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Saturday, May 29, 2010

Mexican citizen dies at US border after he is tasered

June 3, 1010- Accorrding to news reports, Mr. Hernandez was removed from a life support machine on Monday.

May 31, 2010: A report today says that Anastasio Hernandez, 42, has been brain dead in a hospital since Friday.

May 29, 2010
San Diego News Network

A 32-year-old Mexican national was in critical condition Saturday and was not expected to survive after being shot with a stun gun in a fight with federal agents at the San Ysidro [California] border crossing, authorities said.

The scuffle took place about 9:15 p.m. Friday at the U.S. Border Patrol facility at the port of entry, said San Diego police Capt. Jim Collins.

Collins said Border Patrol agents arrested the man and his brother on Otay Mountain about two hours earlier on suspicion of entering the United States illegally.

Agents brought the men to the San Ysidro station for processing. The 32-year-old signed paperwork accepting his voluntary return to Mexico and his brother was to be returned at a later time, Collins said.

At the Border Patrol station gate leading to Mexico, agents removed the man’s handcuffs and he became violent, Collins said.

“The agents and the subject all fell to the ground during the fight and the agents radioed for assistance,” Collins said in a prepared statement.

He said Customs and Border Protection agents joined the struggle and one CBP agent fired a Taser at the man to subdue him.

A short time later, Collins said, the man stopped breathing. Agents began CPR and called paramedics. He was taken to a hospital in critical condition.

“It became clear today that the man is not expected to survive, so that’s why we were called in at 12:30 p.m.,” Collins, of the homicide unit, said in a telephone interview. “A lot of people get Tasered with no real ill effects. He could have had a pre-existing medical condition.”

It is routine for the San Diego homicide squad to investigate shootings or deaths involving any law enforcement personnel within the city.

Collins said the man’s name, and that of his brother, is being withheld until their family is notified. The names of the agents involved also were withheld.

Maryland man dies

Carl D'Andre Johnson, 48, Baltimore, Maryland

Friday, May 28, 2010

O'Sullivan files complaint - Belleville police chief promises full review

May 28, 2010
Luke Hendry, The Intelligencer

Retired boxer Shawn O'Sullivan has filed an official complaint against the Belleville Police Service, The Intelligencer has learned.

Bill Reid, O'Sullivan's Toronto lawyer, told The Intelligencer Thursday he filed the complaint earlier that day with the Office of the Independent Police Review Director (OIPRD), an arm's-length branch of Ontario's Ministry of the Attorney General.

"I will always believe in the force because there will always be a need for a force to uphold justice," Belleville's O'Sullivan, 48, said Thursday.

But he said police used excessive force in arresting him Nov. 28, 2009 and he's concerned that it could happen to others. "If they do it to me and get away with it, they will do it to everyone," he said. "If it will come to pass that these police will get reined in a bit or walk a different walk, then that would be great."

Neither Belleville Police Chief Cory McMullan nor OIPRD staff could confirm the complaint had been made; each cited they couldn't talk about specific cases because of privacy law.

Both agencies, however, pledged a full review of the complaint.

O'Sullivan, a Toronto-born 1984 Olympic silver medallist, was on a quest for his stolen championship rings when he entered the yard of a Belleville resident and they scuffled.

Charges of assault and mischief against O'Sullivan were withdrawn May 13 after he agreed to enter a peace bond ordering him to stay away from the resident. O'Sullivan said he felt vindicated.

Police and O'Sullivan agree an officer shocked him with a Taser or similar high-voltage weapon before arresting him.

Reid said the shock doesn't appear to have caused lasting injury but the "degree of violence" used in the arrest lingers.

"My knees kill me now," said O'Sullivan.

Reid said his client now descends stairs backwards to avoid some of the pain. O'Sullivan has seen a doctor about his injuries, Reid said.

Police said he was combative and "physically resistant" with officers. O'Sullivan denies that report vehemently, saying he was trying to talk with them when shocked.

"I don't resist," he said. "Had I resisted they would be in hospital still. These bastards, they're not police -- they're thugs with badges," he said, though he stressed the remark is limited to his arresting officers, not the entire city force. "There's a lot of great guys I know on that force," he said.

"The police just moved too quickly," Reid said. "I think good policing means listening a little to the other side first."

"If you don't investigate further it just turns the complainant into the police," he said, adding officers "acted like judges" on the night in question and used the Taser needlessly. Talking with O'Sullivan would have led to a different result, he said.

Chief McMullan said she couldn't comment directly on the case. "I can't comment on whether a complaint has or hasn't been filed," she said. "Mr. O'Sullivan and his lawyer are free to state whatever they wish to state. The police service is not," McMullan said. "If there's a complaint made ... we'll make sure that it's fully investigated and a report will be filed with the outcome, but I can't comment specifically on the information that you have," McMullan told The Intelligencer.

She said commenting would identify the person publicly as someone complaining about police. "We don't want that to be a deterrent," she said.

Allison Hawkins, a spokeswoman for the OIPRD, said the agency takes up to 10 days to ensure a complaint falls under its mandate. Conduct complaints take on average 90 days to investigate, she said.

Complaints can be probed by either the local police service, another police service or the OIPRD.

The local police chief is given a copy of the complaint; the officer in question receives an edited version. Regardless of who investigates, that agency must rule whether or not a complaint is substantiated. Substantiated complaints are deemed serious or less serious, said Hawkins. A complainant can appeal the decision of a police chief.

"If it's retained by our office our decision is final," said Hawkins. "Decisions are only made public if they go to a disciplinary hearing," she said.

Reid said he was commenting on the case only because interviews were requested. O'Sullivan isn't complaining out of a desire for media coverage, he said. Reid said the concern about use of force should be addressed. "If it's swept under the carpet that doesn't help anybody." He added O'Sullivan has "other avenues" to address his concerns outside the OIPRD complaint process and that a civil lawsuit against police is "still a possibility."

O'Sullivan said he would seek financial compensation.

Reid, though, said the OIPRD process "is a really good way of redressing this issue" and he and O'Sullivan will watch it unfold. "This may be all that's required."

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Connecticut man dies after being tasered multiple times

May 24, 2010: Efrain Carrion, 35, Middletown, Connecticut

Saturday, May 22, 2010

The Score: Suspects 9 - Taser 0

Just within the last 24 hours, 9 separate cases of tasers malfunctioning and-or having no effect whatsoever:

The Taser did not deter ...

Shocked with a Taser stun gun to no effect ...

Attempts to stop him with a Taser stun gun and beanbag shots were unsuccessful ...

An earlier attempt to Taser the man failed ...

Officers Tasered him, but he broke free and continued to flee ...

He immediately Tased her, but with both barbs imbedded in her side she continued to fight. The officer than pressed the barrel of the weapon against her and fired the Taser again, this time stunning her into partial submission ...

The officer tried to use his Taser on the suspect ... at that point, investigators say the suspect pulled a gun and fired at the officer several times ...

After the struggle to restrain Onyenwe on the bridge failed, the lieutenant told everyone to back off and fired his Taser, which malfunctioned ...

One of the deputies fired a Taser and shocked Mills, but that didn't stop the armed man ...

Friday, May 21, 2010

Braidwood's final report in gov't hands

mAY 21, 2010
By Suzanne Fournier, The Province

Thomas Braidwood's long-awaited final report on the Taser-related death of Robert Dziekanski at Vancouver airport has been delivered to government.

But the public will have to wait at least a month to read the report from Braidwood's inquiry -- and may never get to see parts that could be excised for "privacy" reasons.

B.C. Attorney-General Michael de Jong accepted the report Thursday from ex-Supreme Court justice Braidwood, whose findings for the inquiry's second phase focus on the October 2007 death of Dziekanski at the airport.

Dziekanski's mother, Zofia Cisowski, attended much of the second phase of the hearings, although she left during viewings of a video shot by Paul Pritchard of her son's death in RCMP custody.

Braidwood's goal in the second phase was to "provide Dziekanski's family and the public with a complete record of the circumstances of his death."

Cisowski recently accepted an apology by B.C. RCMP brass, and an undisclosed financial settlement, in return for dropping her planned civil suit against the RCMP and the federal government. However, the B.C. Court of Appeal earlier ruled that Braidwood is free to make findings of misconduct against the four Mounties involved in Dziekanski's death.

The first phase of Braidwood's inquiry into the use of " conducted-energy weapons," or Tasers, in B.C. was released in July, 2009. Dave Townsend, spokesman for the attorney-general, said the second report likely won't be released until a year after the first report, in mid-July 2010.

After cabinet views the document, it must be vetted by B.C.'s privacy commissioner.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

NIJ Solicitation: Alternatives to Conducted Energy Less-Lethal Devices

With this solicitation, NIJ seeks applications to develop, demonstrate, and test less-lethal devices that provide the same capability but do not use conducted energy, and which do not pose an undue risk (ideally no risk) of injury to the subject, bystanders, or the officer involved. The attributes of such a device would include:

• The device would be safe across a broad range of populations with predictable physiological effects.

• The effects of the device would be immediate.

• The device could be employed at a safe distance.

• The device would be discriminatory, e.g., a specific individual, or individuals can be targeted, with minimal to no risk of effect on bystanders.

• The device could be reused, or would be so inexpensive that it could be discarded after the first use.

• The device could fire multiple shots before reloading is necessary.

• The device would be portable and could be used by one person.

• The device would be compatible with the equipment used and worn by law enforcement and corrections officers.

• The device could be easily employed by the average officer with minimal training.

• The device would be easy to maintain.

• Use of the device would have minimal (ideally no) environmental impact.

• The device would be cost effective for the majority of State and local law enforcement and corrections agencies.

