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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Winnipeg stun-gun victim schizophrenic

September 30, 2009
CBC News

A 31-year-old man shocked by a Winnipeg police stun gun this week suffers from schizophrenia and is a former resident of a provincial mental health institution, his mother told CBC News Wednesday.

The man was in critical condition Monday night when he was taken to hospital after the stun-gun incident and put into a medically induced coma.

His condition has been upgraded to stable, police said Wednesday.

The man's mother said that her son's behaviour is "unpredictable" and that he takes medication daily. He lives in a downtown group home but once lived at a mental health centre in Selkirk, about 40 kilometres north of Winnipeg.

CBC News is not identifying the man or his mother out of privacy concerns.

Police said officers came upon the man at about 10 p.m. when they were investigating a domestic incident on Balmoral Street. The man was at the rear of a building in the 300 block of nearby Kennedy Street.

Police have not released any information about why the officers used the stun gun, except to say the man was belligerent and refused to follow instructions.

The incident, which is under investigation, is not related to the domestic matter, police said.

Winnipeg: Injured zapped man was combative

September 30, 2009
By CHRIS KITCHING, SUN MEDIA

Sources say a male who is in critical condition after he was zapped by a police Taser was belligerent and combative with officers when they encountered him behind a downtown Winnipeg apartment building Monday night.

Officers deployed a Taser to bring the male under control but he possibly struck his head as he fell to the ground, a source said yesterday.

City police revealed little about the circumstances but said the male wasn't compliant with officers during an altercation, so they used the electronic control device.

Police spokesman Const. Jason Michalyshen said he was unaware if the male was armed with a weapon.

A man who lives in the Kirkby Terrace apartments at Kennedy Street and Qu'Appelle Avenue said he heard police scream at the male to get on the ground, so he rushed to his balcony, where he watched police Taser the male below.

The witness said the male was standing on or near a path at the north side of the building, facing at least five "riled up" police officers.

The man said he didn't hear the male say anything and couldn't tell if he was armed because it was dark.

"I think he just didn't get on the ground when they told him to," the man said.

Yesterday, a bloodstain was still visible on the path. The male remains in hospital.

Police are investigating to determine if the level of force used was appropriate.

Winnipeg police have used Tasers hundreds of times. Last year, Michael Langan, 17, died after being jolted with a police Taser. The cause of death hasn't been released. Police said at the time Langan ignored orders to drop a knife he was allegedly holding.

Officers stopped the male to find out if he was involved in a domestic dispute moments earlier at Balmoral Street and Sargent Avenue at 10:15 p.m.

Police went to the intersection to find the people involved -- a woman, her boyfriend and ex -- but they were gone, so officers searched the area.

It turns out the male who was jolted by a Taser wasn't involved in the domestic matter but officers didn't know that at the time, Michalyshen said.

Regardless of that fact, the male was aggressive towards the officers for some reason, a source said.

Michalyshen said investigators were still trying to confirm the male's identity yesterday.

Meanwhile, police have two males, aged 17 and 23, in custody for their alleged roles in the beating and robbery of an 18-year-old man in front of the apartment at 4:50 a.m. yesterday. The man is in stable condition.

Police believe the same suspects robbed a 23-year-old man at Ellice Avenue and Kennedy about the same time.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Edmonton appeal board hears from Tasered lawyer

September 28, 2009
By Ryan Cormier, Edmonton Journal

EDMONTON — An Edmonton lawyer is attempting to force a disciplinary hearing for two police officers who Tasered and detained him during the 2006 Stanley Cup playoff celebrations on Whyte Avenue.

Brian Fish, 69, was taking pictures of a separate arrest on Whyte Avenue on the night of June 17, 2006, when he was approached by an officer who told him to stop.

When he refused, Fish told the Law Enforcement Review Board, Const. Denise Turkawski tried to get in the way of his photos. In response, Fish tried to take pictures over her head.

“She came toward me, I thought to grab the camera. I raised my arms and dropped the camera behind me. Next thing I knew, I was on the ground getting Tasered,” Fish testified Monday. He added that, at one point, he lost consciousness.

The officer who used the Taser has since been identified as Const. Tori Tagg.

Police at the scene believed Fish was inciting those around him. A zero-tolerance policy was in effect on Whyte Avenue at the time.

The lawyer was then held for roughly four hours, and refused to give his name to police, but was later released without charges. That same night, 386 people were arrested during the party on Whyte Avenue. Two were charged.

Fish had put in a complaint to police, but the investigation led to no charges. Police Chief Mike Boyd concluded there was no likelihood the charges could be proven. Fish is now appealing to the Law Enforcement Review Board to order the officers involved to face a hearing.

Fish testified that he was on Whyte Avenue after his son Nigel called and said his friend had been arrested and that “police were being crazy.” Fish told the board that no medical attention was provided to him after he was Tasered.

At one point, an officer told Fish “they were just doing their job.”

Nigel Fish, who was arrested at the same time as his father, also testified. He said he was taken into custody when he protested the physical handling of his father.

“I stepped forward,” he recalled. “What are you doing? That’s an old man. I was then put on the ground and arrested.”

Nigel Fish said that he was insulted many times by officers, including use of a homophobic slur.

The hearing continues Tuesday.

Florida man dies after chase and Taser use

September 28, 2009
SARA KENNEDY, Bradenton Herald

BRADENTON — A Bradenton man died at Manatee Memorial Hospital early today after he fled police and an officer used a Taser on him, according to a report by the Bradenton Police Department issued this morning.

Derrick Humbert, 38, refused to make a traffic stop at 12:18 a.m. when directed to do so by officers in the area of the 700 block of 27th Street East, according to the report prepared by Deputy Chief J.J. Lewis.

Humbert then fled on foot, running through several residential yards, the report said. One of the pursuing officers used his Taser, it said. A Taser is an electro-shock weapon that is used to slow or immobilize a suspect.

Police called emergency medical service workers to take Humbert to the hospital, where he died while being treated, the release said. The police department is conducting an investigation and awaiting autopsy results to determine the cause of death, the report said.

Police said they later determined that Humbert had an outstanding arrest warrant for possession of marijuana, the report said. The name of the officer was not released this morning.

Friday, September 25, 2009

My mea culpa

September 25, 2009
Lorne Gunter, National Post

I apologize for sticking up for the Mounties who Tasered Robert Dziekanski at Vancouver International Airport in October 2007. He died soon after. More than that, I am sorry for suggesting in print that Mr. Dziekanski and his mother, Zofia Cisowski, had some culpability in his death; he for acting bizarrely, she for failing to do more to locate her son before he went berserk after waiting mistakenly for hours in a Canada Customs office in the terminal.

I still believe Mr. Dziekanski's behaviour was inappropriate and disturbing. But he did not deserve to die. And he died because police officers forgot their training and obligation to the public, acted excessively and in haste, may have killed an innocent, if disturbed, man in the process.

As guardians of the peace, they failed, just as I failed as a journalist by standing by them too long.

The Braidwood inquiry into the incident is ongoing in Vancouver, so it remains too early to come to some conclusions about the officers' actions and about the behaviour of their superiors following the event. But what we have learned so far has made a few very important conclusions unavoidable: The four officers on the scene overreacted to the situation before them. An innocent man died as a result of their misjudgment and excessive use of force. And ever since, their superiors have been attempting to cover up their blameworthiness.

This latter transgression -- the attempt by the brass to keep the truth from coming out -- is the greatest problem now plaguing our once-proud national police force. It speaks to the institutional rot and corrosive culture at the upper echelons of the RCMP.

I am not doubting that the Dziekanski call-out, coming after 1:00 in the morning, was no routine episode. The dispatcher had told the quartet of officers to expect an "intoxicated male throwing luggage around" and "throwing chairs through [a] glass window." He was cursing, throwing furniture, erecting a barricade and swinging a small table at a civilian who approached him to see whether they might help.

Witnesses in the airport at the time sided with the officers, although many have since recanted their original statements in front of the inquiry. Mr. Dziekanski "deserved the Taser," they told investigators, and police "had no choice" because he was "out of control."

Still, the officers acted far too quickly in Tasering the Polish traveller. They made almost none of the standard peaceful approaches they are trained to make and escalated instead almost instantly to the conducted energy weapon.

Their after-incident reports at the time disagree with the video evidence and, more damagingly, with their sworn statements to the Braidwood commission. They each claimed Mr. Dziekanski refused to co-operate with them, although the video evidence seems to indicate he, being a non-speaker of English, was complying the best he could with commands they gave by gesture. And while they insisted he became "combative," picked up a stapler to use as a weapon and lunged at them, none of that is supported in the video recordings.

More damning for me was what the officers told paramedics on the scene. While the officers had jolted Mr. Dziekanski five times with their Taser, they informed paramedics they had stunned the blue-faced, convulsive, breathless victim only once, a possible sign that even then they knew they had done something wrong and were preparing a common cover story.

But worst of all is the way senior Mounties have done all they can to keep the bright light of public scrutiny from shining on the Dziekanski death. Their initial response to the incident was less than frank. They tried to block a comprehensive video taken at the scene from being made public. They resisted an inquiry, whitewashed their own findings and, as we learned this week, kept 18,000 documents -- some highly damaging -- from being seen by the formal inquiry and from the public.

Senior Mounties who helped perpetrate a cover-up should be sacked. Likely the four officers should be fired, too, although Canadians might want to wait for the Braidwood report before urging that. And the RCMP itself should apologize formally for its role in all this.

Next the force needs to be remade from top to bottom, stressing its responsibility and rectitude.

Only then will it have any chance of repairing its tarnished reputation.

Dziekanski's death 'deliberate,' watchdog suggests

September 25, 2009
Ian Bailey, Globe and Mail

Poland's top civil-rights watchdog says a crucial e-mail dissected at the Braidwood inquiry this week suggests the death of Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski was “deliberate, intentional and planned in advance.”

The comment by Janusz Kochanowski, Poland's commissioner for civil-rights protection, is included in a letter to be sent next week to Canada's director of public prosecutions that was obtained by The Globe and Mail.

The civil-rights commissioner's concerns revolve around suggestions the four Mounties involved in the October, 2007, confrontation with Mr. Dziekanski planned, in advance, to taser him.

In an e-mail presented to the Braidwood inquiry in June, RCMP Chief Superintendent Dick Bent quoted RCMP Superintendent Wayne Rideout suggesting the Mounties went to the airport planning to taser Mr. Dziekanski, which would have contradicted the inquiry testimony of the four Mounties.

On the stand at the Braidwood inquiry this week, Supt. Rideout, who was in charge of investigating Mr. Dziekanski's death, bluntly dismissed the theory, and said Supt. Bent was wrong. Supt. Bent told the inquiry the suggestion was correct as far as he knew.

In an interview from Warsaw Thursday, the civil-rights commissioner's spokesman said he hoped Mr. Braidwood would properly assess the conflicting accounts on the e-mail in his final report.

Miroslaw Wroblewski also said the commissioner remains intent on seeing the Mounties prosecuted and that Mr. Braidwood's final report would be a green light for efforts by his office to press Polish prosecutors to figure out how to do that.

Mr. Dziekanski drew the attention of police when he began acting erratically in Vancouver international airport after a long flight to Canada from Poland. When the 40-year-old labourer picked up a stapler in a manner police deemed threatening, he was stunned five times and cuffed. He died of a cardiac arrest that was not officially linked to the taser. However, his death prompted an ongoing debate on the police use of stun guns, and in the case of Poland, calls for the criminal prosecution of the officers involved.

B.C. prosecutors have ruled out such a prosecution, saying the officers did not break the law.

But the Polish commissioner's office is bullish about a prosecution.

“We cannot exclude any solution. The ending and final effect of the Braidwood inquiry is now the most important thing [about] what will happen next,” said Mr. Wroblewski.

“We will take further steps after the end of the [Braidwood] proceedings.”

He declined to get into specifics about exactly how prosecutors in a European country would hold Mounties in Canada legally accountable for their actions, but insisted “legally, it's possible.”

In the letter, Poland's civil-right commissioner asks for an official update on the ongoing inquiry.

“I would like to emphasize that an appropriate closure of this matter is of uncommon significance, not only for the family of the deceased, Robert Dziekanski, but also for the whole of Polish society, which is following the events connected with these proceedings with great interest,” the letter says.

He is to sign the letter next week. It will then be mailed to Brian Saunders, the federal prosecutions director.

A spokesman for Mr. Saunders' office said Thursday that they had not had any previous dealings with the Polish commissioner on the Dziekanski case, nor did they have any role in the matter.

Mr. Kochanowski is an independent officer appointed by the Polish government to monitor and uphold the civil rights of Polish citizens at home and abroad.

He met last week with Mr. Dziekanski's mother, Zofia Cisowski, who was in Poland for a visit.

The commissioner told Ms. Cisowski about all of the actions his office has taken in the case since 2007, and thoughts about a prosecution. Mr. Wroblewski noted that Ms. Cisowski said she had faith in the work of Mr. Braidwood.

Mr. Braidwood, a retired B.C. appeal-court justice, heard his last witness this week.

Starting Oct. 5, lawyers representing parties including the RCMP, Mr. Dziekanski's mother and the Canadian government will begin making final oral submissions to Mr. Braidwood, who will then begin writing his final report.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Taser testimony gaps 'beyond belief': B.C. inquiry lawyer

September 24, 2009
By Suzanne Fournier, Vancouver Province

VANCOUVER — The four RCMP officers who Tasered and restrained Robert Dziekanski kept working together for weeks after the Polish immigrant died in their custody at the Vancouver International Airport.

Yet the four officers previously told the inquiry probing his October 2007 death that they never had the opportunity to discuss the case, either at work, at a debriefing session or in phone calls or e-mails.

But on its 61st and final day of hearings, the Braidwood inquiry into Dziekanski's death heard Wednesday from RCMP Sgt. Doug Wright — the immediate supervisor of the four Mounties involved in the Tasering — that the four kept working together "for two or three weeks."

Then, Wright admitted, three of the four were sent on a training course together in Chilliwack, B.C.

Outside the courtroom, Polish government lawyer Don Rosenbloom called Wright's evidence "just beyond belief."

Walter Kosteckyj, lawyer for Dziekanski's mother, Zofia Cisowski, agreed. "You've got four people that work together, they go through what is obviously a traumatic experience, and then they continue to work together for three weeks — and then three of them get sent to do a training course together. What would common sense dictate? Of course they would discuss this incident."

Wright, who was first told of the Tasering and Dziekanski's death by Cpl. Benjamin Monty Robinson at 2 a.m. on Oct. 14, 2007, also said that he warned Robinson to take "excellent" notes as the death would be investigated by the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team.

Wright — whose own extensive notes, released by the inquiry Wednesday, show that he discussed the incident with all cops on his team — admitted Robinson's notes fell far short of excellence. He denied he gave the four officers ample opportunity to corroborate their version of events.

Wright also noted that a police officer involved "in a major incident, any notes he writes at the time may be subject to production or search warrants to address what he did at the time."

Thomas Braidwood, the retired judge in charge of the inquiry, demanded Wright describe Robinson's notes: "Were they excellent?"

Wright replied: "No sir, they were very short. The officers have a duty to report . . . I would have expected there would have been more notes."

Outside the courtroom, Kosteckyj and Rosenbloom said that the four Mounties were never investigated as persons of interest in a homicide.

None of them was ever given a police caution or read his charter rights, the inquiry was told.

Tasers overused and unreliable

September 24, 2009
John Lapsley, McGill Daily

Polytechnique professor condemns taser lethality, inconsistent performance

A lecture held at McGill Monday night warned that overuse and risk of malfunction make tasers far more dangerous than previously believed.

Pierre Savard of the École Polytechnique de Montreal led the audience through his research on the effects of electric stimulation on the human heart, demonstrating that use of electric stun guns can at times cause fatal complications.

“For many subjects with individual susceptibilities, the taser is in fact lethal,” Savard said, pointing out that individuals with heart disease and drug users face greater risks.

“The taser shock is analogous to the stress test hospitals give heart patients to test for defects,” Savard said. “These shocks stimulate flexors, extensors, and every nerve ending in the body.”

According to Savard, the danger present in these so-called “non-lethal weapons” is further exacerbated by what he saw as the RCMP’s gross overuse of tasers.

Savard illustrated this point with instances in which police used stun guns to wake up a subject sleeping on a bench and to pacify a grandmother who was making too much noise at a nursing home.

“It’s so easy to silence a subject [with a taser],” Savard said. “Too many policemen use it like the mute button on a remote control.”

Savard, a professor of electrical and biomedical engineering, began his investigation into taser safety after the October 2007 death of Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski. Dziekanski could not understand English and became lost shortly after arriving at Vancouver International Airport. After an agitated Dziekanski threw a computer and small table to the ground, RCMP officers tasered him five times. Dziekanski died almost immediately.

Dziekanski’s death spurred a Michener Prize-winning CBC-Radio Canada investigation into taser safety, which found that at least 10 per cent of the stun guns currently in use in Canada malfunction outside of manufacturer specifications, putting subjects at greater risk of death.

Several individual police forces in Canada launched concurrent investigations that supported CBC-Radio Canada’s findings.

Based on these studies, groups like Amnesty International and the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP stepped forward, condemning taser overuse and urging a moratorium on stun guns until further research could be done.

Taser International, the sole manufacturer of tasers, responded dismissively to these studies.

Peter Holran, the company’s spokesman, called it regrettable that “false allegations based on scientifically flawed data” could raise such concerns and reaffirmed the quality of Taser International’s products.

Savard was concerned by Taser International’s lack of transparency. Savard noted that medical instrument manufacturers have “traceability,” meaning that a defective medical instrument can be traced piece by piece back to the raw materials, allowing selective safety recalls. Weapons manufacturers also undergo strict objective scrutiny from outside safety agencies. Tasers, however, qualify as neither medical instruments nor weapons, and are therefore subject only to the manufacturer’s testing standards.

Savard quipped, “If it’s not a weapon and it’s not medical equipment, it’s a toy.”

Tasers, however, still rank among police officers’ safest methods of applying force.

Savard cited a 2006-2007 study of Calgary police officers’ force interactions which demonstrated that out of all non-lethal force methods, stun gun interactions least frequently necessitated medical attention for the subject or the officer.

Savard himself admitted that tasers are among the safer means of subduing suspects, but firmly reiterated that more research into stun gun lethality, and more transparency in the manufacturing process are necessary if police officers are to continue using them on suspects.

National Post editorial board: Shame on the RCMP

September 24, 2009
Editorial, National Post

Is there a sadder spectacle in Canadian public life than watching the RCMP immolate themselves at the Braidwood inquiry into the tazering death of Robert Dziekanski two years ago at Vancouver International airport? A once proud institution -- the best known icon of Canada in the rest of the world -- seems hell-bent on destroying its last shreds of credibility.

New documents, the existence of which the RCMP had concealed from the commission and Canadians for over 18 months, now show that the force knew days before video of Mr. Dziekanski's killing became public that it had a time bomb ticking in its hands. Rather than deal with it proactively and forcefully by suspending the officers involved and conducting a thorough internal investigation, the Mounties devised a cover-up to mute or at least minimize the consequences.

This is shameful.

Even more shameful is the way the force has continued to justify its officers' behaviour and its own actions in papering over their offences. Instead of sweeping clean, new Commissioner William Elliott has quickly become the RCMP's apologist-in-chief.

The Mounties can begin to restore their reputation for independent, fair-minded policing only if they come clean, apologize for what their officers did, punish them and take their lumps in the theatre of Canadian public opinion.

National Post

Mountie's note-taking criticized in taser incident

September 24, 2009
Ian Bailey, Globe and Mail

The senior Mountie among four involved in a fatal confrontation with Robert Dziekanski was yesterday criticized by his supervisor for taking substandard notes recording events around the incident.

Staff Sergeant Doug Wright, the number-two officer in the RCMP's airport detachment, told the Braidwood inquiry he urged Corporal Benjamin Robinson to take “excellent notes” about the Oct. 14, 2007, confrontation at Vancouver Airport between police and the 40-year-old Polish immigrant.

Staff Sgt. Wright said he gave the corporal the advice in an early morning conversation in which Cpl. Robinson told his boss what had happened when the officers used a taser on Mr. Dziekanski.

But the staff sergeant indicated on the stand yesterday that he was not impressed with the corporal's work.

He was asked by Don Rosenbloom, a lawyer representing the government of Poland, whether he thought Cpl. Robinson had taken “excellent notes” up to his own standards.

“They weren't up to my standard,” he said. “Were they up to his? I'm not sure.”

Mr. Rosenbloom asked if the staff sergeant would not have expected extensive notes from officers involved in what was essentially an in-custody death.

“The officers have a duty to report. I would have expected there would have been more notes than what were there,” he said, indicating, in response to another question, that he had not had a chance to review the notes of the other three officers.

Staff Sgt. Wright also said that he permitted the four officers to work together for several weeks after the incident in spite of a protocol barring them from discussing the incident among themselves, saying that it was not deemed to be necessary to separate them.

The staff sergeant, the last witness to testify, was sent on his way with a cheery, “That seems to be everyone. Thank you very much,” from inquiry head Thomas Braidwood.

Closing arguments are to be presented starting Oct. 5.

Mr. Rosenbloom later expressed concerns about the notes issue.

“One would have thought that where there's an in-custody death, police officers would be writing extensive notes about what transpired, if only to protect their own interests, and indeed to protect the public interests, and frankly when you look at the notes of the officers in connection with this matter, there's mighty little to feed on,” he told reporters.

“I felt in this case, the notes that are now exhibits before these proceedings fall so short of the standard every citizen would expect of our police in Canada.”

Police went to the airport, responding to reports that a man in the international arrivals section was acting erratically.

Mr. Dziekanski, a 40-year-old labourer who had come to Canada to start a new life with his mother in Kamloops, was stunned five times with a taser after he picked up a stapler in what the officers deemed to be a threatening action.

Mr. Dziekanski died of cardiac arrest that has not, specifically, been linked to the use of the taser.

One key issue has been the failure of authorities to communicate with Mr. Dziekanski, who spoke only Polish.

The inquiry also heard yesterday from a Spanish-language interpreter who was on duty at the airport and suggested to authorities that they summon a Polish-language interpreter to help Mr. Dziekanski.

However, it turned out the only one available was in Ontario, and had asked not be contacted for jobs of less than two hours.

Gracie Churchill-Browne noted that border officials were otherwise genuinely trying to help Mr. Dziekanski, who appeared exhausted after his long flight to Canada, although not to the point where she felt it necessary to seek medical aid for him.

One official, she said, expressed surprise that Mr. Dziekanski was still around because his family had returned to Kamloops.

Ms. Churchill-Browne said she told another border officer she hoped Mr. Dziekanski would stay at the airport because he did not seem in a fit state to leave.

“She said, ‘Oh. He's a big boy,'” she recalled.

Mr. Dziekanski's mother said she found the issue of translation appalling, particularly because she accessed a translator within 20 minutes of her arrival in Canada 10 years ago.

“Why not at this moment, 2007? I am so disappointed,” she said. “If he had a translator, [he] would be alive today.”

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

SIU Concludes Investigation into Peel Region Custody Death

MISSISSAUGA, ON, Sept. 23 /CNW/ - The Director of the Special Investigations Unit (SIU), Ian Scott, has concluded that there are no reasonable grounds to believe that officers from Peel Regional Police (PRP) committed any criminal offence in relation to the death of a 42-year-old Brampton man on September 17, 2008.

The SIU assigned four investigators and two forensic investigators to probe the circumstances of this incident.

On the evening of September 16, 2008, Sean Reilly was arrested at a Mississauga home on a charge of assault, and was subsequently taken to 12 Division police station where he was lodged in a cell. Approximately thirty minutes later, Mr. Reilly was seen on a cell monitor banging his head on the bars, causing his forehead to bleed. Officers attended the cell area and told Mr. Reilly they would take him to hospital, but he continued to ram his head into the bars. He finally complied with demands to get down on his knees. When an officer entered the cell, Mr. Reilly ran at him. The officers pinned Mr. Reilly to the ground, but he continued to struggle. A Taser was discharged by one of the officers to Mr. Reilly's shoulder blade, whereupon Mr. Reilly stopped resisting and was handcuffed. He immediately fell into physical distress, and shortly after, stopped breathing. The officers started cardiopulmonary resuscitation until the arrival of the paramedics, who successfully regained his pulse. Mr. Reilly was then transported to Mississauga General Hospital where he never regained consciousness and was pronounced dead the next day.

There will be a mandatory inquest in this matter, and accordingly, the cause of death will be determined by the jury after they have heard all of the evidence. For purposes of the SIU's mandate, however, the forensic evidence indicated that the force used by the officers against Mr. Reilly, including the Taser discharge, did not contribute to his death.

Director Scott said, "I am of the opinion that Mr. Reilly was in lawful police custody after being properly arrested on a charge of assault with a weapon. While the subject officers had physical contact with Mr. Reilly after he was placed in a 12 Division cell and made use of a Taser, on the basis of the post-mortem examination, the actions of the subject officers were unrelated to his death. Further, their attempt to subdue him and the use of the Taser were justified under ss. 25(1) of the Criminal Code in circumstances where he needed to be transported to a hospital and was actively non-compliant."

Director Scott added, "Given the circumstances leading to the death of Mr. Reilly, I am of the view that the four subject officers' conduct fell within the limits prescribed by the criminal law. Accordingly, I cannot attach criminal liability to their acts and omissions with respect to this incident."

The SIU is a civilian agency that investigates cases of serious injuries (including allegations of sexual assault) and deaths involving the police. Pursuant to section 113 of the Police Services Act, the Director of the SIU is mandated to consider whether a criminal offence has been committed by an officer(s) in connection with the incident under investigation and, where warranted by the evidence, to cause a criminal charge or charges to be laid against the officer(s). The Director reports the results of investigations to the Attorney General.

For further information: Monica Hudon, SIU Communications/Service des communications, UES, Telephone/No de telephone: (416) 622-2342 or/ou 1-800-787-8529

Officers cleared in Brampton man’s death

Wednesday September 23 2009
By Pam Douglas, Brampton Guardian

Four Peel Regional Police officers have been cleared of any criminal wrongdoing in the death of a Brampton man Tasered inside a Mississauga jail cell last fall.

Sean Reilly, 42, died as he fought with officers inside the 12 Division cell on Sept. 17, 2008, according to the province’s Special Investigations Unit (SIU).

A mandatory inquest will be held into the incident, and the inquest jury will determine the official cause of death, according to SIU Director Ian Scott. However, “the forensic evidence indicated that the force used by the officers, including the Taser discharge, did not contribute to his death,” the SIU concluded.

“While the subject officers had physical contact with Mr. Reilly after he was placed in a 12 Division cell and made use of a Taser, on the basis of the post-mortem examination, the actions of the subject officers were unrelated to his death,” according to SIU Director Ian Scott.

Reilly was arrested for assault with a weapon at a Mississauga home the night of Sept. 16. He was taken to 12 Division and put in the holding cell, according to the SIU investigation. Thirty minutes later, he was seen on a cell video monitor banging his head on the bars. His forehead was bleeding from the force, and officers went to the cell to tell him they were going to take him to hospital, but he continued to ram his head into the bars, the SIU investigation revealed.

He eventually complied with the officers’ commands to get down on his knees, but when an officer unlocked and entered the cell, he ran at him. Reilly was pinned to the ground by the four subject officers, but the struggle continued, and he was Tasered on the shoulder blade by one of the officers.

He stopped struggling and was handcuffed, but immediately fell into “physical distress” and stopped breathing, according to the SIU investigation.

The officers performed CPR until paramedics arrived, and the medics were able to get Reilly’s heartbeat back, according to the SIU. He was taken to Mississauga General Hospital and never regained consciousness. He was pronounced dead the next day.

Scott concluded the officers’ attempt to subdue him and use the Taser were justified under the Criminal Code of Canada in circumstances where he needed to be taken to the hospital, but was resisting.

A date for an inquest has not yet been set.

Analysis: Even the RCMP is admitting it's time to give up self-investigation

September 23, 2009
By Ian Mulgrew, Vancouver Sun

The Braidwood Commission into the death of Robert Dziekanski at YVR is no further ahead after its unexpected three-month hiatus triggered by the disclosure of a controversial, previously unseen RCMP e-mail.

It has another 18,000 pages of documents from the Mounties and a new mystery (a week-long black hole in a senior B.C. officer's electronic archive around the time the key e-mail was sent), but little new insight.

Oh, unless you count the fact that even a senior Mountie realizes the force has lost public confidence and it's time for an independent investigative agency in B.C. to step in when RCMP conduct is an issue.

The inquiry into Dziekanski's tragic death Oct. 14, 2007, should have ended long ago and the report into what happened should be near completion.

Instead, the second anniversary of the Polish immigrant's death will come and go without any closure.

The delays, the foot-dragging and the late-disclosure by the RCMP have obviously irked former justice Thomas Braidwood, who spoke sharply to lawyers Tuesday and cut short their cross-examination whenever it strayed from relevance.

"Why would I possibly want to know that?" he snapped at one point.

"I don't see that as an issue."

His frustration is understandable given the mire.

The author of the Nov. 5, 2007 note whose content suggests the four Mounties who Tasered Dziekanski misled the inquiry, Chief Supt. Richard Bent said he did his best to ensure the three-paragraph note was accurate.

"These are serious matters we don't take lightly," he said.

