban on taser use until, at a minimum, the results of the public inquiry are fully realized and all relevant information from other jurisdictions is obtained.
The use of tasers is now universally controversial and the concerns are fully warranted. A moratorium on taser use is imperative at this time. No one should be subjected to harm caused by the use of taser guns when the degree of damage has not been controlled or minimized in a disturbingly high number of tragic incidents. TLABC notes that the Yukon has already imposed a ban on taser use. It is necessary for BC officials to follow this lead.
For further information: www.tlabc.org
A moratorium on Taser use by the RCMP should be imposed until everyone is assured that officers issued the weapons are properly trained, says Sen. Colin Kenny. The appropriate time to use them "is ... when someone is threatened or someone is in danger," the chair of the Senate defence and national security committee told Canada AM on Tuesday.
Kenny said police may wish to consider a different type of Taser. "There are Tasers that actually record a picture of what the Taser's aiming at, and they record it on a little tape and they record the sound." This would make the officer think twice before using the Taser and would give a reviewing officer a record of what happened, he said.
Kenny said he was speaking in general terms and not specifically about the case of Robert Dziekanski, the Polish immigrant who died following a confrontation with police at Vancouver International Airport in the early-morning hours of Oct. 14. The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) released its report into the Dziekanski affair on Monday. Alain Jolicoeur, president of the federal agency, said it would move to improve translation services at the airport and make changes in the way it deals with international travellers. The CBSA will also extend video surveillance of the areas under its control within the airport, he said.
Kenny said he's reviewed the five recommendations. "The most obvious concern to me is when the individual came to primary inspection, there was clearly a communications problem. And at that point, there should have been an escort to take the individual through to secondary," he said. Dziekanski -- who came to Canada to be with his mother, Zofia Cisowski of Kamloops, B.C. -- went through primary inspection at 4:09 p.m. on Oct. 13. He went in the direction of the secondary inspection area, but then ended up in the baggage carousel area, where he remained for more than six hours. Cisowski's husband made inquiries about Dziekanski at 7 p.m., but CBSA officials said no one fitting Dziekanski's description was found.
Dziekanski tried to leave the baggage area at 10:40 p.m. A border services officer directed him to the secondary inspection area. By that time, his mother had already left for Kamloops. Joliceur said an officer who spoke a "limited" amount of Polish was available to help Dziekanski; however, that individual was never called on again during the evening. Dziekanski cleared secondary inspection at 11:30 p.m.
A sweating, distressed Dziekanski started acting out at about 1:20 a.m. Airport security called the RCMP, and officers used a Taser to shock Dziekanski at least twice. The 40-year-old lost consciousness and died.
"I don't know how customs can clear somebody to come into the country if they can't communicate with them," Kenny said. There are translation services available off-site, he said. The CBSA report is one of at least eight reviews into the Dziekanski case, including a public inquiry launched by British Columbia and a federal inquiry into the RCMP's use of Tasers.
Posted by Reality Chick at 15:58
November 27, 2007
Melissa Blasius, 12 News
As Taser International launches a holiday sales campaign for its newest consumer model, the United Nations issues a scathing report about the law enforcement version of the weapon.
The U.N. Committee Against Torture wrote in a report about Portugal this month, “The Committee was worried that the use of Taser X26 weapons, provoking extreme pain, constituted torture.” The committee also commented about the possibility of death in some cases. The committee is a watchdog for prisoner rights around the world.
Taser International founder Tom Smith characterized the U.N. as “out of touch” with active, modern law enforcement. He defended the device, saying it reduces injuries to suspects and officers in 40 countries. He adds Taser executives will travel to Washington, D.C., this week in an effort to get United Nations officials to reassess the weapon.
Smith says he is concerned how the U.N. report could impact sales. The company recently launched a Christmas campaign to advertise the new consumer Taser, called the C2. It’s marketed as a self-defense device, especially for women. It comes in unintimidating hot pink and several other colors. It’s also not shaped like a gun and costs about $350 dollars. Both the C2 and X26 use the same voltage. They have different ranges and pulse cycles.
November 27, 2007
Daytona Beach News
DAYTONA BEACH -- A woman using a credit card that did not belong to her was shot with a Taser stunning device inside a Best Buy store Monday afternoon, police said.
The details of the incident were unclear Monday, but an employee at the store said the incident occurred inside the business just before 3 p.m. After the Taser was deployed, police thought the woman was having a seizure and called rescue but then canceled the call.
While he had little information because the incident was still being investigated, Daytona Beach police spokesman Jimmie Flynt said he believes officers were called because the woman may have gotten excited when questioned about the credit card. It's also not clear whether the credit card was stolen, Flynt said.
Posted by Reality Chick at 06:37
November 27, 2007
Mike Chouinard, The Chilliwack Times
An autopsy will begin today to look into the death of a Fraser Valley man who was pepper sprayed, hit with a baton and Tasered by Chilliwack RCMP last week.
Shortly after midnight on Nov. 24, Robert Thurston Knipstrom, 36, passed away at Surrey Memorial Hospital after being on life support for several days. He was brought there following an altercation at an Airport Road rental business on Nov. 19.
B.C. Coroner's Service spokesperson Jeff Dolan confirmed the forensic autopsy is scheduled for Nov. 27, but he is not sure how much time it will require. "The results won't be released publicly immediately," he told the Times Monday afternoon.
Knipstrom's case is also in the early stages of review with the coroners service to see if it proceeds to an official inquest.
In the meantime, people who knew him are still in shock from his death. His father Bob Knipstrom issued a short statement on behalf of the Abbotsford-based family through the RCMP: "The family is shocked and saddened by the recent incident between our son and the Chilliwack RCMP. We apologize on behalf of our son to the staff of [Eze Rent-It Centre] for any distress that was caused because of this incident. We would appreciate that the media respect our continued privacy at this time as we grieve the loss of our son."
