June 30, 2008
MARISSA CALLIGEROS, Wellington Times
Civil libertarians have condemned a Queensland police trial of taser stun guns as a "total farce", renewing calls for a judicial inquiry ahead of a state-wide rollout of the controversial electric shock weapons. The State Government yesterday concluded a 12 month taser trial by police across the south-east, and is now in the process of analysing the results.
Police Minister Judy Spence, who lauded the success of the weapons long before the trial ended, has they will be handed to all frontline officers by the end of the year.
But Queensland Council of Civil Liberties (QCCL) president Michael Cope today described the move as "premature and dangerous". "Until a proper judicial inquiry is conducted taser guns shouldn't be used...the current inquiry is basically a farce," Mr Cope said. "It is quite clear from overseas experiences and our own that police have over-used tasers. They are using them in whatever circumstances they like. In September last year, Amnesty International linked the use of tasers by police in Canada to 290 deaths...and here we are about to release them across the state. "This is entirely premature and dangerous."
However, the police union has hit back at such claims, saying concerns from civil libertarians were completely unfounded. "Tasers will be used in situations where other uses of force would ordinarily be used," a police union spokesman said. "Tasers do a lot less damage than a baton or pistol. This is a sound, reasonable alternative to lethal weapons."
A taser delivers 50,000-volt electrical pulses in a five-second period when fired into a person from up to 10 metres away. The electrical current emitted from the barbed electrodes causes involuntary muscle contractions and immobilises the victim, leaving them unable to fight or attack.
Police Commissioner Bob Atkinson today declared tasers more effective than capsicum spray. He said the stun guns, known in police parlance as electro-muscular disruption devices, had been used 106 times during the 12 month trial, while the threat of using one had been enough to diffuse the situation on 71 occasions.
Mr Atkinson told ABC Radio this morning both police and people involved in those 106 incidents would have otherwise been seriously injured.
He said a state wide rollout of the stun guns would be one of the best options ever introduced.
Halfway through the trial Police Minister Judy Spence declared tasers a "success" with no negative impacts.
She is expected to make an announcement about the future use of tasers in the next month.
"There is significant work to be done to prepare for the rollout, including training of officers and the provision of appropriately secure storage facilities for stations," Ms Spence said.
"In the interim, (the use of tasers) will be governed by the same guidelines as during the trial, and their use will continue to be monitored and assessed."
WELCOME to TRUTH ... not TASERS
Monday, June 30, 2008
June 30, 2008
Canadian Mental Health Association, Ontario is concerned about the use and safety of Tasers, as well as the propensity of law enforcement officials to deploy Tasers on people experiencing a mental health crisis or demonstrating signs of emotional distress.
Conducted energy weapons (CEWs), commonly referred to as Tasers, were introduced to Canadian law enforcement agencies starting in 2001. Tasers are hand-held weapons that send a jolt of electricity intended to stun and temporarily incapacitate an individual's motor nervous system. The charge is delivered through a pair of wires, weighted with barbed hooks, that can be fired from up to 10.6 metres away and will penetrate clothing up to five centimetres thick.1
The Taser is one of several use-of-force weapons that police officers may use to subdue or restrain an individual, to reduce the risk of injury or death to both the individual and the responding officer. The Taser is often represented as an alternative to the use of lethal force by police.
According to a recent backgrounder by the CBC, Tasers are being used by 73 law enforcement agencies across Canada. Most mid-size police forces use these stun guns between 50 to 60 times a year on average, reports the CBC, based on figures compiled by the Canadian Police Research Centre.1 The RCMP has 2,840 Tasers and has trained 9,132 officers to use them. They have been deployed more than 3,000 times since December 2001, in either drive stun mode (when electrodes on the Taser transmit electrical energy on contact with a subject's body) or in full deployment (when darts are fired at a subject).2 Following a pilot study by the Toronto Police Service, Ontario's Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services approved the Taser for use by Ontario police services in January 2005. In 2007, Tasers were used 264 times in Toronto, in either drive stun mode or full deployment,3 up from 97 times in 2006.4 The Taser was used an additional 140 times in 2007 as a "demonstrated force presence," a deterrent measure where a spark is generated or the laser sighting system activated without any contact to the subject.
It is estimated that there have been 270 deaths worldwide, including 17 Canadian deaths, proximal to Taser use since 1999.5 It is not possible to accurately count deaths, as there is no independent central registry in existence to monitor incidents and adverse events, and there remains controversy, as there is no conclusive proof that Tasers directly cause death. Many police services, coroners and researchers are suggesting Taser-associated deaths may be related to a condition referred to as "excited delirium," but no conclusive evidence has yet been established. The Canadian Police Research Centre describes 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.6 This condition was first described as early as 1982, when investigators were examining unexplained deaths due to physical restraint by police.7 It has been hypothesized that excited delirium generates an extreme state of physiological arousal that places individuals at greater risk of death.
The symptoms associated with excited delirium, while not a true mental health condition included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV), appear to be similar to some of the behavioural symptoms exhibited by individuals experiencing a mental health crisis.
Ontario's Use of Force Continuum
All police officers in Ontario must have basic training in use of force. The Ontario Use of Force Model (2004) directs that officers shall continuously assess each encounter and select the most reasonable option for action, relative to the circumstance.8 The use of force continuum provides guidelines to incremental increases in use of force. The five stages of the continuum are: officer presence, verbal communication, physical control, intermediate weapons (using non-lethal chemical, electronic or impact weapons on an individual) and lethal force (using any force likely to cause permanent injury or death).
Ontario's Use of Force Model does not make allowance or offer guidance to police officers when encountering individuals who may be experiencing a mental health crisis and by virtue of their condition may not appear cooperative, due to hallucinations, delusions or other symptoms. However, other options are available, and mental health crisis intervention is the preferred approach for police to de-escalate such encounters.
Excessive Use of Force
Complaints have been issued against the RCMP and other police services claiming deployment of Tasers to subdue or gain compliance. The Commissioner for Public Complaints Against the RCMP has identified that Tasers are being used to subdue resistant subjects who do not pose a threat, and has referred to this expanded and less restrictive use as "usage creep."9
In January 2007, the South Coast British Columbia Transportation Authority Police Service announced that it would arm police patrolling Vancouver's TransLink public transit system with Tasers.10 After reviewing ten cases of Taser deployment on the transit system, accessed under freedom of information legislation, the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association identified four cases where there appeared to be no significant threat to individual or public safety. One case involved the use of a Taser when the suspect attempted to flee for fare evasion.11 This practice is concerning and may set a precedent in other provinces.
Each police service in Ontario is currently governed by different protocols and policies concerning the number of times a Taser may be deployed. However, the Canadian Police Research Centre noted in their 2005 study that "...police officers need to be aware of the adverse effects of multiple, consecutive cycles of CEDs [Tasers] on a subject..."12
Taser Use Is Not Publicly Reported
There are no comprehensive national or provincial records regarding how many police officers are carrying Tasers. Most police services are not publicly reporting incidents involving Taser use and outcomes.
Amnesty International indicates that international standards and codes of conduct for law enforcement officials prescribe that the deployment of non-lethal weapons require standard evaluation and control of use protocols.13
Research on Tasers Suggests Caution
Research on the safety of Tasers has primarily been conducted on animals, rather than humans. When research has been conducted on humans, they have been deemed medically healthy. While Tasers may be used without injury on some individuals, there are vulnerable populations on whom Tasers should be used with caution. A 2004 review of Taser technology by British Columbia's police complaint commissioner indicated that risk factors for death by Taser include drug-induced toxic states (cocaine, alcohol, etc.) and "acute psychiatric decompensation."14
In reviewing the available literature, the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP examining RCMP use of Tasers determined:
...that there is a distinct lack of research nationally and internationally that thoroughly examines the connection between CEW use, excited delirium and the likelihood of death. Medical research is still in the early stages of reviewing this condition. What little is known of this condition suggest the need for a more conservative course of action with respect to the deployment of CEWs against vulnerable populations (people experiencing mental health crises, those suffering from drug toxicity and those exhibiting symptoms of excited delirium). The research suggests that these populations have a higher likelihood of death, not necessarily as a result of the use of force or restraint employed, but because of the mental or medical condition of the person at the time of police intervention.15
A May 2008 review published by the Canadian Medical Association Journal contradicts previous assertions that "stun guns" manufactured by Taser International and others are unlikely to impact with deadly force. The authors reference three independent investigations that have found that stun guns may, in some circumstances, stimulate the heart and potentially result in adverse consequences.16 They recommend that additional research with human subjects is required.
This finding is especially significant given increased cardiovascular vulnerability among people with serious mental illness. People with a mental illness appear to be at greater risk of developing irregular heartbeats (arrhythmia)17 and coronary heart disease.18 In addition, people taking antipsychotic medication have been found to have a 2.4 times greater risk of sudden cardiac arrest and death.19
Crisis Intervention Approaches for People with a Mental Illness
Some people with a mental illness who are in crisis will come in contact with police officers. Section 17 of Ontario's Mental Health Act, R.S.O. 1990, gives police officers the authority to bring someone to a medical facility for assessment if the officer has "reasonable and probable grounds" to believe a person has acted in a "disorderly manner" if the person is believed to have a mental disorder, has threatened or attempted to harm themselves, has behaved violently or caused someone to fear bodily harm, or has shown an inability to care for themselves.20
A number of barriers have been identified that pose challenges to police dealing with people who have a mental illness.21 These include not having advance information from dispatch that the person may have a mental illness, or what they might expect upon arrival at the scene. More fundamentally, lack of adequate education about mental illness is a reality that impacts police officers' ability to carry out their work with this vulnerable population. Police require customized training regarding how to identify situations involving mental illness, as well as how to communicate and intervene so as to minimize the use of force and maximize the likelihood that individuals with a mental illness are able to access the services they require. Evidence suggests that identifying a specific group of police officers to receive training and respond to mental health crisis is most beneficial, as these individuals will then have the mandate to utilize and update their skills on a regular basis.22
Some police services in Ontario have received training and participate in mental health crisis intervention teams. These teams consist of police officers and mental health workers acting together to respond to individuals experiencing a mental health crisis. This partnering offers the expertise of both professions.
There are a variety of ways in which the police and the mental health system can work together to manage first-response situations, in which the police are called to deal with an incident involving a person who appears to be mentally ill:
Comprehensive advanced response model: all police officers receive training related to working with individuals with mental illness and are expected to be able to handle most situations.
Mental health professionals co-response model: mental health professionals from another agency with whom the police have some kind of working agreement would respond to a police call at the request of the police, generally after the police have responded and assessed the situation.
Mobile crisis team co-response model: the police and the mental health workers are co-employed, sometimes by having mental health workers employed by police services and sometimes by having police officers seconded to community mental health agencies.
Crisis intervention team (CIT): specially trained officers respond to problematic situations. These officers are assigned to other duties (such as traffic patrol) from which they may be pulled as needed.
Telephone consultation model: police have a toll-free number to a mental health unit or hospital psychiatry floor which is staffed 24/7, which they may call for advice and direction whenever there is an incident.23
The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police has prepared guidelines for police programs and services for people with mental illness and the mental health system, that include, but are not limited to, developing effective and compassionate crisis response.24
Recommendations from the Canadian Mental Health Association, Ontario Regarding Conducted Energy Weapons (Tasers)
A group of specially selected officers in every police service in Ontario be trained in mental health crisis intervention and other appropriate de-escalation techniques.
Police services in Ontario co-develop and participate in mental health crisis intervention teams to serve the needs of their community.
Police services in Ontario limit their use of Tasers to situations where the alternative would be use of deadly force. Tasers are only used as a last resort and after all other de-escalation techniques have proven unsuccessful.
Police services monitor and publicly report the incidence and outcomes of Taser use.
Independent research is conducted into the safety of Taser use, including the effects on persons experiencing a mental health crisis.
Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, "Taser FAQs," CBC News Online, May 13, 2008, www.cbc.ca.
Canada, "RCMP Use of the Conducted Energy Weapon (CEW): Interim Report," Commission for Public Complaints Against the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, December 11, 2007, www.cpc-cpp.gc.ca.
Toronto Police Services Board, Minutes of the Public Meeting, March 27, 2008, www.tpsb.ca.
Toronto Police Services Board. Minutes of the Public Meeting, April 26, 2007, www.tpsb.ca.
Bruce Stuart and Chris Lawrence, "Report on Conducted Energy Weapons and Excited Delirium Syndrome," Royal Canadian Mounted Police, October 29, 2007, www.rcmp-grc.gc.ca.
Drazen Manojovic et al., "Review of Conducted Energy Devices," Canadian Police Research Centre, Technical Report TR-01-2006, August 22, 2005, www.cprc.org.
M. Pollanen, D. Chiasson, J. Cairns and J. Young, "Unexpected Death Related to Restraint for Excited Delirium: A Retrospective Study of Deaths in Police Custody and in the Community," Canadian Medical Association Journal 158, no. 12 (1998): 1603-7.
Ottawa Police Service, "Use of Force Annual Report - 2007," February 19, 2008, www.ottawa.ca.
Canada, "RCMP Use of the Conducted Energy Weapon (CEW)."
Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, "SkyTrain Transit Police to Get Tasers," CBC News Online, January 22, 2007, www.cbc.ca.
British Columbia Civil Liberties Association, "Letter to the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner for British Columbia, Re: TransLink Police Use of Tasers," April 17, 2008, www.bccla.org.
Manojovic et al., "Review of Conducted Energy Devices."
Amnesty International, "Canada: Inappropriate and Excessive Use of Tasers," International Secretariat, May 2007, www.amnestyusa.org.
British Columbia, "Taser Technology Review and Interim Recommendations," Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner, September 2004, www.opcc.bc.ca.
Canada, "RCMP Use of the Conducted Energy Weapon (CEW)."
K. Nanthakumar et al., "Cardiac Stimulation with High Voltage Discharge from Stun Guns," Canadian Medical Association Journal 178, no. 11 (2008): 1451-57.
J.G. Reilly et al., "QTc-Interval Abnormalities and Psychotropic Drug Therapy in Psychiatric Patients," The Lancet 355, no. 9209 (2000): 1048-52.
D.L. Evans et al., "Mood Disorders in the Medically Ill: Scientific Review and Recommendations," Biological Psychiatry 58, no. 3 (2005): 175-89; D.C. Goff et al., "A Comparison of Ten-Year Cardiac Risk Estimates in Schizophrenia Patients from the CATIE Study and Matched Controls," Schizophrenia Research 80, no. 1 (2005): 45-53.
W.A. Ray et al., "Antipsychotics and the Risk of Sudden Cardiac Death," Archives of General Psychiatry 58, no. 12 (2001): 1161-67.
Ontario, Mental Health Act, RSO 1990, c. M.7.
Canadian Mental Health Association, British Columbia, "Study in Blue and Grey. Police Interventions with People with Mental Illness: A Review of Challenges and Responses," December 2003, www.cmha.bc.ca.
R. Dupont and S. Cochran, "Police Response to Mental Health Emergencies: Barriers to Change," Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law 28, no. 3 (2000): 338-44.
Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, "Working Together - How?" Canadian National Committee for Police/Mental Health Liaison (no date), www.pmhl.ca.
Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, "Contemporary Policing Guidelines for Working with the Mental Health System," Police-Mental Health Subcommittee, July 2006, www.pmhl.ca.
Sunday, June 29, 2008
By Victoria Stagg Elliott
AMNews - July 7, 2008 edition
Physicians want more safety information about the stun guns.
Chicago -- In response to concerns about the expanding use of Tasers and their possible impact on health, the AMA's Council on Science and Public Health will gather scientific data on injuries and deaths that may be connected to these electronic control devices for a future report, according to policy adopted at the AMA's June meeting.
"There remains controversy around the safety of Tasers," said AMA Board of Trustees member Steven J. Stack, MD. "Further study is in order to ensure that Tasers present the least possible harm to the people being subdued."
Delegates are seeking this report because Tasers are increasingly used beyond law enforcement.
"Tasers are being used in some school settings and health care settings without any knowledge of the consequences," said Carol Berkowitz, MD, speaking for the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Some people are stunned by the devices as part of the how-to-use training. Background checks are required, but the devices can be legally carried as concealed weapons in many jurisdictions. A version is available to the public in nine colors, including two shades of pink.
"I would caution everyone about arming the world with Tasers. We need the science, and I hope we don't end up killing more people than protecting them," said Robert E. McAfee, MD, a former AMA president and general surgeon from Portland, Maine.
More widespread use also means more questions about whether these devices are overused and how dangerous they might be. The Commission for Public Complaints Against The Royal Canadian Mounted Police, a government-created independent agency, issued a report last month supporting continued use. But, because of public concern raised by several related deaths, the Canadian report urged Taser use be restricted to experienced officers.
The report also found Tasers were most likely to be used on unarmed males aged 20 to 39 who had been drinking alcohol. The document recommended the stunning devices only be used on people who were combative and presented a risk of inflicting death or grievous bodily harm. Medical attention should always be sought afterward.
In the scientific realm, several prospective studies have failed to find any negative cardiac impact, but case reports have documented a handful of associated injuries. A paper in the November 2007 Annals of Emergency Medicine reported details of a police officer who was stunned during training and sustained spinal fractures from the severe, Taser-induced muscle contractions. This possibility is included in the safety information accompanying the device.
"We need to let the public know that they are not as undangerous as they think," said Corliss Varnum, MD, a family physician from Oswego, N.Y., and a representative of the Medical Society of the State of New York.
Delegates were particularly concerned about Taser use outside of law enforcement, and the possibility that the devices could be used to control children or the mentally ill.
"Tasers have now been implicated in several deaths, and those with mental illness seem to be 'Tasered' with disproportionate frequency," said David Fassler, MD, a child and adolescent psychiatrist from Burlington, Vt., speaking for the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry.
"When used properly," said Steve Tuttle, vice president of communications for the manufacturer, TASER International, "medical and law enforcement experts have concluded that Taser technology is among the most effective use-of-force interventions available to law enforcement officers to halt violent situations that pose a safety risk."
Statements on the company Web site indicate that 71 wrongful death and injury lawsuits brought against the company have been dismissed.
