June 29, 2011
Kevin Gosztola, Fire Dog Lake
ACLU of Arizona Report Finds Arizona Law Enforcement Lacks Guidelines for Taser Use on Children & Pregnant Women
Law enforcement and correctional agencies in Arizona, the state where TASER International has its corporate headquarters, often use Tasers “preemptively” against citizens, according to a recent ACLU of Arizona report. Even if citizens do not present an imminent safety threat to officers, officers will use the Taser. They’ll also use it “offensively as a pain compliance tool,” a use TASER International anticipates in its training material and agency policies.
The report, which the ACLU of Arizona claims is the “most comprehensive survey of Taser use by law enforcement agencies in Arizona to date,” illuminates the following key findings: Tasers are widespread among law enforcement, providing officers with Tasers does not guarantee lower levels of use of lethal force, officers often receive inconsistent guidance on when it’s appropriate to use a Taser, agencies lack clear guidance on Taser safety including the use of Tasers against vulnerable populations, law enforcement is too reliant on TASER International for training and agencies lack data collection and other mechanisms for monitoring Taser use.
The ACLU of Arizona recommends the implementation of a “strong accountability mechanism” for Taser use that would include data collection. It suggests law enforcement re-assess where the use of a Taser should be on the “use-of-force continuum.” Furthermore, it calls for more regular training on Taser use and the establishment of a statewide body to review Taser use and develop policies and training resources for law enforcement.
The finding that Taser proponents are completely off when they argue in favor of Tasers because deployment of lethal force will decline is perhaps the most significant finding of the report. The report calls attentions to the fact that “TASER’s marketing campaign has always been that Tasers are a safe alternative to the use of lethal force. Indeed, the company’s slogan, ‘Saving Lives Every Day,’ is emblazoned on its corporate headquarters in Scottsdale.”
Taser shocks have most often been used in the place of “less-lethal uses of force, such as baton strikes, chemical sprays, and the like” and situations when “situations where lethal force would not be justified (i.e., in the absence of an immediate threat to officer or public safety).”
After completing an analysis of Phoenix Police Department use-of-force reports, The Arizona Republic found 377 incidents involving the use of a Taser. In nearly nine out of ten of the incidents, the subjects had posed no imminent threat to officers with any weapons. For example: “A shoplifter who stole four cans of soup from a Food City, and fled on a bike who was shocked as officers dragged him to the ground; a 15-year-old boy at Alhambra High School who was shocked in the back as officers attempted to arrest him on a marijuana charge; and an intoxicated man who ignored commands to leave a bar and was shocked in the back as he walked away.”
ACLU of Arizona notes TASER International has insisted its weapons are “non-lethal.” A file released by LulzSecurity, a computer hacker group that recently released data from the Arizona Department of Public Safety, shows since the release of an October 12 training bulletin from TASER International, law enforcement has been aware they should not be aiming Tasers at any person’s chest.
In the bulletin, TASER International suggests the 50,000-volt weapon could possibly lead to someone going into cardiac arrest. Officers in Phoenix adopted the new guidelines immediately, although Mark Spencer of the Phoenix Law Enforcement Association did not initially instruct line officers on the development. Instead, Spencer only had praise for Tasers as he said, “It really minimizes harm, not only to officers but to suspects.”
TASER International, after issuing the bulletin, worked to spin the findings saying, “We have not stated that the Taser causes (cardiac) events in this bulletin, only that the refined target zones avoid any potential controversy on this topic.”
To the question of whether law enforcement could still deploy a TASER into a subject’s chest, TASER’s position was that officers should not “intentionally” target “when possible.” The recommendation, according to TASER, would go a long way toward “reducing risk management issues and avoiding litigation.” (What, in emails released by LulzSec, could be characterized as a policy of CYA.)
The TASER weapon’s propellant was changed from gunpowder to nitrogen in 1994, according to the ACLU report. This allowed TASER International to escape regulation from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and made it possible to “aggressively market the weapon as an alternative to lethal force” and escape testing of the product by the Consumer Products Safety Commission.
Vulnerable people, such as children, elderly, pregnant women and those with heart problems, are widely understood to be at risk of death or injury if they are subjected to the voltage of a Taser. The ACLU report shows the alarming reality that much of Arizona law enforcement lacks guidelines on what to do if faced with a “vulnerable” person.
Ten agencies were found to be silent whether to Tase pregnant women. Only four agencies explicitly ban tasing pregnant women. Twelve agencies were found to be silent on the tasing of children or the elderly. Only one agency explicitly prohibited tasing young or elderly people. And, eleven out of ten agencies had no policy on using a Taser on a subject multiple times, an action that has been seen as a key factor behind ECW-induced deaths.
Of particular interest to those who have followed the story of the SB1070 law and the issue of immigration in Arizona is the fact that Maricopa County, where the anti-immigrant Sheriff Joe Arpaio is in charge, has developed no policies or guidelines on when and when not to deploy a Taser in high-risk situations. Maricopa County is the only police department with over 500 sworn officers that did not offer its own training in addition to TASER International’s training. This is especially troubling given the fact that an Amnesty International 127-page report found Maricopa County had the highest number of reported deaths from Taser use in the United States.
Taser use has been posing increased liability for law enforcement. As of September 2010, five deaths from Taser use were occurring on average each month.
Courts have found Tasers constitute the use of “excessive force” and thus violate the Fourth Amendment, provided the Taser was used in an instance when its deployment was unjustified. Victims of Taser use can seek compensation but only if an agency’s use guidelines are deficient and if training is so poor that it could be considered “deliberately indifferent.
Memphis, Tennessee, San Francisco, California and Las Vegas, Nevada, have all opted to ban the use of Tasers.
To date, ACLU’s work on Taser use has been mostly on a state-by-state basis without a federal campaign. The report clearly demonstrates the risks posed by Tasers. More importantly, it shows the growing private influence of TASER International and how law enforcement has become dependent on using Tasers to make police work much easier, even if that means putting a person at risk of death or injury and violating the rights of an individual.
[A side note: A Los Angeles City Council voted in May 2010 to bar official travel to Arizona and consider the termination of contracts with businesses as part of a boycott in response to the SB1070 law. The Council made one exception: it would not cut off business with TASER International because, according to a councilman, “various local public safety agencies need its stun guns and no other company can provide the service satisfactorily.]
WELCOME to TRUTH ... not TASERS
Wednesday, June 29, 2011
June 29, 2011
Both the Crown and the Defence asked for the case against 4 RCMP officers to be adjounred until the end of August. The officers, Constables Bill Bentley, Kwesi Millington and Gerry Rundell as well as Corporal Benjamin Robinson, are all facing perjury charges in connection with the multiple tasering and death of Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski at Vancouver airport.
The four testified they feared for their safety when they confornted the agitated Dziekansi at Vancouver airport. But Commissioner Thomas Braidwood dismissed their stories.
June 29, 2011
JJ Hensley, The Arizona Republic
A patchwork of policies governing the use of Tasers has left some Arizona police officers reaching for the electronic weapon at the first sign of trouble and others using the weapons when lives are threatened, according to a study by the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona.
The varied regulations mean officers in Phoenix might try to subdue a disobedient suspect with a baton or pepper spray before reaching for the Taser, but a suspect taking the same actions might receive an incapacitating electric charge if confronted by police in another jurisdiction, according to the ACLU report made public Tuesday.
Citing its research, the ACLU is now pushing for more uniformity in police training in use of the weapon.
Steve Tuttle, Taser's vice president of communications, responded, "While we all agree that good policies and recurring training are crucial for successful Taser programs, the position of the Arizona chapter of the ACLU appears to be at odds with U.S. Department of Justice's recently released report which supports the use of Taser devices based upon the study of 24,000 field uses showing Taser technology protects law-enforcement officers, reduces injuries to suspects, and may prevent injuries to bystanders."
The ACLU report examined data from 20 police agencies on their use of force from 2000 to 2008.
The study found:
- Police agencies do not have consistent and clear guidelines on using Tasers on the young, elderly or ill.
- Arizona police agencies are inconsistent when it comes to use of Tasers on handcuffed, threatening or fleeing suspects.
- Arming more officers with Tasers did not equate to fewer deadly encounters with police. Agencies rolled out the product quickly in the early 2000s, and Taser use increased before reaching a plateau and declining in the latter half of the decade as questions arose about its use. The number of encounters that turned fatal for suspects remained the same in many agencies. That raises questions about whether Tasers were deployed in favor of batons or guns, ACLU said.
"Tasers should be placed higher on the use-of-force continuum and should be used as appropriate," said Annie Lai, an ACLU attorney who wrote the report and invited police agencies to work with the ACLU on more uniform training.
"We're not trying to handcuff officers, we're trying to give them more tools," she said.
Establishing uniform guidelines in Arizona would also make it easier for cash-strapped and rural police departments to provide training tailored for Arizona police officers, Lai said, in addition to whatever training comes with the weapon.
But declaring a blanket Taser policy for law-enforcement agencies throughout Arizona might not be feasible because an officer working patrol in Phoenix and handling a domestic-violence call would encounter different scenarios than a state Department of Public Safety officer dealing with an uncooperative driver along the side of a highway, said DPS Capt. Steve Harrison.
DPS officers receive Taser training every other year, Harrison said, from DPS officers who have been certified as instructors through the weapon's manufacturer. The training DPS officers receive is tailored to fit scenarios DPS frequently encounters, Harrison said.
But even the agency's tailored training cannot prepare officers for every situation they encounter, which is why officers are encouraged to look at the "totality of circumstances" before deploying any less lethal use of force such as a Taser, baton or bean bag, Harrison said.
Monday, June 27, 2011
June 27, 2011
A Toronto police officer who admitted he threatened to Taser a man's genitals was given a conditional discharge on Monday.
Const. Christopher Hominuk was sentenced to nine months of probation, 50 hours of community service and a $500 fine after being caught on video threatening two people in custody in May, 2010.
He is also required to have no contact with the victims.
On Monday, a judge ruled Hominuk's actions were caused by a medical issue.
The constable, a Type 1 diabetic, pleaded guilty to one count of threatening bodily harm but claimed he was suffering from low blood sugar at the time of the incident.
Video released during Hominuk's trial shows the officer using his Taser to try to exact information from two men in custody.
The video was captured on May 24, 2010, while police were investigating a theft call in Etobicoke. It shows Hominuk holding a Taser to a man's neck while the man lies in handcuffs across the back seat of a police cruiser.
In the same video, the officer can be seen threatening a second man's genitals with the Taser, saying he will be shocked if he fails to co-operate.
In February, a spokesperson for Chief Bill Blair described the officer's behaviour as "disgraceful."
The officer did not discharge his Taser on either prisoner.
With files from CTV Toronto's John Musselman
Saturday, June 25, 2011
Thursday, June 16, 2011
June 16, 2011
Betsy Powell, Toronto Star
A prosecutor has suggested a Toronto police officer tried to conceal the fact he threatened to Taser two burglary suspects and only came clean after his arrest.
Christopher Hominuk, 38, a type 1 diabetic, blames his low blood sugar level for his aberrant, violent behaviour during the May 24, 2010 incident.
He has testified at this week’s sentencing hearing that he pleaded guilty to one count of threaten bodily harm because he immediately wanted to take responsibility.
But Crown attorney Philip Perlmutter noted Wednesday the incidents only came to light weeks later after a superior officer “stumbled” across the incidents while reviewing in-car video recordings for an unrelated purpose.
“You were quite prepared to let this pass if you could,” in order to protect your job, Perlmutter said during cross examination in the Ontario Court of Justice.
The prosecutor also suggested Hominuk wrote “low blood sugar” in his notebook just in case things “blew up,” making no mention of the Taser threats which he knew the in-car cameras had recorded.
The guilty plea came only as a result of knowing about the damaging video footage, Perlmutter stated. “You had no choice.” Hominuk shook his head and said he had been scared.
Perlmutter also played segments of other video footage showing Hominuk outside his cruiser before and after making the threats where he appears “perfectly normal and fine.”
Hominuk responded that may be how he looked but he insisted he was in a confused state.
He did, however, agree that he didn’t take adequate precautions to guard against a hypoglycemic episode.
On that day, Hominuk started his 3 p.m. shift after only eating a bowl of cereal and was, in fact, not wearing a blood sugar monitoring device as was previously suggested because it caused him discomfort and malfunctioned.
“It was pretty irresponsible not to eat,” Perlmutter said.
“To a degree, yes,” replied the tall, grey-haired man who was diagnosed with the disease at 15. He added later that after following a strict regime for two decades, you can “back off a bit. You get complacent after 20 years.”
But he disagreed with Perlmutter’s suggestion that he has, over the years, put himself and the public at risk by failing to notify Toronto Police medical services about incidents where he has lost consciousness due to low blood sugar levels.
The maximum sentence Hominuk could face is 18 months in jail. The Crown is asking for a jail sentence. Defence lawyer Peter Brauti is seeking a non-custodial sentence.
Regardless of the sentence, Hominuk will still face a disciplinary tribunal that will determine whether he keeps his job.
Outside court, Brauti said he was shocked to learn from the Toronto Police Service an officer can remain on the job after a period of incarceration — something he said was unprecedented in Ontario.
A TPS spokesman told the Toronto Star that “each case is dealt with on a case-by-case basis.”
Final arguments are expected Thursday.
Wednesday, June 15, 2011
June 15, 2011
The Halifax Chronicle
THREE years ago, a mentally ill man died in custody 30 hours after being Tasered at an HRM police station. Howard Hyde’s heart stopped and he had to be revived. The subsequent inquiry determined that it was a restraint hold — properly applied a day later by correctional officers — which caused his heart to stop forever.
Mr. Hyde’s death could have been avoided if he had been handled differently at every turn. Many Nova Scotians still suspect the Tasering was a contributing factor.
Ironically, they might be surprised to hear that many Quebecers were left wondering last week why Montreal police didn’t Taser a mentally ill man who allegedly charged them with a knife. Tragically, the suspect was shot dead instead, and an innocent bystander was killed in the crossfire.
We do not yet know the answers to these questions. If the officers believed they were in immediate, mortal danger, they would not have reached for a (generally) non-lethal weapon. Most likely, they were not armed with Tasers anyway — the Montreal force only has 42 stun guns on hand, compared to Toronto’s 700.
The use of Tasers, especially on emotionally disturbed people, is an emotional issue. But last week, Nova Scotia contributed something useful to the debate: the voice of reason.
In becoming the first province to clarify the rules of engagement in such circumstances, Justice Minister Ross Landry has found the right balance and created a model for other jurisdictions to follow.
We agree with Nova Scotia’s new guidelines that law enforcement officers should consider whether an agitated person is mentally ill and do everything in their power to de-escalate a confrontation, before deploying a stun gun.
We further agree with the precaution — although it’s not always practical — of calling paramedics to the scene before making the call to Taser a medically precarious or disturbed individual.
Most important, police as well as correctional and sheriff’s officers in Nova Scotia will be better trained to recognize signs of a mental illness.
The Hyde inquiry made the salient point that the jail guards didn’t know how to de-escalate confrontations. Better training is certainly the key to enforcing this province’s policy of minimizing harm to the mentally ill.
June 15, 2011
Daryl Slade, Calgary Herald
CALGARY — Police had no alternative but to use physical force to subdue a man who was combative in resisting arrest, one of four officers who struggled with him at a southeast home testified at a fatality inquiry on Wednesday.
Const. Aron Johnston said it was believed that Gordon Walker Bowe, who allegedly broke into the unoccupied home on Erin Meadows Close on Nov. 1, 2008, was in a state of excited delirium.
“It was like bull wrestling ... he had incredible strength,” Johnston told lawyer Chad Babiuk, who represents Bowe’s relatives. “I’ve never experienced anything like it.
“Excited delirium has been recognized for 25 years. The best example I can use to describe it is ‘an adrenalin overdose.’ ”
Bowe, 40, was Tasered by one of the officers and died later at hospital, although it was subsequently determined by the medical examiner and the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team that the Taser played no role in his death.
Court heard earlier he had consumed cocaine prior to the incident.
Johnson said he never saw the Taser being used, but did see the stun gun laying on the floor by the door after the struggle, picked it up and put it into his pocket.
He said he and his partner were about the fourth police car to arrive at the home that night.
Johnson said he looked in through a basement window into the dark bedroom and saw what looked like an intense struggle between Bowe and other officers.
“The officers were challenging someone to stop resisting and show his hands,” Johnston told Crown lawyer Cynthia Hykaway. “They were trying to get him to co-operate and restrain him. They were almost pleading with him to stop fighting.”
The officer said he entered the home and joined the other three officers.
They soon got Bowe to his knees, but he wasn’t giving up.
“I thought the officers were losing grip on the fight, so I kicked him, jumped on top of him and held him. It was like wrestling. I held him tight.”
Johnston said the suspect continued to wriggle and kick, trying to break free, then suddenly “the movements of his body were less and less” and after 15 seconds he stopped resisting.
The constable looked up and saw fellow officers Dave Stewart and Stefan Van Tassel were pouring sweat and breathing heavily.
It was only then, he said, that the rest of the house was checked for other people and EMS personnel who had been waiting outside the home were summoned to come inside.
When asked by Babiuk why the paramedics were not called in earlier, so they would be available immediately after Bowe was subdued, Johnston said they could not come in while a struggle was ensuing and the house was not cleared to ensure no other suspects were inside.
“We would never call EMS into a scene we don’t feel is safe. It was a fast-paced situation when we have someone who has committed a break and enter to a house and we don’t know if anybody else is in there,” he answered.
“I’d find it extremely difficult to have medical personnel standing behind us when there was a struggle with Mr. Bowe. Having medical personnel in the room when there is a major struggle would be dangerous.”
The inquiry before provincial court Judge Heather Lamoureaux wraps up later today (Wednesday), the resumes on Aug. 24.
The judge in a fatality inquiry cannot find fault, but can make recommendations to prevent similar incidents in the future.
June 14, 2011
By DAVE DALE, The North Bay Nugget
There's a funny quote in one of the Toronto Sun articles Tuesday.
A tearful Toronto cop apologized in court for threatening two suspects with an electronic shock to the testicles if they didn't give up the name of their break-in accomplice.
That's not the humorous part, although it depends if you're a sick puppy who gets off when someone is tortured. George W. Bush might giggle if given the opportunity to Taser a Democrat.
Part of Const. Christopher Hominuk's defence was the fact he was diabetic and may have experienced a hypoglycemic incident.
An expert medical witness said his actions were compatible with such events which can dramatically alter a diabetic's behaviour temporarily from gentle to aggressive.
If you don't eat properly, diabetics develop low blood sugar levels and certainly can alter moods as the body tries to function on a bad mix of fuel coursing through their veins.
He also slapped one suspect across the face.
It's a bit of stretch, however, to excuse specific, repeated violent behaviour just because you may have skipped lunch.
Not a bad attempt to sway a judge's view of a cop taking matters into his own hands, but too silly to be taken seriously.
Still, that's not what made me laugh out loud.
The probationary sergeant, who was demoted after the Taser threats came to light, told the court he wanted to cry when he realized what he had done — all of it caught on video as the handcuffed suspects were detained in the back of two cruisers.
"I knew what I had done was wrong," Hominuk said, leading to the knee-slapper of a quote.
Drum roll please . . .
"You'll always get more information from people by being nice than threatening them."
It's true, actually. People are often more eager to share information if you don't appear as a threat. Defence mechanisms go up and it takes a long time for them to go down when someone holds an energy conducting device to your crotch.
The court heard that neither suspect co-operated despite Hominuk's extreme investigative strategy. It doesn't say, however, if they sang like canaries when the "good" cop arrived on the scene with lollipops.
Seriously, it's a major stain on an otherwise exemplary 14-year career and it's a shame one bad moment will likely ruin his changes of moving up the ranks.
But it's good to see an incident like this being aired in public. Canada needs good cops, we have some of the best in the world. Prosecuting the bad apples is important to build public trust.
Don't get me wrong. Crap like this used to go on all the time. Every town had its bruisers in cruisers. I just didn't realize it was because they were eating too many doughnuts and not enough veggies.
June 14, 2011
By SAM PAZZANO, QMI Agency (Toronto Sun)
TORONTO - A city cop who threatened to Taser two burglary suspects in the testicles to force them to surrender a cohort wept on the witness stand Tuesday as he apologized to his victims.
Const. Christopher Hominuk burst into tears at his sentencing hearing before Justice Hugh Fraser on Tuesday, while reading letters of apology.
He said his judgment and behaviour was affected by a hypoglycemic incident, which is characterized by dangerously low blood sugar levels.
An expert medical witness testified Tuesday Hominuk's actions were "compatible with hypoglycemic" events that can dramatically -- but temporarily -- alter a diabetic's behaviour from gentle to aggressive.
Hominuk said he felt "horrible and ashamed" after he vowed to use his Taser against the handcuffed suspects.
Hominuk, who was diagnosed at age 15 as a Type 1 diabetic, said he wanted to cry when he realized what he had done.
"I knew what I had done was wrong. You'll always get more information from people by being nice than threatening them," said Hominuk.
After being charged, he was stripped of his probationary sergeant status despite outstanding performance reviews for 11 months.
His 14-year career was exemplary and Hominuk was universally respected by both peers and commanding officers, court heard.
Hominuk's actions were captured on in-cruiser cameras, which showed him slapping Robert James Bolgan, 47, in the face and forcing him to lay down in the backseat.
Hominuk, 38, pleaded guilty in January to one count of threatening bodily harm in a May 24, 2010, incident involving two suspects, who were both sitting alone in separate cruisers.
As soon as Hominuk opened the cruiser door, he shoved his Taser into Bolgan's genital area.
Hominuk demanded to know the name of a missing suspect. Bolgan answered that he didn't know.
"If you are lying to me, when I get back to the station, I'm Tasering you in the f---ing nuts," Hominuk barked at Bolgan.
Bolgan had redness to the side of his face where he was struck, court heard.
Hominuk confronted his second victim, Roger William Bradshaw, 39, who was lying in a nearby cruiser's backseat.
Hominuk pressed his Taser into Bradshaw's neck and repeated his demand for the identity of the fugitive. When Bradshaw emphasized he didn't know him, Hominuk snapped: "If I find out you're lying, I'm going to f---ing Taser you in the nuts."
Bradshaw was unharmed. The Taser was never activated or used on either man.
Hominuk and other officers were investigating a break-in of some tractor-trailers when police arrested the two men and another suspect.
June 14, 2011
Kevin Martin, Calgary Sun
Startled, a Calgary judge nearly jumped from her chair Tuesday when she thought a witness had activated a Taser gun.
But Rick Smith, CEO of Taser International Inc., assured provincial court Judge Heather Lamoureux the weapon he held on the witness stand was completely harmless.
Smith, using a Taser borrowed from the Calgary Police Service, was showing Lamoureux how the weapon is deployed by peace officers.
But when he clicked a disposable cartridge which contained the weapons darts and wires, Lamoureux jumped back.
“Ew, did you load it?” the judge said.
“No, because the battery is not in,” Smith said.
Smith, who founded the company which makes the law enforcement weapon, was testifying at a fatality inquiry into the death of a man in police custody.
Lamoureux is presiding over the hearing to determine what, if any measures, might be implemented to prevent deaths in the future like that of Gordon Walker Bowe’s.
Bowe’s November, 2008 death is being blamed on excited delirium syndrome, a drug-induced condition.
The 30-year-old was shot by police with a Taser when they found him in a vacant house under construction in the 500 block of 42 St. S.E., although the device didn’t conduct an electrical shock.
Smith testified that while there has been significant litigation commenced over the use of Tasers in the U.S., only one case in 140 that have been settled found any fault for his company.
In that instance, the weapon was determined by a jury to be a 15% contributor in the plaintiff’s death, he told inquiry lawyer Jo-Ann Burgess.
But while his company now instructs cops to aim towards the abdomen of suspects, instead of chest areas to avoid the risk of cardiac arrhythmia, there’s no evidence linking Tasers to heart attacks.
The hearing, which can’t find blame, resumes Wednesday.
June 15, 2011
By Daryl Slade, Calgary Herald
A city police officer called to a break and enter at an Erin Woods home on Nov. 1, 2008, testified on Tuesday that it quickly became apparent the intruder was in a state of excited delirium.
"He appeared crazy," Const. Dave Stewart told Crown lawyer Cynthia Hykaway during the second day of a fatality inquiry into the death of Gordon Walker Bowe.
"His speech . . . I couldn't make out what he was saying. There was incredible jumping and sweating."
Stewart said he had some experience dealing with delirium in recruit training, but never dealt with a suspect before or since that day.
Bowe, 40, was Tasered by a fellow officer and died in hospital, but it was later ruled the stun gun did not play a role in his death. Rather, it was deemed to be from the delirium caused by use of cocaine.
Dr. Sam Andrews, the medical examiner who performed the autopsy on Bowe, earlier told co-Crown lawyer Jo-Ann Burgess there was no physical evidence that both probes from the Taser struck Bowe. He agreed that even if the Taser was properly deployed and successful in giving a deceased electrical charge, it had no prolonged effect on him.
Andrews said the state of delirium was caused by the use of cocaine, likely from a binge situation.
Rick Smith, CEO and founder of Taser International in 1993, told court there have been 170 civil litigation cases in the United States where the weapon was used and of the 130 or so completed cases, only once has Taser been deemed even partially responsible -and it was only for 15 per cent of the cause of a death.
He said most of the cases have been triggered by the victim taking toxic doses of amphetamines.
Smith, who demonstrated the use of the gun while in a safe mode without its battery, said they are now being equipped with video cameras to see what occurs for the five seconds or so they are being deployed.
However, he added, officers are using head cams to be able to capture not only the firing time, but what leads up to it and afterward, to give it context. That, however, was not the case in the confrontation with Bowe.
The Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT) investigated the actions of four Calgary police officers in the death of the Castlegar, B.C., resident, who travelled back and forth to Calgary for work, and reported there would be no charges laid against the officers.
ASIRT concluded Bowe, 30, was high on cocaine and died of excited delirium and not as a the result of a Taser or police actions.
The fatality inquiry continues today, then will be adjourned until Aug. 24 for continuation. A fatality inquiry cannot find fault, but the judge can make recommendations.
Tuesday, June 14, 2011
June 14, 2011
LILLINGTON, NC (WTVD) -- The North Carolina Office of the Chief Medical Examiner issued autopsy results Tuesday that list a Harnett County inmate's cause of death as complications from being Tasered multiple times.
"Given the autopsy and investigative findings, it is our opinion that the cause of death is complications of conducted energy device application," reads the report.
In March, Harnett County Sheriff Larry Rollins told ABC11 that 24-year-old Brandon Jolvon Bethea of Fayetteville was Tasered at the Harnett County Detention Center in Lillington after getting into an altercation with deputies.
Rollins said Bethea been in court earlier in the day and grew agitated when he was returned to jail. The medical examiner's report said Bethea suffered from schizophrenia and asthma.
Officers used a Taser - which emits a powerful electric charge - to control Bethea.
The autopsy report says officers noticed Bethea was non-responsive about 20 minutes after he was Tasered and they began CPR until EMS paramedics arrived.
Bethea was taken to Betsy Johnson Regional Hospital in Dunn where he was pronounced dead.
The report says Bethea was not handcuffed or restrained in any other way when he was Tasered.
Bethea had been in the Harnett County Detention Center under a $150,000 bond since January 23 after his arrest on two counts of attempted first-degree sex offense, attempted armed robbery with a dangerous weapon, possession of a firearm by a felon, and selling a counterfeit controlled substance.
Monday, June 13, 2011
June 13, 2011
An inquiry began Monday about a B.C. man who died after Calgary police used a stun gun to arrest him three years ago.
Gordon Walker Bowe, a 30-year-old resident of Castlegar, B.C. died one day after he was arrested in Calgary while intoxicated by cocaine on Nov. 1, 2008.
The father of two was taken into custody after officers found him behaving erratically in the basement of a vacant home in the 500 block of 42nd Street S.E.
Staff Sgt. Jim Gamlin — who was a team commander for the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT), which probes any use of force by police that results in serious injury or death — told the inquiry that officers struggled to subdue Bowe, even with several Taser shots.
ASIRT's probe concluded in 2009 that while a Taser was fired during the arrest, Bowe had "life-threatening levels of cocaine in his body."
Bowe's death was caused by excited delirium due to the ingestion of cocaine, ASIRT said, citing the medical examiner's report. The medical examiner is set to testify on Tuesday along with a representative from Taser International, the makers of the stun guns.
Provincial court Judge Heather Lamoureux will hear three days of testimony from witnesses before the proceedings adjourn, to resume again in August.
Friday, June 10, 2011
June 9, 2011
Nova Scotia has issued new guidelines for the use of stun guns and they go into effect immediately.
The guidelines call on police officers, court security and jails guards to consider whether a person is mentally ill before they use a shock to try to subdue them.
When confronting someone who is known to suffer from a mental illness, the officer or guard should only use a conductive energy weapon — more commonly known as a stun gun or Taser — as a last resort.
If there's a danger that shock could seriously hurt that individual, paramedics should be called to the scene before deploying a stun gun.
"We're educating not only the officers that are involved, but the health care services when an incidence occurs what the response should be," said Justice Minister Ross Landry.
Landry said Nova Scotia is the first province in the country to spell out when a Taser should be used on someone who may be mentally ill.
Officials with the Schizophrenia Society of Nova Scotia are pleased.
"These guidelines direct the officer to make the best possible decision as to whether or not this individual... actually is affected by a mental illness and in crisis," said Stephen Ayer, the executive director of the society.
Ayer said the key to the new rules is proper training and awareness.
June 9, 2011
By MORGAN IAN ADAMS, Enterprise-Bulletin
COLLINGWOOD -- Councillors have gotten behind the push to create team to deal with individuals in crisis.
The idea was presented to the town's police services board in January by Marcus Firman, whose son, Aron, was killed in a confrontation with police last June.
Aron Firman died after he was hit with a conductive energy weapon, commonly referred to as a Taser, after OPP officers were sent to a St. Marie Street group home to deal with a domestic disturbance.
Firman, who was diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic, attempted to flee when he was told he was going to be taken into custody. In doing so, Firman struck an officer ; when it appeared he was advancing on another officer, that officer discharged the Taser on the 27-year-old man.
Firman died at the scene of cardiac arrythmia brought on by the use of the weapon on an individual in an agitated state, according to the coroner.
The province's Special Investigations Unit has cleared the subject officer of any wrongdoing, though SIU director Ian Scott has pointed the blame for Firman's death on the use of the Taser.
Aron Firman's father, Marcus, says his son's death would not have happened had the OPP a mobile crisis intervention team in place.
The crisis team proposed by Marcus Firman is similar to what has been put in place in other jurisdictions such as Toronto and Hamilton; the Toronto Police Service created such a team in the wake of a coroner's inquest into the death of Edmund Yu, a mentally-ill man shot and killed by Toronto police officers in 1997. The team would most likely consist of a mental health nurse and a plainclothes police officer, who would also preferably be unarmed.
The team could be called out to de-escalate situations where police have been called to an incident involving a person in crisis.
On Monday night, Collingwood councillors threw their unanimous support to petition the province to establish a provincial team, or consider a funding model that would allow health organizations and police services to establish local or regional crisis intervention teams.
Marcus Firman applauded council's decision.
"I think it's great that the council is being proactive in supporting the police services board in this initiative," he said. "It's the right thing to do.
"In 18 days time (June 24), it will be the one-year anniversary of Aron's death, and for sure that death would not have happened if there had been a crisis intervention unit in place at the time.
Firman is expecting the coroner to announce an inquest into his son's death -- though when that announcement could occur is anyone's guess; coroner's inquests are typically called when an individual dies in police custody.
"No doubt, in my mind, that the inquest would recommend the institution of an intervention unit," said Firman. "I think council is doing what they can with the province and the OPP to try and move (the concept of an intervention team) forward.