Knipstrom's friends remain in shock after the events of the last week. On Saturday evening, friends in Chilliwack gathered to remember their friend. Cheryl Funk was not able to attend but she knew Knipstrom from his days working at the Wildcat Grill in Rosedale. She said Knipstrom was running his own business at the time but worked at the restaurant to give them some extra help.
"He was an extremely good friend . . . He would do anything for anybody," she said. "The thing with Bob is he always had a smile on his face." Funk said she and other friends knew he had "problems" but no one can figure out why police had to respond physically with such force, as he was not big. Knipstrom was reported to be about 5'6" and weigh about 150 pounds. "I know there's a full investigation and there should be," she said.
Other friends have set up a page on the social networking website Facebook to remember "Bobby" Knipstrom. Many of them recalled old memories of him as kind and caring person with a love for the outdoors.
Monday, November 26, 2007
November 26, 2007
The Canadian Press
WASHINGTON - When Florida student Andrew Meyer was stunned with a Taser gun this fall at a campus session with Senator John Kerry, the dramatic video footage made all the networks. And it re-ignited debate in the United States about the use and dangers of the brand-name guns that zap people with high-voltage electric shocks.
Now, with the deaths of four Americans who were tased in the last 10 days, there are new demands to ban them. All told, there have been six deaths in the United States since Robert Dziekanski died last month at Vancouver Airport in a highly contentious case that's provoked a national debate about the weapons in Canada.
That concern is mirrored south of the border. "People are paying attention," said Jason Disterhoft at Amnesty International U.S.A. "It seems like people are worried and rightly so."
If the issue has resurfaced as a top-of-mind for U.S. government officials, rights groups and cops, it has been prominent here for the last few years. Amnesty has consistently raised concern about the use of Tasers in routine law enforcement situations or as a weapon of first resort. The group has been calling on police departments to suspend use of Tasers or at least limit them to situations involving the threat of death or serious injury. Tasing someone who is not violent and poses no threat to himself or others constitutes cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, says Amnesty.
The United Nations Committee Against Torture singled out Tasers at a Geneva conference last Friday, agreeing that the most popular model caused so much pain that using it "constituted a form of torture." "At the least, we'd like to see law enforcement use it only when lethal force is the only alternative," said Disterhoft.
Meyer, for instance, was still posing questions to Kerry after his time ran out and he resisted attempts by university police to remove him. After yelling out: "Don't tase me, bro," he got a blast from the stun gun as he lay on the ground, with one arm handcuffed. Two of the policemen were placed on paid administrative leave and Meyer agreed to 18 months of probation to avoid criminal charges of resisting arrest.
In Utah, an officer recently tased a driver who refused to sign a speeding ticket. A patrol car's dashboard camera caught it on tape and the incident became popular on YouTube. The officer is under investigation, accused of being too quick to pull out the Taser.
Other recent U.S. cases have been far more grave, including the death Nov. 18 of 20-year-old Jarrel Grey, who died in Frederick, Md., after a sheriff's deputy tried to break up a late-night brawl.
Black leaders are calling for a ban on Tasers, at least until there's a clear policy on how they're used by cops. That's something police want as well, saying it's not right to send officers out to make split second decisions without proper guidelines and training.
Those vary significantly across the country among some 12,000 police departments that use Tasers.
"My sense is there is no cogent policy nationwide," said Rich Roberts at the International Union of Police Associations in Sarasota, Fla., which is developing a research project on Tasers. "I'm afraid the same thing may apply to training. My fear is too many departments may be (explaining) the technology and that's it." What cops need to know, said Roberts, is exactly where the Taser belongs in the "force continuum," so it will be used appropriately. But it should "absolutely" be part of the police arsenal, along with pepper spray, batons and guns, he said.
Since it isn't classified as a firearm, it's exempt from federal firearms requirement and regulations. There's still no agreement in the United States on whether Tasers, wihich release 50,000 volts of electricity, can actually kill or whether the victims had pre-existing conditions.
The manufacturer, Taser International of Scottsdale, Ariz., concedes on its website that the technology is not risk-free but the company says no deaths have been definitively linked to the product.
Dziekanski is recorded as the 18th person in Canada to die in recent years after being hit by a Taser, while Amnesty says 280 people have died since July 2001 in the United States, where the devices can also be used by civilians in many states. That works out to roughly the same rate of deaths per capita in both countries.
"Nobody really knows exactly why these people are dying," Amnesty executive director Larry Cox told CBS News. "It may be because they have a heart condition. It may be because they're on drugs. It may be because of some other factor that we don't know about. The important thing is, they are dying after they are Tasered. That cannot be denied, no matter how you spin the language."
Last month, Wake Forest University released an independent study of injuries associated with Tasers, saying they're relatively harmless and pose minimal risks. Dr. William Bozeman, a lead researcher, added the device isn't a "magical sort of thing that can't hurt anybody ever."
The U.S. Justice Department is expected to release a major report on Tasers next year. And some government officials are already hoping to replace it. The Homeland Security Department, for instance, is looking at creating a new non-lethal weapon called the LED Incapacitator.
It would use high-intensity light-emitting diodes to temporarily blind people and make them dizzy.
November 26, 2007
Ian Austin , CanWest News Service
VANCOUVER - The Canadian Border Services Agency promised sweeping changes to its treatment of international arrivals Monday as it released its internal report into the Taser incident that ended with the death of Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski.
The CBSA promised more cameras, improved interpreter services and the option of more patrols and security checks within the CBSA secure area at Vancouver International Airport, where Dziekanski wandered disoriented for up to nine hours before his death on Oct. 14.
The CBSA said it will ensure that people referred for further examinations will report to the secondary examination area within a "reasonable amount of time," and said it would review "services provided for international travellers and those waiting to meet them."
Dziekanski and his mother were separated for hours by a matter of metres, as Dziekanski was on one side of the international arrivals area and his mother waited on the other side.