Posted by Reality Chick at 22:24
Saturday, June 28, 2008
June 28, 2008
Tonda MacCharles, Ottawa Bureau, Toronto Star
OTTAWA–Evidence at British Columbia's Taser inquiry may mean police forces across Canada, including the Ontario Provincial Police officers who zapped a suspect in Norfolk County near Simcoe this week, could be slapped with Criminal Code charges and wrongful death lawsuits.
B.C. police complaints commissioner Dirk Ryneveld revealed new information first unearthed by an Ontario consultant that shows most police agencies in Canada are wrongly operating, likely illegally, under the assumption that the Taser is not a "prohibited firearm."
In fact, research by Ottawa-based consultant John Kiedrowski indicates Taser guns are actually explicitly defined in Canadian criminal law as "prohibited firearms" – a designation that brings much stiffer rules around storage, training, certification and usage.
Likewise, any offence with a firearm, such as unauthorized use, would bring harsher mandatory minimum jail penalties.
Kiedrowski, who was unavailable to comment, recently completed an independent report for RCMP Commissioner Bill Elliott on Tasers and the rules governing their use. The RCMP says it cannot release the report because it is not fully translated.
Ryneveld told the inquiry Kiedrowski briefed him on his concerns about Tasers, and Ryneveld said he believes Kiedrowski's concerns warrant a closer look.
Until now, the debate in Canada has centred on whether the Taser is an "intermediate" or "less-than-lethal" weapon, and whether officers are too quick on the draw when faced with a person resisting arrest.
Taser stun guns, or conducted energy weapons, are hand-held devices that can be either fired by pressing the barrel against a suspect and discharging an electrical shock, or fired from a distance, shooting out darts that penetrate clothing and attach to a suspect.
The officer then conducts an electrical charge via the propelled wires to jolt the individual into submission either through pain or muscle incapacitation.
Kiedrowski says the definition of a firearm, in law, means "a barrelled weapon from which any shot, bullet or other projectile can be discharged and that is capable of causing serious bodily injury or death to a person."
Regulations passed in 1998 when the federal Firearms Act came into effect define a "prohibited firearm" as "any firearm capable of discharging a dart or other object carrying an electrical current or substance, including the firearm of the design commonly known as the Taser Public Defender and any variant or modified version of it."
Kiedrowski discovered that provincial policing codes that authorize officers to carry firearms are required to list, by name, the firearms in use. None listed the Taser stun gun – theoretically making any discharge of a Taser, by definition, "unauthorized."
Instead, Tasers are treated as "prohibited weapons" and on the "use of force" spectrum, most police forces in Canada, including the RCMP and the OPP, classified them as "intermediate weapons."
"If this is a prohibited firearm, it must be authorized for use," said Ryneveld.
"And if their paperwork is misclassified as a prohibited weapon, then the restrictions on its use, and the reporting and the training and the certification don't apply to the Taser, whereas perhaps it should."
Ryneveld suggested while many police regulations allow officers to use firearms "for a special purpose," arming officers on general patrol with Tasers would have a hard time qualifying as a "special purpose."
RCMP spokesperson Sgt. Sylvie Tremblay admitted in an interview yesterday the RCMP "has been aware that the CEW (conducted energy weapon) is classified as a prohibited firearm" and has included that recognition in its operational policy. It appears that occurred sometime in 2007.
Tremblay said the RCMP policy recognizes that "carrying the CEW requires the same use and care practices as with all firearms used by the RCMP."
But RCMP public complaints commissioner Paul Kennedy, who last week urged the RCMP to tighten its rules on Taser use, has slammed the force for relaxing its own rules on Tasers.
Kennedy said in an interview yesterday he learned of the new information during his own limited review of RCMP protocols on Tasers, but did not include it in his report last week because it was beyond the scope of his mandate.
Asked what concerns the OPP has about legal implications its officers may face, OPP spokesperson Insp. Dave Ross sent an email to the Star that sidestepped the question.
"The OPP is reviewing the recommendations from the Kennedy report and looks forward to recommendations that may arise from any inquiry to evaluate if any of them will improve the safe and effective use of conducted energy weapons."
Friday, June 27, 2008
Thursday, June 26, 2008
As far as I know, Taser International hasn't yet launched a lawsuit against the US National Institute of Justice (NIJ), but has instead praised this arm of the US Department of Justice for acknowledging, among other things (see below), that "many aspects of the safety of CED technology are not well-known, especially when used on populations other than normal, healthy adults." But indeed, why would they? A lawsuit, in this case, would be akin to tasing themselves in the heart, when the report (in its complimentary moments) relies on the "expertise" of some of the founding members of the Taser International fan club, including, for example, a member of the company's own advisory board, Mark Kroll, and this Jeffrey Ho guy who, from what I heard, got a ride to the Braidwood Inquiry in a Taser jet.
Have a look at the Selected References section of the Study of Deaths Following Electro Muscular Disruption (Interim Report).
Even CEO Rick Smith is acknowledged on the list of those whose "information, insight and knowledge benefited the development of this interim report."
Keep in mind that the US Government would be seen by the manufacturer as an outstanding prospective client.
Here is the Taser International PR machine in action today:
TASER International Commends Department of Justice Study Which Concludes That Law Enforcement Need Not Refrain From Deploying Conductive Energy Devices
Expert Panel Finds There is No Conclusive Medical Evidence to Indicate a High Risk of Serious Injury or Death From the Direct Effects of Devices
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz., June 26, 2008 (PRIME NEWSWIRE) -- TASER International, Inc. (Nasdaq:TASR), the market leader in advanced electronic control devices (ECDs), commends the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) interim report, Study of Deaths Following Electro Muscular Disruption, for its invaluable independent findings regarding conducted energy devices (CED) such as TASER(r) brand ECDs.
The study was undertaken by NIJ, the research, development and evaluation agency of the U.S. Department of Justice, to "address whether CEDs can contribute to or cause mortality and if so, in what ways," according the reports background. The expert panel of physicians, medical examiners, and other relevant specialists in cardiology, emergency medicine, epidemiology, pathology and toxicology concluded that, "(a)lthough exposure to CED is not risk free, there is no conclusive medical evidence within the state of current medical research that indicates a high risk of serious injury or death from the direct effects of CED exposure."
"The findings from this two-year NIJ study contribute greatly to the significant body of independent research and analysis concerning the safety of TASER electronic control devices," commented Steve Tuttle, Vice President of Communications for TASER International.
Other findings contained in the interim report, which was released earlier this week, include:
"Law enforcement need not refrain from deploying CEDs provided the devices are used in accordance with accepted national guidelines;"
"The potential for moderate or severe injury related to CED exposure is low;"
"CEDs can produce secondary or indirect effects that may result in death;"
"There is currently no medical evidence that CEDs pose a significant risk for induced cardiac dysrhythmia when deployed reasonably;"
"Research shows that human subjects maintain the ability to breathe during exposure to CED;"
"CED technology may be a contributor to 'stress' when stress is an issue related to cause of death determination;"
"Excited delirium is one of several terms that describe a syndrome characterized by psychosis and agitation and may be caused by several underlying conditions;"
"Excited delirium that requires subdual carries with it a high risk of death, regardless of the method of subdual;"
"Current human research suggests that the use of CED is not a life-threatening stressor in cases of excited delirium beyond the generalized stress of the underlying condition or appropriate subdual;"
"There is no medical evidence that exposure to CED has an effect on body temperature;"
"The purported safety margins of CED deployment on normal healthy adults may not be applicable in small children, those with diseased hearts, the elderly, those that are pregnant and other at-risk individuals. The effects of CED exposure in these populations are not clearly understood and more data are needed. The use of a CED against these populations (when recognized) should be avoided but may be necessary if the situation excludes other reasonable options;"
"The medical risks of repeated or continuous CED exposure are unknown and the role of CEDs in causing death is unclear in these cases. There may be circumstances in which repeated or continuous exposure is required but law enforcement should be aware that the associated risks are unknown;" and
"All CED use should conform to agency policy. The decision to use a CED or another force option is best left to the tactical judgment of trained law enforcement at the scene."
NIJ expects to release a final report in 2009.
The complete interim report (21 pages), Study of Deaths Following Electro Muscular Disruption, can be found at: http://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/222981.pdf.
Wednesday, June 25, 2008
June 25, 2008
B.C.'s police complaints commissioner, Dirk Ryneveld, has told the Braidwood Inquiry that Tasers may be misclassified as prohibited weapons, as opposed to prohibited firearms, as defined under Canada's criminal code.
Ryneveld told the public inquiry on Wednesday the distinction is important because the classification determines how police use the controversial stun guns.
"If this is a prohibited firearm, it must be authorized for use. And if their paperwork is misclassified as a prohibited weapon, then the restrictions on its use, and the reporting and the training and the certification don’t apply to the Taser, whereas perhaps it should," said Ryneveld.
He also told the inquiry police need to use Tasers with an appreciation that they could be lethal, not with the belief that they are a safe, non-lethal alternative to a gun.
The inquiry heard Reyneveld’s opinion that Tasers have become a 'tool of convenience' and although the stun guns shouldn't be banned outright, they do require more study and training.
Reyneveld said he's had a long-standing concern with how stun guns are used by police forces, adding that issues about the weapon that were raised several years ago still haven't been resolved.
While he didn't recommend a moratorium, Ryneveld said the Taser needs to be placed higher on the use-of-force scale than it currently is. A national protocol should be devised to help all users understand when a stun gun should be used, he said.
The public inquiry was called in the wake of the death of Robert Dziekanski after he was shocked with an RCMP Taser at Vancouver International Airport last October. A report on the general use of Tasers by police is expected this fall.
June 25, 2008
Becky Rynor and Al Sweeney, Canwest News Service
Ontario's Special Investigations Unit yesterday identified Jeffrey Mark Marreel as the man who died Monday after he was shocked by police using a Taser.
Ontario Provincial Police said the 36-year-old, of no fixed address, was being combative and was disturbing others during an incident Monday morning at the beach hamlet of Turkey Point, on Lake Erie, about 130 kilometres southwest of Toronto.
Margaret Marreel of Delhi, Ont., said yesterday she is dealing with a shock and grief that no mother should face. She called for a ban on police carrying Tasers.
"If they go with three or four cops, you mean to tell me they can't deal with one man and put him in a cruiser?" she questioned.
Other media reports said the man's father, Noel Marreel, said his son was depressed.
An autopsy performed yesterday was inconclusive and further forensic tests have been ordered to assist in determining the cause of death.
June 25 2008
The Canadian Press
VANCOUVER -- B.C.'s police complaint commissioner says he doesn't advocate a moratorium on the use of Tasers but they have become a "tool of convenience" and more testing, study and training is required.
Dirk Ryneveld told a B.C. public inquiry Wednesday that he's had a long-standing concern with the Taser and how it's being used by police forces.
"Unfortunately, the Taser has become a tool of convenience in some situations, sort of a `Come along' device, `drop the beer. No? Zap,"' Ryneveld told the inquiry.
"In essence, it's being used in situations far short of an alternative to lethal force."
He said the Taser's use should be restricted to situations when people pose a threat to the public, an officer or themselves. Ryneveld, who investigated the death of Robert Wayne Bagnell, 44, after he was subdued with a Vancouver city police Taser in June 2004, said issues about the shock weapon were raised then and still haven't been resolved.
He said a report issued in the wake of Bagnell's death called for uniform training in the use of Tasers by police across the province.
Ryneveld said further study, independent testing and training is urgently needed.
"That was my view in 2004 and it still is today. Unfortunately, the issues we raised then are still unresolved and true independent study and testing hasn't been as actively or as timely pursued as I would have hoped," he told the commissioner.
Ryneveld said he doesn't have the jurisdiction to ban or even limit the use of the weapons. In any event, he said he doesn't recommend a moratorium. "I am ... not advocating a moratorium on its use in its entirety at this time, based on safety issues alone," he said.
"Apart from anecdotal accounts of inappropriate use of the Taser in situations where they clearly ought not be used, there is not, to my knowledge (apart from one U.S. civil case), a body of evidence or legal determination that directly connects Taser use with resultant death as its sole cause."
Ryneveld said the shock weapons need to be placed higher on the use-of-force scale than they currently are and a national protocol should be established so all users understand when they should be deployed.
The B.C. public inquiry was called after would-be Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski was hit with an RCMP Taser at Vancouver International Airport last October.
The inquiry has been so overwhelmed with requests from people to appear that it scheduled an additional day on Wednesday for submissions.
A report on the first phase of the inquiry, which is looking at the general use of Tasers by law enforcement in the province, is expected this fall. A second phase of the inquiry will look specifically at Dziekanski's death.
June 25, 2008
The Canadian Press
VANCOUVER — The commissioner for complaints against the RCMP says he's trying to "create enough heat publicly" to force the national police agency to change the way it uses Tasers.
Paul Kennedy, chairman of the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP, appeared before a B.C. public inquiry on the use of Tasers on Wednesday. Last week, Kennedy issued a scathing report on use of the shock weapons by the force.
He conceded outside the inquiry that none of his recent recommendations have to be implemented but he said it's his job to pressure the force to co-operate.
"Part of what I have to do is create enough heat publicly . . . to say, 'Look, this is what we want.' That's the bottom line," Kennedy told reporters.
Kennedy pointed out that the national police force has 3,000 Tasers at its disposal across the country. In addition, they have many new recruits, a high turnover rate, an inadequate mentoring system, he said. And he said they don't have a system in place to monitor use of the weapons. "I'm hoping that if they look at that they'll realize, 'Whoops, we have a problem here. We didn't think it was being used in these kind of circumstances,"' he said.
RCMP have started to implement some recommendations, including appointing a national use-of-force co-ordinator, but overall Kennedy expressed dissatisfaction. "They have modestly implemented some," he said.
He said each division should have a use-of-force co-ordinator and there should be a national co-ordinator who is a commissioned officer.
"I'm trying to hold their feet to the fire. I'm giving them a model," Kennedy said of the report issued earlier this month.
The report echoed his interim call to limit Tasers to clashes where suspects are combative or risk serious harm to themselves, the police or the public. In the 78-page report, Kennedy urged tighter controls on a weapon the Mounties have drawn from their holsters more than 4,000 times since its introduction in 2001.
In his presentation to inquiry commissioner Thomas Braidwood, Kennedy decried the situation where the RCMP decides how to deploy the Taser and also decides what data it's going to release on its use.
Like others who have appeared, Kennedy said the Taser is being used in situations where it was never intended - known as "usage creep."
Earlier in the day, B.C.'s police complaint commissioner said he - like Kennedy - doesn't advocate a moratorium on the use of Tasers. But they have become a "tool of convenience" and more testing, study and training is required.
"Unfortunately, the Taser has become a tool of convenience in some situations, sort of a 'Come along' device; 'drop the beer. No? Zap,"' Dirk Ryneveld told the inquiry. "In essence, it's being used in situations far short of an alternative to lethal force." He said the Taser's use should be restricted to situations when people pose a threat to the public, an officer or themselves.
Ryneveld, who investigated the death of Robert Wayne Bagnell, 44, after he was subdued with a Vancouver city police Taser in June 2004, said issues about the shock weapon were raised then and still haven't been resolved. He said a report issued in the wake of Bagnell's death called for uniform training in the use of Tasers by police across the province.
Ryneveld said further study, independent testing and training is urgently needed. "Unfortunately, the issues we raised then are still unresolved and true independent study and testing hasn't been as actively or as timely pursued as I would have hoped," he told the inquiry.
The B.C. public inquiry was called in the wake of the death of Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski after he was hit with an RCMP Taser at Vancouver International Airport last October. The inquiry has been so overwhelmed with requests from people wanting to appear that it scheduled the additional day for submissions on Wednesday.
A report on the first phase of the inquiry, which is looking at the general use of Tasers by law enforcement in the province, is expected this fall. A second phase of the inquiry will look specifically at Dziekanski's death.
Justice department's taser report underscores need for strict limits on use, says Amnesty International
June 25, 2008
WASHINGTON - June 25 - The National Institute of Justice (NIJ) interim report on stun devices underscores Amnesty International’s concerns about the safety of the weapons, the human rights organization said today.
“The U.S. government itself has now recognized that at least 300 people have died after Tasers were used against them,” said Dalia Hashad, director of Amnesty International USA’s domestic human rights program. “Justice Department concerns bolster what Amnesty International has been saying for years – more data is needed. When police use Tasers on vulnerable populations, the true impact is simply unknown. This is a cause for alarm.”
While the NIJ report found no conclusive evidence of a high risk of death or injury from the direct effects of conducted energy devices (CEDs), it acknowledged that “many aspects of the safety of CED technology are not well-known, especially when used on populations other than normal, healthy adults.” It noted that the safety margins of CED use on healthy adults may not be applicable among children, the elderly, pregnant women, people with heart disease and those who show signs of “excited delirium.” The NIJ recommended that police officers avoid the use of CEDs against these populations unless the situation excludes other options.
The NIJ report also stated that many of the deaths are associated with prolonged or repeated CED discharges, and called on law enforcement officers to exercise caution in using multiple activations.
“There is still an open question surrounding more than 300 deaths, and this cannot be taken lightly,” said Hashad. “These devices, by their very nature, are prone to abuse. In too many cases, they have been inappropriately used as a weapon of first resort. The extreme potential for abuse is something the Justice Department has not yet addressed in this report.”
Some 12,000 U.S. law enforcement agencies currently deploy Tasers or similar devices. The Justice Department study was commissioned in 2006 following reports of more than 150 deaths of individuals subdued by police CEDs. Since June 2001, Amnesty International has recorded more than 300 deaths in the United States after exposure to CEDs during arrest situations. Amnesty International (AI) maintains that police departments should cease using CEDs or limit their use strictly to situations where there is an imminent threat of death or serious injury.
Tuesday, June 24, 2008
June 24, 2008
The Canadian Press
HALIFAX — The Nova Scotia Justice Department will provide weapons and training for corrections officers who escort prisoners on trips outside of jails, Justice Minister Cecil Clarke announced Tuesday.
Clarke told a hastily called news conference that his department was following through on a workplace order from the provincial Labour Department that had set June 24 as a deadline for a response.
"We will proceed with the ability to use pepper spray as well as batons," said Clarke.
However, the minister said guards would not be issued stun guns. "Tasers are off the table. There is no protocol in place with regards to that," said Clarke, noting that a review of stun gun use by police officers is currently underway.
"When we move forward, that review should establish protocols and procedures but I don't see a need or requirement to have that (Tasers) within the corrections environment."
Training programs for guards on prisoner escort duty will be put in place immediately in consultation with their union officials.
The hope is that they can be completed through the summer and fall. The delay is not sitting well with Jim Gosse, president of the union local that represents guards at the province's five correctional facilities. "We fully anticipated that the employer would reach a common-sense decision and provide correctional officers with the use of intermediate weapons," he said in a phone interview from Cape Breton.
But Gosse said the minister's time frame for implementation, pending training, doesn't make sense because several guards are already schooled in the use of pepper spray and batons. "We believe that there are enough individuals already in the system that this employer could put together specialized teams that already have the knowledge and the know-how to facilitate safe and efficient escorts," he said.
Gosse said he's left wondering if the delay is a form of payback for having forced the issue. "Because our members stepped forward and identified a serious occupational safety hazard in the workplace, it appears they're being penalized. Waiting (for months) to get what they need is not acceptable."
Because of limited staffing and hours of availability, Sheriff Services will continue to handle prisoner escorts at the Antigonish and Cumberland correctional facilities until new jails are built. The Labour Department issued the order earlier this month after unionized guards refused to do prisoner escorts citing safety reasons. Liberal justice critic Michel Samson said it has taken a long time for the government to address an obvious problem. "You'd be hard pressed to find any Nova Scotian who doesn't believe that the minister made a poor decision on this and had to be dragged screaming and kicking on what was an obvious safety issue for the guards," he said.
The Liberals are also pushing Clarke to broaden the scope of his stun gun review to include the use of sidearms. Samson said other provinces have seen fit to arm their guards with guns while escorting prisoners. "In light of all the reviews that the minister has undertaken, we certainly believe that that should be added to one of the existing reviews as an option," he said. "Nova Scotians are seeing more and more violent crimes out there which means more and more violent inmates."
June 24, 2008
The Canadian Press
SIMCOE, Ont. — An Ontario man who died in police custody after being shocked by police with a taser gun had a drug problem and recently lost his job, his father said Tuesday.
Jeffrey Marreel, 36, died after Ontario Provincial Police responded to a disturbance in the town of Norfolk, Ont., near Simcoe on Monday.
The man had a history of drug problems and lost his job at a flower shop two weeks ago, his father Noel Marreel said in an interview.
Mr. Marreel, who also broke up with his girlfriend in the last month, was likely on drugs when he was approached by police at about 10:30 a.m. Monday, his father said.
“I suspect he was (using drugs),” said Mr. Marreel. “He was on a down cycle.”
Police say Mr. Marreel was transported to the Norfolk County provincial police station after being hit with the stun gun, where he collapsed.
Officers performed first aid on Mr. Marreel until paramedics arrived.
He was pronounced dead in hospital about two hours after the initial incident.
Jeffrey Marreel had no fixed address and drifted between the homes of friends and family, his father said.
In Toronto, Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services Rick Bartolucci said the province will not be calling for a moratorium on taser use in the wake the incident.
“Ontario has a very, very measured approach to the use of tasers,” said Mr. Bartolucci, who added a provincial report on the use of the stun guns is scheduled to be released in December.
Last week, the RCMP announced it would restrict taser firings following a report into what critics call “usage creep.”
The officers in the federal police force will have a clearer direction on how and when a taser should be used, chairman Paul Kennedy said at the time.
He also said all people stunned using tasers should receive medical attention, a point that is “particularly relevant for at-risk populations, such as people with mental-health issues, substance-abuse problems, health and homelessness challenges.”
Some 21 people have died in Canada after being stuck with tasers.
Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski died in October after being repeatedly zapped by RCMP officers at Vancouver International Airport. A video of his final moments added to the debate about the use of tasers.
Amnesty International Canada has repeatedly called for a temporary moratorium on the stun guns, pending an independent study of its possible risks.
Because Mr. Marreel died in police custody, Ontario's Special Investigation Unit is probing the incident.
An autopsy was scheduled to be performed in Hamilton on Tuesday.
Ontario Provincial Police
Attention News Editors:
In-custody death - Special Investigation Unit invokes mandate
NORFOLK COUNTY, ON, June 23 /CNW/ - Officers from the Norfolk County Detachment of the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) responded to a report of an unwanted male person causing a disturbance in the vicinity of Fishers Glen Road in Norfolk County at approximately 10:30 a.m. this date.
Upon arrival, police located a combative male party. During the encounter police deployed a conducted energy weapon. Ambulance personnel attended the scene and the male was subsequently taken into police custody and was transported to the Norfolk County OPP.
Upon arrival at the detachment, the male collapsed. Officers administered first aid until the ambulance arrived. The male was transported by ambulance to Norfolk General Hospital where he succumbed to his condition.
Due to the fact that the male died while in police custody, Ontario's Special Investigation Unit (SIU) was immediately notified by the OPP and they has [sic] invoked their mandate.
Any further enquires should be directed to SIU Communications at 416-622-2342.
For further information: Sergeant Pierre Chamberland, Media Coordinator, Corporate Communications Bureau, Phone: (705) 329-7092
Four years to the day after my brother Bob died (on June 23, 2004) - we've lost another Canadian.
Jun 24, 2008
Ontario's Special Investigations Unit is probing the death of a 36-year-old man who died after being Tasered in a confrontation with provincial police officers.
Officers were responding to a call about a man causing a disturbance in Norfolk County yesterday morning. Police described the man as "combative."
A Taser was used to subdue him before officers took him to the Simcoe provincial police station, the SIU said in a release last night.
The man collapsed at the station and officers administered first aid until an ambulance arrived, police said. He died at Norfolk General Hospital.
The SIU is a civilian agency that probes cases of serious injury or death involving police.
The incident occurred just days after the RCMP announced it would restrict Taser firings.
Officers will have clearer direction on how and when the powerful weapons should be wielded "as quickly as possible," the Mounties said last Wednesday following renewed calls for action by the RCMP complaints commission.
A recent report on RCMP Taser use revealed that nearly a third of the people hit with Tasers needed medical treatment after.
Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski died last October after he was Tasered by RCMP at Vancouver International Airport.
Monday, June 23, 2008
Four years to the day after my brother Bob died (on June 23, 2004) - we've lost another Canadian.
June 23, 2008
Tiffany Crawford, Canwest News Service
An Ontario man is dead after Ontario Provincial Police used a Taser after they said the man became combative and disturbed others. The OPP said the incident happened at about 10:30 a.m. Monday after police responded to a call of a disturbance in Norfolk County, about 130 kilometres southwest of Toronto.
The Taser incident reportedly happened at the beach hamlet of Turkey Point, which is a three-kilometre long sandy beach onlake Erie popular for fishing and hiking. The hamlet is home to very few year-round residents.
"During the encounter police deployed a conducted energy weapon," provincial police said in a statement Monday. Officers said ambulance personnel attended the scene and the man was taken into police custody. He was then transported to the Norfolk County OPP detachment, where he collapsed.
Officers said they administered first aid until the ambulance arrived. The male was transported to Norfolk General Hospital where he was pronounced dead.
A spokesman for the OPP, Sgt. Pierre Chamberland, refused to divulge the name or age of the dead man. He said the police had no further comment on the matter, adding that because he died while in police custody, Ontario's Special Investigation Unit is investigating.
The SIU is an independent agency that investigates incidents involving police in which people are hurt or killed.
Since 2003, there have been 20 Taser-related deaths in Canada. More than 300 people across North America have died.
The RCMP's watchdog released a report last week saying he wants stricter guidelines on the use of Tasers but did not recommend an outright ban or moratorium on the weapons.
Paul Kennedy, chair of the RCMP's public complaints commission, said he supports the continued use of the stun gun, but only if the RCMP implements all of the recommendations contained in the commission's report.
Kennedy wants Tasers classified as "impact weapons"' and to only be allowed in situations where the person is combative or poses a risk of death or major harm to the officer, themselves and the public.
Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day asked the commission to look into RCMP use of Tasers after the high-profile death of Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski at Vancouver International Airport last fall.
Dziekanski died following an encounter with RCMP officers, who used a Taser on him.
Video of the incident sparked international outrage, debate over use of the devices and several investigations.
The RCMP has been using the weapon since 2001.
June 23, 2008
Canwest News Service
A man died Monday in Norfolk County, about 130 kilometres southwest of Toronto, after being Tasered by Ontario Provincial Police.
Robert Knipstrom, 36, of Chilliwack British Columbia, was killed after struggling with police in November. Police used pepper spray, the taser and a baton to subdue Knipstrom.
Howard Hyde, 45, of Dartmouth Nova Scotia, died about 30 hours after being tasered by police in November. A paranoid schizophrenic who had stopped taken his medication, he'd been arrested for assaulting his girlfriend.
Robert Dziekanski, 40, in the Vancouver Airport in October.
Quilem Registre, 39, in Montreal after being stopped by police on suspicion of drunk driving, also in October.
Jason Dean, 28 in Red Deer while running from police in August.
Alesandro Fiacco, 33 in Edmonton, arrested while wandering into traffic in December.
James Foldi, 39, of Beamsville, Ont., while being arrested for breaking and entering in July.
Paul Sheldon Saulnier, 42, while being restrained by police in Digby N.S. in July.
Gurmeet Sandhu, 41, of Surrey B.C., while being restrained during a domestic dispute in June.
Kevin Geldart, 34, in Moncton, N.B., in May during an altercation with police in a bar.
Samuel Truscott, 43, of Kingston, Ont., was tasered by police during arrest. His death was ruled a drug overdose.
Jerry Knight, 29, a semi-pro boxer was tasered by police at a Mississauga motel in July after complaints he had become violent.
Robert Bagnell, 44, while in custody of the Vancouver police in June. He had cocaine in his system.
Peter Lamonday, 33, while being restrained by police in London, Ont. in May.
Roman Andreichikov, 25, high on cocaine and being restrained by Vancouver police also in May.
Perry Ronald, 28, while being restrained by Edmonton police after jumping from a window in March.
Clark Whitehouse, 34, tried to flee the Whitehorse RCMP after being stopped in traffic in September.
Clayton Alvin Willey, 33, of Prince George was also high on cocaine when tasered by police while trespassing in July.
Terry Hanna, 51, was tasered by Burnaby RCMP in April during a break and enter. Cocaine was also involved.
Sunday, June 22, 2008
Letter to the Editor, Toronto Star
With much interest, I read the subject article. Standards for the efficacy and use of Tasers must be developed.
Relying strictly on manufacturers' specifications is completely unacceptable.
A framework to establish priorities and best practices is critical. The fact that the head of the RCMP's watchdog agency did not recommend that standards for these devices be developed is simply mind-boggling and inexcusable.
By not doing so, the watchdog has squandered an outstanding opportunity to move this contentious matter forward and, in the process alleviate public fears and concerns.
Emile Therien, past president, Canada Safety Council, Ottawa
Thursday, June 19, 2008
June 19, 2008
A parliamentary committee is threatening to call for a moratorium on the use of stun guns if the RCMP doesn't begin restricting use of the weapons by the end of the year.
The House of Commons public safety and national security committee made its report on Taser use public in the hours following the release Wednesday of a high-profile final report from an RCMP watchdog.
In that report, Paul Kennedy, head of the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP, called for Mounties with less than five years experience in the field to be banned from using Taser stun guns and for individuals zapped to get immediate medical treatment.
Kennedy also asked that the stun gun be reclassified as an "impact weapon," meaning it should only be used in situations where an individual is combative or poses a risk of "death or grievous bodily harm."
That recommendation and many others are echoed in the committee's report, but MPs went one step further — threatening to introduce a motion in the House of Commons calling for a stun gun moratorium if the RCMP doesn't restrict use of the weapon by Dec. 15. The report received the unanimous support of its 12 members.
The two studies of Taser use are among at least five probes of the weapon undertaken following the Oct. 14, 2007, death of Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski after he was zapped with a stun gun.
RCMP officers were called to the Vancouver International Airport after Dziekanski, 40, who spoke no English, became agitated and destructive, damaging a computer and throwing a small table.
The incident was captured on amateur video and covered by media around the world.
The committee's report says the video "seriously shook public confidence in the RCMP."
"To prevent confidence in the RCMP from eroding further," the committee calls for the force to "react immediately" by reclassifying the weapons for restricted use.
"We want them to change for the better — to restrict the use, have better training, better reporting, better data collection so Canadians are safe and protected and the RCMP and other police forces have the tools they need," said Liberal MP Ujjal Dosanjh, a committee member.
Also among the recommendations are training officers on the potential risk of death and injury from Tasers, as well as teaching them about mental health and addiction issues.
It also suggests the RCMP be required to submit detailed information about Taser use in their annual reports to Parliament.
The RCMP complaints commissioner blasted the Mounties for failing to comprehensively track use of the weapons, which incapacitate people with their 50,000-volt electric shock.
The report also recommended that:
Health Canada look into a lack of psychiatric programs and drug addiction programs.
Three federally-subsidized research councils study stun gun technology.
The government commission an independent study on stun gun safety.
Statistics Canada be given the mandate to create a national database on in-custody deaths and the use of Tasers and other restraint methods.
An RCMP civilian watchdog with "broad powers" must also be established as soon as possible, the committee says.
Posted by Reality Chick at 21:55
June 19, 2008
Neal Hall, Vancouver Sun
Only one police agency in B.C. is already using stun guns in the way Canada's federal police watchdog recommended Wednesday -- firing them only when suspects are being "combative."
The Vancouver Sun analysed Taser policies for all municipal police departments in the province, and it appears only West Vancouver has told its officers to restrict firing a Taser to when "an individual is behaving in a combative manner or posing a risk of death or grievous bodily harm to the police or public."
Since a Polish immigrant was Tasered and died at Vancouver airport last year, the RCMP and a number of Lower Mainland police departments have rewritten their policies for use of the weapon.
All the agencies, with the exception of West Vancouver, have reserved the right of officers to use stun guns on people displaying active resistance -- a broad definition that is open to the discretion of individual officers.
It doesn't appear to meet the standards suggested in a report released Wednesday by Paul Kennedy, chairman of the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP.
Nor does it address Kennedy's interim report last year, following Robert Dziekanski's death at the airport, that the RCMP use a Taser only when a target is "combative" or poses a risk of "death or grievous bodily harm."
The policies of Delta, Abbotsford, Vancouver, and Nelson police departments, for example, vary widely, but allow Taser use on people displaying active resistance or when they are non-compliant or when it is deemed appropriate by the officer.
As of May 21, Port Moody had only a draft Taser policy, but no finalized version, even though its members use the stun guns.
In response to Kennedy's interim report, the RCMP issued an operation manual bulletin instructing officers to marginally raise the bar for Taser use from "passive" to "active" resistance.
Robert Gordon, director of the criminology department at Simon Fraser University, said Tasers were initially to be used as a last resort before firing a gun, specifically for combative scenarios.
Their use is inappropriate in less severe situations, argues Gordon, a former police officer.
Gordon said a combative situation could involve, for example, an irrational and threatening mentally ill person who is armed.
Active resistance, he said, encompasses a broad range of actions by an accused during which an officer's well-being might be threatened, but not nearly to the level it is in a combative situation.
Passive resistance, he said, could include someone refusing to leave a police car by hanging on to the back seat.
On Dec. 27, following Kennedy's interim report, West Vancouver police Chief Kash Heed issued a memo to officers, which was obtained by The Vancouver Sun.
The memo said, in part: "There is a lot of public discussion on the use of Tasers. ... There will be a province-wide review of the current policies. ... Until this is completed and recommendations are put forward, the WVPD will restrict the use of Tasers to situations where an individual is behaving in a combative manner or posing a risk of death or grievous bodily harm to the police or public."
Metro Vancouver's transit police force also recently announced it had changed its controversial Taser use policy to "actively resistant," replacing the term "non-compliant."
The old policy, in effect since 2005, caused a public outcry after it was learned through a Freedom of Information request filed by Surrey resident Gordon Keast that transit police had deployed a Taser on non-violent passengers, including a person who had not paid his fare and tried to run away from an officer.
Keast said police boards of the 11 municipal forces in B.C. have set their own policies, training and Taser-use reporting requirements, resulting in a "patchwork" of different rules.
B.C.'s solicitor-general sent a letter to police chiefs last December saying there needed to be a "higher threshold" for the use of Tasers and called for a steering group "to clarify practices and policies" among police in B.C.
A ministry representative said Wednesday that the steering group idea was on hold pending the conclusion of Kennedy's report and a provincial inquiry into Dziekanski's death (which reconvenes next week).
Vancouver Liberal MP Ujjal Dosanjh also believes there should be national standards around Taser use.
Dosanjh was B.C.'s attorney-general in 2000 when he first approved police use of Tasers in B.C., the first province in Canada to do so. The RCMP adopted the weapon in 2001.
Dosanjh now feels he was duped by those who advised him that the weapon was completely safe and would only be deployed when a subject displayed "assaultive and combative behaviour."
There have been 20 deaths in Canada involving people who have received Taser shocks, which incapacitate the muscles through darts propelled out of the hand-held electrical stun gun.
Dosanjh concedes a Taser is less dangerous than a bullet from a gun, which is the position of police, who say the Taser has saved many lives and reduced injuries to both suspects and officers.
But Kennedy raised concerns about "usage creep" in recent years -- that Tasers have been used to subdue "resistant subjects who do not pose a threat of grievous bodily harm."
Kennedy was asked to review Taser use in response to the death of Dziekanski, who had wandered around the secure area of Vancouver's airport for many hours, unable to speak English and unable to find his mother.
Looking exhausted and disoriented, the Polish man began throwing things around and was Tasered multiple times within seconds of being confronted by RCMP officers.
Posted by Reality Chick at 06:30
June 19, 2008
GARY MASON, Globe and Mail
REGINA -- As Dirk Ryneveld continued telling his story, you could see heads in the audience beginning to shake in that disgusted, isn't-that-just-typical sort of way.
The subject was tasers. The occasion was the annual meeting of the Canadian Association for Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement, which included officials from police watchdog agencies across the country and around the world.
B.C.'s police complaint commissioner was telling the gathering about a wide-ranging investigation he held into the use of the tasers back in 2004. It was prompted by the in-custody death of Robert Bagnell after he was tasered by the Vancouver police.
The commissioner thought that conducted energy weapons needed a more thorough examination, so he had the Victoria Police Department carry that out on his behalf. A wide range of specialists were consulted. Later that year, Mr. Ryneveld issued an interim report.
It called for: standardized testing and training across police forces; mandatory reporting on deployment of the taser; and training for people dealing with what is known as "excited delirium" or cocaine-induced psychosis. It suggested police immediately call for medical assistance when a person had been hit by a taser.
In response to suggestions by medical experts that some people were likely dying from the holds police put them in after they were tasered, Mr. Ryneveld suggested law enforcement agencies introduce strict restraint protocols to reduce the chance of this occurring. He recommended that the taser be used on individuals exhibiting combative behaviour only. He urged police departments and the provincial government of B.C. to conduct further studies into the weapon.
As an independent officer of the B.C. Legislature, Mr. Ryneveld could not order his recommendations into law. And they covered only municipal police forces in the province anyway. Nearly 70 per cent of B.C. is policed by the RCMP. It was up to the B.C. solicitor-general to follow through on the changes Mr. Ryneveld had proposed.
So what happened?
Nothing. The report and all its fine research and proposals were thrown in a filing cabinet somewhere and forgotten.
"You can lead a horse to water," Mr. Ryneveld said yesterday. You could hear groans in the audience.
Years after Mr. Ryneveld issued his report, the taser-related death of Robert Dziekanski at Vancouver International Airport would prompt a mass overreaction by politicians and give birth to a number of different investigations and inquiries. Yesterday, the head of the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP issued his final report on the use of the taser. The similarity between many of Paul Kennedy's recommendations and Mr. Ryneveld's are unmistakable.
In fact, Mr. Ryneveld must be wondering why his name wasn't on the report too.
And there is no doubt that many of the recommendations that former judge Thomas Braidwood makes when he wraps up his inquiry in Vancouver will also duplicate those of the B.C. police complaint commissioner.
Isn't there something all too typical about this? Good and valuable reports ignored by our political leaders because they're simply not a priority at the time or, in the case of Mr. Ryneveld's report, because it would mean stepping on the toes of a group of people politicians generally don't like to upset: the police.
Well, at least until it becomes politically necessary to do so.
When, for instance, someone dies after being tasered and the whole ugly affair is caught on camera and produces international outrage and the public is demanding that something be done.
Then, amazingly, our politicians find courage.
Mr. Ryneveld was remarkably restrained after his speech. He refused to indulge in any shots at those who ignored the alarm he sounded on tasers years ago. And when asked about the amazing parallels in his recommendations and Mr. Kennedy's, he would offer only a tight, wordless smile.
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
Canadian Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security releases its Study of the Conductive Energy Weapon-Taser
June 18, 2008
The Standing Committee on
Public Safety and National Security
has the honour to present its
Pursuant to its mandate under Standing Order 108(2), the Committee has studied The Conductive Energy Weapon and has agreed to report the following:
The HTML version of this report will be available soon. In the meantime, the Committee is pleased to make available the report entitled STUDY OF THE CONDUCTIVE ENERGY WEAPON–TASER® (.PDF, 543 KB) in printable format.
The Committee recommends that the RCMP restrict the use of the Taser gun by classifying it, effective no later than December 15, 2008, as an “impact weapon” rather than an intermediate weapon, so that its use can be authorized only in situations where the subject is displaying assaultive behaviour or posing a threat of death or grievous bodily harm to the police, himself or the public. This restriction should not be lifted before independent research has indicated that use of the Taser gun poses no unreasonable risk for the subject. In the event that the RCMP does not implement this recommendation by December 15, 2008, the Committee has agreed to introduce a motion in the House of Commons calling for an immediate moratorium on the use of Taser guns by the RCMP.
The Committee recommends that the RCMP revise its policy on use of the Taser gun to include clear and strict usage guidelines, as is the case for firearms, that will include clear restrictions on multiple discharges.
The Committee recommends that the RCMP modify its training on Taser gun use to place more stress on the potential risks of death and injury that such use may entail and on the gaps in the knowledge about this technology and its effects.
The Committee recommends that the RCMP amend its policy by introducing the requirement that Taser gun use certification be renewed at least every two years.
The Committee recommends that the RCMP improve the training of its members on mental health and addiction issues. The RCMP should make sure that the training given to its members reflects the findings of independent research in these areas, particularly in regard to the relationship between mental health disorders, addiction and use of the Taser gun.
The Committee recommends that, wherever possible, the RCMP make use of psychiatric support staff to assist them in providing assistance when an intervention is expected to involve a person suffering from mental illness or drug addiction.
The Committee recommends that Health Canada, through the Health Human Resource Strategy and the Canadian Mental Health Commission, look into the lack of psychiatric programs and drug addiction programs.
The Committee recommends that the Government of Canada encourage the three federally subsidized research councils (Canadian Institutes of Health Research, Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council) to fund scientific research into Taser gun technology as well as comparative research on use-of-force methods.
The Committee recommends that the Government of Canada commission independent, scientific studies on Taser gun safety and encourage that these results be submitted to peer review journals.
The Committee recommends that Statistics Canada’s Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics be given the mandate to create and manage a national database on in-custody deaths, including, at least, the method of restraint used, the authority involved and the context of incidents, such as mental illness or drug use.
The Committee recommends that Statistics Canada’s Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics also be given the mandate to create and manage a database on the use of the Taser gun and other restraint methods.
The Committee recommends that the RCMP include in its annual report to Parliament data on the use of Taser gun and other use-of-force methods. The RCMP must, at least, provide the following information about Taser gun use in its annual report: the number of officers accredited to handle Taser guns; the number and nature of incidents involving Taser gun use; the type of use (demonstration, probe mode, stun mode etc.); the number of complaints received; the injuries related to its use; and the number of deaths soon after Taser gun use.
The Committee recommends that the Government of Canada recognize the urgency of the situation by introducing in the House of Commons, as soon as possible, legislation to establish a civilian oversight body for RCMP activities. This body must be given the mandate to systematically review all RCMP activities, including use-of-force guidelines and practices, and process complaints involving RCMP members. It must also be vested with broad powers, including the power to decide what information is necessary to fulfill its mandate and to compel any federal, provincial, municipal or private organization or official to produce documents and to appear before it.
The Committee recommends that the Canada Border Services Agency, working with Canada’s international airports authorities, implement a system designed to facilitate communication between staff working in controlled areas and those in public areas in Canada’s international airports. This system must allow people in the reception areas or in the controlled areas in airports to find passengers, while respecting the passengers’ privacy and safety.
The Committee recommends that the Canada Border Services Agency install reconciliation software that would make it possible to follow international passengers from the first check point in the Customs Controlled Area (that is, the primary inspection line) until they leave the area.
The Committee recommends that all Canada’s international airport authorities ensure a sufficient number of telephones in terminals that provide access to interpretation services when needed.
The Committee recommends that the Chair of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security call a meeting six months following the tabling of this report in order to receive a progress report on the implementation of our recommendations involving the RCMP.
Posted by Reality Chick at 20:27
RCMP initial response to release of the final Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP Report on RCMP Use of the Conducted Energy Weapon
The RCMP welcomes the final report of the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP (CPC) on RCMP use of the Conducted Energy Weapon (CEW). We are pleased to note that Mr. Kennedy supports the continued appropriate use of the CEW.
The report provides valuable information and analysis and helpful recommendations. We will act on the recommendations as quickly as possible to provide clearer direction to our members, to further restrict situations in which the CEW can be deployed, and to develop and implement measures to enhance accountability and to promote officer and public safety.
We agree with Mr. Kennedy that the RCMP must properly instruct our members to appropriately deploy the CEW in an operational setting and account for our use of the weapon.
We have already implemented or begun implementation of much of what Mr. Kennedy has recommended. In fact, as he noted, in some areas we have gone further than he has recommended. The specific steps to be taken to adjust our policies and practices in response to the recommendations will need to appropriately consider the diverse and geographically dispersed communities we serve and the RCMP’s operational imperatives.
We have already committed to continue to work with the CPC as our work progresses and to provide the Minister of Public Safety and the CPC with updates as amendments are drafted and implemented to our policies and training standards.
We will continue to examine our use of force regime as further information becomes available. We look forward to the results of further processes and research underway to examine CEW related issues. We will also pursue discussions with the provinces and territories for which we provide police services under contract and with the broader policing community, including through the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police. Our objective is to achieve agreement on a National Use of Force framework that may be endorsed by police forces across the country.
Posted by Reality Chick at 16:48
June 18, 2008
The Canadian Press
OTTAWA — The RCMP says it will heed fresh calls from its public watchdog to rein in use of Taser stun guns.
The Mounties said Wednesday they would act on recommendations from the RCMP complaints commission "as quickly as possible" to provide clearer direction to officers and further restrict firing of the 50,000-volt weapons.
The statement came shortly after commission chairman Paul Kennedy issued a final report echoing his interim call to limit Taser use to clashes where a person is combative or risks serious harm to themselves, the police or the public.
"We agree with Mr. Kennedy that the RCMP must properly instruct our members to appropriately deploy the (Taser) in an operational setting and account for our use of the weapon," the RCMP said.
"We have already implemented or begun implementation of much of what Mr. Kennedy has recommended."
In his 78-page report, Kennedy urged a tighter rein on an electronic weapon the Mounties have fired more than 4,000 times since its introduction in 2001.
"I want it boxed in, I want constraints," he told a news conference.
But he stopped short of calling for a moratorium, saying the risk of being hit with a Taser is less than being shot in the chest with a conventional gun. "No one is calling for the police to be disarmed and not use weapons," Kennedy said.
Still, he wants additional curbs that would leave Tasers in the hands of only experienced officers.
He found the national police force has failed to comprehensively track how its officers use the Taser.
Kennedy said the quality of the RCMP's own Taser report data is so poor that the force's policy changes on stun gun use over the years "cannot be factually supported" - what he calls a dangerous practice.
Kennedy also recommended immediate medical attention for people Tasered by the RCMP "in all circumstances."
"This mirrors the policy directive currently found in several municipal police forces, and in my mind ensures that individuals who are Tasered, and about whom the police have no knowledge of underlying medical conditions, receive prompt medical attention, thereby possibly saving their life," he said. "This is particularly relevant for at-risk populations, such as people with mental-health issues, substance-abuse problems, health and homelessness challenges and other marginalized groups in society."
Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day asked Kennedy to study the RCMP's Taser use amid a public uproar over the stun guns last year.
In a statement Wednesday, Day said the government "accepts the report and its recommendations in principle," including further restrictions on how Tasers are used. Day added he had already met with RCMP Commissioner William Elliott to discuss the implications. "He has indicated to me that he intends to act on the recommendations in a manner that takes into consideration the operational requirements of the RCMP," Day said. "We agree on the need to move forward in ways that will help to maintain the safety of the public and the men and women that protect our communities."
In its statement, the RCMP said specific steps to adjust policies and practices in response to Kennedy's recommendations will need to "appropriately consider the diverse and geographically dispersed communities we serve" and operational needs.
The RCMP declined to elaborate Wednesday.
Kennedy's final report was initially supposed to be released last Thursday. But it was delayed so Day could discuss the findings with the complaints chairman earlier this week.
Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski died in October after he was repeatedly zapped with an RCMP Taser and subdued by officers at Vancouver International Airport. A hair-raising amateur video of his wrenching final moments circled the globe, sparking public outrage and igniting fresh debate.
A Canadian Press CBC-Radio-Canada investigation of more than 3,200 incidents in which Mounties fired the powerful stun guns in the last six years shows that officers used the Taser multiple times in almost half of cases.
The pattern of repeated shocks has continued in recent years despite a 2005 RCMP directive warning numerous zaps could be hazardous.
The analysis also revealed that nearly a third of the people the RCMP has hit with Tasers needed medical treatment afterward, raising new questions about a potent weapon police consider a safer alternative to conventional guns.
The Taser can be fired from a distance of several metres and cycled repeatedly once steel probes puncture a suspect's skin or clothing. The guns can also be used in up-close stun mode - a sensation likened to leaning on a hot stove - sometimes resulting in painful blisters or burns.
Tony Cannavino, president of the Canadian Police Association, said this week officers need solid research, guidance and proper training - including recertification every two years - in order to be sure the stun guns are used properly.
Twenty people in Canada have died after they were Tasered.
Arizona-based manufacturer Taser International points out that the weapons have never been directly blamed for a death, though they have been cited as contributing factors.
Posted by Reality Chick at 16:44
June 18, 2008
The Honourable Stockwell Day, Minister of Public Safety, issued the following statement upon the release of the final report by the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP (CPC) on the use of Conducted Energy Weapons (CEWs), commonly known as Tasers.
“After the tragic incident at Vancouver International Airport in October 2007, I asked the Chair of the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP, to look into the use of CEWs in the RCMP.
In follow-up to the CPC’s interim report released in December 2007, I have received the CPC’s final report on the RCMP’s use of CEWs and the RCMP’s compliance with the protocols established to govern their use.
I would like to acknowledge the work of the CPC on this issue. It provides a valuable perspective and helps in our on-going effort to ensure police officers are equipped with the tools they need to secure their own safety and that of the public and with the proper guidance on when and how to use these tools.
The government accepts the report and its recommendations in principle, including the main recommendation to further restrict the circumstances within which CEWs may be used.
I have met with the Commissioner of the RCMP regarding the operational implications raised by the recommendations in the final CPC report. He has indicated to me that he intends to act on the recommendations in a manner that takes into consideration the operational requirements of the RCMP. We agree on the need to move forward in ways that will help to maintain the safety of the public and the men and women that protect our communities.
The appropriate use of CEWs is an important issue for all and I intend to continue to address this with my provincial and territorial counterparts on an ongoing basis.
The Government of Canada continues to take this issue very seriously and is taking the necessary measures to ensure Canadians maintain full confidence in their national police force.
Posted by Reality Chick at 16:00
June 18, 2008
The last point made in Paul Kennedy's executive summary of today's Report on the RCMP's Use of the Conducted Energy Weapon couldn't be any clearer:
"Simply put, if the RCMP cannot account for the use of this weapon and properly instruct its members to appropriately deploy the CEW in an operational setting, then such use should be prohibited until proper and strict accountability and training measures can be fully implemented."
Posted by Reality Chick at 14:00
June 18, 2008
To address the concerns identified throughout this Final Report, the Commission recommends, for immediate implementation, the following:
RECOMMENDATION 1: The RCMP immediately implement all of the Commission's Interim Report recommendations, in particular:
Recommendation #1 that the conducted energy weapon be classified as an "impact weapon" and use be allowed only in situations where an individual is "combative" or posing a risk of "death or grievous bodily harm" to the member, the individual or the general public.
Recommendation #2 that the conducted energy weapon be used on individuals appearing to be experiencing the condition(s) of excited delirium only when the behaviour is "combative" or posing a risk of "death or grievous bodily harm" to the member, the individual or the general public.
RECOMMENDATION 2: The RCMP immediately instruct its members who deploy a conducted energy weapon on a subject seek immediate medical attention for the subject in all circumstances.
RECOMMENDATION 3: The RCMP immediately implement clearer operational guidelines around conducted energy weapon use against "at-risk populations"(3) and in particular the role of emergency medical services post-weapon deployment.
RECOMMENDATION 4: The RCMP immediately direct, through policy and implement operational guidance, that the conducted energy weapon will be used only by the following members:
Corporals or above in urban(4) settings.
All members of specialized response teams(5) are exempt from this criterion.
Constables with at least five years of operational experience who are posted to detachments in rural(6) settings.
All members of specialized response teams are exempt from this criterion.
Any RCMP member who is currently trained and certified to use a conducted energy weapon who does not meet any of these criteria will be prohibited from using the weapon until the criterion is met.
Recommendation 5: The RCMP immediately modify reporting Form 3996 to include the capture and search capabilities, at a minimum, of the following information:
Description of the context surrounding weapon deployment;
Description of the subject's behaviour;
Identification of deployments in rural or urban detachments;
Specific indications of types of deployment: threatened, push-stun, probe, or a combination thereof;
Factors leading to the member's decision to deploy a CEW;
Electronic linking capabilities to capture related events and reports;
Member's articulation of factors leading to use of force choice(s);
Description of whether other use of force tools were utilized;
Articulation of how member safety was augmented by CEW use; and
Fulsome description of factors relevant to a multiple or prolonged application of the weapon and the member's rationale in support of such multiple or prolonged applications.
RECOMMENDATION 6: The RCMP immediately instruct all Divisions to conduct a comprehensive review of conducted energy weapon use, identify all outstanding Form 3996 reports and immediately submit all reports to the national database.
RECOMMENDATION 7: The RCMP immediately establish Use of Force Coordinators in all Divisions reporting to the National Use of Force Coordinator. All Divisional Use of Force Coordinators will immediately:
Enforce the requirement that Form 3996 be completed and submitted as per operational requirement by the end of each shift where the conducted energy weapon was used;
Enforce appropriate administrative disciplinary measures for members who under-report use of the weapon or who do not report use;
Identify members who have engaged in multiple or prolonged applications of the weapon, and determine the circumstances and reasons for such use and report this to appropriate professional standards units and RCMP Headquarters; and
Review, verify and approve all Form 3996 submissions in their Division prior to final submission to the national database.
RECOMMENDATION 8: The National Use of Force Coordinator must hold the rank of a Commissioned Officer in order to ensure national implementation of policies and procedures and to implement institutional behavioural change. Divisional Use of Force Coordinators must report to the National Use of Force Coordinator.
RECOMMENDATION 9: The RCMP immediately direct through policy that Divisional and national professional standards units and training coordinators receive carbon copies of all Form 3996 submissions sent to the national database.
RECOMMENDATION 10: The RCMP immediately implement a requirement that the Learning and Development Services group receive all reporting Form 3996 submissions where the subject is considered to be part of an "at risk group", to ensure:
Relevancy of training and training standards; and
Proper modification of training programs.
RECOMMENDATION 11: The RCMP publicly release the requested Quarterly and Annual Reports concerning the RCMP's use of the conducted energy weapon.
RECOMMENDATION 12: The RCMP provide the Commission unvetted copies of all Forms 3996 on a monthly basis for a period of three years, commencing January 1, 2008, so that the Commission can provide a comprehensive yearly assessment of conducted energy weapon use by the RCMP.
Posted by Reality Chick at 13:56