Another Nail in the Coffin of TASER

Committee against Torture
8-14 Avenue de la Paix
1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland
Telephone Number (41-22) 917-9000
Fax Number (41-22) 917-9006
E-mail to urgent-action@ohchr.org

Another Nail in the Coffin of TASER
By Eddie Griffin
Wednesday, May 19, 2010

When the Fort Worth City Council voted on Tuesday to accept a $2 million settlement in the Taser related death of Michael Jacobs Jr., they cast down their eyes and droop their heads in painful sorrow of this salt in the wound. They wanted to say as little as possible to stir the winds. She was a City eager to heal and move on.

Yet the City would not concede liability into the young man’s death. Maybe, to do so, would expose her to more similar lawsuits. After all, there have been five taser related deaths in the past five years. For to be culpable in one, infers guilt in the other.

Fort Worth Councilwoman Kathleen Hicks spoke for the City and for the community, declaring now to be the time to begin the healing process.

An exhausted pastor, Kyev Tatum, who has led the mass public awareness campaign which gained national and international attention, sighed with some relief that this part of the battle against tasers was over. Tomorrow, he would take up the matter of the Arlington Police Department and its plan to purchase 300 more stun guns. By no means, for him, was the war over.

Pastor Tatum was drawn into the taser controversy when the Jacobs family called out for help. The Fort Worth Police Department had electrocuted the son of Charlotte and Michael Sr., with a 50,000-volt taser, and nobody was saying anything, not even a word of regret or sympathy. There was no explanation from the police department as to why the officer engaged the weapon for a full 54 seconds upon a young man with mental problems. And, no city leader was willing to condemn the officer without all the facts.

The City was silent and complacent and its populous impervious. Michael Jacobs, Jr. was on his way to becoming just another silent statistic in a string of taser related deaths.

Tatum organized a local chapter of the Southern Leadership Conference (SCLC) and pulled together coalition of other civil rights organizations, including NAACP, LULAC, ACLU, and community activists. The community coalition called for an investigation, and to make the results public.

The medical examiner, upon finding no contributory causes such as drugs or alcohol in Jacobs’ system, declared his death a homicide. But the police department refused to dismiss the officer, and the grand jury refused to indict. There was no recourse except to seek redress by civil suit; otherwise, no one would be accountable for the death of an innocent, mentally challenged young man.

The $2 million settlement is a small penance to pay for a human life, though the largest in city history, but it may pave the way for reconciliation. The Fort Worth Police Department plans to meet with Pastor Tatum and other ministers to “begin the healing process”, and discuss strategies for better policing in the community. There will continue to be disagreement, however, on the usefulness of tasers and their lethality.

There is an axiom here: As the death count rises, the cost of using tasers will go up.

Although the manufacturer of the weapon, TASER International, has been sued over 100 times, it remains largely unscathed. They sell the instruments based upon its claim of non-lethality, and leave municipalities to pay the cost of wrongful deaths.

“Tasers are not only deadly”, Tatum declares. “They are torture.”

Officer Stephanie Phillips did not know that when she continuously engaged the trigger of her taser that 50,000 volts of electricity continued to course through the body of Michael Jacobs Jr., and that she was inadvertently frying him alive, from the inside out. No one ever told her the weapon was lethal. She was never trained to “disengage” the electrodes before electrocuting the subject. Maybe this is why the Tarrant County grand jury declined to indict her. And, she did not violate department policies by using her own discretion to deploy.

Hindsight is 20/20, and many people wish that certain events could be undone. Had the officer known the deadliness of the weapon, she would have ceased engagement. This being the premise, a Star-Telegram editorial emphasized “better training” as a resolution to taser death.

Not so. Teaching an officer how to use discretion in the field, when deploying the weapon, is no guarantee against abuse, nor does it mitigate the fact that the taser itself is an implement of torture. But proving torture, on the other hand, is much harder than proving the cause of death. By its very definition, a torturous act must be one that horrifies the social consciousness of humanity. And yet we, as a nation, have been conditioned into accepting the Conducted Energy Devices (CEDs) as non-lethal and harmless.

We discount the fact that they have been used on pregnant women such as Valreca Redden and claimed the life of the 6-month unborn child of Hannah Rogers-Grippi, that they have been used on senior citizens in their 70s and 80s, against the wheel-chair bound and mentally ill, and that the death count in the U.S.A. and Canada now stands at 481.

What is more, there is now mounting evidence that tasers cause serious and permanent injuries. A young victim is tasered over a minor incident, falls flat on his face, unable to catch himself, and breaks out his front teeth. He sues and wins. And, it has been reported, that those who have been tasered and survived, have “never been the same” since, having suffered neurological brain damages.

These are the risks, and no one is without fair warning.

[Post Note- The U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, National Institute of Justice is soliciting "Alternatives to Conducted Energy Less-Lethal Devices", to wit Tasers (R)]

The handwriting is on the wall: The days of tasers are coming to an end.


Wednesday, May 19, 2010


May 19, 2010

ORLANDO -- According to the Orlando Sentinel, the father of Celtics guard Marquis Daniels was shot by a Taser gun and arrested during Game Two of the Eastern Conference Finals on Tuesday night.

Willie Buie was charged with resisting arrest with violence.

Officers responded to a disturbance late in the game and tried to remove Buie. After he refused, several officers removed Buie from the arena and took him to a security area. Buie continued to resist, sitting on his hands and refusing to be handcuffed. An officer shot Buie in the back for five seconds with the Taser. Following the shot Buie was handcuffed.

Buie reportedly has a long criminal history, including an arrest for second-degree murder in Polk County for which he served 11 years in prison. He was released in 1989.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

City settles for $2 million over man's death

May 18, 2010
By ANGELA K. BROWN / Associated Press

The Fort Worth City Council on Tuesday unanimously approved a $2 million settlement with the family of a mentally ill man whose death after police used a Taser to subdue him was ruled a homicide.

The officer who used the Taser was not disciplined by the department or indicted, and the city admits no wrongdoing in the settlement deal with relatives of Michael Patrick Jacobs Jr.

"From the onset of the tragedy, so many lives have been impacted ... but not any more so than this young man and his still grieving family," said City Councilwoman Kathleen Hicks, adding that the council and police "care deeply."

"Hopefully with this settlement, which will avoid a long trial, we as a city can begin the process of reconciliation and dialogue," she said.

Jacobs' family filed a federal civil rights lawsuit, which doesn't limit the amount a city could be forced to pay, unlike cases filed in state court.

The lawsuit was never about money but about holding the police accountable, and the family now wants to move forward, said the Rev. Kyev Tatum, a Jacobs family spokesman.

"We think this will bring the family some relief, but there's no dollar amount (for someone's life)," Tatum said Tuesday after the council's vote. "It sends a message ... that the city of Fort Worth is taking a giant step forward."

He said his group, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, is still working to stop all law enforcement agencies from using Tasers. He said Taser guns should not be used under any circumstance, and that police instead should be trained in other methods of subduing mentally ill suspects — and should use deadly force only if an officer's life is threatened.

Police Chief Jeff Halstead declined to comment Tuesday. Last fall he said his officers still used Tasers and would receive more training on use-of-force and handling situations with mentally ill or emotionally disturbed suspects.

Police Lt. Paul Henderson said Tuesday that officers have already begun that training.

On that day about a year ago, Jacobs' family called police to their Fort Worth home to report a disturbance and said the 24-year-old had not taken his medication for bipolar disorder.

Although a Taser is designed to deliver a 5-second charge of up to 50,000 volts of electricity, Jacobs was shocked for 49 seconds and then for 5 seconds, according to the autopsy report.

An autopsy concluded that the primary cause of death was "sudden death during neuromuscular incapacitation due to application of a conducted energy device." No traces of alcohol or drugs, electrolyte imbalances, or signs of heart or lung disease were found — all of which can be contributing factors in a death.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Where once there was LIFE before tasers, NOW 100% of people tasered in DeKalb County, Georgia END UP DEAD

Last month, we learned that 50% of people who are tasered in Arlington, Virginia (in the US of A) DIE.

Now we know that 100% of people who are tasered in DeKalb County, Georgia (in the US of A) DIE.

In 2005, DeKalb police took its 125 Tasers off the street after Taser International issued a warning that multiple or prolonged blasts could impair breathing and lead to death. The warning “just nailed the coffin” on the decision to halt Taser use, then-DeKalb CEO Vernon Jones said. “There was life before Tasers,” Jones said in 2005 when asked about other non-lethal force.

In late 2009 (just last year) DeKalb County Police added Tasers to their arsenal as a “less lethal” option for unruly suspects.

And THIS JUST IN: Today, DeKalb County police have advised that the TWO people they've used tasers on have BOTH DIED!! Both just this month. Apparently, on May 9th (and this is the first I`ve heard of it), a fellow named Audreacus Davis died after being tased five times and given a medication to calm him down.

Two people tasered in DeKalb County, Georgia - two people dead after being tasered in DeKalb County, Georgia.

Therefore, in DeKalb Georgia, 100% of people who are tasered DIE.

Then-DeKalb CEO Vernon Jones should-a stuck to his guns!! Do ya think???

May 17, 2010
By Megan Matteucci, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

A 40-year-old woman accused of stealing a car and fighting with police Friday is the second suspect this month to die after being tased by a DeKalb County police officer.

Autopsies are still pending on both suspects to see if Tasers contributed to their deaths, Chief Investigator Patrick Bailey of the DeKalb Medical Examiner’s Office said Monday.

The autopsies will determine if either suspect had a pre-existing medical condition, or drugs in their system, DeKalb Police spokeswoman Mekka Parish said.

DeKalb County Police added Tasers to their arsenal late last year as a “less lethal” option for unruly suspects, aimed at reducing injuries to suspects and officers, Chief William O’Brien told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution in November.

This was the second time DeKalb had turned to the stun guns, which issue 50,000 volts of electricity. In 2005, then-DeKalb CEO Vernon Jones ordered police to surrender their Tasers after the manufacturer issued a warning that multiple or prolonged blasts could impair breathing and lead to death. Jones had said he was also concerned about the death of a Gwinnett County inmate who died following the use of a Taser.

On Monday, DeKalb officials wouldn’t say if they plan to stick with Tasers, only saying that both deaths are under investigation.

Officers in Gwinnett, Fulton, Cobb and Clayton counties carry Tasers. In Atlanta, only officers on the SWAT team and other specialized units have Tasers.

DeKalb Police have not identified the woman killed on Friday.

An incident report obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution shows the woman, who was 5-foot-3 and 350 pounds, was tased twice after fighting with police.

The woman ran through the Brannon Hills condo complex on Baynes Hill Drive in Clarkston around 11:30 p.m. Friday, banging on doors and frantically shouting that someone was trying to kill her, according to witness statements.

She kicked in several doors before falling off a second-floor balcony and losing her pants. She then tried to steal a car, and after several unsuccessful attempts at carjacking, she climbed into an unlocked Toyota Previa, according to the police report.

Officers arrived as she was trying to drive off. But she refused to stop, striking two cars before fleeing and crashing into several trees, police said.

Officers ordered her to surrender, but she jumped out of the crashed Toyota and attempted to run, the report stated.

That’s when Officer B. Maxwell deployed his Taser, striking her in the back.

The woman fell to the ground, but she continued to struggle with police and shout obscenities.

Several officers tried to handcuff her, but she continued to fight. Maxwell deployed his Taser again, according to the report.

This time, he used the Taser against her side, which is designed to cause pain but not incapacitate her, police said.

But it still didn’t slow her down. She continued to struggle and swear at the officers as they handcuffed her. A “short time later,” the woman became nonresponsive, officers wrote in the report.

Paramedics rushed the woman to DeKalb Medical Center, where she later died.

It’s unclear how much time elapsed between the woman being tased and becoming unresponsive, and when she was pronounced dead, Parish said.

Police are still investigating what caused the woman to frantically run through the complex, but witnesses said they did not see anyone trying to harm her.

That is the second death this year in DeKalb involving a Taser.

On May 9, Audreacus Davis died after being tased five times and given a medication to calm him down, according to a police report.

Paramedics were treating the 6-foot-4, 375-pound man for a possible drug overdose at the Budgetel Inn on Chamblee-Tucker Road when he became violent. Police arrived and found Davis foaming from the nose and mouth, and defecating all over the hotel room, according to the report.

Officers tried to get him to calm down and allow paramedics to treat him, but he struggled with police. Officers tased him a total of five times, but each time he stood back up and fought police, police said. After paramedics gave him the unknown injection to calm him down, Davis became unresponsive.

He was taken to DeKalb Medical, where he was pronounced dead.

In December, about 1,100 DeKalb officers went through a 10-hour training class. They also were shot with the Taser before being allowed to carry the weapon.

That training class included showing officers to aim for the back, abdomen and thigh areas.

Last fall, Taser International, the stun gun’s manufacturer, issued a warning that the weapons could have an “adverse cardiac event” if used in the chest.

There have been more than 400 deaths involving Tasers in the U.S. and 26 in Canada since 2001, according to a December 2008 study by the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. The study said medical examiners found that Tasers contributed to more than 30 of the deaths.

Three of the 400 deaths occurred in the Gwinnett County jail after deputies used Tasers on inmates. The deaths occurred in 2003, 2004 and 2007. Autopsies showed two died of heart attacks, but they did not cite causes for the cardiac arrests. The third death was ruled a result of "excited delirium" -- a combination of cocaine, alcohol and physical exertion that excited the inmate's heart too much, according to the medical examiner.

Georgia Woman Dies After Being Shot With Taser

May 14, 2010 - Sukeba Olawunmi, 39, Clarkston (Dekalb County), Georgia

May 17, 2010

DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. -- DeKalb County authorities said they are looking into a case in which a woman died after being shot with a Taser by DeKalb County police.

Officers were outfitted with the Tasers last in 2009.

DeKalb County police confirmed to Channel 2 Action News the incident happened Friday. The death occurred sometime after a Taser was used, but the device has not been linked directly to the woman’s death, police said.

Police said the incident Friday began at some Clarkston apartments. According to authorities, a woman tried to flee police in her car, struck another vehicle, and there was a struggle as officers tried to arrest her. Officers shot her with the Taser to subdue her.

The woman later died at a hospital.

The use of Tasers has been controversial in DeKalb County. Officers were just issued the devices late in 2009. Previously, supervisors had Tasers but those were pulled over concerns about possible Taser-related deaths in other jurisdictions. Many officers said Tasers give them another option besides pulling their guns when involved in a confrontation.

A police spokesperson said in an email that the latest incident is still under investigation.

It will be up to the DeKalb County medical examiner to determine a cause of death.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Use of Taser-like device on Shawn O`Sullivan unnecessary: lawyer

May 14, 2010

The use of a Taser-like device in the November arrest of Shawn O'Sullivan by Belleville Police was unnecessary and could soon be at the centre of a formal complaint against police, his lawyer says.

Charges of mischief and assault against O'Sullivan, 48, of Belleville were withdrawn Thursday in Belleville court. He entered into a six-month peace bond requiring him to avoid contact with a man with whom he scuffled during an attempt to locate his stolen boxing championship rings.

O'Sullivan is a 1984 Olympic boxing silver medallist.

His lawyer, Bill Reid, said Thursday he and O'Sullivan are still considering making the complaint. It must be made within six months of the incident. O'Sullivan was arrested Nov. 28.

Police said O'Sullivan was agitated, showed signs of intoxication and took a "combative" stance with officers.

O'Sullivan said he was looking for information about his stolen rings. He said he was peaceful with police and though he had been drinking and wasn't drunk. He told The Intelligencer he was still asking officers what was happening when the stun gun was fired at him.

"It (the Taser) was resorted to all too quickly," Reid said.

The retired boxer said he was happy with the end of the criminal case against him and praised Crown attorney Jodi Whyte.

"I think she's great," he said. "She's kind."

O'Sullivan's speech is at times slurred, the result of a distinguished yet punishing boxing career. When combined with the smell of alcohol it could lead someone to believe he was drunk, Reid said.

"I can see the police being fooled by that," Reid said. "You still have a duty to inquire."

He said an officer responding to a 911 call at the house last November talked to the complainant before heading outside to arrest O'Sullivan.

Reid said his client wasn't given a fair chance to speak with police.

"He simply wanted to make his case to the police," he said. "There was no room given to him to make that happen. It would have changed the dynamic of that encounter. That's an issue. It raises questions."

Reid said he had reviewed police evidence, including video, and that O'Sullivan was "by no means falling down drunk at all."

O'Sullivan respects and was even trained by police and "has a very good rapport" with them, Reid said.

But he stopped short of an outright critique of police.

"I don't want to see this inquiry be an absolute condemnation of (the officer)," he said.

"Certainly it is not. In truth I believe the police have been fair as well," he added, explaining that like the Crown, they have treated the criminal case and concerns about the arrest as separate matters.

"The police are concerned about his rings," he added.

The rings were stolen in 2007 and have never been recovered. In addition to the usual reward offered from Crime Stoppers a total of $6,000 in private rewards has been offered for their return.

Police Chief Cory McMullan said O'Sullivan is entitled to complain.

"Certainly if they wish to make a complaint we will do an investigation," she said.

"Whether there was a conviction ... or whether there has been a peace bond entered into does not impact whether or not the proper use of force was applied or was not applied," said the chief.

When police use force, she said, "there are reports that are required and they're reviewed by our training officers and any concerns regarding those would have been brought forward and we would deal with them whether there was a complaint made or not."

She said senior staff also review those reports.

Officers responding to a call "have to take into account all of the circumstances at the time," said McMullan.

Fort Worth offering $2 million to family of Taser victim

May 14, 2010
Mike Lee, Star-Telegram

FORT WORTH -- The city of Fort Worth has offered $2 million to settle a lawsuit filed by the family of a man who was killed with a Taser during a confrontation with police last year.

The City Council is scheduled to vote on the settlement Tuesday, according to an agenda posted online.

Michael Patrick Jacobs died April 18, 2009, after he was shocked for 54 seconds.

Jacobs, 24, had a history of mental illness and his family called police because he was behaving aggressively.

Three officers arrived and said he refused to calm down. An investigation showed that Jacobs was moving toward the officers when he was shocked, although he was unarmed and never struck them.

The officer who used the Taser said she inadvertently held down the trigger the first time she shocked Jacobs, for 49 seconds. She shocked him again for five seconds.

The Tarrant County Medical Examiner's Office ruled Jacobs' death a homicide, but the officers were cleared by a police investigation.

A Tarrant County grand jury declined to indict the officers.

The confrontation happened in front of Jacobs' parents home, with family members watching.

His parents and other relatives sued the city, alleging that the officers were improperly trained and used excessive force. The city claimed that it was immune from the suit.

In April, U.S. District Judge Terry Means ordered the city and the Jacobs family to meet with a mediator. The city has not admitted liability.

Ontario’s SIU hires prominent lawyer to argue crucial case

May 14, 2010
National Post

TORONTO — The Ontario Special Investigations Unit has hired a prominent Toronto lawyer to argue its case at a crucial court hearing for the independent civilian agency.

Marlys Edwardh was retained just two days after Ontario Attorney-General Chris Bentley stopped government lawyers from working for the SIU in the high-profile case.

The hearing, before Superior Court Justice Wailan Low, is examining police practices when the SIU is called in to investigate. The agency probes any incident involving serious injury or death as a result of police force.

SIU director Ian Scott has formally complained about the practice of “witness officers” speaking to lawyers before writing their official police notes. As well, it is common for several officers to be represented by the same lawyer, leading to the potential for collusion. Mr. Scott has suggested this hampers the ability of the SIU to do its job effectively.

The Ontario Provincial Police and other police groups are asking Judge Low to decline to look at the practices, arguing it is not the role of the courts. The hearing resumes Tuesday.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Is it safe to assume that tasers are safe?

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Charges withdrawn against Shawn O'Sullivan

May 13, 2010
LUKE HENDRY, The Intelligencer

The Crown has withdrawn criminal charges against retired boxer Shawn O'Sullivan.

Hastings County assistant Crown attorney Jodi Whyte withdrew the charges Thursday morning at the conclusion of a pretrial hearing in Belleville criminal court.

"Hopefully this has been put to bed and we'll all carry on," O'Sullivan said after the hearing.

Whyte and O'Sullivan lawyer Bill Reid of Toronto agreed upon a peace bond requiring O'Sullivan not to be on the property of Jeff Burton, the man on whose property O'Sullivan was arrested Nov. 28, 2009.

Justice Stephen Hunter imposed the bond.

O'Sullivan told The Intelligencer earlier this year he had gone to the property while pursuing a lead about his stolen rings. At least 10 boxing championship and personal rings were stolen from his home in May 2007 and he has since been on a passionate quest to recover them.

In a January 2010 interview, O'Sullivan said he had gone to the other man's house to ask him something about his rings.

Instead, the two scuffled. Police were called and shocked O'Sullivan with a Taser-like stun gun.

O'Sullivan has since professed his innocence and said he did not, contrary to police reports, act combatively with police or do anything to warrant the Tasering.

Lawyer Reid said he and O'Sullivan are still considering filing an official complaint with Belleville Police about the way the arrest was handled.

Olympic boxer cleared of charges

May 13, 2010
By QMI Agency/Toronto Sun

BELLEVILLE, Ont. -- Olympic boxing silver medalist Shawn O'Sullivan has been cleared of mischief and assault charges in a Belleville, Ont., court.

O'Sullivan, 47, faced one count each of assault and mischief under $5,000 in a case dating back to last November. He was accused of assaulting a man in Belleville's west end. O'Sullivan has said he was trying to get information about his stolen championship rings when he was struck by another man.

O'Sullivan has also claimed police beat him and stunned him with a Taser. Belleville police later confirmed they had used a "charge-conducted device" on O'Sullivan but said he was combative and physically resistant.

O'Sullivan's lawyer, Bill Reid, said O'Sullivan is considering filing a complaint about excessive use of force.

In court Thursday, O'Sullivan agreed to a peace bond keeping him from having contact with the man he was accused of assaulting for six months.

O'Sullivan has been on a two-year hunt to recover stolen championship boxing rings that were taken from his downtown Belleville apartment. He admitted at the time he had been too friendly with some shady characters, whom he'd allowed to visit his place. He said he never thought anyone would rob him.

Lawyers pulled from hearing into whether officers break laws

May 13, 2010
Robyn Doolittle, Toronto Star

Attorney General Chris Bentley is being accused of bowing to police pressure following a last-minute decision to pull ministry support from a controversial court case, which will rule whether officers routinely break the law when dealing with the Special Investigations Unit.

Four lawyers, including one of the ministry’s most senior counsel, had been representing SIU director Ian Scott in the proceedings. But late Wednesday, just hours before the hearing was scheduled to begin, the SIU – an arm’s length branch of the ministry – was told to find its own representation. The SIU investigates when a civilian is seriously injured or killed by a police officer.

MPP Peter Kormos, NDP critic for Community Safety and Correctional Services, said it looks as though the Attorney General is succumbing to police pressure.

“Something is seriously amiss here and it should be disturbing to everyone. The police seem to be able to call the shots with respect to the ministry of the attorney general,” he said.

The ministry did not respond to an interview request.

Scott has asked a judge to find that OPP officers and Commissioner Julian Fantino violated a section of the police act pertaining to SIU probes.

In court filings, he has called for an end to the longstanding practice of officers having their notes and comments vetted by a police union lawyer before being interviewed by the SIU. He has also taken issue with the fact that often one lawyer represents all the officers involved, including witnesses. Because lawyers are legally obligated to share information, Scott has argued police officers are not properly being segregated.

The case, which was launched by the families of two mentally-ill men killed by OPP officers last summer, is significant because although it is focusing on these two incidents, the practice of note vetting is common across the province. If the judge agrees with Scott, it will have widespread ramifications for Ontario’s police community.

Early Wednesday, just hours before the lawyers were removed, OPP union president Karl Walsh sent out an internal memo blasting the SIU and “assistance of the Ministry of the Attorney General.”

“We will not be treated as second-class citizens and demand that the established protections already in place not are tampered with,” Walsh wrote. “I ask that you pay particular attention to this issue and encourage you to let your elected representatives know about this unwarranted challenge to our rights and our integrity.”

The memo also revealed that the OPP union, Toronto police union, Police Association of Ontario and the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police have pooled legal resources to fight the application.

Earlier this week, Bentley said that the ministry had not taken a position on the issue, but behind-closed doors, the police community had expressed anger over the legal support of the SIU.

Toronto Police Association President Mike McCormack said the move has nothing to do with police pressure. Ministry of the Attorney General lawyers were representing both the SIU and Fantino in the case.

“So there’s an obvious conflict there, this is the right move,” he said.

Kormos countered that the OPP and Fantino are actually part of the solicitor general’s ministry, so if anything, the conflict is with the commissioner.

“It’s very peculiar. The SIU is a part of the Attorney General’s office. It seems to me that the Ministry of the Attorney General should be representing its own body,” he said.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Montreal hears from taser opponents

May 12, 2010
By Dan Delmar, The Suburban

A number of community groups and concerned citizens are showing their displeasure with the taser gun as a part of the Montreal police arsenal.

Hearings were recently held at city hall, in front of the public safety commission, and several Montrealers made their case for an outright ban, including members of the Black Coalition of Quebec (BCQ) and city councillor Marvin Rotrand.

“There have been many cases where there has been a lack of responsibility,” on the part of officers who have been given the taser, said Dan Philip of the BCQ. Something is wrong when “a young man received 300,000 volts of electricity, six times.”

Philip pointed to the case of Quilem Registre, 38, who died on Oct. 18, 2007 — four days after being repeatedly stunned by a Montreal police officer in St. Michel. In her report, coroner Catherine Rudel-Tessier noted the officers who made the arrest were poorly trained and broke the department’s rules on Taser use.

“It was a criminal act,” Philip told the public safety commission. “It is the responsibility of the city to protect human life. We have to really look at what is the right of the person and what is justice in our society. Why is it necessary to use tasers?”

Since the Registre death, Montreal police and RCMP officers who are armed with the taser have had to participate in more extensive training.

There are only 17 tasers in use by Montreal police; they were used a total of 11 times in 2009.

“We have to teach them that the taser gun is not a harmless weapon,” Rudel-Tessier wrote in her report. “The controversy that follows its use around the world certainly proves this. It can lead to serious injuries.”

The weapon’s manufacturer, Taser International, has continued to maintain that the stun gun has not directly led to the death of a suspect. 25 Canadians have died after being shot with a taser gun; over 300 in the United States.

“We don’t have any proof that the taser was responsible directly for the death of a person,” said Marc Parent, an assistant director with the Montreal police department, echoing the claims of Taser International. “We still believe it can help us intervene without injuries.”

During the hearing, councillors peppered citizens with questions. Councillor Réal Ménard wondered if the 17 tasers were removed from the arsenal, and what weapon would replace them. Hampstead mayor William Steinberg pressed Patrick Bolland to come up with statistics to prove the tasers were harmful, while ignoring the lack of information available to the city to support its use — apart from data provided by Taser International.

“Everyone thinks that the taser is inoffensive, but from what I see, it kills,” said Bolland, who is part of the Coalition pour le Retrait du Taser.

“The police forces of San Francisco, of Washington D.C., of Detroit and Boston have decided not the use tasers. Why can Montreal not be one of those cities?”

On the role the weapon played in the Registre death, Rudel-Tessier stopped short of saying the taser was the cause, but did say doctors who treated him wondered if the weapon was part of a “bad cocktail,” including drug and alcohol use, which led to his death.

“According to the doctors, if it is impossible to affirm that the electrical discharges were solely responsible for Registre’s condition, it is just as difficult to determine that it played no role in his death.”

Montreal’s public safety commission is expected to produce a report outlining its recommendations in June.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

SIU calls OPP, Fantino conduct illegal

May 11, 2010
Dave Seglins, CBC News

Ontario's top police watchdog is accusing Ontario Provincial Police Commissioner Julian Fantino and a number of his officers of breaking the law by failing to properly co-operate with probes into two separate fatal OPP shootings last summer.

Ian Scott, director of the Special Investigations Unit, accuses Fantino of failing to ensure officers promptly notified the SIU of one case last June. In a second incident, Scott accuses Fantino of failing to ensure officers were properly segregated by allowing them to consult the same lawyer and to prepare two sets of notes — only submitting a final version of events vetted by their lawyer.

In an unprecedented step, Scott, with the signed backing of four lawyers from Ontario’s Ministry of the Attorney General, is siding with the two grieving families.

They together head to court on Thursday to ask a judge to rule that Fantino and his officer broke regulations and the Ontario Police Services Act in their interaction with the SIU.