But he admitted his note could be wrong, especially the key sentence he penned to his boss RCMP assistant commissioner Al Macintyre:

"Finally, spoke to [Supt.] Wayne [Rideout] and he indicated that the members did not articulate that they saw the symptoms of excited delirium, but instead had discussed the response en route and decided that if he did not comply that they go to CEW [conducted energy weapon, commonly known as a Taser]."

Tagged with saying the Mounties decided to zap Dziekanski before even laying eyes on him, Rideout complained Bent definitely misunderstood.

"That is not what happened," he emphasized. "The way he has portrayed my comments to him in that passage as read out is wrong."

The man who received the e-mail, the province's second-in-command Horseman, MacIntyre could shed no light on it and said he didn't pay much attention to it.

He added that he also could not explain why investigators looking to recover other relevant documents discovered his electronic archive had been deleted between Nov. 1 and Nov. 8, 2007.

"I have no explanation," he said about the missing documents.

No wonder Braidwood is grumpy.

Here is the official Marcel Marceau version of what happened:

Four officers having lunch together in the detachment office received a call about a man throwing around luggage; without a word, they rose as a unit, mutely jumped into four separate squad cars, raced silently to the airport and within 24 seconds (without ever having spoken) they jolted Dziekanski five times.

You can understand why people are skeptical.

Even Rideout conceded that he personally thought the RCMP was fighting a losing battle for public support.

It was time for an independent investigative agency to handle cases involving police officers, such as they have in Ontario, he said.

"While we're comfortable and competent in our investigations, we recognize that's not the perception," Rideout explained.

"We shouldn't be doing this. We can't do an independent investigation and market the RCMP.... We are not winning. We are not perceived publicly as being able to investigate ourselves. It's a perception problem. It's unwinnable."

Crown prosecutors have decided not to charge Const. Bill Bentley, Const. Gerry Rundel, Const. Kwesi Millington and Cpl. Benjamin (Monty) Robinson in Dziekanski's death.

However, there have been calls for them to reconsider, given the concerns the investigation was flawed and the officers lied about what happened.

Braidwood hopes to wrap up the extra days of testimony this week and to hear final arguments starting Oct. 5 from the score of lawyers involved in the inquiry.

Self-policing an 'unwinnable' battle for RCMP, inquiry hears

September 23, 2009
Ian Bailey, Globe and Mail

The optics of police investigating themselves in such cases as the death of Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski presents an “unwinnable” image problem, the officer in charge of the investigation into the Dziekanski case says.

RCMP Superintendent Wayne Rideout Tuesday told the Braidwood inquiry into Mr. Dziekanski's death in October, 2007, that police conduct “very competent and thorough” investigations through the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team he formerly led.

But the image issue is daunting and could only be resolved by reforms that might involve some B.C. version of the Special Investigations Unit employed in Ontario, an agency that operates independent of police to investigate cases of serious injury or death involving police and civilians.

“My preference would be homicide investigators conduct homicides, and that a separate body conducts investigations of police incidents because I think that prevents people like the IHIT team from finding themselves in these unwinnable perception problems,” Supt. Rideout told the inquiry.

The line of thought seemed to pique the interest of inquiry head Thomas Braidwood, a retired appeal-court justice, who asked where the necessary expertise to conduct investigations would come from if not from the usual investigators.

“I have given it considerable thought,” Supt. Rideout said. “There are hybrid models that exist where there are accommodations of police investigators, civilian oversight. Perhaps that is a workable model.”

It was not entirely clear if Supt. Rideout was referring just to the RCMP, IHIT or all police, in principle.

After an extensive investigation that included a trip to Poland led by Supt. Rideout, IHIT submitted a file on the case to the Crown, which eventually concluded that charges were not warranted against the four Mounties involved in the October, 2007 confrontation with Mr. Dziekanski at Vancouver International Airport.

Mr. Dziekanski died of cardiac arrest after a struggle with police in which he was tasered five times. The use of the taser has not been specifically linked to his death, but its application has prompted a furious debate about the police use of stun guns. There has been an equally intense debate in B.C. on whether police can investigate officers involved in such cases.

Supt. Rideout has spent 27 years with the RCMP, including five as head of IHIT, an 86-officer unit formed in 2003 to investigate homicides in the Lower Mainland region outside of Vancouver and Delta. Last year, he was appointed operations officer for the Surrey detachment.

Supt. Rideout's comments came as he was called to testify Tuesday on an e-mail disclosed this past June that forced a temporary halt to the inquiry because it laid out a scenario at odds with the testimony of the four Mounties.

Chief Superintendent Dick Bent wrote in the Nov. 5, 2007, e-mail to Assistant Commissioner Al MacIntyre that Supt. Rideout had said four officers went into the situation planning to taser Mr. Dziekanski.

Supt. Rideout bluntly rejected the suggestion in testimony that came hours after Supt. Bent said the comments were true, as far as he knew, at the time that he wrote them. However, Supt. Bent conceded he had no notes to back them up, and was not aware of any follow up on the matter. Under questioning, he said it did not become an issue until it was disclosed in June.

Supt. Rideout said his superior's comments were inaccurate. “That is not what happened,” a frowning, stone-faced Supt. Rideout told the inquiry.

He said IHIT found no evidence to indicate the four officers made plans in advance to deploy their tasers, nor was there any such suggestion in notes he made of a conversation he had with Supt. Bent.

He was not asked why he thought Supt. Bent made the comment he did.

“Chief Superintendent Bent is a highly respected member of the RCMP, who occupies an extremely demanding role within this region,” he said.

“He is someone I personally respect a great deal, but the way he portrayed my comments in [the passage] is wrong.”

RCMP brass give clashing testimony at inquiry into Tasering

September 23, 2009
Petti Fong, Western Canada Bureau Chief
Toronto Star

VANCOUVER–A senior RCMP officer disputed his supervisor's testimony at an inquiry probing the death of Robert Dziekanski, saying he never told him the officers involved in the incident discussed using a Taser on the Polish immigrant beforehand.

The inquiry was halted in June when an email emerged from Chief Supt. Dick Bent indicating the four officers talked about using the Taser even before they arrived at Vancouver International Airport, where the fatal confrontation occurred on Oct. 14, 2007.

Bent stood by the email in testimony yesterday, but Supt. Wayne Rideout, named in the email as the source of the information, flatly denied having made the statements to his superior.

The four officers involved in the incident have testified none of them discussed a plan of action as they left the lunchroom to head to Vancouver's airport.

"Finally spoke to Wayne and he indicated that the members did not articulate that they saw the symptoms of excited delirium," Bent wrote in the email to assistant commissioner Al MacIntyre after talking to Rideout, who was in charge of the probe into the officers' actions.

"[I]nstead had discussed the response en route and decided that if he did not comply that they would go to CEW" – shorthand for a conducted energy weapon, or Taser.

Dziekanski, who spent more than 10 hours lost at the Vancouver airport, was hit five times with a Taser by RCMP responding to a 911 call. The inquiry was scheduled to wrap up in June when Bent's email appeared. An adjournment was called over the summer to investigate. It resumed sitting yesterday.

Texas man dies after police taser him

Richard Battistata, 44, Laredo, Texas

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Mountie defends email as Taser inquiry resumes

September 22, 2009
Suzanne Fournier, Canwest News Service

VANCOUVER -- One of B.C.'s top Mounties told the Braidwood inquiry Tuesday morning that he stands by the accuracy of his email that said four Mounties had decided to use a Taser on a Polish immigrant before they even met him.

The email contradicts the four officers' testimony heard earlier this year at the inquiry into Robert Dziekanski's death at the Vancouver International Airport in October 2007.

RCMP Chief Supt. Dick Bent quietly repeated on the stand Tuesday that he was just recording in his Nov. 5, 2007, email what the four Mounties' supervisor had told him, "that the members had discussed en route and decided that if he [Dziekanski] did not comply that they would go to CEW [conducted-energy weapon]."

The email was addressed to Assistant Commissioner Al MacIntyre and sent on the eve of the release of bystander Paul Pritchard's video, which showed Dziekanski being Tasered, restrained and eventually dying on the airport floor.

Inquiry commissioner Thomas Braidwood -- a retired Supreme Court judge who had hoped to complete his lengthy inquiry last June but had to adjourn proceedings until Tuesday -- testily rejected bids by lawyers from the Canadian government and the officer who used the Taser on Mr. Dziekanski to suggest that Supt. Bent may have been "mistaken" or that his email did not reflect all of the factors that the officers faced at the scene.

Commission counsel Art Vertlieb told the inquiry that over the summer, since the adjournment but long past the date the commission was supposed to conclude, the RCMP forwarded 18,000 documents to the commission.

Mr. Vertlieb praised the efforts of Canadian government lawyer Jan Brongers in obtaining and releasing the documents, after Supt. Bent's email went overlooked during the first round of hearings.

Government of Canada lawyer Helen Roberts, who tearfully presented the email last June, is no longer on the case and has been replaced by senior justice lawyer Mitchell Taylor.

Const. Kwesi Millington, who Tasered Dziekanski five times, and his three fellow cops insisted at the inquiry they had no plan and did not discuss in advance how to handle the agitated Mr. Dziekanski, 40, who spent 10 hours at the airport trying to emigrate to Canada. Police were called when Mr. Dziekanski threw a small table.

Two more emails written by Supt. Bent were marked as exhibits at the commission on Tuesday morning. The first was to RCMP Assistant Commissioner Dale McGowan on the morning of Nov. 5, 2007, warning that the bystander video would soon be released.

"We were talking about our communication strategy and we want to get our powder dry," Supt. Bent urged.

The second email, which derailed the inquiry in June, was sent later that day to Mr. MacIntyre, saying the frontline Mounties discussed using the Taser before they even met Mr. Dziekanski.

And the third email, this time from Supt. Bent to his superior officer on Nov. 22, 2007, outlines seven policies that the four RCMP officers at the airport were supposed to follow but ignored. They include talking to the distraught person to find out what language he speaks, talking to other passengers and crew, checking identification and visa, trying to find a translator, checking with partner agencies, or finding a 24-hour police interpreter.

Under further cross-examination by lawyers for two of the four Mounties who handled Mr. Dziekanski, Supt. Bent agreed that his email represented only his side of a conversation with the four officers' supervisor, Supt. Wayne Rideout.

Supt. Bent agreed that he wrote the e-mail soon after the conversation and that he was primarily concerned with whether the frontline officers detected "excited delirium" in Mr. Dziekanski, which Supt. Bent thought could have been an explanation why the Polish immigrant was Tasered within 25 seconds of police arrival.

Mr. MacIntyre took the stand briefly to say that he receives 150 to 200 emails a day, and although several thousand related to the Dziekanski incident, he located a "gap" of several crucial months around the time of the Taser-related death.

The inquiry will also hear from Supt. Rideout and Sgt. Doug Wright, the Richmond officer-in-charge of the four Mounties who met Mr. Dziekanski at the airport.

Mr. Dziekanski's mother Zofia Cisowski was in court listening to proceedings.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Braidwood Inquiry - Scheduled Witnesses

Beginning Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Chief Superintendent Dick Bent
Assistant Commissioner Al MacIntyre
Superintendent Wayne Rideout
Mr. John Jubber (United Airlines employee)
Ms. Gracie Churchill-Browne (Interpreter by independent contract to CBSA)
Inspector Renny Nesset

Who was Robert Dziekanski?

September 21, 2009
By MATT KIELTYKA, 24Hours Vancouver

A faint smile crept into Zofia Cisowski's face - but only for a moment.

It's a smile that has appeared far too rarely since her son, Robert Dziekanski, died on the floor of the Vancouver International Airport after being jolted by multiple Taser shots Oct. 14, 2007.

But as much as his death - and ensuing inquiry into the circumstances around it - has shredded Cisowski's life, she can't hide her maternal pride when thinking about her boy.

Cisowski, who has lived in Canada for 10 years, often finds her mind slip half way around the world, to a time when her family was whole.

In those memories, her portrait of Robert emerges - one that's different than any clip on YouTube and one that can only be painted by a mother's loving brush.

She raised Robert on her own in the town of Gliwice in southern Poland and worked long hours to support her lone child.

Late shifts were always risky propositions behind the Iron Curtain. She had to sneak around in the dead of night, taking shelter in the shadows of every building on her way home to avoid being caught breaking curfew.

At the age of 10, Robert may have been too young to understand his mom's stress and fear. But he knew enough. "He saw that I was over-worked," Cisowski reminisced, that smile beginning to show itself again. "That's when he made his first meal, crepes. He forgot to add eggs, but everything else was right. He added onions and pepper and everything," she said, eyes shimmering. "I was very thankful he would do something for me. That when I came back from work I would have something to eat. I will never forget that."

That was Robert, always willing to help.

"He would give people everything he had," Cisowski said. "He had a good heart."

Iwona Kosowska, a long-time neighbour of Robert, says that picture of Robert needs to endure. She remembers him as a "fantastic person." The two would spend hours in the garden together and Robert would play with her daughter. "That's how he was and it won't change," she told 24 hours. "This is simply the truth."

Kosowska was livid when she was put on the hot seat at Braidwood Inquiry earlier this year as lawyers asked her about Robert's past, health and whether he had drinking and smoking problems.

To her, it was a thinly veiled smear campaign. "Can we stop this line of questioning?" she pleaded during her testimony March 30. "You are trying to make a bad person out of him, which means that you can kill a bad person but you cannot kill a good person. I'm fed up. I'm not going to answer any more questions. How can you?"

With the Braidwood Inquiry entering its final stretch tomorrow, Cisowski expects more attempts to use Robert's past against him; no matter how little bearing they may have to the events of Oct. 14, 2007.

That's why the heart-broken mother speaks of the Robert she knew and loved. "He had a very good heart, that's the most important thing," she maintains, as determined as ever. "He never did anyone any harm, he was a good person. But in this world, it's the good people that get taken away from us."

INQUIRY CONTINUES

Zofia Cisowski's quest for the truth continues tomorrow as the Braidwood Inquiry into her son's death resumes after a lengthy delay. On the agenda: An e-mail that suggests officers planned to use a Taser on Dziekanski on their way to the airport.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

RCMP brass to explain explosive email that stalled Dziekanski inquiry

September 20, 2009
The Canadian Press

VANCOUVER, B.C. — The public inquiry into Robert Dziekanski's death was supposed to be long over by now, and the report into what happened on that tragic October night in 2007 nearing completion.

But that timeline was shattered three months ago when a previously unreleased email cast into doubt the testimony of the four RCMP officers who stunned Dziekanski with a Taser at Vancouver's airport and amplified allegations of a coverup.

The hearings resume on Tuesday with testimony from senior Mounties at the centre of that email exchange, which raised questions about whether the four officers involved in the fatal confrontation with Dziekanski arrived at the airport already planning to use a Taser.

The four officers have testified that they never uttered a word - not about the Taser or anything else - as they left their detachment to respond to a report of an agitated man throwing furniture.

The contradiction, which emerged as closing arguments were set to begin earlier this year, prompted inquiry commissioner Thomas Braidwood to reluctantly put the hearings on hold and scold the RCMP for failing to disclose the email sooner.

"We never had full access to the file, we just didn't, so that's been one of the issues," said the inquiry's lawyer, Art Vertlieb.

"I was critical back in June because that email, we should have had. The more important thing is we've got it and we're going to deal with it."

In the email from November 2007, Chief Supt. Dick Bent and RCMP Assistant Commissioner Al Macintyre were discussing media strategy for releasing the now-infamous amateur video of the officers stunning Dziekanski several times with a Taser.

Bent told Macintyre that the officers decided while on the way to the airport that they might use the Taser - information Bent said he received from Supt. Wayne Rideout, who was in charge of investigating Dziekanski's death.

Bent, Macintyre and Rideout are all scheduled to testify this week. The four RCMP officers who were at the airport have already appeared before the inquiry, and are not scheduled to appear again.

"The RCMP have produced 18,000 pages of documents in the last while, and there is not a single shred of evidence to support the assertion made in Chief Bent's email," said David Butcher, who represents Const. Bill Bentley.

Crown prosecutors have decided not to charge Bentley, Const. Gerry Rundel, Const. Kwesi Millington and Cpl. Benjamin (Monty) Robinson in Dziekanski's death.

However, there have been calls for prosecutors to reconsider, and the officers' testimony in the spring was marked by repeated suggestions they were trying to cover up what really happened.

Walter Kosteckyj, the lawyer for Dziekanski's mother, said the controversial email raised serious questions that won't be easily explained away.

"Based on the assessment of evidence I've seen to date, I haven't seen much else, the only thing that has to be explained is why does a person who is in command write that kind of an email," said Kosteckyj.

"When I take a look at how quickly it (the Taser) was used, I have a hard time believing that it wasn't discussed."

Kosteckyj said he'll consider asking the inquiry to call back the four officers if he thinks there are still questions for them to answer.

Also absent from the hearing room this week will be Helen Roberts, the federal government lawyer who told the inquiry about the email and tearfully apologized to the commissioner in June, saying the omission was an unfortunate oversight.

Roberts has since asked to be reassigned, and she's been replaced by Mitchell Taylor, who has spent the past several months gathering thousands of pages of emails and documents for the commission.

Taylor said many of the new documents contain duplicates and include items that federal government lawyers didn't think would be relevant.

"In the first go, it was felt that relevant documents were being produced, and a lot were produced," he said.

"It can happen that things fall between the cracks, and we don't excuse this. It would have been better if the Bent email had gone out before, but it was simple inadvertence."

There were other documents in the new batch that the commission clearly found relevant.

Three other witnesses unrelated to the email - an airport employee, a translator and an RCMP official - will also testify this week.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

California inmate hit by Taser dies

This is the third time in five months an inmate has died while in custody of the downtown Modesto, California jail after law enforcement officials used Tasers to subdue the men.
Alton Warren Ham, 45, Modesto, California

Vancouver police kill knife-wielding man after TASER FAILS

Vancouver police kill knife-wielding man
Last Updated: Saturday, September 19, 2009 11:39 AM PT Comments54Recommend28CBC News

A knife-wielding man was shot dead by Vancouver police after a Taser stun gun failed to stop him.

Police said they responded to a domestic violence call at an apartment in the 2500 block of Birch Street at about 9:30 p.m. PT Friday night

Emergency-call operators reported hearing a woman screaming and shouting that her life was being threatened.

When police officers arrived at the scene, they forced their way into a suite and confronted a man who they say was threatening a woman at knifepoint.

"The interaction resulted in the officers deploying a Taser, which at that point was ineffective," said RCMP Sgt. Peter Thiessen, speaking for the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team, or IHIT.

"The interaction then escalated to where the officers discharged their firearms, subsequently killing the suspect."

The man's name has not been released.

Police plan to release more details Saturday afternoon.

Shootings study to see if stun guns would help

A commenter asks the question that first came to my mind: "How is Gascón choosing which twenty shootings to review? Is he picking the ones that will reinforce whichever decision he's already made?"

September 19, 2009
Jill Tucker, Chronicle Staff Writer

San Francisco's new police chief, a proponent of stun guns, has ordered a review of at least 20 officer-involved shootings since 2005, a study likely to include a look at whether stun guns would have made a difference, police officials said Friday.

Chief George Gascón told the Police Commission he would analyze "all officer-involved shootings for the past several years," and planned to turn over his findings within 90 days.

The analysis is expected to include whether less-than-lethal weapons would have been effective, including Taser stun guns, said department spokeswoman Sgt. Lyn Tomioka.

San Francisco police do not carry stun guns, but Gascón "has mentioned looking into Tasers," Tomioka said.

The devices shoot darts attached to wires that deliver electric shocks intended to subdue suspects.

Critics of the devices question their less-than-lethal status. Amnesty International says 334 people died in the United States from 2001 to August 2008 after being hit by Tasers.

"You always hear the one story where somebody dies from a Taser, but there's thousands and thousands or more of incidents where Tasers work," Tomioka said.

Gascón told the Police Commission of his plans during its meeting Wednesday, during which the officer involved in a Sept. 5 fatal shooting was reinstated to regular duty after a preliminary inquiry.

Police said the officer, whose name was not made public, shot 37-year-old Xi Yu Li on Raymond Avenue in Visitacion Valley as Li charged police with an 11-inch, stainless steel cleaver.

Officers first tried to stop Li with bean-bag guns, but they were ineffective, police said.

A 2008 review by the Police Executive Research Forum, a group of police executives from around the country, recommended that San Francisco police use stun guns. It called for "a community education component along with an implementation plan that gradually introduces" stun guns.

The analysis Gascón ordered this week will examine eight fatal and 12 nonfatal shootings since 2005, Tomioka said. Among the results could be changes in officer training and tactics, the department said.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Police chief suggests report on Taser case may have been premature

See also: I heard what I heard, that much I know

September 18, 2009
Thana Dharmarajah, Guelph Mercury

GUELPH — The police chief says too much is being made of police communications surrounding a mental health incident in the city’s northeast earlier in the week when a Taser was used on a man.

Rob Davis said police spokesperson Sgt. Doug Pflug didn’t have the sufficient information on hand Tuesday to respond to media inquiries about whether a Taser was used to subdue a mentally ill man earlier that day. A report on whether a Taser had been used in the incident may not have been filed until the officers, at the scene, wrapped up their shift for the day, Davis said.

“There’s nothing here to be hidden,” Davis said Thursday, following a Guelph Police Services Board meeting. “We are not denying that he was Tasered.”

On Tuesday just before noon, police were called to an apartment building at 11 Manhattan Court, the residence of a mentally ill man. His mother placed the initial call to police. Police were told the agitated man might be carrying a sword or similar weapon.

A reporter arrived at the scene to find police officers trying to coax the man from his second-floor apartment, when a struggle ensued in the hallway. He saw and heard pushing, shoving, grunting and groaning. One of the officers shouted out “Stay down . . . or you’ll be Tasered again!”

When the reporter contacted the police spokesperson, he was told the man was “arrested under the Mental Health Act without incident. No one was injured.”

Davis said when the spokesperson said “without incident,” he meant that no one was injured.

Davis added the use of a Taser may not have been revealed immediately to the police spokesperson, because it’s simply another use of force tool that police officers now use.

“The use of a Taser when no one was injured is not a major incident,” he said.

This case was a perfect example of what the Taser was designed for, Davis said, adding the weapon was used to immediately immobilize the man without discharging a firearm. The man was able to be quickly taken to the hospital, where he can get the help he needs, Davis said.

The man’s mother declined to be interviewed yesterday. Her son is now in the care of the Homewood Health Centre.

Police Act amendments give more power to police complaint commissioner

September 18, 2009
The Canadian Press

VICTORIA, B.C. — B.C.'s police complaint commissioner is getting more power to oversee investigations against municipal police officers.

Solicitor General Kash Heed says amendments to the Police Act will allow the complaint commissioner to get involved in real-time investigations of officers, as opposed to just reviewing the final results.

"The amendments to the Police Act are for us to move forward and create greater accountability in British Columbia to ensure that we have proper civilian oversight for our police here in British Columbia," Heed, a former West Vancouver Police chief, said Thursday.

The Police Act amendments were introduced earlier this year but the legislature adjourned before any changes were adopted.

The amendments ensure that officers under investigation who retire or resign will still be subject to the police complaint process. Former Victoria police chief Paul Battershill resigned in August 2008, days before he was to face a disciplinary hearing due to complaints of favouritism.

The amendments force officers to report any information uncovered during an investigation that relates to possible misconduct to the police complaint commissioner.

The commissioner will be authorized to order an investigation even if a complaint is withdrawn and will decide if a complaint warrants investigation from an internal or external force.

The commissioner, however, will not have the power to conduct independent investigations solely through the commissioner's office.

Heed said the Police Act amendments are simply a start and if further changes - like independent investigations - are required, they will be looked at.

"If it's not working, if it's not meeting our needs, if it's not creating more accountable policing here in British Columbia, I will look at furthering the process," he said.

That decision was met with disappointment by the B.C. Civil Liberties Association.

"This tinkering with a broken system doesn't deal with the dysfunction at the core," said Jason Gratl, the association's vice-president.

Gratl said police investigations into the deaths of Frank Paul in a Vancouver alley and Robert Dziekanski at Vancouver airport have represented the end of the public's tolerance for police investigating police.

Paul was left in the alley by an officer after being removed from the police drunk tank. Dziekanski died after being repeatedly stunned by an RCMP taser.

"There's only one person who appears to have any confidence left that the police can investigate themselves in B.C. and that's our solicitor general," Gratl said.

Heed said the amendments also allow the B.C. police complaints commissioner to work with the federal government and RCMP to harmonize the federal public complaints process with the new B.C. Police Act.

The RCMP polices about three-quarters of the province, with municipal officers covering the rest of B.C.

Heed said he has sent a letter to Public Safety Minister Peter Van Loan asking for changes that would allow B.C. Mounties to be covered under the province's Police Act, despite the fact they are part of a federal force.

"We feel in order to eliminate any confusion here in British Columbia for the public that we have either a harmonized process or a unified process to ensure that oversight and accountability," he said.

Heed said the matter will be an important one as the province tries to negotiate a new contract with the RCMP by 2012.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Officer Sues Taser Company, Claims Malfunction

September 17, 2009
Ann Butler, Dave Wax, firstcoastnews

JACKSONVILLE, FL -- A Jacksonville Sheriff's Officer who was shot six times during a gun battle with a shoplifting suspect filed a lawsuit claiming his city-issued taser gun didn't fire.

Jared Reston is suing the Taser International company and its distributor.

Reston was chasing two shoplifting suspects down Atlantic Boulevard while working off-duty at the Regency Mall in January, 2008. He got close enough to subdue one of the suspects, but he says his taser malfunctioned. The suspect pulled a gun and shot Reston six times.

Reston has since recovered, and he and his wife filed the lawsuit claiming the taser gun "was negligently designed." They are seeking damages in excess of $15,000.

EDITORIAL: I heard what I heard, that much I know

September 16, 2009
Greg Layson, Guelph Mercury

On Wednesday, we published a small story about the Guelph Police Service’s tactical unit responding to what it called “a mental health crisis” in the city’s northeast corner.

Preliminary reports suggested the man, with some history of mental illness and what a police dispatcher warned was a propensity to become agitated when the man sees police, may have had access to a sword or dagger of sorts. Hence the heavy police presence at the tiny apartment building at 11 Manhattan Court.

The official police account of what occurred late Tuesday morning appeared in the story.

“He was arrested under the Mental Health Act without incident. No one was injured,” Guelph Police spokesperson Sgt. Doug Pflug said.

But what didn’t appear in the story were important and contradicting details that seemed quite unresolved at press time Tuesday. In some ways, perhaps some still remain that way.

After officers spent several minutes coaxing the man from his second-floor apartment, a struggle ensued in the hallway. There was what sounded and looked to be pushing and shoving and grunting and groaning. Officers were visible to me from the waist down. Amid officers encountering and then apprehending the man, the distinct crackle of a fired Taser could be heard. And then, I heard one of the officers boom the following words:

“Stay down . . . or you’ll be Tasered again!”

When Pflug was specifically asked Tuesday what the term “without incident” meant, he said there was “no use of force” during the incident. I shared with him that I had observed what appeared to be a Taser being deployed in the incident and asked whether that was the case. He said he had been provided no information to confirm that. He also said officers must report their use of Tasers in the same fashion they report each and every time they discharge their firearm.

So, what happened in the incident? Had I observed what I was sure I did? Why didn’t that jibe with the official police account? Three questions with no definitive answers.

My wife may be quick to accuse that I don’t listen, but I know I hear clearly. And I heard what I heard.

“Stay down . . . or you’ll be Tasered again!”

We’re taught from a very young age to believe and trust in law enforcement. So, that said, given what the police asserted Tuesday, there could not have been any “use of force,” in this matter. Could there?

But again, I heard what I heard.

“Stay down . . . or you’ll be Tasered again!”

I suppose, without video evidence or other corroboration, neither my account nor that offered Tuesday by the police could be proven.

But I heard what I heard.

“Stay down . . . or you’ll be Tasered again!”

It’s our job as reporters to act as the public’s watchdog and as its eyes and ears at newsworthy events. We report in as much accurate and intimate detail as possible the daily happenings — good, bad or otherwise. It’s our job to make sure those who are deemed trustworthy are in fact so. It’s our job to ensure public servants first and foremost serve the public.

So, after pressing Pflug for a second day and in preparation for this column, he revealed Wednesday that several incidents, including the use of a Taser, occurred the previous day at Manhattan Court after all.

After double checking with the tactical unit that responded to the call in question, Pflug learned and revealed the man was apparently in an extreme state of psychosis. He said the man became non-compliant to verbal commands. He said the man tried to run. He said the man became assaultive. He said the man threw a punch. He said the man couldn’t be contained.

“So a CEW (conducted electric weapon) was deployed for one to three seconds,” Pflug said.

This wasn’t, nor will it be, a case reminiscent of Robert Dziekanski, the Polish immigrant who died at a Vancouver airport after being Tasered repeatedly by the RCMP. That incident was caught on tape. Police denied using excessive force and later denied under oath planning in advance to use their Tasers at the airport. But an email exchange between officers seemed to imply the responding officers had indeed planned to use Tasers when they arrived.

On Tuesday, I had no video. I had no email exchange. I had the word of Guelph Police. I wanted to believe that from the outset. But I knew I heard what I heard.

“Stay down . . . or you’ll be Tasered again!”

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

A Recipe for Disaster: School Cops Are Being Armed with 50,000-Volt Tasers

September 16, 2009
Liliana Segura, Alternet.com

One spring day this April, at the Franklin Correctional Institution on Florida's Highway 67, Sgt. Walter Schmidt pulled out his Electronic Immobilization Device -- EID in officer parlance -- and zapped two people, who immediately "yelped in pain, fell to the ground and grabbed red burn marks on their arms," according to the St. Petersburg Times.

The two were not inmates at the prison, however. They were students visiting the facility as part of "Take Our Daughters and Sons To Work Day."

The move cost Sgt. Schmidt his job, despite his claim that he merely intended to demonstrate how the devices worked. He even asked the children's parents (who were also employees at the prison) permission first. "When they said 'sure,' I went ahead and did it," he told the Times.

"It wasn't intended to be malicious, but educational. The big shock came when I got fired."

Schmidt wasn't alone in his job-costing blunder. In fact, it came just one day after multiple children, visiting different prisons were similarly shocked.

"A total of 43 children were directly and indirectly shocked by electric stun guns during simultaneous Take Your Sons and Daughters to Work Day events gone wrong at three state prisons last month," reported the St. Petersburg Times on May 16th. "One was a warden's daughter."

Their ages ranged from five to 17. Fourteen of the kids were "directly shocked." The other 29 were "indirectly exposed when they held hands with a person who was shocked. With the kids circled together, the electricity could flow from one child's hands to the next."

Walt McNeil, Secretary of the Florida Department of Corrections told the Times, "I can't imagine what these officers were thinking to administer this device to children, nor can I imagine why any parent would allow them to do so. This must not happen again."

The bizarre rash of student electrocutions might have been an aberration on Florida prison grounds, but the guards -- three of whom were fired and two of who resigned -- might be forgiven for assuming that such devices are somehow safe for kids. Even as news outlets across the country report episode after episode where police officers tase and use stun guns on unlikely people -- take the pregnant woman tased at a baptism in Virginia or the 72-year-old woman tased in a Texas traffic stop -- more and more police officers are being given tasers to carry into schools.

And not just college campuses; middle and high schools across the country are inviting Taser-toting cops on school grounds.

This comes at a time when Tasers have claimed the lives of hundreds of people, including three teenagers this year alone. While heightened security might be a necessity in an age where kids smuggle deadly weapons to school, this fact alone should give parents and school officials pause. Even as school administrators and local law enforcement accept and incorporate Tasers as disciplinary measures, deploying them on school grounds is putting students at risk.

Is Breaking School Rules A Crime?

Last September, police officers in Hawthorne, CA tased an autistic 12-year-old boy at his middle school after he became "violent," launching a misconduct investigation by the police department. In June, at Penn Hills High School in Pennsylvania, a student was tased in the hallway after ignoring a police officer's orders to put away his cell phone. ("The kid refused to listen," Penn Hills Police Chief Howard Burton explained, saying the student then "pushed the officer.")

In 2006, an 11th grader named Angel Debnam was tased at her high school in Bunn, North Carolina, just outside Raleigh. "Something sticks in you, and it's like a wire," Debnam described to local ABC affiliate WTVD. ("When I was on the ground crying and shaking, he asked me, 'Was that enough? Are you calmed down now?' and he did it again.")

In March, the Los Angeles Times reported that "the number of law enforcement agencies that have given Tasers to officers who work on school campuses has grown to well over 4,000," according to Steve Tuttle, Vice President of Communications at Taser International. That's up from 1,700 in 2005.

In an e-mail to AlterNet last week, Tuttle said that this estimate remains accurate, noting that it "includes municipal law enforcement agencies that have School Resource Officers (SROs) for elementary and high schools, as well campus police for colleges and universities." But Tuttle took issue with the notion that Tasers are used "'for unruly students' as the LA Times article inferred."

"They are used to protect students and faculties," he said, as well as police officers hired to patrol school grounds.

Just weeks into the 2009/2010 school year, at least one report has surfaced of a student being tased on school grounds. In Topeka, Kansas, a teenager at Capital City School was sent to the hospital after being tased, reportedly after "attacking" a school police officer while a Topeka police officer handcuffed him. (According to local media, the student "was being suspended for violating school rules.")

"Our premier law enforcement electronic control device"

Last fall, police officers patrolling Duval County Public Schools in Jacksonville, Fl joined the ranks of school security officers who carry Tasers on campus. The decision followed years of controversy over the measure, which was first announced in 2005.

That January, local press reports revealed that the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office (JSO) had signed a $1.8 million contract with Taser International to buy 1,800 Taser guns for city police officers over the next two years, some of which would be used by school security officers. The timing was at least partly motivated by Superbowl XXXIX, which was held at Jacksonville Municipal Stadium that February.

According to the Associated Press, "some school officials [were] surprised by the action, saying they were never told by the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office that it planned to issue stun guns to the officers assigned to most middle and high schools."

But plans to deploy the Tasers were put on hold shortly after. In late February 2005, Sheriff John Rutherford imposed a blanket moratorium on Taser use by the JSO after it came under fire for the repeated tasing of a 13-year-old, 65 lb girl who was in handcuffed inside a patrol car.

Llahsmin Lynn Kallead had reportedly kicked the inside of the police car when she was shocked multiple times by her arresting officer.

"I saw her jump from one side of the police car to the other" from the shock, her mother, Rosie Vaughan, told reporters. "She shook."

It was surely a PR nightmare for Sheriff Rutherford, who had gone to great lengths to prove the safety and usefulness of the devices, holding town hall meetings across the county on the topic. The stocky 52-year-old had even volunteered to be tased himself, on camera, to demonstrate. ("Rutherford took a hit in the back and fell to the floor as other officers held his arms," according to Jacksonville's News 4. "He bounced back up almost immediately, saying, 'There you have it.'"

In a conversation with AlterNet, the sheriff's office preferred to refer to Tasers by the name the company gives them: "Electronic Control Devices" or ECDs. An JSO employee told AlterNet, "we were, obviously, very thorough and deliberative in making sure that they fit in our use-of-force matrices."

For the JSO, the main value of the Taser is that "it enables the officer to bring someone under control."

This apparently includes students and other hard-to-handle populations. Not only are the devices deployed in all the middle and senior high schools in Jacksonville, according to the Sheriff's office, "we've also had many incidents where a mentally impaired person was brought under control through the use of the ECD."

The model used in Jacksonville schools is the TASER X26, which, unlike those used by the police officer who tased the kids on "Take Our Daughters and Sons To Work Day" can be fired remotely, hitting targets as far as 35 feet away with 50,000 volts of electricity. Taser International describes the X26 model as "our premier law enforcement electronic control device."

A "Non-Lethal" Weapon That Has Killed Hundreds

In December 2008, Amnesty International released a 130-page report titled "Less Than Lethal? The Use of Stun Weapons in U.S. Law Enforcement," which found that 334 people had died after being tased since 2001. (This figure is already obsolete.) The vast majority of these deaths were due to cardiac or respiratory arrest. Of the 334 victims, 299 of them were unarmed.

The state with the most recorded Taser deaths was California, with 55. Florida ranked second, with 52.

The victims were mostly adults, but they also included teenagers, like 17-year-old Darryl Turner, who "collapsed shortly after being shocked for 37 seconds in the chest." According to the autopsy, a "lethal disturbance" of his heart rhythm was "precipitated by the agitated state and associated stress as well as the use of the conducted energy weapon." According to Amnesty, "the coroner also noted that there were no anatomic findings indicating a pre-existing cardiac abnormality or disease, and no illegal drugs in his system."

The first three reported deaths by Taser in 2009 all involved teenage victims. In January, 17-year-old Derick Jones of Martinsville, Virginia died after a police officer responded to a complaint about public urination by chasing him into a house and tasing him when the boy "moved rapidly" toward him. In the spring, two teenage boys in Michigan died within weeks of one another after being tased by police officers, 15-year-old Brett Elder, and 16-year-old Robert Mitchell. In both cases, police accused the teens of resisting arrest.

Elder's father, Eugene, acknowledged that his son, who was days away from his 16th birthday, might have been confrontational. Still, he told the Bay City Times. "There's no reason to kill my boy."

"[The police] are here to protect us," Renea Mitchell, Robert Mitchell's mother told CNN. "There's no reason for what they've done," she said. "There's no reason, no excuse."

Taser critics have long pointed out that the devices are marketed as non-lethal despite a lack of independent data -- and considerable anecdotal evidence to the contrary. According to Amnesty, "the only medical safety studies prior to the marketing of the Advanced M26 Taser in late 1999 were animal tests conducted for Taser International to see whether the device could cause ventricular fibrillation in a pig and three dogs."

Even those conclusions have been challenged in recent years. In a study carried out by a team of doctors and scientists at Chicago's Cook County hospital in 2006, 11 unfortunate pigs were shocked with Taser guns -- researchers tased them multiple times, in 40 second increments -- to devastating effect. "When the jolts ended, every animal was left with heart rhythm problems, the researchers said. Two of the animals died from cardiac arrest, one three minutes after receiving a shock."

Some have argued that pigs aren't reliable testing subjects. ("In my modeling, I prefer to use humans," Dr. Jeffry Ho, an associate professor of emergency medicine at the University of Minnesota told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. ) This includes Taser International's co-founder, Rick Smith, who has argued that pigs weigh less than 100 pounds and "have a very different physiology from humans," according to CBC News -- an argument that would seem to undermine the company's own research techniques.

In March 2005, a report by the (rather bizarrely named) Human Effects Center of Excellence at Brooks Air Force Base, which tests and "non-lethal" weapon technology, found "a large margin of safety with the 'normal X26 operating output' in the case of large children and adults," according to Amnesty. The study's authors, who based their research primarily on data provided to them by Taser International, also reviewed other studies, including "tests investigating the effects of Tasers on the hearts of pigs weighing between 30 and 117 kilograms." They found that the more a pig weighed, the less potential risk there was for internal injury. "These tests have been interpreted to conclude that smaller individuals (e.g. children) may be more susceptible to adverse effects from Taser shocks," according to Amnesty.

In 2007, the UK's Defense Scientific Advisory Council Sub-Committee on the Medical Implications of Less-Lethal Weapons (DOMILL) concluded that although there is "very limited information globally on the relative vulnerability of children to Tasers," existing data suggest that "the safety factor for induction of ventricular fibrillation by Taser discharge in children at the younger (i.e. smaller) range of the pediatric population may be lower compared with that in the adult population." In other words, the smaller the child, the less voltage it takes to hurt them.

"Until more research is undertaken to clarify the vulnerability of children to Taser currents," the study concluded, "children and persons of small stature should be considered at possible greater risk than adults."

Playing With Fire

Reports of children who have died after being tasered may mainly tell the stories of teenagers, but, along with an apparent misunderstanding of the sheer force of Tasers and stun guns (at least if the Take Your Children to Work Day fracas is any indication), the already heavy-handed approach to students as young as seven in some schools suggests that arming police officers with Tasers might invite dangerous scenarios.

Take, for example, police in Avon Park, FL, who handcuffed and arrested a seven-year-old girl named Desre'e Watson, when she threw a tantrum in her kindergarten class. Or cops in Detroit this past June, who handcuffed a fourth grader and special ed student to the door of his principal's office for four hours . If teachers, administrators, and police have resorted to such measures to get a handle on unruly children won't adding Tasers to the equation up the risk factor?

In an era that sees students standing in line to go through metal detectors before homeroom, there's no question that weapons in school require reliable school security. Arming school security officers with "non-lethal" weapons might seem to be a good solution. That is, if Tasers actually fit the bill.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Vancouver police use Tasers less often: Study

September 14, 2009
Metro News Vancouver

Vancouver police officers use stun guns less frequently than other large Canadian jurisdictions. A report to the police board Wednesday ranks Vancouver as eighth out of 12 jurisdictions in terms of Taser use.

In 2008, VPD used the Taser only 33 times, about once every 11 days. They also showed the weapon, but did not deploy it, another 67 times. By comparison, Toronto police used Tasers 367 times in 2008. Edmonton police used the stun guns 91 times, Calgary 73 times and Winnipeg 68 times.

At the bottom of the scale, Halifax police used Tasers only five times. Victoria police used theirs 20 times and Hamilton police 25 times.

The report also notes that five jurisdictions, including Montreal and Surrey RCMP, did not return the survey.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Uncomfortable? Unpleasant? How about the WORST FIVE SECONDS OF YOUR LIFE??

Uncomfortable



Unpleasant


According to Steve Tuttle, Director of Communications, Taser International: "It {being tasered} doesn't hurt ... Don't get me wrong, it's uncomfortable. It kind of feels like hitting your funny bone 18 times per second throughout your whole body."

Tom Smith, Chairman and CEO, Taser International, likened the jolt of electricity {from being tasered} to hitting your funny bone, times 20. “It’s certainly not a pleasant experience, but you're very aware of what’s going on."

And this, just in, on what represents the last set of repeating, single-digit dates that we'll see for almost a century (09-09-09):

Computerworld.com
September 9, 2009

Steve Berg {VP of IT at Taser International} knows what intense pain feels like: The man has been Tasered, in fact - not because he ran afoul of the law, but as VP of IT at Taser International he's partaken in a corporate rite of passage. "It's the worst five seconds of your life," he says. "You cannot move."

See also: No pain, no gain??

And lest we forget: Victoria police board approves ‘pain compliance’ use of taser gun
Especially the part that says: "Naughton told the board that he expects the Taser policy will NEED TO BE AMENDED AGAIN AFTER THE ONGOING BRAIDWOOD INQUIRY INTO TASER USE by police forces in B.C."

Vulnerable targets

September 9, 2009
The Globe and Mail

The taser's days as a police weapon of choice are numbered. It is not only that the taser can kill, as an inquiry in British Columbia found this summer. It is that the population it is often used on, the mentally ill or drug users in the grips of the supercharged state of anxiety that some call excited delirium, are at high risk of death, according to a Nova Scotia medical panel, in a report released this week.

A weapon that can kill, a population that is on a precipice. It is a bad combination. To be fair, police have a hugely difficult job when facing a man or woman who may be high on drugs or severely mentally ill, and is out of control. But police have been too quick to rush in with the taser blazing (or zapping), arguing that it is safe - and that if people die afterward, well, it was their "underlying condition" that killed them. The police absolved themselves of responsibility.

Not so fast, says the Nova Scotia panel, set up by the health and justice ministries and chaired by Stan Kutcher, who holds the Sun Life Financial Chair in Adolescent Mental Health at Dalhousie University. It recommends that, when police recognize the agitated state in someone, they ask for backup and summon emergency health services. They are then to try to de-escalate the situation, if there is no imminent danger. They are to do so in part by removing hazardous objects and bystanders who may be increasing the agitation or noise. "Demands should be made in a non-challenging manner." Police should make offers to assist.

In other words, they should do everything that the RCMP didn't do when four Mounties surrounded a distressed Polish immigrant, Robert Dziekanski, at the Vancouver International Airport in October, 2007, zapped him five times and then sat on the back of his neck. He died within minutes, and no definitive cause of death has been established.

Police in many jurisdictions have been using the taser at low levels of risk - where people posed no physical threat. The logic supporting its widespread use has crumbled. Tasers are not safe; the studies supporting their supposed safety are iffy; police have a responsibility to exercise extreme caution with people at risk of death, and to use force only in proportion to the threat to public safety. Nova Scotia and British Columbia now insist the use of the taser must be restricted to violent situations of serious danger. The rest of the country should follow their lead.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Taser testing

September 7, 2009
Peter Grainger, CTV

A SMALL ELECTRONICS FIRM IN RICHMOND HAS COME UP WITH A QUICK -- EASY -- AND ECONOMICAL WAY FOR POLICE TO TEST THEIR TASERS -- SOMETHING THE B-C GOVERNMENT HAS PROMISED WOULD HAPPEN. BUT AS PETER GRAINGER REPORTS -- TESTING THE ELECTRICAL OUTPUT OF TASERS MAY NOT GO FAR ENOUGH TO INSURE THEIR SAFETY.

"We're tentatively calling it the 'Taser Test '..."

"The Taser Test ?"

IT DOESN'T LOOK LIKE MUCH, BUT WHEN DATREND SYSTEMS IS FINISHED-- THIS WILL BE THE GUTS OF A DEVICE WHICH THEY SAY WILL ACCURATELY TELL IF A TASER IS DELIVERING TOO LITTLE OR TOO MUCH ELECTRICAL CURRENT.

"The taser would be coming in here. To these large connectors..”.

MARK MILLER
Electrical Engineer, Datrend Systems

"One of our main thrusts is to make it very simple, easy, small, so that police services themselves can do the required tests."

UP UNTIL NOW-- THERE HAS BEEN NO TESTING DEVICE IN ANY POLICE DETACHMENT IN CANADA.

Grainger: "Is this a taser wave form?"

Miller: "A simulated waveform-- yes."

WHAT LITTLE TESTING HAS BEEN DONE HAS BEEN COSTLY & TIME-CONSUMING, AS TASERS HAVE HAD TO BE SENT AWAY TO A HANDFUL OF LABS.

"They're tested by having two shots in a lab..."

TWO FORMER BC SOLICITOR GENERALS -- HAVE SAID THEY WANT TO SEE REGULAR CHECKS -- ESPECIALLY SINCE 80-PERCENT OF THE BC TASERS TESTED SO FAR HAVE FAILED.

(Rich Coleman/June 1, 2009)

"When we tested the first batch-- I didn't like the numbers -- I said pull em all..."

IN JUNE, THAT RESULTED IN ALL OLDER M-26 MODELS BEING SHELVED, COAST-TO-COAST.

(Braidwood Inquiry/July 23, 2009)

"This report makes 19 recommendations..."

THEN IN JULY, THE BRAIDWOOD INQUIRY RECOMMENDED REGULAR TESTING...

"Conducted energy weapons should be periodically tested..."

...TO ENSURE TASERS MEET THE MANUFACTURER'S SPECIFICATIONS.

RON EVANS
President, Datrend Systems

"The specifications are essentially what the manufacturer says the device will do. Whether those specifications are physiologically correct is another question."

CORRECT? OR SAFE?

DAVID EBY

"So yes, it's within Taser International's specifications, but so what?"

BC CIVIL LIBERTIES SAYS TESTING TASERS IS A WASTE OF TIME, IF THE COMPANY SPECS HAVEN'T BEEN VERIFIED FIRST-- USING RECOGNIZED ELECTRICAL SAFETY STANDARDS-- LIKE THOSE SET BY THE C-S-A-- THE CANADIAN STANDARDS ASSOCIATION.

"This really shows how Taser International and their devices managed to skip entire approval processes, testing processes, CSA approval..."

NO ONE IN GOVERNMENT HAS CHALLENGED THE MANUFACTURER OR THE POLICE WITH THE LACK OF CSA APPROVAL-- BUT DATRENDS SYSTEMS SAYS NEXT YEAR, WHEN THEY MAKE THEIR TASER TESTER AVAILABLE TO POLICE, AT LEAST THEIR PRODUCT WILL BE CSA APPROVED.

PETER GRAINGER CTV NEWS RICHMOND

CTV NEWS INFORMED THE B-C MINISTRY OF PUBLIC SAFETY AND THE SOLICITOR-GENERAL ABOUT THE TASER-TESTER THAT DAY - TREND SYSTEMS IS DEVELOPING.

IN A STATEMENT -- THE MINISTRY RESPONDED SAYING "IT IS ENCOURAGING THAT THEY ARE WORKING ON AN OPTION THAT MAY ALLOW FOR MORE EFFICIENT AND COST-EFFECTIVE LOCAL TASER TESTING. HOWEVER AT THIS POINT -- WE ARE NOT IN A POSITION TO SPECULATE ON HOW THEIR TECHNOLOGY ALIGNS WITH INTERNATIONAL STANDARDS."