"I assure you that the CBSA is committed to implementing these recommendations without delay here at Vancouver International Airport and at other international airports as appropriate, to further secure and safely facilitate travellers' entry," said Alain Jolicoeur, president of the CBSA.
The damning report shows that the CBSA lost track of Dziekanski for more than six hours. Dziekanski arrived at 3:20 p.m. on Oct. 13 and was processed through primary inspection at 4:09 p.m.
According to a timeline issued by CBSA, Dziekanski wasn't again identified until 10:40 p.m., when he tried to exit the CBSA hall.
"At that point, a CBSA officer advised him he needed to go to secondary, and directed him toward that area," the report says. "Mr. Dziekanski spoke little or no English and a Polish interpreter was not readily available."
The report also says 4,000 people went through the area during the time Dziekanski was unaccounted for.
Jolicoeur sent his condolences to Dziekanski's family. "I would like to extend our sincere and deepest sympathies to the family of Mr. Dziekanski," said Jolicoeur. "Our thoughts are with Mr. Dziekanski's family and friends at this difficult time."
Dziekanski, who spoke no English, wandered the halls of the airport for nine hours - principally in the customs area under the jurisdiction of the CBSA - before becoming upset and disoriented.
As documented in a video now seen by millions around the world, four police officers approached Dziekanski, Tasered him and subdued him before his heart stopped in the early morning hours of Oct. 14.
The video, filmed by fellow traveller Paul Pritchard, unleashed an international firestorm and launched more than half a dozen investigations.
The CBSA has come under fire for failing to provide translation services for Dziekanski - who had never been to Canada before and spoke no English - and for apparently being unaware of the fact he had wandered the secure area for hours without anyone seeking him out or attempting to help him.
Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day asked the agency to explain how Dziekanski, who spoke only Polish, got through customs, and why he was left alone in a secure area for so long.
While the RCMP has been criticized for its reaction to Dziekanski - who the video showed had thrown a computer and a table, but never confronted anyone and at one point walked away with his arms raised - many feel the situation should never have escalated to that point.
The CBSA apparently did nothing to quell his fears and security simply called police. Within seconds of approaching Dziekanski they Tasered him.
The CBSA report was unveiled two days after another man died following the police use of a Taser. Robert Knipstrom was the fourth Canadian fatality in six weeks following police use of the weapon.
The Chilliwack, B.C., man died in hospital five days after a violent encounter with police involving a Taser, a baton and pepper spray. An autopsy tentatively scheduled for Monday was to probe whether Knipstrom was on drugs at the time of the incident or if the Taser made contact with him.
As well, Quilem Registre, 39, died on Oct. 18, four days after being shocked by Taser in Montreal. He had been stopped by police on suspicion of drunk driving on October 14.
And last Thursday, a third man - Howard Hyde, 45 - died following a scuffle with corrections officers at a Dartmouth, N.S., prison. The incident came 30 hours after officers used a Taser to subdue him at police headquarters during a "violent" struggle.
On Monday, a review of Hyde's death found that staff at the jail had followed proper procedures. Hyde suffered from schizophrenia. His family says he was not taking his medication at the time of his death. Prison staff were not informed of Hyde's mental illness, said Fred Honsberger, director of correctional services. That was strictly a health-care issue, he said. "Whether a person is schizophrenic, on meds or off meds, or if there's some other complication of that nature, it wouldn't affect how (staff) responded that day. They responded according to procedures and training." Hyde will be buried Wednesday.
November 26, 2007
David Edwards and Jason Rhyne
Police use of Tasers to subdue suspects can rise to the level of torture, according to Amnesty International USA's executive director, Larry Cox, whose organization is calling for a moratorium on the electroshock devices.
Cox appeared on CBS's Early Show to discuss a dramatic spike in Taser-related deaths -- a total of six people died after being Tasered in separate incidents last week in the US and Canada -- and to urge the continued study of potential dangers he says are inherent to law enforcement reliance on Tasers.
"You have people who are often in custody, and when they are in custody and it's being used repeatedly on them, it's hard to describe it as anything else but torture," said Cox. Amnesty International USA first raised concerns that some Taser practices amounted to torture in 2006.
The United Nations Committee Against Torture voiced a similar opinion about Tasers last Friday, commenting that one stun gun model "constituted a form of torture" by inflicting considerable pain.
Asked about the UN statements, Cox said that the panel's characterization of some Tasering as torture carried significant weight.
"It means that it's a very serious thing because the UN does not lightly use the word torture," he said. " These are people that have seen torture around the world, they've seen the worst kinds of torture...And because we know from our own experience that electroshock often is used as a form of torture deliberately. You're shooting 50,000 volts of electricity into people; it's extremely painful."
Taser International, the manufacturer of the TaserX26, the specific stun gun cited by the UN, denies that its device has ever been directly responsible for a death. Cox said that although there was not yet definitive proof, more study of the incidents was needed.
"Nobody really knows exactly why these people are dying, we only know that people are dying after they are Tasered," said Cox. "When we started doing our first study, 70 people had died in the United States. Now it's nearly 300 people who have died in the United States. They're Tasered and then they die. We're calling for a study to find out exactly why."
Although he acknowledges that other circumstances may contribute to Taser deaths, the Tasers themselves were undeniably a contributing factor.
"It may be because they have a heart condition, it may be because they're on drugs, it may be because of some other factor that we don't know about," he added. "The important thing is they are dying after they they are Tasered. That cannot be denied, no matter how you spin the language."
Cox said that one reason for the pervasive use of Tasers by police forces was the perception that the device was not particularly dangerous.
"It's been billed as something safe and easy," he continued. "So it's natural that police who are in very difficult situations -- and are worried for their own lives -- may tend to use it too easily."
Answering claims made by some police authorities that a ban on Tasers would force officers to resort to potentially more dangerous weapons such as batons and pepper spray, Cox stressed that whatever the method employed by authorities, it should be fundamentally safe.