Family decries OPP delay in calling SIU

Douglas Minty, 59, who was mentally disabled, was shot five times by an OPP officer in Elmvale, Ont., on June 22, 2009. (CBC)Diane Pinder's mentally disabled brother, 59-year-old Douglas Minty, was shot five times by an OPP officer in Elmvale, Ont., on June 22, 2009.

Minty had become agitated as the result of a visit from a door-to-door salesman, and police were called to the house.

"My brother was very loved. He did not deserve this tragic end to his life," Pinder told CBC News. "We are looking for answers as to why this had to happen … and the answers that we've got … some of them have been unbelievable."

The SIU report on the incident concluded a single officer shot Minty five times after he wielded a small utility knife with a 2.5-inch blade. His family is suspicious of this account because the knife found at the scene had its blade retracted in a closed position.

More importantly, the Minty family questions why the OPP took one hour and 23 minutes to alert the SIU. During that time, however, OPP did call in supervisors, a media relations spokesperson and a lawyer from the Ontario Provincial Police Association. The OPP even took two key eyewitnesses away for a debriefing before alerting the SIU to take charge of the scene around the police shooting.

"The scene is in essence tainted. That is not the way it's supposed to work," said the Minty family's lawyer, Julian Falconer. He filed the application that has won support from the SIU and the ministry lawyers asking for a ruling on the conduct of the OPP.

"The commissioner has a personal responsibility to ensure immediate notification so that investigators can do their job," Falconer told CBC News. "How could the family in the Minty shooting have any confidence in what these police officers have done when these kinds of shenanigans happen after the shooting?"

Questions about OPP notes in 2nd shooting

Levi Schaeffer, 30, pictured with an unidentified friend, was camping near Osnaburgh Lake, Ont., in June 2009 when he got into an altercation with the OPP, which resulted in an officer shooting twice and killing him. (CBC)Ruth Schaeffer is a grieving mother who is also part of the court fight against the OPP commissioner. Her son, Levi Schaeffer, 30, who suffered from schizoaffective panic and personality disorder, set off last spring on a bicycle trip from Peterborough, Ont., to Pickle Lake in northwestern Ontario.

On June 24, 2009, he was camping near Osnaburgh Lake when he got into an altercation with the OPP, which resulted in an officer shooting twice and killing Schaeffer.

His mother told CBC News she has been denied "any proper or believable answers" about what happened.

The only two witnesses were the two OPP officers, who, after the SIU began investigating, despite rules demanding they be segregated, both hired the same lawyer. They both prepared two sets of notes. The first set was supplied to their lawyer for review and were never disclosed to the SIU. Based on those, the two officers then prepared a second set of notes as their official "police memo book" record of events which they did hand over to SIU investigators.

"The idea that an officer would maintain two sets of notes … one that his lawyer sees and provides input on and a second that is provided to investigators simply is unacceptable," said Falconer, who is also representing Schaeffer's family. "This does nothing but fosters suspicions."

In September 2009, the SIU director concluded that in this case, "this note-writing process flies in the face of two main indicators of reliability of notes: independence and contemporaneity." As a result, Scott concluded he could not reach any reasonable conclusions about what actually happened the day Schaeffer was shot and killed.

Scott has written a number of times to complain to Fantino about the use of a single lawyer to represent numerous officers during SIU probes, given that police chiefs and the commissioner are duty bound by the Police Services Act to ensure officers are segregated when identified by the SIU as either subject or witness officers in a serious incident.

Fantino refused comment to the CBC while the case is before the courts. But in a Sept. 30, 2009, letter to Scott now included in the court record, Fantino denied any dereliction of his duties.

"Your position as director of the SIU grants you no authority over how police notes are prepared," Fantino scolded. "Direction in that regard comes from a complex interaction of the police service's policies and procedures, legislative requirements and the charter rights of all citizens."

NDP calls on Fantino to resign

Controversy over police co-operation has dogged the SIU since the agency's inception in 1990. Two reports by former judge George Adams identified the need for reviews.

In 2008, Ontario Ombudsman Andre Marin (a former SIU director himself) called for a ban on the use of a single lawyer representing multiple officers "avoiding any potential for witness information to be tainted or tailored, intentional or otherwise."

But the court case this week marks a new point in the fierce fight over police accountability, said NDP justice critic Peter Kormos.

"We have a very peculiar, unprecedented scenario where Ministry of the Attorney General's lawyers say the OPP commissioner Fantino broke the law in the course of an SIU investigation," Kormos told CBC News. "It is remarkable and it cries out for Fantino’s resignation."

Lawyers who represent police officers involved in SIU investigations say the practice of representing multiple officers and the use of two sets of officers' notes is a long-standing one.

"It's a tempest in a bad teapot and a waste of judicial resources," said Gary Clewley, a Toronto-based lawyer who has defended police officers for decades.

Last summer, he published an advice article in the Hamilton police union's newsletter, writing, "I was tempted to have a pencil manufactured with the slogan 'shut the F up' embossed on it so that when police officers began to write their notes they would pause and first give me or their association a call."

Clewley categorically rejects ever coaching officers to change or invent stories in their official notes.

The case goes before a judge in a Toronto court on Thursday.

Stunning the public into submission

May 11, 2010
Heidi Boghosian, Huffington Post

Ask the pregnant woman who refused to sign a traffic ticket. She'll confirm: it's more convenient for police to discharge a Taser than to negotiate verbally or use other problem-solving strategies when dealing with the public. A 58-year-old homeless woman with a mental illness in Vermont will tell a similar story. Her crime was refusing to move from where she was standing outside a local convenience store.

Abuse of electroshock weapons is commonplace when individuals are slow to follow orders or "cop an attitude." The teenage baseball fan in Philadelphia learned this the painful way. Each time police discharge Tasers when no threat to human life exists, they breach norms for the use of force. Force should be used only where "strictly necessary" and in proportion to the threat posted, according to the United Nations Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials. The Police Executive Research Forum advises that stun guns should only be directed at persons actively exhibiting aggression. And the UN Committee Against Torture has called use of the Taser X26 a form of torture because of the degree of pain the weapon inflicts.

In addition to being the state where the baseball fan was shocked, Pennsylvania hosted the debut of military sonic weapons against civilian protesters at the 2009 G-20 Summit. Known as Long Range Acoustic Devices (LRADs), these weapons have been used to disperse crowds in Iraq and repel pirates in the Gulf of Aden. They are more insidious than other so called less-lethal munitions because they leave no visible marks and can cause permanent hearing loss. While LRADs are relatively new in the United States, Tasers, rubber bullets and other potentially lethal weapons are altogether too readily used by law enforcement on civilians.

Statistics detailing the harm that Tasers cause might help curb their use. But accurate statistics do not exist. That is in part because medical examiners across the country are afraid of retribution by Taser International, the leading manufacturer of Tasers. The corporation has sued several medical examiners for listing their products as either contributing to or as being the official cause of death.

Coroners may, however, log deaths from Taser-related incidents in the National Association of Medical Examiners' "Death Registry" database in order to assist the National Institute of Justice identify deaths in which electric stun guns were used. This is just a start. The public should express outrage at the increasing use of electro-muscular disruption technology by law enforcement against civilians in any situation other than life-threatening ones.

Lawyer-approved police notes illegal, SIU says

May 11, 2010
Robyn Doolittle, Toronto Star

Judge asked to find OPP’s Julian Fantino violated Police Services Act

The director of the Special Investigations Unit has intervened in a landmark court case that will decide whether police officers routinely break the law during SIU investigations.

Ian Scott has asked a judge to rule it is illegal for officers to have their notes and comments “approved” by a police union lawyer before being interviewed by the agency, which investigates cases of serious injury or death involving officers.

Critics of this longstanding practice say it provides an opportunity for collusion. Police counter that officers are simply being granted the same rights as a civilian under the Charter of Rights.

Scott has also raised concerns about officers being properly segregated from each other after an incident. In a move that has set off a firestorm in the policing world, Scott has asked the Superior Court judge to find that OPP Commissioner Julian Fantino violated the Police Services Act for allowing this practice to continue.

If the judge agrees, this would open the door for police chiefs across Ontario, including Toronto’s Bill Blair, to face police act charges.

“This is a very significant development in attempting to ensure some level of accountability in SIU investigations. The absence of leadership has been a major problem in this area and frankly it accounts for why it has festered and continued for so long,” said lawyer Julian Falconer.

Falconer represents the families of two mentally disabled men fatally shot by OPP officers. Their families believe the OPP violated the police act during the SIU investigation. The case will be heard in Superior Court beginning Thursday.

In both deaths, officers who witnessed the shooting, as well as the officer who pulled the trigger, were instructed to delay writing their notes until after an association lawyer, Andrew McKay, reviewed them.

On June 22, 2009, Douglas Minty was shot five times outside his mother’s Elmvale home. The 59-year-old became distraught over an altercation with a door salesman. The officer would later say he saw Minty advancing with a knife. The SIU was not contacted until an hour and a half after the incident.

“In that time, the OPP received statements from the most significant eyewitnesses, had their media officer attend and had (the union involved),” according to court documents.

Two days after the Minty shooting, 30-year-old Levi Schaeffer was shot dead on the shore of Pickle Lake in northern Ontario. Officers were investigating reports of a stolen boat. In this case, all five officers involved shared the same lawyer and had a draft set of notes approved before submitting a final version to the SIU.

After a three-month probe, Scott announced that because officers in the Schaeffer case were not segregated and that because their comments were vetted by a lawyer, he had no reliable evidence to make a judgment. The officer was cleared.

“In this most serious case, I have no informational base I can rely upon,” Scott said at the time. “The first drafts have been ‘approved’ by a (union) lawyer who represented all of the involved officers in this matter, a lawyer who has a professional obligation to share information among his clients when jointly retained by them.”

