You may have arrived here via a direct link to a specific post. To see the most recent posts, click HERE.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Latest taser incident raises new concerns

October 24, 2007
SUNNY DHILLON, The Globe and Mail

VANCOUVER -- Another taser incident on the Lower Mainland is raising new questions about whether the police really need the device.

A Coquitlam man said this week that RCMP officers tasered him last Friday after he had been handcuffed and thrown to the ground.

Colin Hawkins said in an interview yesterday that he was on his way home from a hockey game with his wife and daughter on Friday night when he grew worried after seeing three police cars approach a neighbourhood where his 17-year-old son was at a house party.

As Mr. Hawkins reached the home, he said, he saw his son being hauled away by three police officers. When he got out of his vehicle and protested, he was tasered.

"It seemed like a flash," said Mr. Hawkins. "Within seconds, I was spun around sideways. I was tripped up, thrown to the ground, and cuffed. I had somebody's boot on my ear holding my head to the ground."

Officers told Mr. Hawkins not to move. But when his daughter screamed at him to see if he was all right, he looked up.

"As I lifted my head to see my daughter, I got tasered," said Mr. Hawkins.

The incident came less than a week after Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski died after police used a taser on him at Vancouver International Airport. Mr. Dziekanski had thrown a chair and computer, spoke no English and was unable to understand the directions RCMP officers shouted at him.

A coroner's inquest will be held into his death.

Mr. Hawkins said Friday's incident left him with burns on his leg, bruised ribs and a cut on his forehead. He said yesterday that the taser burns are still as sore as when he was first zapped.

The 48-year-old technician said he doesn't understand why RCMP felt the need to taser someone who had already been subdued.

"If someone is down and out of commission," said Mr. Hawkins, "why are you tasering them?"

Coquitlam RCMP, however, defend the decision.

"The taser was deployed in the appropriate manner and policy," said Constable Brenda Gresiuk.

The RCMP maintains that the taser was used to initiate the arrest long before Mr. Hawkins was ever in handcuffs and was necessary because he resisted arrest.

"[Mr. Hawkins] wasn't following verbal commands," said Constable Gresiuk. "He was physically resisting officers and interfering with the investigation."

Lawyer Cameron Ward has been following the taser issue closely since he was retained by the family of Robert Bagnell, a Vancouver resident who died in 2004 after being tasered by police.

Mr. Ward says tasers are often too quickly and improperly used.

"Based on everything I've learned about these weapons," said Mr. Ward, "it's my view that they should be used as an alternative to lethal force and never as a first resort. I question whether it's ever necessary for a trained and physically fit police officer to shoot 50,000 volts of electricity."

No comments: