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Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Not enough evidence to back ban on Tasers: B.C. solicitor

October 31, 2007
The Canadian Press

VANCOUVER - A call for a moratorium on Tasers in B.C. is going unanswered by the province's solicitor general. John Les has told The Canadian Press he sees no evidence such a ban is needed, pointing to RCMP statistics that show Tasers were used more than 900 times in B.C. in the last two years with only two fatalities reported in connection with their use. One of those was a man at the Vancouver International Airport on Oct. 14, whose death is what prompted the B.C. Civil Liberties Association to call for a ban. The association also called for the full enforcement of a set of recommendations on Taser use presented in a 2005 report. But Les says those recommendations are in place, including mandatory training for police officers in Taser use and reporting of Taser incidents. Les says he wants to wait for the results of a coroner's inquest into the airport death for a better understanding of what happened.

The 2005 report referred to is the Taser Technology Review that followed the death of my brother. One of the report's authors was former Taser Shareholder Sgt. Darren Laur.

Take tasers away from police, group urges solicitor-general

October 31, 2007
Jonathan Fowlie, Vancouver Sun

The B.C. Civil Liberties Association on Wednesday urged B.C.'s solicitor-general to take Tasers away from police throughout the province until training on the device is increased and more checks are implemented for its use. "Policing will not grind to a halt without the Taser. It is only one among a wide array of intermediate force options available to police," BCCLA president Jason Gratl said in a news release.

The call comes fewer than two weeks after Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski died at the Vancouver International Airport. The 40-year-old was shocked by police with a Taser before he died. But Solicitor-General John Les said on Wednesday he does not think Taser use needs to come to an end.

I think what we need to do is allow the inquest [into Dziekanski's death] to proceed, and hopefully it proceeds fairly soon and we'll see what the facts are," he said. Les added that in the past two years, RCMP in B.C. have used Tasers almost 1,000 times, and only two of those incidents have been fatal. "When you've got two out of almost 1,000, I'm not sure that's suggestive of an urgent problem," he said. "We expect police to keep our communities safe every day and I'm really reluctant to take away their tools for being able to do that."

Zofia Cisowski to finally see son's body

October 31, 2007
The Canadian Press

VANCOUVER -- The Kamloops, B.C. mother of a Polish man who died after being shot with an RCMP Taser at Vancouver International Airport will finally see her son's body. Zofia Cisowski hasn't been allowed to see Robert Dziekanski since he died on Oct. 14 after being shot with a Taser during a confrontation with police. But, with a priest by her side today, she'll hold a private memorial ceremony to say farewell to the 40-year-old man who was immigrating to Canada to live with her. After the service, Dziekanski's remains will be cremated and eventually returned to Poland where the rest of his family is buried. There will also be a public celebration of his life in Kamloops sometime next week. An investigation into the Taser incident continues, and a cause of death has not yet been released.

RCMP refuses to release witness's video of taser death

October 30, 2007
Jonathan Fowlie and Chad Skelton, CanWest News Service

A 25-year-old Victoria man is fighting to get a video back from police that he believes will set the record straight on what happened in the Taser death of Robert Dziekanski. In a statement of claim filed in B.C. Supreme Court last week, Paul Pritchard says he lent a series of high-quality videos from the incident to an RCMP officer on the explicit understanding they would be returned within 48 hours. Now, he says, the RCMP are refusing to give the videos back, saying they plan to hold them for up to two-and-a-half years. On Tuesday, Pritchard refused to speak directly to the media, though his lawyer explained he is pursuing the case because he believes the truth should get out.

Robert Dziekanski, 40, died at the Vancouver International Airport on Oct. 14 after he was shocked with a Taser and subdued by three RCMP officers.

There is a mixture of frustration that the police are going back on their word and a sense of public duty that he wants the truth to come out about this situation and for the public to receive an accurate representation of what happened," said Pritchard's lawyer Paul Pearson. "He feels the detail level on the video will help with clarifying what happened."

The Polish immigrant did not speak English and was reportedly confused and agitated after two days of travel. Security staff initially found Dziekanski shouting and throwing chairs in the international arrivals area, police have said.

On Tuesday, Pearson said his client witnessed the entire exchange and recorded it on his high-quality digital camera before being asked to hand it over to police. In an interview Tuesday, Cpl. Dale Carr, spokesman for the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team, said investigators had returned Pritchard's camera and given him a new memory card, but that they were holding the video to ensure the integrity of the investigation.

"We want to ensure that any future witnesses that we need to interview are able to give us an account of what they saw and not what they learned through video," he said. "We feel this is an important investigation ... and we want to get to the truth of the matter through a fair and unbiased account from any potential witnesses." It is a line of argument a Vancouver defence lawyer said he does not believe. "I don't buy it all," said Mike Tammen, noting police routinely give out their version of events in such incidents.

"In my opinion, certain police agencies in this province rely on the witness-contamination card when it suits their purposes, yet are not shy about releasing things that might potentially contaminate witnesses when that equally suits their purposes."

He also said broadcasting the video could actually help police investigate the incident. "They release video footage of things when they say it will be helpful to them for people to come forward," he said. "If they have good video footage of this incident, what do they have to hide? Why don't they want people coming forward?" Citing a similar argument, Pearson also took issue with Carr's line of reasoning. "They have been releasing multiple pieces of detailed information and I would suggest it is now not fair for them to suggest that the videotape would compromise their investigation when they have been very willing to come forward with accounts of what have happened that seem to justify the use of the Taser on Dziekanski," he said.

Not everyone, however, disagreed with the police. Anthony Sheppard, a law professor at the University of B.C., said police have good reason to fear that release of the footage could harm their investigation. "If this video is released to the media and is shown on the news, prospective witnesses might watch the video and have their recollections ... tampered with," said Sheppard. "Different witnesses may have different impressions of what happened," he said. "And that's what we want. We don't want them all watching the same video and expressing the view recorded by the camera."

For his part Carr held firm, saying the police plan to keep the video until they feel its release would no longer compromise the investigation. At that point, he said, investigators will likely turn it over to the coroner, after which it will likely be returned to Pritchard. "We feel that for the sake of this investigation, for the sake of ... the Dziekanski family that's the best way to handle it," he said. "If we are criticized for doing that, we are prepared to take that criticism," he added.

And in today's Vancouver Sun: We do not advocate any action that might jeopardize the police probe, but we strongly believe it is in the public interest the video be shown. Much more than the reputation of local police officers is at stake. The world is watching.

Homeless man is tasered in Red Deer, Alberta

October, 30 2007
630 CHED

It was an electrifying morning in Red Deer for a drugged-up homeless man. RCMP say, around 11:00 AM, they were called to deal with a "distressed" man, armed with a knife at the "old train bridge". Officers found a 32-year-old man at the scene, who fit the description, and who took off on foot. He soon stopped running and, according to police, he told them he had a knife and also threatened to shoot himself. Police say the suspect, then, reached towards the waist-band area of his trousers. That move prompted the "responding members" to deploy a Taser. After an unreported number of electric zaps, the man was taken into police custody and then taken to hospital for observation. Police say he was using drugs prior to his arrest. They also say the man has several outstanding warrants from several communities in Alberta. No new charges have been laid, at this point. The man's name has not been released.

Toronto man struck in eye by police taser

October 31, 2007
CBC News

A man is in hospital and may lose one of his eyes after being hit by a police Taser over the weekend in Toronto. The province's Special Investigations Unit has been called in to review the incident. SIU spokesman Frank Phillips said Toronto officers were called to the scene of a domestic dispute in the St. Clair and Dufferin area on Saturday morning. Phillips said a man who left the scene was confronted by police along St. Clair Avenue. "The male was quite agitated [and] had been drinking. The officers on scene requested a sergeant attend the scene, and after further interaction with this gentleman, the sergeant deployed the Taser. And one of the probes struck the man in the eye.… we're treating this as a serious injury," said Phillips. The Taser's hook-like prongs embedded in the man's eye and then delivered a blast of electricity. The SIU is looking into whether the police were justified in firing the weapon and what caused the man to be hit in the eye. The unit is called in any time there is a serious injury to a civilian involving police.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Answers in taser case are years away

October 30, 2007
GARY MASON, Globe and Mail

More than a week later, Canadians remain outraged over the death of Robert Dziekanski, the man who died at Vancouver International Airport after being zapped by taser-wielding RCMP officers.

Many Canadians don't understand why three Mounties needed to use their tasers to bring one agitated but unarmed man under control. Nor do they understand why the officers allegedly waited only 24 seconds before using their weapons on the 40-year-old Polish immigrant.

As is the case with all in-custody deaths, it will be months, maybe years, before the public gets any answers about the incident. The first opportunity will likely be at an inquest. But it took 19 months, remember, before an inquest was held into the death of Ian Bush, the 22-year-old mill worker from Houston, B.C., who was shot in the back of the head while in RCMP custody.

While it will be some time before we know who will be called as witnesses at the Dziekanski inquest, I'll bet one will be RCMP Corporal Greg Gillis, an expert on use of force with specific knowledge in the area of conducted energy weapons. Also known as tasers.

After talking to Cpl. Gillis for almost an hour late last week, I can already see how the force will defend using a taser on Mr. Dziekanski.

Although we did not talk specifically about the Dziekanski case because it's currently being investigated, it wasn't necessary. It was still relatively easy to figure out what the three officers involved in the incident are likely to say in their defence.

And it all starts with the belief that tasers are a safe and reliable weapon to bring violent, angry people under control.

"When you look at the best available medical information out there, there is nothing, nothing to support the link between the taser causing or putting people at increased risk [of death]," Cpl. Gillis told me.

"This is something that has been studied by medical experts around the world. It's been the study of an intense, wide-ranging review by the Home Office in Britain. We are constantly reviewing the most current medical literature out there on the subject."

Okay, so the RCMP believes it is on solid medical grounds, even though the taser's use has been associated with 17 deaths in Canada alone in the past 4½ years. The officers are still going to be asked why they didn't try alternative measures, like pepper spray, to immobilize Mr. Dziekanski.

Cpl. Gillis said pepper spray is an option, but an officer often has to make instantaneous calculations about its use. If we're talking about using pepper spray in an airport, for instance, the officers have to weigh the risk of cross-contaminating other parts of the building.

"If it gets picked up by the [ventilation] system, you suddenly have hundreds of people in the arrivals area that could be exposed to it," Cpl. Gillis said. "Then you've got a widespread panic on your hands and you're draining other resources because now you have to get the fire department to respond and deal with the situation."

As well, Cpl. Gillis said, pepper spray doesn't work on everybody.

Namely on people who have a high pain threshold, are under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or are experiencing a mental-health crisis. Perhaps the RCMP officers at the Vancouver airport felt Mr. Dziekanski fell into one of these categories.

On top of that, there are often medical reasons to subdue the person as quickly as possible, Cpl. Gillis said. When the insulin level of a person with diabetes crashes, for example, he or she often exhibits violent behaviour. Negotiating before using force to subdue the person may do him more harm than good.

"What they need is medical attention immediately," Cpl. Gillis said. "Same with someone exhibiting symptoms of excited delirium or a psychotic outburst. The best thing is to bring them under control quickly and let the first responders [paramedics] start helping them."

And an officer faced with this situation has to make that evaluation quickly while, to some degree, making an educated guess about what's at the root of the person's problems.

"You're often talking about split-second decisions here," Cpl. Gillis said.

Still, 24 seconds seems like an awfully short time to assess a person's state of mind. But Cpl. Gillis said an officer is also trained to ascertain quickly whether a person is "oriented" enough to have any kind of conversation.

"And I'm not talking about a language barrier here. You can have a language barrier and still talk to someone," Cpl. Gillis said.

"But you can have a language barrier and have little chance of communicating with the person because they are not oriented for any number of reasons. In that case, talking is not going to help."

As I say, the RCMP will have months, if not a couple of years, to build its defence in this case. But Cpl. Gillis gives us a hint of what's coming.

The public will decide if it washes.

Man who videotaped the death of Robert Dziekanski sues RCMP to release footage

October 30, 2007

VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA - Paul Pritchard, the witness who recorded a video of the death of Robert Dziekanski after being Tasered by police at Vancouver International Airport, is suing the RCMP for return of the video.

Pritchard took "excellent quality" footage of Dziekanski's actions in the minutes before police arrived, the use of the Taser by police, as well as the "incredibly shocking" moment the witnesses realized they had just seen a man die. He continued videotaping even when a security guard told him to stop. Pritchard later hid his camera in his bag, as he was worried someone would confiscate it. "I had just returned from China, so I still felt guarded about the authorities suppressing information."

However, Pritchard agreed to lend his camera and the footage to the RCMP when he was promised they would only take a copy and give everything back to him within 48 hours. Instead, he received a call stating the police were not going to return the footage. "I'm upset they've gone back on their word and are trying to keep my video from coming out."

Victoria lawyer Paul Pearson of Mulligan Tam Pearson agreed to help Pritchard get his footage back. Pearson filed a lawsuit in British Columbia Supreme Court on Thursday, and plans to apply for a judge's order to return the video before the end of the week.

"When I saw Mr. Dziekanski's mother crying on television, I knew I had to get that video back and make sure the public gets an accurate picture of how this happened," Pritchard stated. He plans to release the full video to the media when he gets it back.

Pritchard had been working as an ESL teacher in China. He says he took great pride in telling his adult students about the rights and freedoms Canadians enjoy. "It's too bad that so soon after coming back to Canada I've been made to feel like I may have been overstating those rights."

UPDATE: Cpl. Dale Carr of the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team says the evidence is vital to the investigation, and making it public could compromise evidence still be to gathered from other witnesses. He says the police will hold on to the video as long as necessary, and all the evidence will eventually be forwarded to the B.C. Coroners Service, adding that the truth will come out.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Taser time on America's public lands

October 29, 2007
Bill Berkowitz, Media Transparency

When the United States Forestry Service announced in September that they would be adding tasers to their toy boxes, I wondered: Are they going to be used on happy campers? Innocent wildlife? Or perhaps the plan is to use the tasers to control children in the US Forest Service's newly announced "More Kids in the Woods" project?

Seems I'm not alone in thinking that America's forests are a very strange place for 700 tasers. This reporter has similar concerns:

"Is the Forest Service expecting an influx of anti-war protesters? Will the tasers be used against environmentalists protesting excessive logging? Are the animals in the wild in for some stunning surprises? "The Forest Service will likely justify this order by saying that the forests are a dangerous place filled with marijuana growers, meth lab workers and illegal aliens," Scott Silver, the executive director of Wild Wilderness, an Oregon-based grassroots environmental organization, said in an e-mail interview. "I'd say that the Forest Service is simply looking to further build up its police capabilities and to be better positioned to act violently, albeit non-lethally, when it feels justified in so doing," Silver pointed out."

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Robert Dziekanski had no drugs or alcohol in his system

October 27, 2007
PATRICK BRETHOUR, The Globe and Mail

VANCOUVER -- Robert Dziekanski had no alcohol or drugs in his system when he died after being tasered by police at Vancouver International Airport, his family's lawyer says.

Mr. Dziekanski was acting erratically after being delayed more than 10 hours at the Vancouver airport - it still is not clear why - with police saying he was yelling, sweating profusely, behaving irrationally, throwing chairs, tipping his luggage cart over, and pounding on windows.

But toxicology tests on samples taken from Mr. Dziekanski's remains were negative, said lawyer Walter Kosteckyj. British Columbia's Coroner Service provided those results to the family, but is not making them public. The RCMP is not releasing the information either, saying it does not want to impede its investigation.

A preliminary autopsy did not uncover any anatomical cause of death, either trauma or disease, meaning there is no clear medical picture of why Mr. Dziekanski stopped breathing and died within a few minutes of being repeatedly tasered in the early morning hours of Oct. 14.

The RCMP say he was tasered twice, but a witness has said she saw police use tasers four times.

Police have said that three officers attempted to speak to Mr. Dziekanski, but that he ignored them and attempted to grab an item off a desk. However, Mr. Kosteckyj said on Thursday that police waited just 24 seconds before tasering the 40-year-old man, and that he did not appear to pose a danger to anybody.

The police have said that Mr. Dziekanski continued to struggle after being tasered, but Mr. Kosteckyj questioned that assertion yesterday, saying his muscles may have been contracting as a result of the taser blasts.

Resolving that discrepancy, along with the number of taser blasts, could prove to be pivotal. According to Dr. John Butt, a pathologist and former chief coroner for Nova Scotia, repeated taser shocks could exhaust a person's chest muscles and cause him or her to stop breathing.

That exhaustion, formally termed tetany, is not detectible at autopsy, he said. But if Mr. Dziekanski continued to struggle after being tasered, it is not likely that the shocks triggered tetany, Dr. Butt said.

But Mr. Kosteckyj said the notion that Mr. Dziekanski died from muscle exhaustion brought on by repeated taser strikes "makes perfect sense."

RCMP guidelines for the use of tasers allow multiple strikes. Only about one in five taser strikes connect properly with a target subject, RCMP Corporal Greg Gillis said. Multiple strikes increase the chances of subduing a person, he said.

Jeff Dolan, B.C.'s assistant deputy chief coroner, said a full coroner's report will not be ready for a considerable time, likely weeks.

CTV News reported on Thursday that, based on emergency radio logs, police arrived at the scene at 1:28 a.m. and two minutes later, it was reported that a "male has been tasered."

The radio log does not say when police approached Mr. Dziekanski. But it does indicate that he was down two minutes after they arrived, and that he lost consciousness two minutes after that.

CTV reported there was a 12-minute delay before medical help arrived.

Mr. Kosteckyj said it appears likely that Mr. Dziekanski's family will sue, although it is not clear who will be the target of any lawsuit. "I'm sure there's going to be more than one defendant."

Friday, October 26, 2007

Questions hang over taser death

October 26, 2007

VANCOUVER — Dazed and confused after more than 15 hours of travel, unable to communicate in English and scared because he couldn't find his mother, Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski was jolted by a taser just 24 seconds after being confronted by police in Vancouver International Airport.

That allegation was made Thursday by a lawyer for Mr. Dziekanski's family who says video evidence will show that the RCMP took him down with a taser jolt moments after approaching him.

"I've been in touch with witnesses. I have viewed a video, which was taken by a bystander, which is not going to be released until at least the time of the inquest. From my observation, the interaction between the police and this individual, who didn't appear to me to be posing a danger to anybody at the time … was 24 seconds, roughly, before he was tasered," Walter Kosteckyj said, adding the airport surveillance videos also won't likely be released until an inquest is held.

A CTV News report Thursday night, based on emergency radio logs, shows police arrived at the scene at 1:28 a.m. and, two minutes later, it was reported a "male has been tasered."

The radio log does not indicate when police first approached Mr. Dziekanski, just that he was down two minutes after they arrived — and that by 1:32 he had lost consciousness.

CTV reported there was a 12-minute delay before medical help arrived. Mr. Dziekanski died shortly after being tasered — only 10 hours after arriving in the country that was to be his new home.

Asked to describe what he saw on the video, Mr. Kosteckyj replied: "I would describe it as something that will be shown to police academies around North America as not the way to intervene in this kind of situation."

Police have described a much more measured response in which officers gave a wildly agitated Mr. Dziekanski two jolts from a taser just to subdue him long enough to put handcuffs on him. The RCMP say they too have videos, but they can't be released because an investigation is under way.

Mr. Dziekanski died not far from dramatic Coast Salish totemic "welcome figures" that had greeted him at the entrance to the Arrivals Hall several hours earlier.

Mr. Kosteckyj described how a journey to a new life devolved into a nightmarish scenario, in which Mr. Dziekanski was left wandering helpless and alone in a busy airport while his mother, Zofia Cisowski, was searching for him nearby.

The waiting mother and increasingly frantic son were separated by glass walls and what appears to be impenetrable airport bureaucracy that somehow failed to help them connect.

"Unbelievably, these people were probably no more than 150 to 200 feet apart for at least five hours, and she was unable to get any message to him. And no one on the other side [of the glass walls] thought to interview him or come outside or vice versa," Mr. Kosteckyj said.

He said he could not explain why no one was able to come to the assistance of Mr. Dziekanski in an airport that handles 17 million visitors a year.

"For all the high-tech stuff they have at the airport, and all the security they have, somehow a guy can sit or be in that baggage area, that immigration area, for a period of nine hours … without anyone really taking much notice of him — as unbelievable as that sounds," Mr. Kosteckyj said.

He said Mr. Dziekanski's journey to Canada began in Poland about 3 a.m., when he left his home town of Pieszyce to get to an airport for his first airplane flight. The 40-year-old construction worker, who had never left Poland before, was immigrating to Canada to join his mother, 61, who lives in Kamloops, about a five-hour drive from Vancouver.

They had arranged to meet at the baggage carousel in the international terminal at YVR. What neither of them seemed to know, however, was that the baggage area is inside a secure area just past Canada Customs and Immigration. There is no line of sight into the Arrivals Hall from the public waiting area, except for a short distance through sliding glass doors.

Mr. Dziekanski arrived at about 3 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 14.

"He made his way to primary customs in the ordinary fashion … he went through there in the normal time frame … he then proceeded through and was directed to secondary customs, which is normal for someone who doesn't speak English and is immigrating to the country," Mr. Kosteckyj said. His papers were in order and he proceeded without difficulty.

But what happened after that was far from normal. For nearly 10 hours, Mr. Dziekanski stayed in the Arrivals Hall, growing increasingly frustrated and eventually becoming frantic.

Outside, in the public area, his mother spent nearly six hours pacing the corridors and, in broken English, asking airport officials for help in locating her son.

Mr. Kosteckyj said she visited one booth in international arrivals "at least three to four times and conveyed to them that she was concerned about her son being in the area and she wanted to get a message to him and how could she do that? They wrote her name down and said that they would make inquiries."

At about 10 p.m., she was told he wasn't there. She made the long drive home, only to find a phone message waiting, saying her son had been found.

"She called back to immigration when she got in, which would have been around 2 a.m., and spoke to someone there and was advised that her son was somewhere in the area and was fine. And she advised, you know, 'Please take care of him because he can't speak English and I'll get there as soon as I can.' And of course he had died, been killed really, some time on or about 1 or 1:30," Mr. Kosteckyj said.

At a news conference, Ms. Cisowski said she had dreamed of opening a small business in Kamloops with her son. "I've lost my only family," she said. "I studied English during the day and at night I saved money to get my son to Canada."

Mr. Dziekanski arrived with three bags, two of which were filled with geography books.

Could paranoid rage be the real killer?

October 26, 2007

Incoherent and violent, a person in a state of 'excited delirium' is likely to suffer cardiac arrest, doctors suggest

The man was seen wandering the airport terminal, shouting and acting out aggressively. Several police officers arrived at the scene to arrest him, but struggled to subdue him.

Shortly after being handcuffed, the man stopped breathing, and never recovered.

Robert Dziekanski suffered that short and sad series of events earlier this month at Vancouver International Airport, dying minutes after the RCMP stunned him with taser guns before handcuffing him.

Stéphane Michaud met a similar fate in Ottawa International Airport two years ago, dying minutes after being taken down by Ottawa police officers.

Two men at two airports. Two sudden and troubling deaths. And one big difference: Police did not use a taser on Mr. Michaud - emergency medical personnel sedated him just before he died.

These deaths, and two others in Quebec in recent weeks after police used tasers, have sparked renewed controversy over police use of the nominally non-lethal devices, which use a brief surge of electricity to disable and subdue a person. For some, the mounting toll - 18 deaths in custody involving tasers since the devices were introduced earlier this decade - is a simple equation. If someone dies shortly after being tasered, the device killed them.

But some physicians and coroners say a heart attack induced by electrical shock should be nearly instantaneous, not come minutes or hours later. "If it's more than two seconds, he didn't die from the taser," said David Evans, Ontario's regional supervising coroner for investigations.

Most people who are tasered don't have long-lasting ill effects, according to the limited body of statistics. And then there is the seeming paradox of people such as Mr. Michaud, whose death in custody resembles that of a taser victim, except that he wasn't shocked.

The common denominator, according to a controversial theory, may be something called "excited delirium," a bundle of symptoms that describes someone in the grip of a paranoid rage. Incoherent and violent, a person with excited delirium is also likely to be sweating profusely - and to like smashing glass. Often, cocaine or crystal meth is a trigger, although mental illness or alcohol withdrawal can also precipitate it.

All too often, such an episode ends with a lapse into a tranquil state, and cardiac arrest.

Mr. Dziekanski and Mr. Michaud fit that profile to a large degree, although there is no indication that either took illicit drugs or were mentally ill. A witness to Mr. Dziekanski's arrest has said he smelled of alcohol. For both men, autopsies did not reveal any anatomical cause of death.

Two recent deaths in Quebec in less than a month after the use of a stun gun have the Quebec government scrambling for answers. On Sept. 18, Quebec City police used a taser gun to subdue Claudio Castagnetta, an Italian immigrant who died two days later allegedly from self-inflicted wounds after banging his head while in custody. Mr. Castagnetta appeared disoriented and confused when he entered a convenience store barefoot. When police arrived, he refused to leave.

Witnesses said Mr. Castagnetta, 32, resisted attempts to handcuff him and was shot several times with a stun gun. His friends and family insisted that he never took drugs.

Mr. Castagnetta's father insisted that Claudio suffered no mental illness. However, Claudio's lawyer said her client described himself as bipolar.

The provincial police opened an investigation last week into the death of Quilem Registre in Montreal. Officers said they stopped him for driving erratically, and were forced to use the stun gun when Mr. Registre, who was apparently heavily intoxicated, became aggressive.

Earlier this week, a task force set up by the Quebec ministry of public security rejected calls for a moratorium on the use of tasers. One member of the task force warned it is risky to use the devices on the mentally ill. René Blais of the Quebec Poison Control Centre said such people fight after receiving an electric shock, driving up their body temperature and their need for oxygen. The physical reaction can be deadly, he warned, but tasers are not the direct cause.

Christine Hall, a researcher and an emergency-room physician in Victoria, says neither science nor statistics back up the contention that tasers are lethal. Even the older versions of the weapon deliver a relatively small jolt, about 1 per cent of that flowing from a defibrillator, far short of the current required to induce cardiac arrest.

No link has ever been established in Canada between the use of the devices and a death in custody, she notes. The 16 cases she has studied involved individuals who were agitated and destructive. Other studies have shown most taser uses don't cause even minor injury.

Proving that will require more than a patchwork of statistics. For the moment, there is no database on sudden in-custody deaths, and no national database for taser use, largely because many police forces do not record when they use the devices, as they do when officers use firearms. Ontario police officers fill out a use-of-force report when they use tasers, but Dr. Hall says she knows of only two forces in the province, London and Waterloo, that have compiled statistics.

Eight police forces in Quebec use the taser, yet no provincewide protocol exists on how it should be used and what type of medical attention is required afterward. Police forces in Montreal and Gatineau administer immediate medical aid, but other jurisdictions do not.

Dr. Hall is preparing to launch a study of sudden in-custody deaths in four cities, including Victoria and Calgary, to find patterns that would explain the causes of excited delirium.

Excited delirium

Common behaviours of people in this state include:

Unbelievable strength and endurance

Imperviousness to pain

Ability to resist several police officers

Hyperthermia, or elevated body temperature

Heavy sweating

Bizarre and violent behaviour

Aggression and hyperactivity

Extreme paranoia

Incoherent shouting

Source: British Columbia Police Complaints Commission


50,000 volts at .oo4 amps elevates blood pressure and heart rate and can, some say, be a factor in cardiac arrest.

How Tasers work:

1. The shot

Tasers fire two electrodes at the ends of long conductive wires attached to the gun's electrical circuit.

2. The hit

The electrodes have small barbs so that they will grab onto an attacker's clothing. When the electrodes are attached, the electrical pulses will try to move from one to the other, affecting the attacker's electrical nervous system.

3. Inside the body

The current mimics/interferes with the body's own electrical signals.

Electrical signals tell the nerve cells to release a communication chemical to muscle cells all over the body.

4. Shutdown

The current will tell the attacker's muscles to do a great deal of work in a short amount of time, temporarily impairing the subject's ability to control his own body.

BC Police Complaints Commissioner announces probe into Victoria's police chief

October 26, 2007

VICTORIA - B.C.'s police complaints commissioner ordered the Mounties Friday to conduct an investigation into undisclosed matters concerning Victoria Police Chief Paul Battershill, who was placed on administrative leave by Victoria's police board earlier this month. Dirk Ryneveld said the RCMP will conduct the Battershill investigation under the Police Act.

A news release issued by Ryneveld's office did not say what allegations the RCMP will be investigating. Ryneveld said in a statement he will have little to say on the Battershill matter and he expected others connected to the probe to not make public statements.

"In order to preserve the integrity of the investigation, no public comment beyond this statement will be made by my office regarding this matter. For the same purpose, the RCMP, the mayor of the city of Victoria, the Victoria police board and the Victoria police department have been asked to refrain from any public comment," said Ryneveld's statement.

Victoria Mayor Alan Lowe said earlier Battershill was placed on paid administrative leave after a sensitive legal document was leaked to the media.

Victoria lawyer David Mulroney said he wrote a letter to the law firm that represents the Victoria Police Department suggesting possible areas of conflict of interest surrounding the police chief and his knowledge of freedom of information requests involving himself. Mulroney said he represents a client who filed several Freedom of Information requests that name Battershill, who is highly regarded in policing circles. Mulroney said he received a package of information from the Freedom of Information office Friday afternoon, but he had yet to receive permission from his client to make the information public. He said he found Ryneveld's announcement of the Battershill probe puzzling because it didn't say what was being investigated.

"They're saying who they're investigating," Mulroney said Friday. "But surely there must be a subject matter." He said it seemed likely that the FOI request by Mulroney's unnamed client had something to do with the investigation by the RCMP. The FOI requests target four areas, including the Victoria police department's dismissals without cause, suspensions with pay, expense accounts and employment contracts involving pay equity.

Documents reveal two separate Freedom of Information requests were made last month.
On Sept. 14, a request by Mulroney asked for the name, rank, gender, salary, benefits and reports of all employment-related expenses of senior personnel at the Victoria Police Department. The senior personnel were identified as the chief, executive assistant to the chief, deputy chief, all inspectors and all personnel in roles as acting deputy chief and acting inspectors. The request also asked for records of expense accounts, including credit cards, relating to the chief of police dating from 2004 until Sept. 14, 2007.

The second request filed Sept. 20 asked for all records of any civilian and regular personnel dismissed without cause from the Victoria Police Department since 2004, or those entitled to severance. The request also asked for all expenses and accounts relating to the Taser Technology Review and its preliminary recommendations in September 2004.

It also asked for all expenses and accounts relating to the investigation of Const. Lisa Alford of the West Vancouver Police Department on behalf of the B.C. Police Complaints Commissioner. Battershill was appointed to review alcohol-related concerns involving Alford and the West Vancouver Police Department.

Battershill, appointed Victoria chief in 1999, carries an exemplary record as a solid beat cop in the Vancouver Police Department for more than 20 years.

Timeline of events the night Robert Dziekanski died

CTV British Columbia has obtained an airport log that shows a four-minute lag between when Dziekanski lost consciousness and when B.C. ambulance crew members were called, and an almost 15-minute gap between the time he passed out after being tasered, and when the ambulance crew arrived on the scene.

Here is the timeline of events of Oct. 14:

1:21 a.m. -- Vancouver International Airport calls the RCMP, reporting a 50-year-old male is throwing suitcases and appears to be intoxicated.

1:26 -- The passenger has now thrown a chair through a window.

1:27 -- Two security guards show up. One minute later, the RCMP arrives.

1:30 - A male has been tasered and is unconscious but breathing. Ambulance is called.

1:31 -- Security guards help restrain the man, who is now described as a suspect.

1:32 -- The log reports that Dziekanski has lost consciousness.

1:36 - A Code 3 is issued to paramedics, indicating someone is unconscious.

1:44 - Paramedics arrive, 12 minutes after Dziekanski, 40, first slipped into unconsciousness.

Sources told CTV B.C. that a Code 3 call should have been issued to paramedics immediately after the individual became unconscious. However, it wasn't until four minutes later that the Code 3 went out. It also reports that an on-site emergency responder had told the team at the airport to hold off on immediately upgrading the status of the call.

John Butt, a former coroner who is an expert on Taser deaths, told CTV News in Vancouver on Friday that he is concerned about how quickly the RCMP used the Taser stun gun. According to CTV News in Vancouver, police used a Taser on Dziekanski 24 seconds after they arrived. "I don't know the situation directly, but it obviously requires a degree of assessment," Butt said. "If police had confined the man (in a secure area away from the public), the 24 seconds seems a very, very small period of time." Butt said he was also concerned about the 12-minute lag between when Dziekanski slipped into unconsciousness and when the first ambulance arrived. "I don't know the protocols for the Vancouver airport and I don't think I'm misspeaking myself by saying that's quite a long time," he said.

Tasers subject of talk

October 26, 2007

Guelph Union of Tenants and Supporters (GUTS) are calling for a complete ban of Tasers by city police officers.

Recently Guelph Police Chief Rob Davis expressed a desire to outfit every front-line officer with a stun gun.

Currently, only tactical unit officers and front-line supervisors carry Tasers. However, individuals from the anti-poverty organization said the money would be better spent on city social services.

GUTS organizers are gathering Nov. 3 at Norfolk United Church at 1 p.m. to speak about the impacts of Tasers. They will be joined by a speaker from Amnesty International, which is also calling for a ban on stun guns.

There've been far too many deaths after the use of stun guns, said GUTS organizer Curtis Snoba.

Last week a man who was acting erratically at Vancouver International Airport died after police used a Taser on him, Snoba said. A Quebec man also died recently following the zap of a stun gun, which was used because the intoxicated man became aggressive during questioning, he said.

Some health experts, Snoba said, have questions whether it's safe to use stun guns on a subject who is intoxicated or under the influence of drugs.

In July, a Guelph man was stunned by police because he was acting irrationally and was suspected of being intoxicated, Snoba said.

"What we think is ridiculous is that they would Taser a man who they knew was already drunk."

Under the Guelph Police Service's Use of Force model, police officers are allowed to use Tasers on subjects that are assaultive to police officers, Snoba said.

But he doesn't believe Guelph Police officers are using their Tasers in appropriate situations.

Deputy police chief Brent Eden said police officers are authorized by law to use Tasers and every officer assesses the situation before determining whether employing a Taser is appropriate.

Under the Use of Force model, some situations where officers can deploy a Taser are to prevent being overpowered when violently attacked, disarm a dangerous person armed with an offensive weapon and control a potentially violent situation.

Eden said Tasers are used as an alternate use of other force.

"If there's a situation where you can use a Taser to render someone unable to fight . . . by far that choice will be preferable to shooting somebody," he said.

At GUTS' gathering next Saturday, participants will brainstorm on ways to keep Tasers out of Guelph, Snoba said.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

EDITORIAL: Time to recognize the risks of tasers

October 23, 2007
Globe and Mail

If Canadian police officers had fired a revolver at Robert Dziekanski at the Vancouver airport and at Quilem Registre on the streets of Montreal, and killed them, people would have been outraged. After all, while each man may have been out of control, neither one posed a serious danger to anybody. But when police used a taser, not a regular gun, and both men died, the outrage was muted because of a belief, repeated again yesterday by Robert Lafrenière, Quebec's deputy public security minister, that tasers do not kill.

But they do. Here is one way: The person shot develops tetany, a physiological condition of muscular exhaustion. It can lead to death by respiratory paralysis, John Butt, a forensic pathologist in British Columbia who does private consulting in Canada and the United States, explained in an interview yesterday.

Dr. Butt is not opposed to taser use, within limits. When he served on a committee of the B.C. Police Complaints Commission that examined taser use two years ago, the committee urged that jolts from the stun gun not be given too quickly in succession because rapid use might contribute to tetany. Mr. Dziekanski was shot twice, say the RCMP (four times, says an independent witness). In Montreal, officers jolted Mr. Registre an unknown number of times (his sister says six times). Of the six Canadians who died in 2005 and 2006 after being shot by police tasers, all were shot more than once, according to Amnesty International Canada.

The death of the Polish-speaking Mr. Dziekanski was horrifying and seemingly avoidable. He had reportedly travelled five hours on a bus in Poland and 13 hours on a plane, and then been held at Canadian customs and immigration for some hours. He couldn't find his mother, who had waited 10 hours for him in vain. He was lost and no one understood him. He began shouting and throwing computers. The mind boggles that humanity is smart enough to invent the taser but unable to think up a way to intervene in this fraught situation without killing the man.

There's a bit of semantics at play, too. Police in Canada say tasers do not directly cause death. The question should be, however, whether a taser used (often more than once) on a person in a state of delirium, and followed up by severe restraint, may cause death. The answer is that, in just 4½ years, 17 people who were tasered in Canada have died. Death might not have come directly, but it came - far too often.

There is also a crucial flaw in the police logic (and the logic of some medical experts) around taser use. The police say when someone is in a wild, irrational state of delirium, he might die even when not tasered. What they mean is that (apart from the occasional death from the delirium itself) the death occurs after a neck restraint, hog-tying or asphyxia caused when police officers put their knees on the person's chest. The police defend tasers by arguing that they are no more dangerous than other restraints. But does that mean tasers are safe? Of course not.

Would Mr. Dziekanski have died if he had not been tasered? (An autopsy did not reveal why he died; further tests are scheduled.) How about the other 16 over the past 4½ years? Any doubt should weigh heavily against taser use in all but those situations where it is an alternative to lethal force, such as firearms. Until we know the answer, police need much stricter limits on taser use. It should be a last-resort alternative to deadly force.

Tasers beat being shot

October 24, 2007

Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police

Letter to the Editor, Globe and Mail:

Toronto -- In Ontario, every time an officer uses force in the course of his or her duty, including the use of a taser, the officer must file a detailed "Use of Force" report with the supervisor. All officers who are trained to use tasers - and currently in Ontario, only front-line supervisors and members of tactical teams are allowed to use these less-lethal weapons - must undergo extensive training at the Ontario Police College; training that is approved by Ontario's Ministry of the Community Safety and Correctional Services.

Tasers and the killing of Quilem Registre

October 24, 2007
Dan Delmar, The Suburban (St. Laurent, Quebec)

Two deaths in the past week at the hands of Canadian police forces are highlighting the dangers of taser use.

Quilem Registre, 38, died at Sacré-Coeur Hospital early Thursday after being electrocuted as many as six times by Montreal police officers who were trying to subdue him. He was stopped for suspicion of driving under the influence after smashing into three parked cars in St. Michel. A spokesperson for the coroner’s office later confirmed Registre had cocaine in his system.

“It’s as if he was hit by lightning,” a member of the Registre family told the press last week.

Sixteen people have died after being tasered in Canada since 2003; more than 150 in the U.S. since 2001. A Polish immigrant who witnesses said was drunk died within minutes of being zapped by Vancouver police last week as well.

The deaths in both Canada and the U.S. were immediately followed with reassurance from police and Taser International, the weapon’s manufacturer, that they are a safe alternative to deadly force. There haven’t been any deaths attributed directly to taser use as of yet.

“We’re 59-0 in court. That’s a great record because we can get rid of the junk science in a courtroom setting,” said Steve Tuttle, the vice-president of Taser International. “It’s the safer alternative compared to a baton, canine bite, beanbag round or even kicking someone to the ground with a tackle.”

But “all the evidence is not in,” said Dr. Corey Slovis, chairman of the Department of Emergency Medicine at Tennessee’s Vanderbilt University Medical Centre. “Anyone who is completely sure about the safety of tasers is being intellectually dishonest.”

Slovis sent The Suburban extensive research that shows less than one percent of suspects tasered suffer significant injuries. But American police officers whose actions on which the results are based delivered, on average, one or two 50,000-volt shocks to each suspect, compared to the six Registre reportedly suffered at the hands of Montreal police.

“The more discharges that occur, the more likely of an adverse outcome,” Slovis said. “And when you look at taser deaths from excited delirium, often cocaine, alcohol and other drugs are involved.”

“Excited delirium” is not a medical condition, but rather a term police typically use to describe suspects who are hopped up on stimulants and out of control. Registre would have fallen into that category, as would Robert Bagnell, Roman Andreichikov and Clayton Alvin Willey, to name a few. They are all Canadians who have died in the last five years after snorting cocaine and subsequently being tasered by police.

Slovis points to a recent study that tested the weapons on 13 pigs and found that their heart rates soared to 300 beats per minute. All were found to later have cardiac arrhythmia and one died. Since cocaine and some other drugs also cause a person’s heart rate to skyrocket, it’s possible, Slovis says, that the combination could be lethal for some and more research on a possible link is needed.

“Tasers are safe when used appropriately, but when you use them there is an inherent danger that you have to be prepared for,” Slovis said. “We make sure that we have emergency responders available as soon as someone is tased. We make sure that if we see someone with excited delirium, that we treat them as a suspect under arrest, but also a patient who needs medical care.”

Instead of reaching for the taser immediately when dealing with suspects high on stimulants, Slovis suggests officers wait for backup and swarm the person once enough officers and first responders are on site. They can then restrain and medically sedate suspects with tranquilizers like Atavan and safely take them into custody.

With more evidence suggesting the weapons are not as flawless as they are made out to be, heavy-handed police officers may have to revert to pre-taser conflict resolution tactics, like dialogue and negotiation.

University of Florida student Andrew Meyer, presumably clean and sober, was recently zapped by police after he asked Senator John Kerry a couple of tough questions about the 2004 election at a school conference. The entire incident was filmed and Meyer became a celebrity on YouTube, a video-sharing website.

The death of public discourse at one school campus, however, pales in comparison to the death of a loved one. Registre’s family is taking Montreal police to court. After his death, the Quebec chapter of Amnesty International also called for the complete banning of taser guns. The Sûreté du Québec has taken over the investigation and is not commenting on the case.

The use of taser guns is being reviewed by both the RCMP and the Ministère de la Sécurité Publique, who commissioned an expert panel that concluded an outright ban was unnecessary. On Monday, they convened the media at the Police Academy in Nicolet where a demonstration of the taser was carried out in front of cameras. In similar demonstrations shown on television newscasts across North America, the volunteers being tasered were seemingly healthy and certainly not under the influence of stimulants like cocaine, nor were they in an agitated state — a far cry from many of the suspects on whom the weapon will actually be used.

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."

Brockville (Ontario) police not planning review of the use of tasers

October 24, 2007
MICHAEL JIGGINS, Brockville Recorder & Times

The chairman of Brockville's police services board said Monday he hasn't seen any evidence to have him calling for a review of the use of Tasers by city police. "From our standpoint when we made the decision we reviewed carefully the facts for and against it," said King Yee Jr. "We looked at it as being in our best interest as a police service to use the Tasers and I don't see that changing." Yee's comments come after Amnesty International last week called for Canadian police forces to suspend use of Tasers out of fears for public safety.

Within the past month, three people have died in Canada after they were tasered and Amnesty said that number totals 18 since 2001. Brockville Police Chief John Manoll was also standing by the weapon, which was approved for use here by the police board in September 2005. "Are we reviewing our use of Tasers? No, we believe them to be safe," said Manoll. Like any police policy, Manoll noted use-of-force guidelines including those involving Tasers are reviewed annually by the department. "But in light of these three incidents we're not going to conduct a special review at this time - unless it's called for by the scientific community," he said. The chief said while some have attempted to link deaths like those recently to the Taser, subsequent coroner's inquests have cited other causes of death. "All of the deaths that I'm aware of that have resulted after the use of a Taser, usually the individual is under an overdose of drugs," noted Manoll.

The city force is equipped with 14 Tasers, which fire a pronged wire and incapacitate a person by delivering a jolt of 50,000 volts. Under provincial regulations, frontline constables cannot carry the weapons - they are only issued to supervisors on each platoon and to the department's nine-member emergency containment team. The supervisor at the Brockville courthouse is also equipped with a Taser, said Manoll. All officers authorized to carry a Taser must pass a certification that's reviewed annually and have been tasered themselves by a fellow officer. In their first full year of deployment in 2006, Tasers were used or drawn 22 times in Brockville incidents. To date this year, Manoll said the weapons have been drawn 18 times and used five times. The chief said there have been no cases in Brockville of serious injury stemming from their use. "It's another option to the use of a handgun," he explained, adding, "If a handgun is used, there are going to be casualties."

OPP in Leeds and Grenville are also equipped with Tasers, following the same provincial guidelines as city police. Sergeant Randy Peacock said rather than suspending their use, provincial police are reviewing the possibility of expanding their deployment. Given that the force covers such a wide area of the province, he said it's not always practical to wait for a supervisor to arrive on scene. "We would like to see more Tasers deployed across the province," said Peacock, the OPP's provincial training co-ordinator who is stationed at their headquarters in Orillia. Peacock echoed Manoll's comments regarding the effectiveness of the weapon. "Our members are having a great deal of success utilizing Tasers," he said. Asked how he defines "success," Peacock responded, "We've been able to use an intermediate weapon when the other suitable selected option might have been a lot more fatal."

As to deaths from those suffering an overdose or in a state of what's known as "excited delirium" after being tasered, he said the underlying medical emergency is the factor. "When somebody says Tasers are causing death, I don't believe - nor does the coroner - that that is the case," said Peacock. He pointed out OPP try, whenever possible, to mitigate the possible consequences of using a Taser by having medical attention on standby if they know they are responding to a scene where an overdose has someone in an agitated state. "We would call an ambulance en route to calls," said Peacock.

Meanwhile, Manoll had this advice to eliminate the risk entirely: "A surefire way to never be tasered is to behave yourself and comply with an officer's request."

Tasers on order in Saskatchewan

October 24, 2007

Saskatchewan municipal police services are now allowed to use taser guns or, conducted energy devices. A CED is a hand-held device used at close range to control people. The taser gun produces an electrical charge that temporarily subdues the subject.

Moose Jaw Police Chief Terry Coleman has mixed feelings about the device. "Tasers have been quite controversial. Research will tell us...will tell you that there have no deaths due to taser but, there certainly have been some deaths after a taser has been used," said Chief Coleman.

"You know, if you look back at what our officers used to be, you either hit somebody with your baton...or you fired your handgun and, invariably, somebody would be seriously injured or very likely die once they've been shot with a handgun or...a shotgun and a similar thing would happen," the Chief continued.

"These less-than-lethal use of force options that we have now...they're really kind of a symptom of the fact that we no longer have big men as police officers. I'm not suggesting that we go back to that criteria but, it has been an interesting evolution of the staffing of police organizations and a need to acquire alternative means of resolving violent situations," the Chief added.

The Chief says the Moose Jaw Police Service does have some taser guns on order and they will be adding them to their arsenal in the near future.

Inquest to be held into death of man tasered by RCMP at Vancouver airport

October 24, 2007
The Canadian Press

VANCOUVER - A coroner's inquest will be held into the death of a Polish immigrant after being Tasered by RCMP at Vancouver International Airport. Jeff Dolan, B.C.'s assistant deputy chief coroner, says inquests are automatic when in-custody deaths are involved but no date has yet been set for the inquest.

Dolan said officials of the B.C. Coroner's Service met Tuesday with Zofia Cisowski of Kamloops, B.C., the grieving mother of Robert Dziekanski who worked two jobs for seven years to save up money for son to join her in Canada. "The purpose of the meeting was to ensure that the family is aware of what the role of the coroner is, the fact that it's an independent, fact-finding investigation," he said. "And what they can expect as the investigation progresses (and) they ultimately go to inquest."

The 40-year-old man died Oct. 14 after being zapped by a Taser wielded by police officers trying to subdue him. A preliminary autopsy report showed there were no signs of trauma, disease or any other obvious cause of death, and officials are waiting for results of toxicology and other tests.

Cisowski said Monday that RCMP have not told her any details about her son's death. A spokesman said they have tried to contact her but have only been in touch with her lawyer. Dolan said representatives of the coroner's office had met with the mother in the past but Tuesday's meeting was "an opportunity for her to sit down with the coroner of jurisdiction."

They were unable to tell the woman how her son died but because "she is the legal next of kin, she will be provided with any information" the coroner's office receives, he said. RCMP said Dziekanski was acting aggressively and out of control when police arrived. They said he was yelling, throwing things, banging on the windows and sweating heavily. A witness said police used the Taser on the man four times but police said the weapon's log shows only two jolts were used.

Cisowski has been been getting support from members of the Polish community who driving her back and forth between Kamloops and Vancouver for the meetings.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Coquitlam (British Columbia) father says he is latest victim of police Taser

October 23, 2007
CBC News

A Coquitlam, B.C., man says he is the latest victim of a Taser gun, the controversial electro-shock weapon that police can use to subdue people they are trying to arrest. Colin Hawkins said he was picking up his 17-year-old son from a rowdy neighbourhood party Friday night when an RCMP officer used a Taser on him after he had been wrestled to the ground. Three days later, the wound on Hawkins' leg has started to heal, but he is still in shock.

In an interview with CBC, Hawkins said Coquitlam RCMP used a Taser on him after he yelled at police who were arresting his son. He and his wife and daughter were returning from a hockey game at the time of the alleged incident. Hawkins said he got out of the car and started screaming at police. After being handcuffed and tossed to the ground, Hawkins said he was told that police would use a Taser if he didn't "stay."

"Within seconds of that, I was Tasered,'' he said

Hawkins said that while he was being dragged down the street, he tried to explain that he was trying to pick up his son from the party. "Tasering someone when they're down in handcuffs is wrong,'' said Hawkins' wife, Tira, who also spoke to CBC.

Hawkins said he was taken to the police station but released without being charged. He said he plans to file a complaint about the incident, which comes only one week after two Taser deaths in Canada. A Polish man in his 40s died at Vancouver International Airport when RCMP jolted him with a Taser last week, and a 38-year-old Quebec man died last Wednesday after police Tasered him during an interrogation at a police station.

A spokesperson for Coquitlam RCMP declined to comment late Monday. She said police are reviewing the file.

Task force rejects call to stop using tasers in Quebec

October 23, 2007
RHÉAL SÉGUIN, The Globe and Mail

QUEBEC CITY -- A Quebec government task force rejected calls for a moratorium on the taser gun despite two recent deaths in the province and one in B.C. following use of the weapon. The task force has been at work since last spring, but three recent incidents have injected a sense of urgency to complete its report.

On Oct. 17, days after his arrest in which a taser was used, Montreal resident Quilem Registre died after going into cardiac arrest five times, his sister said. A Quebec City man, Claudio Castagnetta, died Sept. 20 from self-inflicted wounds to his head after being zapped at least four times, according to witnesses. On Oct. 14, Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski died minutes after being jolted by a taser at the Vancouver airport.

Victims' lawyers and family members, as well as community activists and Amnesty International, have called for a moratorium on use of the weapon.

Also known as a stun gun, the taser discharges a 50,000-volt electric shock that temporarily paralyzes the muscles. Police and government authorities in Quebec contend it is an effective weapon and dismissed allegations that it has caused 17 deaths in the country in less than five years.

"In no instances has it been shown that the death of someone was related to the use of the taser gun," said Robert Lafrenière, assistant deputy minister for the Ministry of Public Security.

The task force will soon make recommendations defining standards on the use of the taser. The head of the task force, Ronald Bélanger, a Quebec police academy specialist on the use of force, argued that the taser has played a useful role as an alternative weapon when employed by trained police officers.

"The stun gun is used by 240,000 police officers in 43 countries in the world. In some circumstances it has served as an alternative to firearms and has saved lives," Mr. Bélanger said during a news conference yesterday.

Authorities acknowledged, however, there were risks involved in using the stun gun on individuals who suffer from mental illness.

"This situation is more disturbing," René Blais, head of the Quebec Poison Control Centre, who is also member of the task force, said in an interview. "Such individuals don't know what has happened to them after receiving an electric shock. They will remain agitated and strongly resist arrest. Their body temperature goes up, they need more oxygen and the physical reaction can be deadly. The taser's electric shock doesn't provoke the reaction, but rather the physical force used to arrest them."

In Quebec, eight police forces, including the Sûreté du Québec, have used the taser as far back as 2001. Guidelines were introduced last February, but, with the recent deaths, the government is looking to impose a protocol to be followed by all police forces.

For instance, the task force will recommend that police clearly identify individuals who may be at risk from taser use, including people who may be suffering from mental illnesses or showing signs of excited delirium.

It will also call for more restrictive procedures before and during the use of the gun, as well as improved training of officers employing the weapon.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Quebec government committee rejects call for police to stop using tasers

October 22, 2007
The Canadian Press

NICOLET, Que. - A Quebec government committee is rejecting a call for police to stop using Taser guns to subdue suspects.

The committee says Tasers haven't directly caused any deaths in the province. Public Security Department deputy minister Robert Lafreniere says Quebec has clear directives that police should use Tasers sparingly and only if they have had proper training.

Lafreniere told a news conference in Nicolet, Que., that officers shouldn't use Tasers on a suspect's head, neck or genitals and that the stun guns shouldn't be used multiple times on the same person.

The news conference also heard that Tasers are an alternative to police using guns and can save lives.

Two Quebec men and one man in Vancouver have died in recent weeks after police used Taser guns on them.

What's up, Doc? Taser deaths require inquiry

October 22, 2007
Ian Mulgrew, Vancouver Sun

Thank you, Ian Mulgrew - It's about time someone challenged Christine Hall on her flawed and biased "junk science". I've seen the good doctor in action on more than one occasion, including at the inquest into my brother's death. If we leave it up to her and Ontario's deputy chief coroner, Dr. James Cairns - Canada's so-called "experts" on excited delirium - every taser-related death in Canada will be the fault of the deceased.

I recently read this comment online which sums it up nicely: "It's difficult for me to understand the value of claiming a controversial and poorly understood phenomenon - death following Taser electroshock - can be explained away by another controversial and poorly understood phenomenon - "excited delirium".

Emergency room physician Christine Hall thinks focus should be on people who die in custody. I disagree. Two deaths in Canada from Taser incidents last week should have everyone concerned.

But Dr. Christine Hall, a Victoria emergency room physician who considers herself a specialist in such deaths, thinks we're wrong to blame the U.S.-made shock devices.

She says we should be focusing less on the instrument and more on the individuals who have died.

She thinks I'm "hysterical" and my call for an inquiry into the use of Tasers "a diatribe."

In her opinion, it's not the 50,000 volts of canned lightning that stops 'em dead -- it's something else.

Hall points to the similarities displayed by nearly everyone who has succumbed in these situations, which are categorized as "in-custody deaths" -- be they at the hands of prison guards, police or emergency personnel. The victims are all usually sweating, hyper-agitated and unresponsive to their environment and other people.

Today, as Hall says, the authorities try to restrain such people with a Taser and some die. It used to be they used physical restraint and some still died, she maintains -- in-custody deaths are nothing new.

Hall insists most people who die under such circumstances usually are under the influence of cocaine or methamphetamines, which I think is a huge issue.

Some also are suffering from mental health or other physical conditions that are aggravating elements that contribute to their death.

But, like the Polish immigrant killed at Vancouver International Airport last week, too many in my view suffer from nothing that would explain or point to a cause of death aside from the Taser or the restraint procedure.

And that's the problem Hall and law-enforcement agencies seems intent on overlooking.

Hall says she has been involved in these suspicious-death cases since 1999, when she was a senior medical resident in Calgary and dealt with an agitated, suicidal patient who unexpectedly died after being restrained.

Since then, she has wrestled with why these individual die, as well as protocols to deal with them.

She thinks that part of the problem is the research data captures only those who die in custody and that creates for researchers a kind of "publication bias."

"We don't know for instance whether people are dying in crack houses like this," Hall said. "The chemistry in the blood changes too much after death to allow us to determine that."

The phrase "excited delirium" has been used by medical examiners to describe these mysterious in-custody deaths. It sounds better than "we don't know what killed them," but it means pretty much the same. And that's why I think we need an inquiry.

I believe "excited delirium" is little more than bogus jargon.

Hall acknowledges "excited delirium" is not terminology that is particularly useful either for public debate or doctors -- it's not a diagnosis or a cause of death. It's nothing more than a description.

"I understand the criticism, I really do," Hall said. "Colloquial speech is difficult to control and people get up in arms because 'excited delirium' isn't in the CMA handbook."

But she argues that it can be a useful phrase for emergency personnel -- more specific than "running amok," I guess, although it means basically the same thing.

As Hall points out, it's impossible to know what is happening to individuals who are out of control and confronted by authorities because you can't conduct diagnostic tests while someone is in that condition.


She says one researcher believes that people with such symptoms may be suffering from a chemical imbalance that can trigger arrhythmia and cause death.

I think that's a solid thesis and a great reason why police or anyone else should NOT zap such individuals with a Taser. The Taser may not "cause" death, but I suggest the evidence is mounting that it's a contributing factor.

Pathologists can tell if someone has had a heart attack; they cannot detect a death caused by arrhythmia, which may explain why these electrocuted individuals are dying without any identifiable cause.

In her attempt to explain why this isn't so weird as it might appear, Hall points out that there is a mortality rate for those suffering delirium tremens of about 25 per cent. Even with treatment, doctors still see a five per cent mortality rate -- why?

No one really knows.

Hall thinks the cause of death may be similar to what's happening with in-custody deaths they can't explain. The key theories involve the body's metabolism -- maybe these individuals are similar to marathoners who have gone through the wall; their metabolic system becomes so overloaded it collapses.

Hall insists focusing on Tasers as the problem is misguided -- 99 per cent of those who have received a Taser shock experience minimal injury, she said adamantly.

"I understand the concern about the Taser," she said. "We're always concerned when people don't survive. But 10 years ago, it was choke holds and pepper spray we were talking about. People still died. That's what should concern us."

Hall says she believes people are frightened because of the electricity involved and that it distracts us from the real problem.

"We're missing the boat," she said, "and we're scaring people in the process. We need to be wise."

Hall thinks the remarkably similar set of symptoms of in-custody deaths -- hyper-agitation, rapid heart rates, sweating ... that's what we should concentrate on.

"People have been dying in this state for decades, it's not new," Hall said. "Ten years ago, we would be talking about choke holds, now it's Tasers. But why are people dying?"

She thinks we're going to see more of these deaths: "The more people do coke and meth, the more we're going to see this."


The problem is cocaine and meth abuse are not involved. They do not seem to be implicated in the death last week of the Polish immigrant in Vancouver, nor in the case of the 34-year-old London, Ont., man who is recovering after he suffered a heart attack last week when he was Tasered.

Maybe Hall is right and it has nothing to do with the electro-pulse weapon.

But I don't think so.

I say we need an inquiry. Call me hysterical.

Lawyer says taser overused by police

October 22, 2007
KATHY RUMLESKI, London Free Press

A London [Ontario] lawyer isn't surprised to hear a 34-year-old Londoner suffered a heart attack after being tasered by police last week. Ron Ellis said yesterday he warned the province at two cases linking deaths to police tasers that there would be more tragedies. At an inquest in 2005, Ellis represented Cathy Colborne, the wife of Peter Lamonday, who died minutes after London police shocked him with the 50,000-volt taser during a rampage along Hamilton Road in 2004. The inquest found Lamonday's death was a result of a cocaine-induced excited delirium, but Ellis said he told those involved more deaths would result from taser use.

"I said, 'This is not the end. When this happens again, you're going to have to answer to it.' I've told that to several people, the coroners, crown and others."

In the last month, three men have died in Canada after being tasered. Ellis is pushing for an inquest into the July 2004 death of another London client's husband, Jerry Knight, who was tasered multiple times at a Brampton hotel.

Ellis is critical of the provincial coroner's office in the Knight case, saying it has failed to supply him with all the information about the death. "They keep telling me there's a backlog of cases, but that was 2004."

Coroner's office personnel could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Ellis said Knight had a small amount of cocaine in his system when he was tasered. The taser can be fatal if used on someone who is on drugs, has mental-health problems or is diabetic.

"I'm not anti-taser. I think they can be a very effective device, he said. "But they're over-utilized. (Police) are told it's a (quick) device to take people down safety. If the officers knew people could die from it, they wouldn't taser them."

Former NHL player Ryan VandenBussche said yesterday he feels lucky he wasn't seriously injured or killed when he was tasered several times by police at a Turkey Point bar.

"I don't really remember the occurrence, but after watching it on the news I felt very lucky because I was apparently tasered three times. They left marks on me," said VandenBussche, who lives in Vittoria, near Port Dover.

"They are obviously not the safest thing. They might want to do a little more research. You don't want anyone dying."

A constable has filed a lawsuit against VandenBussche, alleging he was assaulted during the incident. VandenBussche said the lawsuit is still outstanding.

Meanwhile the province's Special Investigations Unit continues to probe the circumstances surrounding the tasering of the London man at a residence last Monday.

A family member said Saturday the man -- whose name has not been released -- is recovering well in hospital. An update on his condition could not be obtained yesterday.

Witness's video to help inquiry in taser death

October 22, 2007
IAN BAILEY, Globe and Mail

VANCOUVER -- RCMP say they have a clear video showing a confrontation at Vancouver International Airport in which a Polish immigrant died after he was tasered by Mounties trying to subdue him.

Corporal Dale Carr said the video, voluntarily turned over to police by a man who taped last weekend's incident, will be helpful in their investigation of the altercation, which has spurred debate on the police use of tasers.

"Are we fortunate that we have nice, clear, concise video of what transpired? It's fortunate," said Cpl. Carr, a spokesman for the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team, which is looking into the matter.

"It covers the entire incident," he said. "It's been very helpful. It demonstrates and shows what went on from [the videographer's] eye and helps us ensure that what people are saying is what they saw."

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He said the "very clear" video is superior to footage shot by another witness, who recorded images of the incident with her cellphone camera.

While there was fixed video surveillance of the area where the incident occurred, none of the cameras were equipped to record images, he said.

Cpl. Carr said he has not seen all of the tape, but he's been told by investigators that it covers the entire incident. He said he was not sure if there was audio recorded on the tape.

Police were called in to deal with Robert Dziekanski after he began acting erratically, yelling, pounding on windows and throwing computer equipment in the international arrivals area of Vancouver Airport.

The 40-year-old resident of the Polish community of Pieszyce had arrived in Vancouver to begin living with his mother, a resident of Kamloops. She had travelled to the airport to meet her only son.

Police have said he was subdued with a taser, which fired off a 50,000-volt charge. Mr. Dziekanski was handcuffed, but went into distress and died on the scene.

An autopsy has failed to confirm a cause of death, prompting toxicology tests on samples removed from his remains. A coroner's inquest is being planned into the incident because Mr. Dziekanski died in police custody.

Cpl. Carr said the investigation is "far from finished" and that the investigators should "not hang their hat on one piece of evidence."

He said he is not sure if police will ever be in a position to release the video to the public while the investigation is ongoing and that the video might be held if it is to be played at the inquest.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Canadian man suffers heart attack after taser jolt

October 21, 2007
KATHY RUMLESKI, London Free Press

A 34-year-old London (Ontario) man is in hospital recovering from a heart attack after he was tasered by London police. As the province's Special Investigations Unit (SIU) looks into the incident, the man's family is calling for a ban of the controversial stun guns. Last week, Amnesty International Canada also asked that their use be suspended until the 18 deaths associated with tasers in Canada since 2001 can be explained.

In the last month alone, three men have died in Canada after being tasered. Amnesty spokesperson John Tackaberry expressed alarm about the London incident when contacted yesterday. "It's been a very disturbing week," he said. "Police officers seem to be convinced that they're (tasers) not lethal, when they certainly can be."

Details of the London incident are sketchy, but a member of the man's family -- who requested anonymity because of the provincial probe -- said the man had a heart attack during the encounter with police. The man's mother-in-law said he was at a friend's home Monday when he was fooling around and "got knocked out." An ambulance was called and when the man regained consciousness and saw the police, he "freaked out," she said. "They tasered him twice. After the heart attack, his kidneys shut down," the woman said.

The woman her son-in-law is recovering well and is expected to soon be moved from intensive care into the cardiac care unit. London police confirmed the SIU is investigating but wouldn't comment on the case. Const. Dan O'Reilly said only that senior officials and emergency response unit personnel can carry tasers. "There is protocol that is followed," he said.

The SIU could not be reached yesterday. Taser guns use two barbed darts to deliver a jolt of up to 50,000 volts. They are intended to temporarily paralyse someone by causing muscles to contract. "We'd like them to be banned and not to be used," said the injured London man's mother-in-law.

Amnesty's Tackaberry said a number of incidents indicate there may be a connection between lethal taser use and people in poor health or those intoxicated or agitated who are then struck. "It's crucial that there be an understanding of what the interaction of a taser and these conditions is."

The SIU looks into all police actions resulting in civilian injury or death. It's under the microscope of the province's ombudsman, who will soon release a report on the agency's handling of cases and treatment of victims.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Widow of Paul Saulnier to sue RCMP

October 20, 2007
BRIAN MEDEL, The Chronicle Herald

DIGBY— The wife of a man who died outside the Digby RCMP detachment in 2005 after he was Tasered has hired a lawyer to sue the RCMP. Paul Sheldon Saulnier, 42, of Waldec died July 15, 2005. Officers had used pepper spray and their batons as well as a Taser to keep Mr. Saulnier from leaving the police station. He had apparently dropped in to talk, but it’s not clear why.

His wife, Helen, has retained lawyer Jamie MacGillivray. "We intend to claim against the RCMP for negligence in the use of the Taser," Mr. MacGillivray said. The lawsuit is still being prepared, he said Friday. He said the suit will not allege the police used excessive force. "But we are saying they didn’t use the Taser appropriately," Mr. MacGillivray said. "With the use of a powerful weapon like the Taser comes responsibility," he said.

The lawyer said two settings, or modes, are available for use on a Taser. One mode fires probes at a target to immobilize the person. The Digby RCMP officers used their Taser in what’s known as the drive stun mode, said Mr. MacGillivray. He said the medical examiner’s report said officers kept the Taser in drive stun mode.

Nova Scotia’s chief medical examiner found that Mr. Saulnier died of cardiac arrest due to excited delirium due to paranoid schizophrenia. The term excited delirium is controversial, Mr. MacGillivray said. "We intend to claim . . . negligence . . . using drive stun mode, where the Taser is applied directly to the skin," said Mr. MacGillivray. A Taser used in this fashion inflicts pain but does not immobilize, he said. And people in a state of excited delirium cannot be immobilized by pain, he said. "They repeatedly used the Taser in drive stun mode and attempted to use a hog-tie restraint," Mr. MacGillivray said of the three Digby RCMP officers involved in the incident.

Mr. MacGillivray also filed suit recently on behalf of Ms. Saulnier against the Manufacturers Life Insurance Co. The insurance company has denied a claim for payment of life insurance on the grounds that Mr. Saulnier died not from accident but from illness: paranoid schizophrenia, said Mr. MacGillivray. He said the claim was also denied because the insurance company said Mr. Saulnier was committing a criminal offence at the time of his death.

An RCMP spokesman said shortly after Mr. Saulnier’s death that police had been planning to charge the man with criminal harassment but charges had not yet been finalized. The insurance company’s position has only a thin veneer of legitimacy, argues Mr. MacGillivray. He said Mr. Saulnier was not committing a crime and was unable to appreciate the nature and quality of his acts. "We are very confident the courts will find Mrs. Saulnier is entitled to this benefit," said Mr. MacGillivray.

Minimum standards for tasers needed

October 20, 2007
The Toronto Star

Letter to the Editor from Emile Therien, Past-President, Canada Safety Council, Ottawa

The recent death of a man in Vancouver, who died after being subdued by a Taser, should raise issues and concerns. Minimum standards for the efficacy and use of Tasers must be developed. Relying completely on manufacturer specifications is completely unacceptable.

A framework to establish priorities and bring the best Canadian and international practices together to focus on standards for protecting first responders and the public is critical.

An important Canadian study in 2005 supported the use of Tasers and found that their advantages far outweigh their dangers. It said the risks are low but manageable, but police and the public need to be more aware of these risks.

Certainly, establishing minimum standards would be a step in the right direction to allay fears and concerns.

That study was conducted by the Canadian Police Research Centre, under the auspices of the National Research Council of Canada. The Tourette Syndrome Foundation of Canada, the Schizophrenia Society of Canada and the Canada Safety Council participated in the study. Third-party participants were required to ensure that committee membership was balanced and the public interest was well represented.

RCMP has a lot to answer for in heartbreaking taser death

October 20, 2007
Gary Mason, Globe and Mail

I feel sick today for Zofia Cisowski. Ms. Cisowski is the mother of Robert Dziekanski, the 40-year-old Polish man who died in the early morning hours last Sunday, shortly after RCMP fired barbed hooks into his body, along with 50,000 volts of electricity.

I watched an interview with Ms. Cisowski this week on Global BC and it was one of the saddest things I've ever seen. She talked about how she'd worked two jobs for several years to save enough money for her son to move to Canada. Last Sunday he was finally making the long trek from Pieszyce, Poland, to start a new life in Canada with his mother.

Ms. Cisowski drove four hours from her home in Kamloops to meet her son's flight at the airport. He was scheduled to touch down around 3:30 in the afternoon. But 3:30 came and went without any sign of him, then 4:30 and 5:30 and 6:30.

She appealed to airport officials to look for him. She was concerned he'd become lost and wouldn't be able to ask for help because he didn't speak English. By 10 o'clock, she gave up hope that her son would emerge from behind the glass doors of the international arrival area and returned home.

The next day she would learn he was dead.

"I want to be with him now," Ms. Cisowski cried in broken English. "He must be here, not in God's room. Very soon I was going to realize my son's hug. I was smiling nicely because I would meet my son soon. My boy, my boy, how does this happen? I was there waiting for him. He was waiting, too, but he wait too many hours alone by himself. No language, no English, no food, no water. "He didn't see me," Ms. Cisowski said, continuing to sob. "I didn't see him. I'm so sad."

No one can be unmoved by Ms. Cisowski's lament. Her grief is so palpable. Here is a woman whose nesting instinct compelled her to make enormous personal sacrifice to help out her child, now having to deal with an unimaginable loss, one made even more tragic and heartbreaking by the senseless circumstances surrounding it.

Almost a week after the fact, I still don't understand, or accept, the decisions made by the RCMP to bring Ms. Cisowski's son down in the manner in which it did.

Here is what we know: For some reason Mr. Dziekanski was wandering around the Vancouver International Airport at one o'clock in the morning, apparently lost and visibly upset. He began throwing things, hitting windows and yelling in Polish. Someone called the police.

Three RCMP officers arrived at 1:30 a.m., encountered the distraught man and quickly tasered him. He would die minutes later.

Witness accounts of what happened are at odds with the RCMP's version of events. For instance, the police have said they fired their stun guns twice, while a woman standing nearby distinctly recalls the sound of four taser blasts hitting the man. The RCMP has said its officers didn't use mace or pepper spray to subdue the man because the airport was too crowded. However, Lorne Meltzer, a corporate valet who called the RCMP in the first place, said that's not true. Mr. Meltzer told an interviewer the "place was empty" - which wouldn't be a surprise given what time it was.

Mr. Meltzer, who witnessed the incident, has come to the same conclusion many of us have: The police were too hasty in using their tasers. He'd told police the man didn't speak English and yet the officers evidently only twice issued a quick command in English - "put your hands on the desk" - before using their stun guns.

Mr. Meltzer says Mr. Dziekanski was waving a stapler around in a threatening manner - a stapler. And yet three RCMP officers and airport security couldn't subdue him without using a taser gun? Come on. With the help of a couple of my old high school buddies from Sarnia, I could have subdued this guy - without mace or a baton.

Given the potentially deadly consequences of taser use, why would the RCMP officers in this case spend so little time trying to figure out what Mr. Dziekanski's problem was? In some cases, police will spend hours and hours negotiating with someone holed up in a home threatening suicide, and yet in this case RCMP didn't spend more than two minutes negotiating with a clearly distraught foreigner brandishing nothing more than a stapler.

Of course, this being an in-custody death, the RCMP will once again be investigating themselves. I'm going to go out on a limb here and predict the officers who tasered Mr. Dziekanski will be exonerated. Just following procedure and all that.

My heart breaks for Zofia Cisowski.

RCMP: Trust in policing needs improved accountability


An Op-Ed released on September 26, 2007 by Paul Kennedy, The Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP (the civilian accountability tribunal which reviews the on-duty conduct of RCMP members), says - among other things:

"One case reviewed this year involved the use of the Taser gun, which administers an electric shock, against an intoxicated woman. She was tasered twice while handcuffed. The CPC found that, although the woman was not cooperative, she posed no physical threat to the officer. Therefore, according to the CPC, the use of the Taser was improper. The Commission recommended policy changes to ensure that the Taser is not used when a citizen's behaviour might be classified as uncooperative or resistant rather than combative. Uncooperative citizens should be controlled by less intrusive techniques that pose less risk than the Taser."

"One of the issues I address in the proposed legislation is public concerns about police investigating themselves. Citizens must have confidence that investigations into serious incidents that raise questions about the actions of the police are treated impartially and transparently. Even within the current review structure, we launched an innovative pilot project in collaboration with the RCMP's Office of Investigative Standards and Practices in B.C. It assigns Commission staff to observe and to assess the impartiality of RCMP investigations involving actions of its members when there is serious injury or death, and for other investigations that are high profile and sensitive in nature."