In contrast, when police investigate civilian incidents, it is routine practice to immediately separate witnesses and suspects. Investigators do this to make sure witnesses’ memories aren’t tainted and to prevent suspects from fixing their story.

But unlike civilians, police officers are bound by a set of rules under the Police Services Act to cooperate with an investigation. For one, all witness officers must give an interview to the SIU. The subject officer may refuse. Everyone involved must write notes, but only the witness officers must hand them over. Herein lies the heart of the dispute between Falconer and the SIU versus Ontario’s police community.

The act states that police chiefs shall, whenever “practicable” segregate police officers involved in an SIU incident. “A police officer . . . shall not communicate with any other police officer involved . . . until after the SIU has completed its interviews.”

Falconer said police associations are using the Charter issue as a red herring. Police officers can have a lawyer without it being the same lawyer as the others involved.

“Furthermore, you will not find a credible constitutional lawyer who would argue that the Charter gives a right to counsel to a witness in a criminal investigation. That is completely absurd,” said Falconer.

Alok Mukherjee, chair of the Toronto Police Services Board, said Falconer and the SIU are just plain wrong.

“Falconer and Scott’s opinion on whether the Charter protects police officers in an SIU investigation, I have seen nothing either in the act or the Charter that supports their opinion,” said Mukherjee. “If anyone is raising a red herring, it is Falconer, Scott and their advocates in the media.”

Cornwall Police Chief Daniel Parkinson, president of the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police, noted that if every officer involved in an SIU investigation had a different lawyer it would become “prohibitively” expensive.

McKay, who acted for the OPP in both shootings, said an important issue is being lost in the whole argument.

“We as lawyers have professional obligations. When I go in and speak to officer A, and he tells me what happened, and then I go speak to officer B, I don’t . . . say: ‘I just spoke to officer A, this is what he told me, what do you say?’ If there’s any conflict in the stories, I would leave and call another lawyer. That happens all the time.”

Attorney General Chris Bentley said Monday the ministry has not taken a position on the issue as it is before the courts.

Monday, May 10, 2010

KILLING THEM SAFELY - Film puts focus on Taser use

May 10, 2010
By Brennan David, Columbia Daily Tribune

Monday, May 10, 2010

Dedicated to telling a story, filmmakers Scott Peifer and Nick Berardini slept in a New York airport one night to make sure they stayed under budget.

It was Day 11 of their travels across the country, and neither was sure of the financial state of their documentary. It’s something they laugh about today, Peifer said, but trying to sleep in the terminal wasn’t funny at the time. At that point, the co-producers of the film had traveled across the country in their effort to document the 2008 Taser-related death of Moberly resident Stanley Harlan, 23, and were not sure how the project would evolve.

“We were getting low on finances because all the investors at that time were not in,” he said. “We needed to suck it up. We knew when people see this, they will realize that these stories don’t feel real. It’s going to blow people away.”

Peifer and Berardini, both University of Missouri graduates, set out last year to create “Killing Them Safely,” a documentary chronicling Harlan’s death after being struck by a Taser deployed by a Moberly police officer in August 2008. Harlan’s mother, Athena Bachtel, and others witnessed his death, which occurred near the family’s home.

Bachtel contends police deployed the Taser while her son was handcuffed and that police refused to administer basic life support when he stopped breathing. Berardini said perhaps the most compelling shot of the film is of the victim handcuffed against the car. Harlan is clearly struggling to breathe, Berardini said.

A special prosecutor later determined Moberly police officers were not criminally liable in Harlan’s death, and his family reached a settlement with the city.

The film crew set out in July to begin interviewing representatives of Taser International, Harlan’s family and other families in similar situations. KOMU videographer Scott Schaefer was brought in to film interviews that took the small crew to New York; Los Angeles; Scottsdale, Ariz.; and Winnfield, La. Schaefer, who was contracted to film interviews and had no input in the storytelling process, said he is eagerly awaiting the first cut of the documentary, which could be ready by the end of this month. “I don’t believe there is much narration,” he said. “These people are telling their story. There is a lot of passion on both sides of it.”

The film is being edited in New York because Berardini thought he had too great a film for him to edit himself. The former walk-on MU basketball player and journalism graduate said he at first intended to personally edit the film but realized it might be beyond his skill level. Once the final cut is approved, the film will be released to film festivals, and it could be released as early as this fall.

Berardini is a former KOMU reporter who worked at the scene in Moberly on the morning of Harlan’s death. He said he always thought there was more to the story than was being told.

“We found that there is this inherent trust that you want to believe in law enforcement,” Berardini said. “I am not one of these people that believe law enforcement is out there to get people because they don’t like them. The situations we were looking at were so blatantly wrong, we wanted to do something about it.”

The $50,000 film project is financed by several private Mid-Missouri investors.

EDITORIAL: Police and Tasers

May 10, 2010
Washington Post

TASERS, IN USE by police departments for more than a decade, are meant to be a weapon of last resort against dangerous suspects who pose a serious threat to police officers or a risk of flight. They are also supposed to subdue suspects, not kill them. But in too many cases, including at least one recent incident in Arlington County, suspects have died after being Tasered. And there is disturbing evidence nationwide that police officers are using them when less drastic, and less potentially deadly, measures would suffice.

Police routinely insist they fire stun guns only in dire situations, and most of the time no eyewitnesses materialize to contradict them. But for an object lesson in Taser misuse -- and a clue as to how itchy-fingered police officers can be -- look no farther than the outfield of Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, where the Phillies hosted the Cardinals last Monday before 45,000 witnesses. What they saw was a scrawny, unarmed teenager who jumped on the field and ran figure eights around huffing and puffing security and police officers. After a few seconds of this, a Philadelphia police officer took aim with his Taser and dropped the youth in pop-fly territory. As he lay face down on the grass, the crowd booed the police lustily -- and with good reason.

Fans who disrupt games should be prosecuted and fined and possibly face jail time; they should not be Tasered unless they appear violent or pose a threat more serious than disrupting a game. Still, the Philadelphia police commissioner, Charles Ramsey, who reviewed video of the incident, said his officer had acted within department guidelines. That's the problem. While Tasers have been useful in protecting officers from dangerous and out-of-control suspects, in too many police agencies the policy on using them is so loosely defined that officers can fire the weapons more or less when they feel like it.

Amnesty International, which has conducted detailed studies of the use of Taser guns, concluded that in about 90 percent of cases involving Tasers, the weapons were used on unarmed suspects. In many of those cases, the suspects may have been disrespectful, strange or defiant but seemed to pose little danger to themselves, others or police.

Most disturbingly, Amnesty found that 334 people had died after being Tasered between 2001 and 2008. And while most of the deaths were attributed to drug and alcohol intoxication, medical examiners and coroners found that Taser shocks caused or may have contributed to at least 50 deaths in that period. Based on that, and numerous studies suggesting that Tasers can have lethal effects on some people, Amnesty has called for a halt to the use of stun guns.

Unsurprisingly, Taser International, a 17-year-old firm based in Arizona, has disputed the studies and Amnesty's conclusions. But if police and the weapons' manufacturers want to avoid a public backlash, they'd be wise to tighten rules to preclude using the weapons on suspects who may be annoying or disruptive but ultimately pose no threat of harm.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

EDITORIAL: Couldn’t They Just Tag Him?

May 8, 2010

The question is not whether Steve Consalvi should have jumped onto the field during a major-league baseball game in Philadelphia on Monday, waving a towel and running in circles like a toddler trying to avoid bath time. He shouldn’t have. Nor is it whether he should have been subdued and arrested. That seems obvious.

No, the question is how. Subdued, yes. Tackled, maybe. Tasered, no.

The electric stun gun that instantly dropped Mr. Consalvi in the eighth inning was fired by a police officer who clearly had no desire to dance around the outfield with a 17-year-old. The Philadelphia police chief said he had acted properly to stop a fleeing suspect, which, we suppose, technically, Mr. Consalvi was.

Mr. Consalvi was also outnumbered, had no way to escape and posed no evident threat, except to the flow of a good ballgame and maybe to the pride of officers who were older, heavier and slower than he.

Taser defenders argue that stadium romps are no joke; athletes sometimes need protecting from deranged and violent fans. Other ballplayers have been harassed and tackled. The tennis star Monica Seles was stabbed.

Having a powerful weapon doesn’t mean you fire it with abandon. One fear about Tasers, which cause jolts of extreme pain and involuntary muscle contractions, but seldom kill, is that officers use them too readily. They should resort to Tasers if they are in danger and out of other options, not because they’re frustrated.

All cities have dumb fans. Philadelphia seems to have more than its share. The best course there, as anywhere, is smarter, more attentive security in the stands. Maybe it’s also higher Plexiglas, stiffer trespassing fines, less beer. Force must always be the last resort. Tasering a showboating kid is just plain excessive.

Friday, May 07, 2010

EDITORIAL: Mounties' rule should apply here

May 7, 2010
Winnipeg Free Press

A decision by RCMP to restrict the use of Tasers to situations in a person is harming or about to hurt someone is a reasonable response to the worrisome creep in usage of the weapon. The stun gun no longer deserves the reputation nor the manufacturer's assurances that it is safe to use on just about everyone.

The use of force policy has been changed by the national police force to make it clear that a Taser is to be used only when an officer or someone else is under threat of physical harm. This tightens up an increasingly relaxed approach that saw the stun gun, the use of which fell between the baton and the firearm, become the favoured police weapon in confrontations. It allowed officers to restrain or gain compliance of individuals who may physically resist, resulting in injury. But the inquiry into the Taser-related death in 2007 of Polish traveller Robert Dzienkanski concluded that this operating procedure is risky, and medical evidence was growing that a stun gun could cause or contribute to death.