"We also want there to be a safe way to subdue people. I think that's very good," he concluded. "But we have to study this and find out that this is really safe. The penalty for resisting arrest should not be death."
November 26, 2007
Charles Mandel, CanWest News Service
HALIFAX - Staff at a Dartmouth jail followed proper procedure even though a man died last week, a day after he was shocked with a Taser, a review of the death has found. Howard Hyde of Dartmouth, N.S. was shocked last Wednesday after a "violent" struggle with officers at police headquarters as he was being booked into custody.
He died after a second scuffle, with staff at the Nova Scotia Correctional Facility, some 30 hours after he was hit by the police Taser. "Our findings indicate that staff followed proper procedures while this person was in our custody and we are now supporting RCMP in their phase of the investigation," said Fred Honsberger, executive director of Correctional Services with the Nova Scotia Department of Justice. Honsberger made his conclusion following a critical incident review into the death of the 45-year-old Hyde, a paranoid schizophrenic who was off his medications at the time of his death.
Hyde was arrested last Wednesday on charges including assault and resisting arrest. After he was hit with the Taser, he was brought to hospital where he was medically cleared and taken to the correctional facility. Last Thursday, Hyde had a second episode with corrections staff. He was placed in handcuffs and struggled as he was put in a holding cell. Shortly after, he collapsed. Staff called 911 and began CPR. Paramedics took over as they rushed him to hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
RCMP are conducting their own investigation of the death, which has also led to the provincial government ordering a ministerial review of Taser use in Nova Scotia.
Sunday, November 25, 2007
November 25, 2007
The RCMP's complaints commissioner won't say if he'd support an outright ban on the use of Tasers as part of his review of the stun gun's use. "What I think it is fair to say is that the police currently have an array of tactics and techniques and tools they can use," Paul Kennedy told CTV's Question Period on Sunday, referring to physical force, pepper spray, the baton and gun. "The issue is where does (the Taser) fit, in what circumstances would the public say yes, this is an appropriate use of that tool?"
Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day asked Kennedy to undertake a study into the use of Tasers by police. The commissioner had expressed some concerns in past cases. "I had seen cases during the past two years where I thought the device was being used too soon, where other techniques could have been employed, and been used in circumstances that I thought were unacceptable," Kennedy said.
Previously, Kennedy reviewed complaints about Taser use and identified four or five over a 12-month cycle that he considered the "most important." Tasers can be used in one of two fashions: while held against a person's body, or through the deployment of a dart, as in the Robert Dziekanski case at Vancouver airport.
Kennedy said that his reaction to the video of Dziekanski being tasered was the same as that of most Canadians. "It is obviously a very tragic circumstance," he said. "It's something that resonates with us at an instant active human level." But Kennedy said people should avoid jumping to conclusions. He said that officers frequently do follow correct policy and procedures, but those policies themselves need to be examined.
"The reality is that officers are trained in... the use of force," he said. "The issue is: was it used in compliance with policy? What were the full circumstances? Are the policies adequate and is the training adequate?" Agreeing that there is a possible loss of public confidence in the force, Kennedy said that a serious public overview of the RCMP would be beneficial. "We cannot have public safety without police being supported by the public," he said, pointing out that in many cases, the Mounties are co-operating with him beyond his legislative mandate. "There is a bond that must exist. That bond clearly has been eroded through the years. One of my objectives is I have to have a model in place that allows me to both restore and maintain public confidence in the police."
He admits that with better civilian overview, he might have been able to come up with earlier conclusions about RCMP Taser use, perhaps preventing some problems.
In draft model legislation on the complaints commission's website, Kennedy has asked for powers that would allow the body to make recommendations and influence policy, procedure and guidelines. "Why wait for a tragedy to occur? We should be in earlier," he said. "That would be to the benefit of the police and the Canadian public."
Saturday, November 24, 2007
November 24, 2007
VANCOUVER (AP) — A Canadian man died Saturday, four days after police used a Taser stun-gun on him because he reportedly was acting erratically in a store, police said. He was the third person to die in recent weeks in Canada after being shocked by the hand-held weapon.
Robert Knipstrom, 36, died in a hospital after two officers used pepper spray, a Taser and their batons to subdue the British Columbia resident. Police earlier said Knipstrom was extremely agitated, aggressive and combative with the two officers who responded. He was conscious and speaking when he was taken to the hospital.
The cause of death has yet to be determined. Although a Taser was used against Knipstrom, it was not immediately clear what role, if any, it played in his death, said Inspector Brendan Fitzpatrick.
Investigations into Knipstrom's death have been launched separately by the British Columbia Coroner's Office and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, police said at a news conference Saturday.
The case comes as Canadian police face intense criticism over the death of Robert Dziekanski, a Polish immigrant who died at Vancouver airport last month after officers used a Taser and manhandled him.
A Nova Scotian man also died earlier this week, 30 hours after being shocked with the Taser at a jail where he was being held on assault charges.
November 24, 2007
Herald Sun (Australia)
TASER electronic stun guns are a form of torture that can kill, a UN committee has declared after several recent deaths in North America. "The use of these weapons causes acute pain, constituting a form of torture," the UN's Committee against Torture said.
"In certain cases, they can even cause death, as has been shown by reliable studies and recent real-life events,'' the committee of 10 experts said.
Three men, all in their early 20s, were reported to have died in the United States this week, days after a Polish man died at Vancouver airport after being Tasered by Canadian police. The man, Robert Dziekanski, 40, fell to the ground and died after the police officers piled on top of him. There have been three deaths in Canada after the use of Tasers over the past five weeks.
The company that makes the weapons has said that similar deaths have been shown by "medical science and forensic analysis'' to be "attributable to other factors and not the low-energy electrical discharge of the Taser".
The UN committee made its comments in recommendations to Portugal, which has bought the newest Taser X26 stun gun for use by police. Portugal "should consider giving up the use of the Taser X26,'' as its use can have a grave physical and mental impact on those targeted, which violates the UN's Convention against Torture, the experts said.
November 24, 2007
Don Butler, The Ottawa Citizen
Ottawa police have been spared the controversy surrounding the use of Tasers, writes Don Butler, something the force attributes to good training, sound policy, and perhaps a little bit of luck.
At about 2:30 a.m. last Sunday morning, all hell broke loose in the ByWard Market. As a stunned crowd of barhoppers looked on, as many as 10 Ottawa police cruisers roared up and blocked the intersection of Dalhousie and York streets. Officers descended on a car driven by Marlena Sarazin, a 30-year-old single mother of two, smashing its windows when she didn't obey orders to get out.
According to one eyewitness, police then opened the driver's door, pulled Ms. Sarazin out and shoved her face-down onto the pavement. After one officer handcuffed her and pinned her with a knee, another zapped her with a 50,000-volt charge from his X26 Taser. Moments earlier, police say, they had tried to pull Ms. Sarazin over for suspected impaired driving. Instead, they allege she sped away, running over an officer's foot, then crashed into a taxi and a police cruiser. She has been charged with several offences including impaired driving, dangerous driving, failing to stop for police and resisting arrest.
Peter Beach, Ms. Sarazin's lawyer, won't discuss what his client told him about the Tasering. "It's obviously extremely painful," he says. "She came into the office on the Monday and there's a huge bruise on her arm, absolutely huge. There are two large puncture marks on her arm where the Taser went in." Because he doesn't have all the facts, Mr. Beach is not yet prepared to accuse police of overreacting. "I'm not going to jump up and down and say this is an outrage," he says, though he adds: "On the face of it, it seems that it might be." The incident is noteworthy for several reasons. For one, the target was a woman; the vast majority are men. It was just the 11th time this year that Ottawa police have used a Taser to subdue a suspect. And it was only the second time that someone other than a member of Ottawa's tactical squad had ever pulled the trigger.
The nature of the incident also adds fuel to the debate that has broken out over Taser use following the caught-on-video death of Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski at Vancouver airport last month.
Thursday, a 45-year-old man died in a Dartmouth, N.S. jail a day after being Tasered, the 17th such death in Canada since the devices were approved for use. None, though, has yet been directly attributed to Tasers.
About 275 people in the United States have died after being Tasered. According to Amnesty International, coroners have listed the Taser jolt as a contributing factor in more than 30 of those deaths.
And the bad PR for Tasers just keeps coming. Yesterday, the UN's Committee against Torture said the using the weapons constitutes "a form of torture."
Earlier this week, Paul Kennedy, who has been assigned to review the RCMP's use of Tasers in the wake of Mr. Dziekanski's death, said police sometimes use the devices "inappropriately at too early a level of intervention." His concern echoes that of Amnesty International, which said last June that Tasers "are being used too readily by law-enforcement officers and too low down the use-of-force scale and not as a weapon of last resort." Amnesty wants police forces to suspend use of the devices pending a "thorough, impartial and independent" investigation into their medical and other effects.
The RCMP and the Edmonton police force, in particular, have been repeatedly embroiled in controversy over Taser use. Along with Mr. Dziekanski's death, the RCMP was involved in three of the six Taser cases involving death in 2005 and 2006. And between 2002 and 2006, Edmonton police were involved in eight of 15 Taser cases listed by Amnesty International as involving excessive use of force.
By contrast, Ottawa police -- the first in Ontario to get Tasers -- have had no Taser-related deaths and have been involved in only a single controversy since the devices were introduced in 2000 as a pilot project. That was in 2003, when Ottawa and RCMP officers Tasered several Algerians during a sit-in in the immigration minister's office. Five threatened to sue, but no officers were disciplined. During the same protest, Ottawa police also zapped Paul Smith, a self-described expert in civil disobedience, as they struggled to get him into a cruiser. Mr. Smith, who was handcuffed at the time, had "gone limp" when he was Tasered twice in the leg by Const. Paulo Batista, later found guilty of misconduct by the Ontario Civilian Commission on Police Services.
Staff Sgt. Mike Maloney, head of the Ottawa police tactical unit, has no simple explanation for why Taser controversy has largely bypassed city police. "I don't know that we're doing anything differently," he says.
Nothing is 100-per-cent safe, he acknowledges, including Tasers. "We could have people with pre-existing conditions that we could Taser tomorrow. Or we could have someone tonight who's under the influence of alcohol or drugs and we Taser them and they pass away." Yet he resists the suggestion that Ottawa police have simply been lucky. "I like to believe that we do practise due diligence and we use the equipment properly. We've had it for six years, and we have experienced tactical officers who are using it." Ottawa police deploy Tasers surprisingly rarely. They were used only 16 times during the two-year pilot project that led the province to authorize their use by police tactical units everywhere. Since then, the 32 members of Ottawa's tactical unit have used them between a dozen and 19 times per year.
Usage is likely to increase in future, though. In 2005, the province agreed to let frontline supervisors use the weapon. Ottawa police began issuing the devices to supervisors in October. By the middle of 2008, about 80 Ottawa officers should have them. With Tasers in the hands of more officers, Staff Sgt. Maloney expects more use. In the past month alone, two frontline supervisors -- including the officer who Tasered Ms. Sarazin -- have used them on suspects.
Ultimately, Staff Sgt. Maloney hopes the province will let all frontline officers use Tasers. "They're the ones who are encountering these situations," he says. "We're not saying this solves all policing problems. It doesn't. But we feel strongly that this is a good tool for police officers. We do believe it saves lives." In Kingston, where police have deployed Tasers only 17 times in five years, Chief Bill Closs says his officers were affected by a Taser-related death that occurred in 2004. A Kingston man high on cocaine died a couple of hours after being Tasered.
An autopsy attributed the death to drug overdose. But Chief Closs said the experience has prompted his officers to "pause for one half-second" before using Tasers. "When something like that happens and you have a police force of 175 officers, they very quickly understand the serious consequences of using that weapon." In Ontario, Tasers are considered intermediate weapons. They can be used against those offering active resistance to officers, says Staff Sgt. Maloney -- people who are "either physically putting up their fists, turning their back or just not complying with your demands. That's when the Taser can be considered to be used." That doesn't mean they necessarily will be used, however. Officers must first evaluate the situation, considering such factors as the size and aggression of the subject, Staff Sgt. Maloney said.
"There are times you don't have very much time to make that assessment. It can go from verbal interaction with the individual all the way up to lethal force very, very quickly." Nor is there any prohibition against using Tasers on unarmed people. A recent review of RCMP Taser cases found that nearly 80 per cent of those zapped were not brandishing a weapon.
Tasers, says Staff Sgt. Maloney, improve safety by reducing the need to use physical force, including police batons. The electrical jolt from a Taser incapacitates subjects by jamming the nervous system and overpowering the normal signals of the body's nerve fibres.
And Tasers are here to stay, says Chief Closs. But he thinks politicians and police governing bodies have misled the public by selling them as an alternative to lethal force. That has created a false public expectation that police will only use Tasers when they might otherwise have to shoot someone. In fact, he says, the rules permit their use whenever police are dealing with someone who is actively resisting, engaging in "assaultive behaviour" or posing a threat to the safety of the officer or the public.
"The public should have been told the whole truth, and not part of the truth," says Chief Closs, who thinks frontline officers who use Tasers "have been hung out to dry." Many of the fatal incidents in Canada and the U.S. have been blamed on cocaine intoxication or other drug overdoses, as well as a condition known as "excited delirium." Though there is no medical consensus on the condition, excited delirium involves a constellation of symptoms including bizarre, purposeless behaviour, hyperactivity, incoherent shouting, extreme aggression and paranoia. Those in its grip may sweat profusely, have very hot skin, unbelievable strength and be impervious to pain.
A 2005 report done by the Victoria police for the office of the police complaints commissioner described excited delirium as a "medical emergency" that requires intervention and treatment, both for the individual's safety and for the safety of the public. "Immediate intervention with a single Taser application, followed by appropriate restraint techniques that do not compromise respiration and a speedy handover to medical personnel may represent the best possible scenario," the report says.
Ottawa police avoid things that may increase the risk of death associated with Tasers, according to Staff Sgt. Maloney. For example, Amnesty International says all six people who died in Canada after being Tasered in 2005 and 2006 were subjected to multiple cycles of the device. One man in Niagara received 12 shocks in three minutes.
It's unusual for Ottawa police to zap subjects more than once, Staff Sgt. Maloney says. "I've never seen it more than three times," he says. "If it's working, once is usually enough." Amnesty has also raised concerns about the use of pepper spray, which also affects respiration, in combination with Tasering. That occurred in four of the six deaths in 2005 and 2006.
Staff Sgt. Maloney says Ottawa officers might pepper-spray a subject initially, then Taser them if that doesn't work. "But you wouldn't Taser, have the person under control, and then pepper spray. If the Taser is working, that's your last means." In a 2004 report, Amnesty said five of nine people who died in Canada after being Tasered between 2002 and 2004 were "hogtied," with their wrists or elbows bound behind them to their shackled ankles. This could make breathing difficult and contribute to "positional asphyxia." But Staff Sgt. Maloney says hog- tying, though once practised by Ottawa police, is now banned. Once suspects are secured and handcuffed, officers are instructed to get them off their stomachs and into a "recovery position" as quickly as possible.
For greater accountability, new Tasers come with built-in audio and video recording capability. That encourages proper use, says Staff Sgt. Maloney. "I don't think we should hide from that." In the wake of Mr. Dziekanski's death, Staff Sgt. Maloney says police in Canada "are taking a very big hit. People are very upset, particularly with the RCMP.
"They've seen some very graphic footage. I don't know when the last time was we've seen somebody die on national television." Even his five-year-old daughter asked about Mr. Dziekanski's death "because she knows daddy is a police officer." He told her it was an accident, he says. "I guess that's how I look at it -- it was an accident. It wasn't intended. I can believe those four officers are having a tough time. A human being lost his life. And we don't swear an oath to do that." Meanwhile, Mr. Beach says his client, Marlena Sarazin, is still recovering from her Taser experience. Days later her hands were still tingling, though she's been told those effects will gradually subside.
Tasers were marketed as a less-invasive way of subduing suspects, Mr. Beach notes, "as if they were something like a whiff of laughing gas. They're obviously much more invasive than that."
November 24, 2007
JESSICA LEEDER AND CAROLINE ALPHONSO, Globe and Mail
Three months before Robert Dziekanski was tasered, the RCMP adopted a change in force protocol that allows officers to fire multiple shocks to control people under certain circumstances.
Police say medical evidence shows that, without tasers, prolonged and dangerous struggles occur with people suffering from what they term "excited delirium." It prompted the force to release new rules in August allowing officers to use tasers multiple times to more quickly gain control.
The RCMP define excited delirium as a potentially fatal "state of extreme mental and physiological excitement that is characterized by extreme agitation, hyperthermia, hostility, exceptional strength and endurance without apparent fatigue."
Until August, officers trained to use stun guns were cautioned to avoid using them more than once because of concerns about health effects. However, the force's belief that excited-delirium symptoms can escalate and cause death outweighed their worries about the impact of multiple shocks.
It is not known if Mr. Dziekanski was suffering from a so-called excited delirium episode when he was tasered twice while surrounded by four RCMP officers last month at Vancouver's International Airport. But RCMP familiar with the incident have hinted that the officers who responded believed him to fit that category.
One of the RCMP's trainers told The Globe and Mail that tasers are the "most humane way" to rein in people believed to be suffering from mental distress. "Someone in a full-blown excited-delirium event cannot respond to you when you try to negotiate with them," Corporal Gregg Gilles, one of the RCMP's taser trainers based in British Columbia, said. "We're telling officers if they think they're dealing with an excited-delirium event, if a second [taser] application will allow you to get them under control, use of a taser is best."
Cpl. Gilles said the RCMP's policy could change again once the investigations into Mr. Dziekanski's death are concluded. But he said it's unlikely the force, which was one of the first in the country to adopt tasers, will drop the weapon.
The most current policy was relaxed after the force said it came across new medical information about how to best handle people with symptoms of excited delirium. Cpl. Gilles said officers are taught to get people suffering from excited delirium under control as quickly as possible in order to get them into a state where they can safely get medical help. "They can't be treated until they're controlled," he said. "Taser is the tool that gives us the best option."
But the term "excited delirium" is not formally recognized by the World Health Organization nor the American Medical Association as an actual psychological or medical condition. However, the condition is being used increasingly by coroners tasked with attributing causes of death among victims in police custody. David Evans, Ontario's regional supervising coroner for investigations, described it as a "forensic term" not a medical one. "I think previous to the description of excited delirium, [it] was sometimes called custody death," he said.
The RCMP, meanwhile, refer to the condition as a syndrome and a seminar on how to recognize the trademark signs of excited delirium features prominently in the force's two-day, 20-hour taser training course. During that course, officers are told people in a state of excited delirium do not feel pain, meaning officers' traditional methods of restraining them -- with bodily force, a steel baton or pepper spray -- are rendered less effective. Officers are also taught that if they cannot handcuff a person they think is suffering from excited delirium a few seconds after the first taser shot, they should shoot again rather than resort to other methods of force, Cpl. Gilles said.
"Clearly you don't want to do multiple exposures if you don't need to, but if the choice was to have to punch the person or hit them, or do another taser, you'd rather do the second taser exposure," he said. Still, Cpl. Gilles conceded that the policy on multiple taser shots "may be hazardous. We don't know." But until more research is done, he added: "What officers are taught is to press the trigger, release and assess."
The RCMP have not made any changes to their protocol in the weeks since Mr. Dziekanski's death. But other police forces have taken a hard look at the use of tasers. The Yukon Department of Justice has announced an immediate moratorium on use of the weapons. And the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary has temporarily suspended its purchase of tasers for front-line officers. "We were in the process of obtaining the equipment so we could begin training our front-line officers," said Constable Paul Davis, spokesman for the RNC. "The intention was to equip the front-line officers. Things have changed. We decided that we would wait to see the outcome of these reviews before we make those purchases." RNC officers began carrying firearms about a decade ago. Only the tactical unit, which responds to the most volatile circumstances, has been armed with tasers. But Constable Davis said no one has received a jolt of electricity from an RNC taser.
Friday, November 23, 2007
November 23, 2007
Dan Arsenault, Halifax Chronicle Herald
The last hours of Howard Talbot Walden Hyde’s life were spent in conflict with the justice system and in hospital in metro, according to Halifax Regional Police. What follows is a chronology of Mr. Hyde’s final day as outlined by police and a spokesman for the company that provides ambulance service.
• Police arrest Mr. Hyde, 45, in connection with an assault in Dartmouth just after midnight. He’d been involved in a domestic dispute.
• While being fingerprinted at police headquarters on Gottingen Street in Halifax, Mr. Hyde attempts to jump over the counter in the booking area and flee the building.
• The man struggles violently with officers attempting to subdue him.
Mr. Hyde is shot with a stun gun either once or twice because police were unable to control him.
• He continues to fight, leaps over the counter and attempts to run out the back door in the booking area. Police chase him, and another struggle takes place.
• Mr. Hyde is eventually brought under control but suffers medical distress. Officers at the scene administer first aid.
• Police call Emergency Health Services for an ambulance at headquarters.
• 2:11 a.m.: Paramedics respond to the call. Mr. Hyde is unconscious but breathing.
• Paramedics take him to the new Infirmary at the Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Centre. Mr. Hyde is assessed in the emergency department and discharged from hospital two to three hours later. He’s released back into police custody.
• Mr. Hyde makes an appearance in Dartmouth provincial court Wednesday afternoon. He’s then returned to custody and sent to the jail in Dartmouth.
• At 7:47 a.m., paramedics are summoned to the jail to attend to a prisoner in cardiac arrest. Sources say Mr. Hyde was involved in a struggle with correctional staff.
• Mr. Hyde is taken to Dartmouth General Hospital. He dies later Thursday morning.
• Provincial justice minister orders a ministerial review into the use of stun guns in Nova Scotia. The review applies to all police forces, correctional staff and sheriff’s deputies.
• An RCMP spokesman says the force will be investigating the circumstances of Mr. Hyde’s sudden death.
November 23, 2007
The Yukon Justice Department has imposed a moratorium on using Tasers at the Whitehorse jail in light of recent deaths involving the stun gun elsewhere in Canada. Superintendent Phil Perrin said that because guards at the jail do not use firearms, they have been able to use pepper spray or Tasers if they need a weapon.
The Taser "would be considered probably the most severe tool that we have … on the use-of-force spectrum," Perrin said Thursday. The decision to introduce the temporary moratorium comes as numerous reviews of Taser use are underway across Canada.
"No one wants to have to access a tool that they're using with uncertainty about, you know, what the outcome of its use might be," Perrin said.
A Nova Scotia man died Thursday morning after Halifax police jolted him with a Taser the day before, although police say it's too early to link that death with the Taser use. The day before, the British Columbia Coroners Office announced it scheduled an inquest for next May into the death of Robert Dziekanski, a Polish immigrant who died Oct. 14 after he was stunned by an RCMP Taser at Vancouver International Airport.
Meanwhile, a retired soldier in Manitoba is suing the RCMP for using a Taser on him during a scuffle at the psychiatric ward of a hospital, where he was seeking treatment.
In Whitehorse, Perrin said jail guards have used a Taser only once since it was introduced three years ago. Just the threat alone of being jolted with 50,000 volts of electricity is usually enough to make inmates comply with guards, he added. "There are a number of cases where the individual seeing that the weapon has been drawn will make the decision not to act out any further," Perrin said.
A review of the one time the Taser was fired determined that its use was inappropriate, he said.
The moratorium is temporary, pending recommendations from numerous investigations by the RCMP, the federal government, the B.C. government and other jurisdictions. Perrin said his guards won't be missing the weapon in the meantime in light of the recent deaths. There is still no word from Whitehorse RCMP about their use of the taser in Yukon communities. The RCMP told CBC News that they're waiting for word from Ottawa.
Two protests are being promoted on Facebook against the use of excessive force on Robert Dziekanski. Here are the details from the Facebook sites:
Protest the use of Excessive force on Robert Dziekanski
Saturday, November 24, 2007 from 12:00 pm - 2:00 pm
Queens Park, South Lawn
111 Wellesley Street West
The purpose of this rally is to maintain media awareness of this issue and protest the unreasonable use of force by the RCMP at Vancouver airport. Protesters will be showing Solidarity with the November 24 Protest taking place simultaneously in Vancouver.
i) Opening Remarks by organizers & circulation of petitions.
ii) Guest Speakers:
Peggy Nash - NDP Member of Parliament for High Park
Andy Buxton – Amnesty International
Borys Wrzesnewskyj – Liberal Member of Parliament for Etobicoke Centre
Peter Milczyn - City of Toronto Councilor of Etobicoke Lakeshore
Alan Borovoy - General Counsel - Canadian Civil Liberties Association
Wladyslaw Lizon – President - Canadian Polish Congress
iii) Moment of Silence and Candlelight Vigil.
iv) Musical Guests (tbc).
Protest against RCMP using excessive force on Robert!
Saturday, November 24, 2007 from 12:00 pm - 3:00 pm
Downtown Vancouver, Art Gallery (Georgia Street side)
Georgia and Howe
The rally set to take place Nov 24th 12-3pm downtown Vancouver Art Gallery (Georgia St side) is intended to be a peaceful and non-violent demonstration. The organizers and administrators of this event do not promote any damage or disrespect to persons and/or things during this rally. Any persons acting unlawfully will do so at their own risk and assume full responsibility for themselves and the damages they cause.
November 23, 2007
OLIVER MOORE, Globe and Mail
HALIFAX -- A man who died a day after being tasered in what police describe as a violent attempt to escape custody was a diagnosed paranoid schizophrenic who believed another police tasering two years ago weakened his heart, his sister says.
"He can become aggressive in [his] psychotic states, but essentially fearful," Joanna Blair said of her brother, Howard Hyde. "He did have a fear of police. Since the tasering incident he had a fear of taser guns. I feel he was running for his life."
Mr. Hyde died yesterday morning in the Central Nova Scotia Correctional Facility, about 30 hours after Halifax Regional Police arrested him for assault. He was tasered as he attempted to flee police headquarters during booking, Deputy Chief Tony Burbridge said in an interview. Police gave Mr. Hyde CPR, the senior officer said, and he received "a clean bill of health" after a visit to hospital.
He died the next day, prompting Nova Scotia Justice Minister Cecil Clarke to order a ministerial review of taser use.
His common law wife, Karen Ellet, said Mr. Hyde, who was "off his meds" was taken into custody following a domestic dispute.
The review is just one of a growing number of taser-related probes launched since Robert Dziekanski, a Polish immigrant who became agitated at the Vancouver airport, died after being shocked twice by RCMP officers. The events leading up to his death were captured on amateur video and its airing has sparked a national debate on use of the stun weapons.
The House of Commons public safety committee voted unanimously yesterday to investigate the death of Mr. Dziekanski. Also yesterday, Yukon's Department of Justice announced an immediate moratorium on use of the weapons.
An endorsement was heard, though, from the British Columbia Association of Chiefs of Police, which spent hours discussing taser use over the past two days. Their unanimous decision was to continue to use the devices, RCMP Superintendent Gord Tomlinson aid. And Halifax Regional Police said yesterday that they would continue to use tasers because "all medical evidence to date indicates that this tool is safe."
What killed Mr. Hyde remains unknown.
The 45-year-old man grew up in New York State and came to Nova Scotia in the late 1970s. By then he had finished high school and started, but dropped out of, college, his sister said. He was in normal physical condition, as far as she knew, apart from a sleep disorder that could keep him up for several days.
Mr. Hyde was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia in his early 20s, but disputed the diagnosis and did not regularly take his medication, his sister said. He had psychotic episodes, including one two years ago that she said attracted the attention of the police.
"He refused to answer the door," Ms. Blair said. "They broke in and found him in squalid conditions, emaciated. He was tasered. I don't know why he was tasered."
Ms. Blair said that her brother was a karaoke lover whose fondness for music was a constant through his troubled life. An amateur musician, he played several instruments and harboured a dream of being a celebrity.
"He did have a fantasy about being famous," she said. "And here he is; he achieved it overnight in his death."
The last day of Mr. Hyde's life began when he was taken into custody early Wednesday.
Deputy Chief Burbridge said that Mr. Hyde became violent in the fingerprint room. Officers used the taser when he attempted to leave the area behind the booking counter, the senior officer said, but the struggle continued and Mr. Hyde managed to leap the counter. He was tackled in the hallway.
The man could have been shocked more than once, Deputy Chief Burbridge said. At least one electroshock weapon was present at the second altercation, he said, but the surveillance camera was on an angle that made it impossible to see whether a second tasering had occurred.
Deputy Chief Burbridge said that he had not inquired among officers about the possibility of additional taser use, saying that the investigation is in the hands of the RMCP. The probe is expected to include camera footage, witness accounts, the routine taser report and events during Mr. Hyde's time in the hands of medical professionals and then correctional officers.
The officers involved in the incident are continuing their normal duties, a Halifax police spokeswoman said, based on the internal belief that they followed proper procedures and did nothing wrong.