Bowing to the evidence, Taser's manufacturer last year revised its operating manual, instructing that the gun's probes be fired to hit the lower torso, avoiding the chest. Animal studies have shown that the electric shock across a heart could affect its function.

The Winnipeg Police Service has adopted some of the advice of inquiry commissioner Thomas Braidwood, but the force rejected adopting the Mountie's rule to restrict use of the Taser to people causing or about to cause bodily harm. Officers often must react instantly to dynamic circumstances and narrowing the use of force policy further was seen as too tightly tying the hands of police.

Statistics to 2008 indicated that the Winnipeg police were not part of the national trend of Taser usage creep. But the wording of the WPS's policy gives officers wider discretion in using a Taser, which can be used on those who are "actively aggressive or violent," according to a spokesman. The term "aggressive" is open to interpretation. It could describe someone who is verbally hostile or thrashing about, or someone with a weapon advancing on an officer or another person. In contrast, the Mounties' new standard restricts the stun gun's use to someone who is "causing bodily harm" or will "imminently" lash out.

The RCMP and other municipal forces have moved to tighten training and policies on Tasers, recognizing the risk that is carried by the massive jolt delivered to a person's body. Winnipeg police policy ought to reflect that, too.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

EDITORIAL: Belated RCMP stun gun rules

May 6, 2010
The Toronto Star

Are police reaching for their stun guns too often? Baseball fans in Philadelphia, the “city of brotherly love,” think so. They roundly booed a cop who stunned Steve Consalvi after the 17-year-old dashed onto the field Monday waving a club fan towel.

Public concern about “usage creep” isn’t limited to the United States. Canadians were appalled when Robert Dziekanski died at the Vancouver airport in 2007 after the Royal Canadian Mounted Police stunned him repeatedly. And there have been other ugly incidents.

Given all this, RCMP Commissioner William Elliott did well to tighten the rules this week.

From now on the Mounties will use stun guns only if a person is “causing bodily harm” or if there are “reasonable grounds” to fear that he or she “will imminently” cause harm, the force says. This is a welcome narrowing of the rules, though it stops short of requiring a severe threat to life and limb. The previous, overly permissive rules set the bar at any “threat to officer or public safety.”

The new rules also require officers to issue a verbal warning first, when feasible. They caution officers generally to restrict jolts to 5 seconds or less and to avoid multiple jolts. And they point out that the stun gun is “not intended as a restraint device.”

With these changes the RCMP finally has a policy that reflects its own view that stun guns put some people “at a high risk of death.” Other police forces should pay heed.

Ontario Community Safety Minister Rick Bartolucci recently felt compelled to remind police that, “where possible,” the 50,000-volt weapons ought not to be used on the elderly, pregnant women, young children, and people in handcuffs, among others.

Welcome as the new RCMP rules are, Elliott is a late convert to prudence. As the Star noted in an editorial last year, on his watch the force brought in new rules on Feb. 3, 2009 that watered down aspects of a previous, tougher policy. The requirement to shout a warning was dropped. So were rules against multiple jolts and restricting jolts to 15-20 seconds.

Whatever caused the change of heart, it’s a good thing that the older, tougher rules have been reintroduced, and improved upon.

RCMP Taser policy praised by ex-watchdog head

May 6, 2010
CBC News

The RCMP's new rules for using Tasers will help prevent police from using the stun guns beyond necessary situations, said the former chair of an independent RCMP watchdog.

Paul Kennedy, who chaired the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP until Dec. 31, praised the national police force's move this week to revise its policy on stun guns.

Under the new rules, officers are limited to using their stun guns only if a person is causing bodily harm, or if an officer has "reasonable grounds" to believe a person will "imminently" harm someone.

Officers must give a verbal warning, "where tactically feasible," that they are about to use the shock weapons, according to the policy.

'Comprehensive policy'

"It's a very comprehensive policy, and it certainly addresses the major concerns that I had," Kennedy told CBC News on Wednesday.

The commission has demanded more explicit rules on when officers can use shock weapons such as Tasers.

The RCMP's policy changes come in response to the B.C. inquiry into the October 2007 death of Robert Dziekanski at the Vancouver International Airport, as well as new Taser guidelines in Alberta.

The new policy also addresses persistent criticism from human-rights advocates that the Taser was often being used to make people obey police commands, not to defuse the most serious threats.

Before his term expired last year, Kennedy issued a scathing review of the RCMP's use of a Taser on a 15-year-old girl at the Arctic Tern Young Offenders Facility in Inuvik, N.W.T., in March 2007.

Taser use unjustified in N.W.T. case

Kennedy ruled an RCMP officer was not justified in using the stun gun on the girl, who at the time was handcuffed and held face down on the floor by jail staff.

Prior to Kennedy's ruling, two RCMP investigations had cleared the officer of any wrongdoing, as did a similar investigation by the Northwest Territories Justice Department. The police force said it has accepted nearly all of Kennedy's findings.

Chief Supt. Wade Blake, the head of the RCMP in the N.W.T., said the new Taser policy gives officers a clearer direction on when to use the devices, which are also known as conducted energy weapons, or CEWs.

"The old policy gave a fair bit more discretion to officers in regards to combative subjects," Blake said. "The new policy more aligns the use of the CEW with direction from the Criminal Code."

Blake said Taser use in the Northwest Territories has declined steadily in recent years. Officers in the territory have unholstered or used stun guns three times so far this year. In all of 2007, they used the weapons 51 times.

British Columbia's coroner system questioned by forensic pathologist

May 6, 2010
By Carlito Pablo, The Georgia Straight

Forensic pathologist John Butt wants B.C. to introduce a medical examiner system; currently, the chief coroner isn’t required to have a medical background.
A renowned forensic pathologist says B.C. should change its system for investigating sudden deaths.

John Butt is recommending a shift from the current coroner setup to a medical examiner system, which is used in a number of other provinces, namely Alberta, Manitoba, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland and Labrador.

“In the investigation of sudden death, there are five questions that have to be answered,” Butt explained to the Georgia Straight in a phone interview. “The question that carries the greatest responsibility and is commonest and costs the most money is the question ‘Why?’, which is the medical cause of death.”

Butt is a former chief medical examiner for Alberta and Nova Scotia. He now works in Vancouver as a private consultant in forensic medicine, and specializes in providing expert testimony.

B.C.’s Coroners Act doesn’t require the chief coroner to have a medical background. For almost 30 years, between 1981 and 2010, the post was held by ex–police officers. Robert Galbraith was followed by Vincent Cain; Larry Campbell, who later became Vancouver mayor and is now a Liberal senator; and Terry Smith.

On April 1, Diane Rothon took over the B.C. Coroners Service, becoming the second physician to head the death investigation agency since the province’s first chief coroner, William McArthur, who held the position from 1979 to 1981.

Although Butt is pleased that the new chief coroner is a doctor, he suggested that the province consider introducing a medical examiner system.

“The medical examiner system is led, governed by an expert in forensic pathology,” he said. “That means that they have to be a forensic pathologist, not just a doctor. Just like the operating room is the tool of the surgeon, the tool of the forensic pathologist is the autopsy.”

Butt pointed out that the B.C. Coroners Service doesn’t have forensic medical expertise. As such, it contracts out autopsies to hospitals.

The Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General didn’t make Rothon or any other official available for comment. However, in a statement e-mailed to the Straight, a ministry spokesperson asserted that there is no compelling reason to switch to a medical examiner system.

Like Canada, the U.S. employs a mix of coroner and medical examiner models in different jurisdictions. However, a report released last year by the National Academy of Sciences, a Washington, D.C.–based private advisory body, recommended Congress earmark funds to set up “medical examiner systems, with the goal of replacing and eventually eliminating existing coroner systems”.

The report cited the need for unbiased death investigations in sensitive cases like police shootings and those occurring in jails, as one of the reasons for having a medical examiner. “The medical examiner is first and foremost a physician, whose education, training, and experience is in the application of the body of medicine to situations that have a legal dimension that must be answered by a practitioner of medicine,” the document states.

For many years in B.C., deaths in police custody were automatically subject to coroners’ inquests. However, in March of this year, the provincial government passed legislation giving the chief coroner the discretion to waive inquests in these cases, a move that civil-liberties advocates like lawyer Cameron Ward argue will weaken police accountability.

How this new legislation will be implemented is one of the issues the B.C. Civil Liberties Association intends to raise with Rothon in a meeting scheduled for June 1, BCCLA executive director David Eby told the Straight.

New Taser rules a continuation of ongoing process: top cop

May 6, 2010
Jack Wilson - Red Deer Advocate

New rules governing how the RCMP use stun guns are basically a continuation of the process started a few years ago, Red Deer’s top policeman said on Wednesday.

“In the last few years, there has been a complete evaluation of the process of the use of the conducted energy weapon guidelines and rules,” Supt. Brian Simpson said. “This is just the continuation of that process and at the end of the day we want to be open and transparent in terms of how we do business,” he added.

New rules were unveiled on Tuesday in Ottawa. The rules limit RCMP officers to using their stun gun in cases where a person is causing bodily harm or an officer has “reasonable grounds” to believe a person will “imminently” harm somebody.

“Members’ actions must be reasonable and the force used must be necessary in the circumstances,” according to the revised policy.

Simpson said the use of the Taser stun gun has decreased in the last several months.
Simpson said the city detachment has about five Tasers available for use per shift. There are four shifts.

RCMP officers must always give a verbal warning, “where tactically feasible,” that they are about to use their stun gun, the policy says. In medically high-risk situations, officers will be required to request medical assistance, when feasible, before using their stun guns, policy states.

Simpson said all officers authorized to carry the weapon are well trained and undergo updated training when time allows. He said every time officers deploy the weapon, they must “articulate and justify their reason for doing so. There’s been a lot of negative headlines about the weapon but there are many positives too,” Simpson said. Many times the weapon has “helped neutralize a potentially dangerous situation,” he added.

Some Tasers used by city detachment officers have been sent away for regular maintenance and found to be firing at a lower amperage than called for, he said.

The RCMP changes come in response to the B.C. inquiry into the death of Robert Dziekanski, new Alberta guidelines and persistent criticism from human-rights advocates that the Taser was often being used to make people obey police commands, not to defuse the most serious threats.

Bob Paulson, an assistant RCMP commissioner, said the threshold is more specific than the previous one, defined as “a threat to officer or public safety.”

In 2006, Jason Doan, 28, died after being tasered three times by police in Red Deer following a complaint to RCMP about a man smashing car windows.

Manitoba policing agencies review RCMP's new Taser policy

Go Manitoba!! Now, there remains only NINE more provinces that need to distribute the RCMP's new policy on taser use to ALL municipal police agencies: British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland.

"[Attorney General Andrew] Swan said his office WILL NOT ORDER municipal police agencies to adopt the new RCMP standards. That will be UP TO THEM he said, adding the RCMP tend to be "PERSUASIVE" when policies change."

The pressure is on - I'm sure Manitoba and the other nine provinces will eventually come around and do the right thing.

WINNIPEG -- The RCMP’s new policy on Taser-use has been distributed to all municipal police agencies in Manitoba, Attorney General Andrew Swan said Wednesday.

Swan said Manitoba Justice officials forwarded the policy Wednesday so that each of the 13 municipal forces, including the Winnipeg Police Service, were aware of what the Mounties were doing.

The RCMP introduced the new policy Tuesday. The revamped operational manual says officers should limit Taser use to incidents in which a person is "causing bodily harm" or will "imminently" lash out.

The new RCMP policy also says that when possible, Mounties should warn suspects they’re about to be zapped.

The directive mirrors a recommendation from former judge Thomas Braidwood, head of a B.C. public inquiry on Taser use prompted by the 2007 death of airline passenger Robert Dziekanski at the Vancouver airport.

The change also comes in response to criticism from human-rights advocates that the Taser was often being used to make people comply with police commands, not to defuse the most serious threats.

Swan said his office will not order municipal police agencies to adopt the new RCMP standards. That will be up to them he said, adding the RCMP tend to be "persuasive" when policies change.

Winnipeg Police Service spokesman Const. Jason Michalyshen said in a statement city police are satisfied with their current policy.

"The Winnipeg Police Service is aware of changes made to the RCMP policy and have reviewed their report," Michalyshen said in an email. "The Winnipeg Police Service is satisfied with its current policy as it is based on the totality of circumstances involved in each encounter and places the onus on the officer to justify and articulate its use."

Two years ago Michael Langan, 17, died after he was tasered by city police in a William Avenue back alley.

Two police officers had chased the teenager there after he stole something from a nearby car. An officer stunned Langan after he allegedly threatened officers with a knife. An autopsy report says Langan’s death was caused by a heart arrhythmia brought on by the Taser shocks. His family have said they intend to sue Taser International. A provincial inquest will also be called.

The RCMP policy also says multiple firings of the Taser may be hazardous. It also reinstates direction that officers must not use the stun gun for more than five seconds on a person and should avoid multiple bursts unless necessary.

Use of tasers on field jumpers won't be first option

May 6, 2010
RANDY MILLER, Bucks County Courier Times

PHILADELPHIA - After further review, it appears the use of a Taser will be a last resort the next time a fan runs onto the Citizens Bank Park playing field during a Phillies game.

On Monday, a 17-year-old from Montgomery County had his in-game outfield sprint end with a Taser gun shock, then another fan ran onto the field late into Tuesday's game, this one giving up before a Taser was used.

The incidents led to meetings between Phillies security and the Philadelphia Police, and the team issued a statement on Wednesday:

"It has been agreed that in ordinary circumstances involving field intrusion, the Phillies game day security personnel will make the apprehension of the field jumper and turn him over to the Philadelphia Police on the field for handcuffing and subsequent charging. If greater force is necessary, requiring the assistance of Philadelphia Police in making the apprehension, such assistance will be employed.

"The Phillies will continue their policy of prosecuting all persons coming onto the field during a game to the maximum extent of the law, which could include imprisonment up to one year and a $2,500 fine."

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Philadelphia police commissioner talks about Taser incident

And where, do you suppose, did the Philadelphia police department GET their "policies, procedures, training and things of that nature??" Why, the almighty CHURCH OF TASER, of course!! Hey CHIEF RAMSEY - in between sermons - be sure to check out the taser policy news out of Wyoming today, where they have finally chosen to follow their OWN religion!! And, hey - while you're at it, be sure to stop by yesterday's announcement from Canada's national police force - the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

Philadelphia police commissioner Charles Ramsey appeared on 97.5 The Fanatic with Mike Missaneli to talk about the Taser incident at the Phillies game.

You can listen to the entire interview by clicking here.

Some excerpts:

"Well I mean again that is judgment. When I look at it, I look at it and review based on our policies, our procedures, training and things of that nature. They could still be chasing him around the outfield until they eventually brought him down. If they tackled him if he broke his arm and somebody thought that the tackle was too hard then you have got another issue. The kid should not have been out on the field.

... Again, I am not saying that every officer under the same set of circumstances would have done the same thing. I am not saying that at all, but when I look at this I have to have some set of guidelines, some set of rules. I don't know what people want me to do? Are they looking to get this kid fired? Are they looking for me to have him hanging up somehow because he used his Taser against this individual? The answer to that is, no! I am not going to do it. I mean that kid should stay off of the field period and whether or not I would have done it that way or what else."

Wyoming law agencies tighten Taser use policy

May 5, 2010
trib.com - Wyoming's online news source

The Jackson Police Department and Teton County sheriff's office are tightening their Taser policies to prohibit use of the stun guns to force compliance by people who don't pose an immediate threat.

The change follows an April 7 incident in which a Jackson police officer used a Taser to stun a man who resisted arrest.

Police had pulled over Frank Meek, 60, because of an alleged license plate violation for which he had already been issued a citation. A video of the arrest showed Meek was shocked with a Taser after Meek sat down when an officer tried to handcuff him.

County prosecutors later dismissed a misdemeanor charge against Meek for interfering with a police officer. The police department has sought an independent state review of the incident.

Jackson Police Chief Todd Smith said Tasers will no longer be allowed in such cases because Meek was not being physically aggressive toward officers. Under the old policy, the officer's use of a Taser after several warnings was allowed.
"We're really only using it as a defensive tool, rather than an offensive tool," Smith said.

Teton County Sheriff Jim Whalen said the incident presented an opportunity for his office to revisit its Taser policy, even though deputies weren't involved.

"Sometimes policy really doesn't come into focus as well as it should until we have these kinds of things happen," Whalen said. "What's important is that law enforcement agencies should be willing to take a second look at how we're doing business."

The Jackson police and Teton County sheriff's office are currently participating in a long-planned joint training session, officials said. The session includes a review of laws and focuses on a range of issues, including pursuit and use-of-force policies.

The agencies' new policies allow officers to use Tasers to defend themselves, citizens or suspects. Such uses might include cases in which the suspect is taking a posturing stance toward the officer, refuses to stop assaulting someone or threatens to commit suicide.

Tasers also may be used to stop a fleeing suspect if the suspect would be a threat to the community if he escaped. The nature of the crime plays into whether Taser use is appropriate, Smith and Whalen said.

"For me, it's going to come down to the gravity of the offense," Whalen said.

Smith said Tasers are intended as a low-level use of force that causes less damage than traditional police weapons such as batons and pepper spray. But the public seems to perceive it differently, he said.

"The public perception is that the Taser is a much greater use of force," Smith said. "You have to meet community standards."

Mounties restrict Taser use

May 5, 2010
Jim Bronskill, The Canadian Press

OTTAWA — The Mounties say that from now on they will fire stun guns at people only when those people are hurting someone or clearly about to do so.

Accused of relying too heavily on Tasers, the RCMP introduced new policies Tuesday to restrict their use to nipping violent confrontations in the bud.

The revamped operational manual says officers should limit Taser use to incidents in which a person is "causing bodily harm" or will "imminently" lash out.

Bob Paulson, an assistant RCMP commissioner, said the threshold is more specific than the previous one, defined as "a threat to officer or public safety."

"We feel that this is more precise," he said in an interview.

The directive mirrors a recommendation from former judge Thomas Braidwood, head of a B.C. public inquiry on Taser use prompted by the death of airline passenger Robert Dziekanski.

The RCMP changes come in response to the B.C. inquiry, new Alberta guidelines and persistent criticism from human-rights advocates that the Taser was often being used to make people obey police commands, not to defuse the most serious threats.

The new RCMP policy says that when possible, Mounties should warn suspects they are about to be zapped.

The policy continues to advise that multiple firings of the Taser may be hazardous. It also reinstates direction that officers must not use the stun gun for more than five seconds on a person and should avoid multiple stuns unless truly necessary.

It also calls for better records on Taser use and more testing to make sure the devices are operating correctly.

The RCMP now issues quarterly reports on Taser use but they lag a year behind.

"It’s not timely enough," said Paulson. "It’s not acceptable and we’re going to improve that."

The RCMP watchdog, which has sharply criticized the force’s stun-gun policies, welcomed the announcement as a "significant improvement."

Restricting Taser use to the "clearly defined threshold" of bodily harm should help reduce the risk of "usage creep" — the tendency to stun people as a convenient means of making them comply, said Ian McPhail, interim chair of the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP.