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Friday, February 29, 2008

And now ... a NEWS ALERT from our sponsors

Here we go again - the American manufacturer of tasers - taser international - releases another "NEWS ALERT" in praise of a Canadian police force - this time, the RCMP - for using a taser without killing anyone.

The last time I read a taser international-sponsored "NEWS ALERT" related to Canadian police (New Westminster, BC) was on December 19, 2007. I've copied it at the bottom of this post.

Since when does the RCMP allow a controversial weapon manufacturer to speak on its behalf? Am I missing something here?

February 29, 2008
RCMP use taser to avoid tragedy in kamloops

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz., Feb. 29, 2008 (PRIME NEWSWIRE) -- TASER International, Inc. (Nasdaq:TASR), a market leader in advanced electronic control devices, released the following News Alert:
According to an article in the February 27, 2008 edition of the Vancouver Sun, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) are crediting the use of a TASER(r) electronic control device (ECD) for avoiding the use of deadly force late Monday in Kamloops.

According to the article, RCMP officers faced an armed and distraught man who stormed into a massage parlor threatening to kill a female employee. He repeatedly said he was going to harm himself and yelled at the RCMP officers to shoot him.

"Faced with the option of discharging their pistols or using a TASER electronic control device (ECD) to subdue the distraught man, police opted to use the stun gun. One officer positioned himself to safely activate the TASER and the man was subdued without injury or risk," said RCMP Staff Sergeant Grant Learned.

Two women at the scene at the time of the incident were unharmed. The parlor's owner praised the RCMP for the way officers handled the situation and credited officers for capturing the man without injuring him.

It was reported that RMCP Constable Michelle Toews said the incident is textbook case of when a TASER should be used since the other option constables had was to shoot the man."If we hadn't had the TASER (ECD) we would have found ourselves in much more difficult circumstances," Toews said.

The complete article is available at: http://www.canada.com/vancouversun/news/story.html?id=7c8ede0e-e169-4f6a-bc83-9eff3e12c682&k=35578

TASER International, Inc. disclaims any responsibility for the accuracy of the media reports that are the sole responsibility of the attributed media source. HUH?!?!

For more information on protecting life with TASER technology, please visit: http://www.TASER.com.

The TASER International logo is available at http://www.primenewswire.com/newsroom/prs/?pkgid=2931

CONTACT: TASER International, Inc.
Steve Tuttle

December 18, 2007
Device to Stop Man Armed With a Knife

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz., Dec. 18, 2007 (PRIME NEWSWIRE) -- TASER International, Inc. (Nasdaq:TASR), a market leader in advanced electronic control devices released the following News Alert:

According to News 1130 AM New Westminster Police in British Columbia were, "called to a disturbance Friday night after a tenant used a pipe on the landlord and then armed himself with a kitchen knife."

"New West Police say the suspect taunted them, and after repeated commands to drop the knife, they used a TASER and then 'touch stunned' him again while attempting to handcuff him. Once back in the cellblock in the police station, police say he head-butted one of their officers while still-handcuffed."

The complete article is available at: http://www.news1130.com/news/local/article.jsp?content=20071217_184117_2640

TASER International, Inc. disclaims any responsibility for the accuracy of the media reports that are the sole responsibility of the attributed media source. HUH?!?!

For more information on protecting life with TASER technology, please visit: www.TASER.com.

The TASER International logo is available at http://www.primenewswire.com/newsroom/prs/?pkgid=2931

CONTACT: TASER International, Inc.
Steve Tuttle
(480) 444-4000

Freeze urged on cop stun guns

February 29, 2008
By SARAH GREEN, Toronto Star

Michael Walker wants to zap police Tasers. The Toronto councillor wants to see a moratorium on the purchase of additional Tasers until there's more evidence about the safety of the hand-held stun guns. "I find it troubling," said Walker, who will ask his fellow councillors Monday to support his motion. "We've managed to carry out effective policing for a century and a half without Tasers. I think we can continue to do that."

Police Chief Bill Blair wants to outfit all 2,600 frontline officers with Tasers at the cost of about $8 million. The force has 432 Tasers for frontline supervisors. In a report, Blair said Tasers have the potential to reduce injuries among officers and prevent standoffs from escalating. In the first six months of 2007, Toronto Police used Tasers 215 times, including 73 incidents when the stun gun was just used as a show of force, the report said.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Vancouver police officer not guilty of excessive force in nightclub arrest

Very seldom does the Crown find that a police officer used excessive force in making an arrest. And even though a Victoria Police Department expert in police-control techniques and stun guns testified that Constable Lowe used more force than was necessary, Justice Dohm concluded he was not guilty.

What kills me is that Justice Dohm rejected much of the witnesses’ evidence, citing concerns with inconsistencies and pointing out that nightclub employees discussed the incident afterward and watched the surveillance video together. Based on my experience, I think it’s pretty safe to assume that the three involved officers did exactly the same thing – probably with a union representative and a lawyer present, but Justice Dohm makes no mention of that. What’s good for the police, it seems, is NOT good for the witness.

February 27, 2008
Neal Hall, Vancouver Sun

A city police officer was acquitted today of assault with a Taser and using excessive force while arresting an intoxicated man at a Vancouver nightclub almost three years ago.

Provincial court Judge Tony Dohm found Vancouver police Const. Trevor Lowe, now 30, was justified in making his arrest of nightclub patron Carlo D'Ambrosio and zapping the man three times with a stun gun before throwing him to the sidewalk outside the Stone Temple nightclub on Granville Street in June 2005.

The judge said he rejected the evidence of D'Ambrosio because it had numerous deficiencies and instead accepted the evidence of Lowe and two other officers involved in the incident.

Police shouldn't be held to an unreasonable standard when assessing the use of excessive force, the judge said, adding the complainant was a large, physically fit man who was drunk at the time.

Lowe, who was working an overtime shift the night of the incident and had been on the force three years, was acquitted on charges of assault and assault with a weapon.

He left the courthouse without stopping to comment, although his lawyer said Lowe was glad the case was over. "My client is extremely relieved to have this over with and is extremely relieved that there's this cloud no longer over his head," defence lawyer Reg Harris said outside court. "He's been under an enormous amount of stress, as you can imagine, being charged with a criminal offence," he added. Harris said the case "highlights how difficult policing is in the entertainment district," adding the city "needs more officers in that area."

When a reporter suggested Vancouver has gained a reputation for Taser use, Harris disagreed, saying he had looked at the issue closely.

Lowe's trial last November heard two conflicting versions of the arrest and Tasering of D'Ambrosio. The Crown's theory was that Lowe used excessive force in making the arrest and using the Taser, and then assaulted the handcuffed man by throwing him to the sidewalk outside the club.

The Crown called a Victoria police officer, whose opinion was that Lowe didn't need to Taser the man to get him to comply because witnesses, including two sober employees of the club, said D'Ambrosio wasn't resisting arrest.

One club staff member said she heard D'Ambrosio asking "Why am I being arrested?" and said the officer told the man to relax, then saw the officer zap the club patron with a stun gun. "I am relaxed," the employee heard D'Ambrosio say. "Please stop... you're hurting me," D'Ambrosio added.

The judge pointed out nightclub employees discussed the incident afterward and watched the surveillance video together. The grainy video only caught the final seconds of the incident. One club employee who testified had also discussed the incident with D'Ambrosio, who was a regular patron and good customer of the club, the judge added.

Lowe testified D'Ambrosio was arrested because he was drunk in a public place, repeatedly refused to obey police commands to step back while yelling at police, resisted arrest, and displayed "assaultive behavior" by twisting his body while being handcuffed and removed from the club. Lowe recalled D'Ambrosio was yelling and swearing at police after the man's friend had been removed from the nightclub for being drunk at 2:30 a.m. on June 5, 2005.

Once handcuffed and being taken toward the exit, the officer recalled he warned D'Ambrosio he'd zap him with a Taser if he kept resisting, and, after he believed D'Ambrosio tried to trip him, the officer used his stun gun, sending three jolts of electricity to D'Ambrosio to get him to comply. As they exited the nightclub, Lowe said he was winded and exhausted so he used a "hip toss" to bring D'Ambrosio to the ground, when a sergeant came to Lowe's assistance.

D'Ambrosio, a weightlifter, testified he had about 12 drinks that night. He said he was upset his friend had been removed from the club and wanted to know why. D'Ambrosio said he also questioned police when they arrested him but denied he was resisting arrest. After receiving the Taser jolts, D'Ambrosio recalled being taken outside in a semi-conscious state and slammed to the sidewalk, where the officer got on top of him with his knees on his chest.

Oklahoma man dies

Barron Harvey Davis, 44

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Fantino a taser fan

February 26, 2008
Orillia Packet & Times

Despite some highly publicized deaths following the administration of high-voltage shocks, Tasers are a valuable tool for police, says OPP Commissioner Julian Fantino.

"We trust police officers with sidearms, so why the big to-do (about Tasers)?" He added it's unfortunate when the use of force results in a suspect's injury or death, but Tasers are not the only police tool that poses a risk in violent confrontations.

"So does pepper spray; so does a baton; certainly a firearm. Yet those tools are available to us."

Taser use must be subject to strict guidelines, he said: "It can't be used as a tool to force compliance. It has to be used for all the right reasons. And the right reasons are the officer is either in immediate danger, real or foreseen, or the public is."

A Taser gives an officer a less lethal weapon than a handgun for the most dangerous situations, said Fantino. "And you don't want to be using a sidearm if there's other options available."

In two inquests involving fatal shootings of suspects by police, juries recommended the addition of Tasers to an officer's arsenal, said Fantino. Currently, only OPP supervisors have possession of the devices. Fantino said he would like to see them available to all front-line officers.

Monday, February 25, 2008

RCMP probe Taser incident involving girl in Inuvik jail

February 25, 2008
CBC News

RCMP in the Northwest Territories are investigating their use of a stun gun on a teenage girl at a youth detention centre in Inuvik last year.

The internal investigation into the March 27, 2007, incident at the Arctic Tern Young Offender Facility should be complete within a few weeks, RCMP spokesman Sgt. Larry O'Brien told CBC News.

Officers will examine whether the officers involved broke the law and whether they followed the RCMP's policies on Taser use when they shocked the girl with the electronic stun gun.

Corrections officials told CBC News last week that the teen was acting so aggressively that corrections staff called in police, who subdued her using the Taser.

The incident came to light last week when Inuvik Twin Lakes MLA Robert C. McLeod asked Justice Minister Jackson Lafferty about it in the legislative assembly.

Corrections director Darin Reeves said it was the first time a Taser had been used at an N.W.T. correctional facility. He said corrections officers did the right thing by calling in police. "No one wants to have an event like this happen," Reeves said. "Certainly when you're looking at protecting the environment itself and the youth from harming themself or others, you will go through every option you can to try and contain that situation." Reeves said the girl was examined afterwards and was fine. But the girl's mother has since been trying to get answers through McLeod about why the incident happened in the first place.

Taser use higher in Inuvik: RCMP

RCMP figures show there are more incidents involving Taser stun guns in Inuvik than anywhere else in the territory. Between September 2006 and November 2007, police reported a total of 54 Taser-related incidents in N.W.T., including 26 in Inuvik and seven in Yellowknife. O'Brien said those numbers include situations in which officers produced the weapon but didn't fire, as well as actual Taser use. Most of the time, he said, just saying a Taser will be used is enough to prompt people to co-operate. "It is certainly something you use, not as a last resort but when you're approaching a last resort," O'Brien said. "When you're to the point where you either use that or use a firearm, that would be a situation where members would be looking at using a conductive energy weapon."

O'Brien could not explain the discrepancy between Taser usage in Inuvik and Yellowknife, but said the number of officers in the two communities could play a role. Inuvik has two officers on duty on any given night, he said, while Yellowknife could have as many as eight officers. "If there's a situation in Yellowknife, we have the ability to bring multiple members to the scene in a short period of time. Those of us in policing know that the amount of police officers present usually has a big impact on the activities of the people involved in the complaint," he said. "Inuvik doesn't have that luxury. So they have to be very cognizant of what tools they have at hand, and that may go some way to explaining why the conductive energy weapons are being used more in Inuvik."

Tasers are involved in fewer than one per cent of arrests made in the territory, O'Brien said.

Ottawa police taser use drops after 'responsibility pay' introduced

February 25, 2008
CBC News

The use of Tasers, guns and physical force by Ottawa police dropped to their lowest level in years in 2007 — the year after the service introduced a special premium for officers who regularly retake a course on the proper use of force.

Tasers were used only a dozen times by officers last year, said the police service's 2007 use of force annual report, which was to be discussed at the Police Services Board meeting Monday night.

That was the lowest number of uses in five years, even though 34 tactical officers were authorized to used the devices, and 61 front line supervisors became authorized in November 2007. Physical control was used 45 times — an eight-year low. Officers pointed their firearms 212 times, the lowest level since 2002, the report shows. They were fired 51 times, in all cases to destroy animals. Pepper spray was used 54 times, up slightly from the year before, but still one of the lowest levels since 2000.

Chief Vern White credits better training for the decline in the use of force. "I went through use of force training two weeks ago," he said, "and I have to say I was totally impressed with the use of force training itself, the instructors." He added that the instructors encouraged officers to talk to the people they deal with before doing anything else.

Since May 2006, officers have been eligible for a special salary premium called responsibility pay if they take the use of force training force every 11 months.

Const. David Zackrias said he believes the constant retraining has contributed to the drop in the use of force. "The officers receive better training these days," he said. "We have to requalify annually and every time … there's always new scenarious we use in our training."

White said he is naturally happy that officers are using force less often, but he said if the numbers go up he won't necessarily be disappointed. Circumstance can change from year to year, White said. He added that what's important is not how often police use force, but whether they are using it appropriately.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Taser Used in Carjacking

Here's a shocking example of what happens when ordinary citizens are allowed to carry tasers - and I'm sure we ain't seen nothin' yet. If Taser International has its way, we're all going to hell in a handbasket.

Omaha police have arrested a man accused of repeatedly using a taser on a woman in order to steal her car. The woman, who asked not to be identified, tells Channel 6 she knows the suspect. The victim called 9-1-1 late Thursday night from a gas station at 52nd and Northwest Radial Highway. She says she was giving the man a ride when he repeatedly shot her with a taser and handcuffed her in the back seat of her car. After driving several blocks, the suspect apparently let her out of the vehicle and she called police. Police tell us they did book someone into custody, but his name and specific charges have not yet been released. Police also confirmed the victim knows the suspect.

California man dies

Garrett Sean Farn, 41, unarmed, died February 19, 2008

Taser probe won't focus on police oversight, Oppal says

February 22, 2008
IAN BAILEY, Globe and Mail

VANCOUVER -- The head of a public inquiry into the death of a Polish immigrant at Vancouver International Airport is free to look at the issue of police investigating themselves, but the issue won't be an official part of his efforts, B.C.'s Attorney-General says.

"We want this to be more focused on what happened that night," Wally Oppal said yesterday, referring to the morning of Oct. 14, 2007, when Robert Dziekanski, acting erratically in the international arrivals area, was subjected to two taser blasts by the RCMP. He died at the scene.

"I expect we will hear about whether or not police were following their own procedures and things like that, and I think that's the reason for the inquiry. We want to find out what happened and how can we prevent that type of tragedy from happening again," Mr. Oppal said.

Thomas Braidwood, a retired B.C. Court of Appeal judge who will head the inquiry, "has a wide discretion," Mr. Oppal said. "He might well want to touch on some of that. He added that he did not think the subject of police investigating themselves "is really an issue here. What we want to know is what happened to poor Mr. Dziekanski." He noted his ministry is reviewing a report unrelated to the Dziekanski matter that addresses police oversight, and he plans to propose reforms in the current legislative session.

The inquiry will unfold in two phases. One will look at the overall use of tasers by B.C. police. The second will look at the circumstances of Mr. Dziekanski's death.

The news that police investigating themselves won't be a focus of the inquiry came as a disappointment to the lawyer for Zofia Cisowski, Mr. Dziekanski's mother. Walter Kosteckyj said yesterday the issue should be on the table. The Integrated Homicide Investigation Team has been conducting an ongoing investigation into the case that could lead to charges against the officers involved. Mr. Kosteckyj said there is a conflict in having the team - with Mounties among its members - investigate a case involving the conduct of police.

"Does that make sense?" he asked rhetorically. "My client wants to make sure, by the time the inquiry is done, everything is looked into, including police conduct ..."

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Taser International: Stunning Gains

Who knew DEATH had a bottom line?

February 21, 2008
Anne Kates Smith, Senior Associate Editor,

Who says crime doesn't pay? Shareholders of Taser International are not only hoping that it pays handsomely, but that it remains a growth industry. Well, maybe not crime exactly, but crime-fighting.

Taser makes those electronic control devices -- stun guns in the vernacular -- used by police and corrections officers, the military and, now, even crime-wary consumers. Tasers temporarily disable threatening or dangerous individuals or those resisting arrest -- including unruly college students disrupting political speeches, as seen in the video that went viral last September, making "Don't tase me Bro!" a catch phrase of 2007.

But as much as perps on the mean streets may hate the company's devices, analysts on Wall Street love the company's shares. Most of the seven analysts who cover the stock (symbol TASR) rate it a buy or outperform; none rate it a sell.

Analysts expect earnings to grow at a roughly 50% rate this year and next as Taser penetrates largely untapped markets here and abroad, with essentially no competition. "To us it's a category killer," says Steven Dyer, at Craig-Hallum, a Minneapolis-based brokerage.

JP Morgan is the latest to join the love fest, initiating coverage on February 13 with an "overweight" rating.

Taser, based in Scottsdale, Ariz. logged profits of $15 million last year on $100.7 million in revenues. The company has sold more than 200,000 devices to some 12,000 agencies, primarily U.S. law enforcement and corrections officers.

But that's only 25% to 30% of the domestic market and less than 5% of the worldwide market. Taser's penetration rate of the private-security, military and consumer markets is near zero.

International sales, accounting for about 15% of 2007 sales should become a more prominent part of the mix this year. Agencies in some 45 foreign countries are either using or testing Taser devices. On February 11, the company announced that an unnamed foreign country placed an order for 3,000 units. As many as five countries are expected to place significant orders this year.

Consumers represent another solid growth market. Taser's C2 model began shipping in the third-quarter of '07. At this year's Consumer Electronics Show, the C2 made its debut in leopard print, red-hot red and fashion pink (prices ranging from $350 to $380) "for women who want fashion with a bite."

Infomercials about the product began airing in mid-February. The C2 could generate almost 10% of company sales this year, up from less than 4% in '07, estimates Eric Wold of San Francisco-based broker Merriman Curhan Ford.

Taser's challenge for now is boosting gross profit margins, which have sagged lately. The company blames higher raw material costs; cash discounts for distributors; a higher percentage of low-priced products, such as cartridges, in the sales mix; and labor inefficiencies associated with new product introductions and starting a second production shift.

Taser has eliminated the discounts, negotiated price reductions with suppliers and smoothed out payroll bumps by staffing the two shifts so as to eliminate overtime. And the company hired a new operations chief, a 20-year veteran of Intel Corp. All told, analysts on average expect sales to increase 26% this year and earnings to jump 47%, to 34 cents a share.

Despite its promising outlook, Taser is not an easy stock to own if you don't have a stomach for wild gyrations tied to the headline of the moment.

That was made clear in 2005 when news of a Securities and Exchange Commission inquiry sent the stock tumbling from a bit more than $30 -- a peak it hasn't seen since even though the investigation came to nothing. More recently, the stock was on a roll until last October, when news broke that a man had died after being hit with a taser at a Canadian airport.

Taser says its devices have actually saved thousands of lives, by reducing risks to both law enforcement officers and suspects, compared with using guns or other, physical control methods. But use of the devices is clearly controversial. Taser is no stranger to litigation charging wrongful death or injury, but so far, some 61 lawsuits against the company have either been dismissed or decided in its favor.

Still, short-sellers, who have a vested interest in seeing Taser's stock fall, account for nearly a quarter of the float -- that is, the shares available for trading by the public.

The bulls believe that investors committed to the stock long-term will be rewarded. "Do you own it for headlines or for operations? If you own it for operations -- what the company can do, I'm not too concerned," says analyst Wold.

Considering the company's earnings-growth prospects, the stock deserves to trade at 40 to 45 times estimated earnings, he believes. Given his estimate of 52 cents a share for 2009, he thinks the stock, which closed at $11.99 on February 19, could reach $21 over the next 12 months. Other analysts say $17 a share is more realistic. Either way, you're looking at some pretty stunning gains.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

RCMP says force would change Taser use policies if B.C. inquiry presents evidence

February 20, 2008
The Canadian Press

VANCOUVER - An RCMP official says the force would change its policies on Taser use if a public inquiry into the death of a Polish immigrant provided any evidence to do that. "We are pleased to participate voluntarily with this inquiry or any other process with the goal of ensuring that our policies, techniques, methodologies and equipment are working properly and doing what they were designed to do," said Gary Bass, deputy commissioner of the RCMP's Pacific region.

On Monday, Attorney General Wally Oppal launched the inquiry into the death of Robert Dziekanski, who was hit with a blast from a Taser at Vancouver International airport.

Dziekanski had wandered around the airport for hours before causing a disturbance that brought police attention. Another traveller video recorded four Mounties approaching Dziekanski, who didn't speak English, before he was hit with a Taser and died.

The inquiry commissioner will be able to make recommendations to the government on the use of Tasers in B.C. But the phase of the inquiry that will look into overall Taser use will not be able to compel witnesses to testify, nor can it make findings of misconduct against individuals.

Oppal has said one of the main questions that need to be answered at the inquiry involves the appropriate use of Tasers and under what circumstances police forces should be using them. He said the inquiry could lead to changes in the use of Tasers in B.C.

Although the RCMP is a federal police force, Oppal said the federal government has indicated it will co-operate and he expects the RCMP to comply with any changes that come out of the commission.

Solicitor General John Les announced the commission of inquiry into the death of Robert Dziekanski last November. The second phase of the commission, reviewing the specific circumstances of Dziekanski's Oct. 14 death, will be able to call witnesses and will have the authority to make findings of misconduct.

Oppal said the two phases of inquiry will provide Dziekanski's family and the public with a complete record of the circumstances surrounding his death.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Ottawa turns down B.C. request to participate in taser inquiry

February 19, 2008
JUSTINE HUNTER, Globe and Mail

VICTORIA -- The provincial government has ordered two inquiries into the taser death of Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski, but B.C.'s Attorney-General admitted yesterday the process could have limited effect.

The federal government has rebuffed a request to participate in the inquiries, one into circumstances of Mr. Dziekanski's death and the second into the use of conducted-energy weapons, also known as tasers, by police.

As well, B.C. Attorney-General Wally Oppal conceded that there's no clear authority for the province to compel the RCMP, which provides about 70 per cent of British Columbia's policing services, to comply with any rulings. "The RCMP, being a federal force, is beyond the jurisdiction of the province, but we expect the RCMP to fully co-operate in the inquiry," he told reporters in Victoria. "We have invited the federal government to participate in the inquiry," he added. "They are doing an inquiry of their own and, at this stage, they have declined to participate in the [B.C.] inquiry."

Mr. Dziekanski died within minutes of being tasered at Vancouver International Airport last October, after spending hours waiting in a restricted area for his mother, Zofia Cisowski, who waited several hours just outside in the public area.

The two never found each other. Four officers, responding to a report of a man with erratic behaviour destroying property, entered the arrivals area on the morning of Oct. 14, and tasered Mr. Dziekanski less than 30 seconds later.

A digital video of the encounter flashed around the world in November, with the disturbing 10 minutes of footage showing Mr. Dziekanski screaming and writhing before being pinned down and handcuffed, and then lapsing into unconsciousness.

Mr. Oppal first promised an inquiry late last year, saying his government was forced to call a public inquiry after it became clear various authorities, including the Vancouver airport, the RCMP and the Canada Border Services Agency, were not providing useful answers about what went wrong.

Yesterday, he issued the terms of reference and said he wants answers by the summer. "We want a full and comprehensive opinion as to what our police should be doing in this province." RCMP Staff Sergeant John Ward, head of the RCMP's media division in the province, said the force, including the four officers involved in the incident, will co-operate with the inquiries. "The RCMP will fully participate within all legal boundaries of the inquiry and we have everything to gain by doing so," he said in an interview yesterday.

If the result goes against the use of tasers, he said the force would likely comply, but he could not guarantee it.

"If the [B.C.] Solicitor-General came out with a policy that the RCMP couldn't use a certain piece of equipment, we would probably follow that direction," he said.

Both provincial probes will be conducted as public inquiries headed by retired Appeal Court judge Thomas Braidwood. While he can begin his commission into the use of tasers immediately, the inquiry into what happened on Oct. 14 at Vancouver airport could be delayed. A coroner's inquest is set for May 5 to May 16 and there is also a homicide investigation that could hinder a public hearing.

BC cop who shot man reached for Taser, pulled gun instead

February 19, 2008
Rob Shaw, Times Colonist

A Victoria police officer who shot and injured a man in 2005 was reaching for his stun gun but grabbed his handgun by accident, the police force confirmed yesterday.

It has long been speculated that Const. Mike Miller confused his Taser and pistol while struggling with a violent man outside the McDonald's restaurant in Esquimalt on Sept. 10, 2005. But the department has never publicly acknowledged the mistake, refusing to discuss it last month when Miller resigned -- on the day of his disciplinary hearing -- because it was a "personnel matter."

Amid mounting pressure for answers, Victoria's police chief released details yesterday. Miller had been trying to subdue Daniel Hammond, 25, who was reportedly banging on windows at the restaurant and causing a disturbance in the parking lot.

An internal investigation concluded Miller drew his Taser from the holster on his left hip. He put it in the right pocket of his cargo pants so he could handcuff Hammond. But Hammond resisted and ended up wrestling on the ground with Miller and Const. Clarke Dumont, police say. A struggling Miller pulled his firearm from his right holster -- thinking it was the Taser in his right pocket -- and fired into Hammond's stomach, police say. Hammond survived and is suing the police department.

Victoria police are aware of "several cases" in North America where officers have confused their firearms and Tasers, interim chief Bill Naughton said yesterday.

Although worn on opposite sides of the body, the version of the Taser Miller used was designed to mimic the feel and weight of a Glock pistol, so an officer who trained with a gun would be comfortable with a Taser as well. "It has happened before, but it is a very rare event," said Joel Johnson, B.C.'s use of force co-ordinator at the Justice Institute police academy. "I can't think of more than four cases North American-wide since the implementation of the device."

Victoria police have since purchased different Tasers that less closely resemble a handgun, said Naughton. The Glocks do not have trigger safeties but the Tasers do.

Miller went on almost two and a half years of paid sick leave, collecting as much as $172,000 in salary, before resigning on the day of his disciplinary hearing Jan. 18. He also received a $50,000 settlement to pay out vacation time and benefits.

Miller's resignation was negotiated with the department because it cost significantly less than going through the disciplinary process, said Naughton. "I believe that decision was in the best interest of Const. Miller, this department and the public," said Naughton.

Naughton admitted the police department was only going public with details of the case now -- two and a half years after it happened -- because B.C.'s police watchdog complained the public had not been given enough information about the shooting. The Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner said it was reviewing the new information and consulting its lawyers to see whether it was still appropriate to consider a public hearing into the case.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Two commissions investigate taser-related death

February 18, 2008
Canwest News Services/The Province

VANCOUVER - The B.C. government could change its policy on the use of Tasers as early as this summer. On Monday, Attorney General Wally Oppal announced he has ordered an immediate inquiry into the use of Tasers by police in the province. He said he has also now set the terms of reference for the inquiry into the death of Robert Dziekanski, who was Tasered by police at the Vancouver International Airport in October 2007.

"Given the overlapping reviews and investigations now being conducted, combined with the jurisdictional complexity of this tragic incident, we felt it prudent to adopt a two-phased approach," Oppal said in a statement.

"The federal government has indicated that it will co-operate."

Oppal said both inquiries will be conducted by Vancouver lawyer Thomas Braidwood. Oppal added he has asked the study on the use of Tasers to be started immediately, and completed by June 30. The commissioner will then be asked to determine when the second inquiry - the one specifically looking into Dziekanski's death - can begin.

A coroner's inquest into the matter has been scheduled for May 5 to 16.

Oppal would consider Taser ban if probes recommend it

February 18, 2008
John Bermingham, Vancouver Province

VICTORIA -- B.C. Attorney General Wally Oppal said he's prepared to limit or even ban the use of Tasers if a new commission into their use recommends it. Oppal appointed a pair of probes Monday to look into the proper use of the controversial weapons, headed by retired judge Thomas Braidwood. One will look into Taser use by B.C. law enforcement, the other into the death of Robert Dziekanski, who died at Vancouver International Airport last October after being Tasered by the RCMP.

"Under what circumstances should police forces be using Tasers, given the vast amount of conflicting information there is?" Oppal said at the B.C. Legislature. Oppal said the inquiries could lead to changes in the policy of Taser use. "A lot of police forces across North America are having second thoughts about the use of Tasers, given some of the medical opinions out there," he said. "We want a full and comprehensive opinion as to what our police should be doing in this province."

Oppal said he expects the RCMP to co-operate with the inquiry, even though it's a federal agency. "We're looking for them to co-operate," he said. Oppal said the evidence has been building around Taser use in B.C. for some years, and the commission will pull it together. Oppal ruled out a moratorium because there's evidence for its continued use. "The police keep telling us it saves lives," said Oppal. "We want the police to have all the tools at their disposal that they think are useful."

Oppal said it's premature to consider a ban, but if Braidwood recommended it, Oppal said he would give it thought. "That's something obviously we would have to think about, but it would be premature at this stage to have a ban," he said. "We would be prepared to look at anything and everything."

Braidwood will report back by the end of June. The federal government is doing its own inquiry into Taser use in Canada. A coroner's inquest into Dziekanski's death is also set for May 5 to 16.

Taser use to come under scrutiny at inquiry into death at Vancouver airport

February 18, 2008
Canadian Press

VICTORIA - The use of Tasers by British Columbia law enforcement officers will come under scrutiny at a public inquiry into the death of a Polish immigrant hit with a Taser blast at the Vancouver airport last fall.

But the phase of the inquiry that will look into overall Taser use will not be able to compel witnesses to testify, nor can it make findings of misconduct against individuals, the province's attorney general announced Monday.

The commissioner will be able to make recommendations to the government on the use of Tasers in the province.

"There are two parts of the question that need to be answered," said Attorney General Wally Oppal. "The first is the appropriate use of Tasers: Under what circumstances should police forces be using Tasers, given the vast amount of conflicting evidence there is all across North America?"

Oppal said the province also wants the hed of the commission, former B.C. Appeal Court Justice Tom Braidwood, to review what should be the appropriate use for Tasers for police forces in the province.

He said the inquiry could lead to changes in the use of Tasers in B.C.

"A lot of police forces across North America are having second thoughts about the use of Tasers, given some of the medical opinions that are out there now."

Solicitor General John Les announced the commission of inquiry into the death of Robert Dziekanski last November.

The second phase of the commission, reviewing the specific circumstances of Dziekanski's Oct. 14 death, will be able to call witnesses and will have the authority to make findings of misconduct.

Oppal said the two phases of inquiry will provide Dziekanski's family and the public with a complete record of the circumstances surrounding his death.

Although the RCMP is a federal police force, Oppal said the federal government has indicated it will co-operate and he expects the RCMP to comply with any changes that come out of the commission.

"They (RCMP) are not technically obliged but, you know, they're the provincial police force. I would expect that whatever happens, the RCMP, given our past history of co-operation, will co-operate with us," he said.

Oppal acknowledged there are growing concerns about the use of Tasers but he is not considering a moratorium on their use.

"There's just as much evidence on the other side as to its continued use," he said. "The police keep telling us that, in fact, it saves lives."

Oppal said it would be premature to institute a ban, given the mandate of the first phase of the inquiry.

Dziekanski, 40, became agitated after spending hours lost in the secure arrivals area of the airport after a long flight from Frankfurt, Germany.

Four RCMP offices responded to calls after Dziekanski flung a chair at a glass partition and tossed a computer to the floor. Dziekanski, who spoke only Polish, then barricaded the exit into the reception area where his mother had waited for him for several hours.

Video footage taken by a bystander shows Dziekanski being hit at least twice with a Taser jolt. He died within minutes.

Taser International, which manufactures the Taser, maintains the death cannot be blamed on the device, which immobilizes people with an electrical shock.

The criminal investigation into the incident is continuing and a separate coroner's inquest has been scheduled for May.

Braidwood's Taser review inquiry is to be finished by June 30. The commissioner will then decide when the inquiry into Dziekanski's death will begin.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Taser used properly: police official

February 16, 2008
JAN RAVENSBERGEN, The Montreal Gazette

Montreal police acted in an "appropriate" way in each of 53 incidents involving Taser weapons during the past two years, a top city cop told reporters yesterday.

In 19 of 53 cases on which details were obtained by Radio-Canada through an access-to-information request, the stun guns were simply pulled out and displayed to an unruly suspect - and never discharged, said Jean-Guy Gagnon, assistant director of Montreal police responsible for operations.

He flatly rejected Radio-Canada's conclusion that Montreal officers misused Tasers in 11 of the 53 incidents. A substantial amount of information providing the full context for each police action had been blacked out in the incident reports disclosed to the news service, Gagnon said. He cited privacy laws.

Meanwhile, an investigation has begun of an officer who had been one of the department's Taser trainers until late 2006, Gagnon said. A conflict-of-interest allegation that the officer subsequently trained non-Montreal police in stun-gun use has not been proved.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Alcohol, drugs main causes of in-custody deaths: RCMP

February 16, 2008
CBC News

An internal RCMP report obtained by CBC News shows 80 people died while in police custody between 2002 to 2006, the majority due to alcohol intoxication or drug overdoses. The 100-page report, written in December 2007, is the RCMP's most comprehensive analysis of in-custody deaths and presents statistics ranging from the reason police got involved in the first place to where the death occurred.

"The majority of subjects died at the scene of a complaint, which was most commonly a disturbance or drunk in public place call, or in a hospital within 30 minutes of initial contact with the police," the report says. "The leading cause of death was alcohol or drug overdose."

Of the 80 people who died in police custody, most were men over the age of 30 who had been using drugs or alcohol and had a criminal record.

The report's author, a staff sergeant with national criminal operations, called the report "good news for the RCMP," because in 2006 none of the 15 deaths could have been prevented, as those people had put themselves in situations where "their decisions resulted in their deaths."

However, the report's assessment brings little comfort to Linda Bush of Houston, B.C. On Oct. 29, 2005, rookie Const. Paul Koester shot her son, Ian, in the back of the head while he was in police custody at the RCMP detachment in Houston. Bush, a 22-year-old sawmill worker, was arrested for having an open beer outside a hockey game and for giving a false name to police. He was taken to the local police detachment where he died 20 minutes later.

"I think the RCMP are making some wrong choices in excusing themselves here and not making more of an effort to change what's happening," Linda Bush told CBC News.

Vancouver lawyer Cameron Ward, who has represented a number of families whose relatives died in police custody, said the RCMP report is flawed because it only focuses on the victims and does not take into account the age of the officers involved or their experience with the force.

"I see this report perhaps as an attempt by the RCMP to fend off the critics and those who say that a higher level of civilian oversight and civilian investigation in these cases is necessary," Ward said.

Tom Engel, an Alberta lawyer who represents families of people who have died in police custody, also has doubts about the validity of the report. "[It's] just so superficial. It's useless," Engel said. "Something like this to me can only be useful to the RCMP in terms of public relations."

Ward said while British Columbia is home to a third of the RCMP members in Canada, it's the source of more than half of all in-custody deaths. "We've got a death rate here in B.C that's about twice as high as it ought to be statistically," he said.

The RCMP declined an interview request by CBC News, but in a written reply noted that B.C.'s in-custody death rate is due to the fact that police work is more urban in the western province compared to other provinces. "The type of police work in B.C. is heavily urban-focused, compared to the predominantly rural policing that goes on in the other provinces in RCMP jurisdiction," Sgt. Sylvie Tremblay, an RCMP spokeswoman from Ottawa, said in her written reply. "Crime is logically more pronounced in urban centres than in rural areas. The majority of the deaths were related to high-risk lifestyles involving alcohol and drugs," she said.

The report said the RCMP will continue to examine the circumstances of each in-custody death. "The aim is to learn whether the acts or omissions, if any, of its members or the equipment/facilities and procedures played any role in the incident," says the report. "The RCMP finds itself in a difficult position of dealing with intoxicated or stoned individuals," the report concludes.

"Hospitals are generally reluctant to admit persons until and unless there are definite symptoms of toxicity that would necessitate medical intervention."

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Montreal cop accused of promoting tasers

February 14, 2008

Montreal police have opened an internal investigation into allegations that one of its Taser instructors has also worked for the company that manufactures the weapon. Radio-Canada reports that Lt. Michel Masse, who played a key role training Montreal officers how to use Tasers, has been paid to promote their use. Masse is a paid "master instructor" for Taser, the CBC's French-language service said Thursday. He was also paid by Taser France to promote the stun gun in Europe, the broadcaster said.

Montreal police originally told Radio-Canada that Masse had ceased working with Taser International more than one year ago. But according to Radio-Canada, Masse travelled to Cyprus last June to once again promote the Taser. "That's not acceptable," said Rene Allard of the Montreal force. "I'll refer this . . . to internal affairs so we can begin an investigation of these claims."

Montreal police are already facing heat for reportedly overusing the Taser in several instances over the past two years. Tasers were used 11 times since 2006 in situations that did not meet the force's guidelines, Radio-Canada reported. The weapons were used a total of 53 times by Montreal police in 2006 and 2007.

Using documents obtained through access to information requests, Radio-Canada concluded that Montreal police repeatedly used Tasers on people who were passively resistant. The force's guidelines state Tasers should only be used when dealing with aggressive individuals or those actively trying to resist arrest.

Since 2003, at least 17 Canadians have died following stun gun incidents.

See also Darren Laur

Montreal police break rules on using stun guns

February 14, 2008
CBC News

Radio-Canada probe finds 11 improper Taser incidents

Montreal police used Taser weapons inappropriately more than 10 times in the last two years, violating their code of conduct, according to a Radio-Canada investigation.

Documents obtained through access to information requests show that of the 53 occasions in which Montreal police fired stun guns in 2006 and 2007, 11 did not meet the force's criteria for using Tasers. Incident reports show that police used stun guns on people who refused to comply or who put up passive physical resistance.

Montreal public security guidelines say police should use stun guns only on aggressive people, or suspects who actively resist arrest.

The force is aware of the problem, said Insp. René Allard. "There are maybe cases in which people didn't use [them] adequately. This is not acceptable for us, and people have recourse, and I encourage them to follow up on those options," which include complaining to the police ethics board, he said in an interview with Radio-Canada.

Officers are briefed on the force's Taser guidelines in a two-day course, but may not be fully prepared to use them, Allard said. "Is it a training issue? Is it that the officer was surprised by the type of event [he or she] is facing, and perhaps he showed a lack of judgment or simply poor training, and that he used it inadequately?" he said. "That is also in the domain of possibilities."

The Montreal police force owns 16 Taser weapons, which are available to patrolling officers on call as reinforcement for neighbourhood police stations.

The incident reports obtained by Radio-Canada are partially censored, with several sections blacked out. It's not clear how many times each suspect was struck with the stun gun, or which parts of their body were hit and whether they were injured or hospitalized.

The documents say an average of six officers were present at all the Taser incidents. In one case involving an attempted suicide, sixteen officers were called to the scene.

The Radio-Canada report underscores the need for a Quebec moratorium on stun guns, said a provincial coalition lobbying for a Taser ban. "The public has the right to know all the information on Tasers and how they're used," said Dominique Peschard, president of the Quebec League of Rights and Liberties.

Call for Taser moratorium intensifies

Canadian critics have argued there is not enough research on stun gun safety following several Taser-related deaths. In October 2007, Robert Dziekanski of Pieszyce, Poland, died at Vancouver International Airport after being shocked with a Taser by police. In Montreal 38-year-old Quilem Régistre was shocked with a stun gun after police stopped him in his car, which he was driving while impaired. Régistre was hospitalized in critical condition and died a few days later.

Montreal police used tasers inappropriately in one in five cases

February 14, 2008
Irwin Block, Montreal Gazette

MONTREAL - Reports that Montreal police used Taser guns inappropriately in 11 of 53 incidents over two years add urgency to calls for a moratorium on their use, critics of the weapons say. Internal police studies obtained by Radio Canada found that officers did not follow operational instructions in one in five cases where the Taser was used in the past two years.

"These reports increase our concern about how this weapon is used," said Anne Sainte-Maire, spokeperson for Amnesty International's francophone branch. The group is part of a coalition, including the Ligue des droits et libertés and Montreal city councillors Warren Allmand and Marvin Rotrand, that has called for a Taser ban pending an independent study of its effects.

Montreal police can only use the Taser if the person to be apprehended represents a high risk of violence or there is a high risk he'll be injured or cause injury to police or bystanders. But police reports indicated the weapon was used in cases where a subject refused to obey instructions or offered passive resistance.

Police officials declined an interview request yesterday, but stood by a comment Inspector René Allard gave to Radio Canada where he said the department will not tolerate inappropriate Taser use. "There may have been cases where people did no use it (the Taser ) adequately. For us, this is not acceptable," Allard said. "Is there a need for training? Is it because the (Taser) user was surprised by the type of situation he faced and perhaps exercised a lack of judgment?" he asked.

The Quebec coroner's office is investigating the cause and circumstances of two deaths that followed police firing Tasers at them. Montreal police used a Taser to subdue 38-year-old Quilem Register on Oct. 18. He died four days later of multiple heart attacks. Claudio Castagnetta, 32, an Italian immigrant who was walking around Quebec City barefoot and refused to leave a shop, died in a police cell in September two days after police used a Taser three or four times to subdue him.

RCMP officer cleared in taser incident

February 14, 2008
Susan Lazaruk, Canwest News Service

VANCOUVER - An RCMP corporal who Tasered a suspect six times at close range was cleared of excessive force charges Tuesday, but not before a provincial court judge repeatedly said she rejected the officer's versions of events and questioned his credibility.

Judge Frances Howard acquitted Cpl. Russ Hannibal of assault with a weapon because she "was left with a reasonable doubt" the force he used in an arrest was excessive. During a two-hour verdict, read Tuesday, Howard said, "I completely rejected a lot of his (Hannibal's) testimony," calling parts of it "obviously self-serving" and another "self-serving after-the-fact rationalizations."

But she also ruled the testimony of his former partner, Const. Tracey Sokolowski, which often conflicted with Hannibal's versions of events, in particular regarding the use of the electronic device on the suspect, was "not sufficiently reliable for a conviction."

Hannibal left the courtroom without comment. His lawyer, David Butcher, said "He's relieved. He's pleased it's all over."

Hannibal was charged after Sokolowski complained to superiors after Hannibal Tasered and pepper sprayed Robert Madeiros outside the Foggy Dew pub in Port Coquitlam, B.C., on Aug. 25, 2001. Hannibal had arrested Madeiros for alleged sexual assault after he patted Sokolowski's buttocks inside the pub while she was counting the number of people inside. Madeiros, who was intoxicated, immediately said he didn't realize she was an officer and quickly apologized. Sokolowski accepted the apology. When Sokolowski, a rookie with eight months on the job at the time, told Hannibal, who had several years with the RCMP, he immediately sought Madeiros out and escorted him outside. According to Hannibal, Madeiros resisted arrest, which led him to Taser the man six times.

Taser profits surge as product demand increases

February 14, 2008
by Mike Sunnucks Phoenix Business Journal

Taser International Inc. reported a $15 million profit for 2007 on revenue of $101 million. The Scottsdale-based stun-gun maker reported earnings of 24 cents per share. That compares with a net loss of $4.1 million, 7 cents per share, on revenue of $68 million in 2006. The Scottsdale-based company (Nasdaq: TASR) has seen demand grow both in the U.S. and internationally. The company has filled orders from police departments in Cleveland, Houston, Knoxville, Tenn., and Topeka, Kan. Taser has also successfully fought off a number of product liability lawsuits stemming from police use of its stun guns that have resulted in injuries or fatalities.

Toronto police seeking to amend regulations to allow tasers for all officers

At its next meeting on Thursday February 21, the Toronto Police Services Board will consider a report from the Chief of Police containing a recommendation that the Board write to the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services to amend the regulations to allow for the expansion of TASERS to front-line police officers. The report will be item 5C on the agenda to be posted on the Board's website, click on agenda. (The Feb 21 agenda was not posted by Wednesday afternoon.)

The meeting is at 1:30 PM in Committee Room 2, second floor, Toronto City Hall.

If you would like to deliver a deputation to the Board at this meeting, call the Board secretary, Deirdre Williams at 416-808-8094, or email her at Deirdre.Williams@tpsb.ca . If you cannot attend, please send a letter to the Board using Ms Williams' email.

When we held the taser forum at Innis College on stormy and snowy February 6 (about 75 people attended), there was general agreement that we would ask as many people as possible to speak at a city hall meeting about tasers if one could be arranged. This opportunity has come up (more quickly than expected), and we hope you'll speak. The more people who speak up, the more chance we have of stopping this recommendation. Just voice your opinion, loudly and clearly, and tell the Board whatever information you think it needs to know.

John Sewell for
Toronto Police Accountability Coalition

Monday, February 11, 2008

Police and tasers: hooked on shock

February 11, 2008
by Naomi Klein

The past couple of weeks have been rocky on the stock market, but one company that hasn't been suffering too much is Taser International. At the end of January, its stock jumped by an impressive 8 per cent, and it's even higher today.

Matthew McKay, a stock analyst at Jeffries & Co. in San Francisco, cites a simple cause: news that the Toronto Police Services Board plans to buy 3,000 new Taser electroshock weapons, at a cost of $8.6 million for gear and training. If the deal goes ahead, tasers would become standard issue weaponry for all of Toronto's frontline officers, right next to their handcuffs and batons.

On Wednesday night, I participated in a public forum about the prospect of a fully taser-armed police force, organized by the Toronto Police Accountability Coalition. One speaker, who had a history of psychiatric illness, told the room: "We're worried because we're the people who are going to get shocked."

It's a concern grounded in experience. According to Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair's own analysis, in 2006, city cops deployed the devices in 156 incidents. In all but nine, the subject appeared "to have a mental disorder" or was in some sort of "crisis."

Several speakers at the forum pointed out that $8.6 million would be better spent keeping people out of crisis — by opening more beds and providing better mental health and addiction services. Instead, four homeless shelters were closed last year, at a loss of 258 beds.

But the most troubling remark of the evening was this: "Why is this happening now?" The timing is indeed baffling. It was only three months ago that video of the death of Robert Dziekanski at the Vancouver International Airport caused an international furor. The tragedy exposed the most prevalent misconception about tasers: that they are used primarily as an alternative to guns. As former Toronto mayor John Sewell told me, "the taser is not the thing that replaces the gun, it's what replaces all the other things that police might do other than use a gun, like talk to you."

That certainly appears to have been the case with Mr. Dziekanski. When the RCMP approached him, they made no attempt to calm the unarmed Polish man, or to discover the source of his extreme agitation. Within 25 seconds, he was getting zapped.

Mr. Dziekanski's death also put a spotlight on the other post-taser deaths, the ones not caught on film. According to Amnesty International, 310 people in North America have died after being shocked with a taser since 2001.

Were these deaths caused by the device or by something else? Taser's aggressive lawyers make it tough to know. The company has been hit with roughly a hundred wrongful death and injury lawsuits and claims it hasn't lost one yet. But in August, Bloomberg News reported on "several mysterious dismissals" — instances where the plaintiffs asked for the cases to be thrown out. Though Taser denies paying off all its accusers, it admits to paying in some, "where the settlement economics … were significantly less than the cost of litigation."

Taser has consistently claimed that something else is causing the deaths. The company points to a report saying that that death by electrocution happens within seconds. Yet in many cases, subjects have died minutes, even days, after being shocked.

A recent study may explain the discrepancy. Trauma researchers at Chicago's Cook County Hospital conducted an experiment on 11 pigs, zapping each for 40 seconds; then zapping them again 10 or 15 seconds later. (This mimics how tasers are actually used, since Amnesty reports that those who have died after being Tasered were frequently "subjected to multiple or prolonged shocks.") The study found that all the pigs exhibited heart problems after the shocks and two of them died of cardiac arrest, one three minutes later.

Taser CEO Rick Smith has brushed off the study, saying human research is more relevant. However, according to Bob Walker, one of the lead researchers, it shows "that the effect of the taser shot can last beyond the time when it's being delivered."

So back to that question: Why now? In addition to the troubling new scientific evidence and the disconcerting lawsuits, there are several public investigations in Canada that are still ongoing. In addition to those sparked by the Dziekanski death, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Nova Scotia are all conducting taser reviews.

Surely it would be wise for Toronto's police chief to wait for those findings before ordering a seven-fold taser increase. But something more powerful than reason appears to be at play here, and I believe it has to do with the seductive promise of no-touch policing.

No other method of controlling unruly suspects offers police the same kind of all-encompassing, instant effect. Talking, calming, negotiating are all messier and take time. Other physical techniques put officers' own bodies at risk.

Then there is the taser. The company boasts that its technology, which allows electrified darts to be fired from more than 10 meters away, "temporarily overrides the command and control systems of the body." At the push of a button, even the strongest, angriest subject drops to the floor. In a way, firing a taser is the maximum power one person can exert over another. As an Ottawa Police officer reportedly said after tasering protesters at the ministry of immigration back in 2003: "Less mess, more fun."

Few would argue with an officer's right to use an electroshock weapon when lives are in danger and the only alternative is a gun. Many Toronto police officers, particularly those on the Emergency Task Force, clearly use them with restraint.

Yet there is also plenty of evidence that some officers get hooked on shock. In Edmonton, in 2001, reports of taserings averaged less than once a week. Three years later, they were coming in daily. In another part of the country, a mother in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia called police when she and her 17-year-old daughter were having an argument. Three officers showed up and tasered the teen in her own bed. In a recent court ruling, the judge called these actions "very disturbing and disconcerting."

It may well be possible to prevent shock-happy policing with tighter controls. Yet, despite repeated calls for stricter regulations for police, Taser International is racing to get its devices in the hands of civilians, marketing the product as not just safe but fun. In the United States the company has been aggressively pushing its line of C2 "personal protectors" — available in pink, leopard print, and in holsters with built-in MP3 players. (The weapon is nicknamed the "iTaser.") Tupperware-style taser parties are springing up in the suburbs of Arizona.

Taser International is a company whose executives present themselves as serious experts in public safety. Yet it has launched this foray into fashion at the very moment when the safety of its devices is being questioned on multiple fronts. Valentine's Day is coming and Taser's website is busily hawking the C2 in flaming red. "Love her? Protect her," goes the slogan.

This is what corporations do: whatever they can get away with to sell more product. From Taser International, we should expect nothing less. From our police we have a right to expect much more.

Naomi Klein is the author of The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

The facts about tasers — and the lies

By Rob Wipond

Police adore Tasers. Medical researchers and coroners have become cozy with the manufacturer. Taser International has been threatening legal action against Canadian media. Whose claims can we trust?

Shortly after the horrifying, videotaped death of Robert Dziekanski at Vancouver Airport tore through our public consciousness, another frightening thing happened. The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police leaped up and gave Tasers a ringing public endorsement.

It was the most crass act the association could have committed, reminiscent of how the National Rifle Association parachutes gun proponents into the post-mortems of mass shootings.

“Forgive us if we sound biased,” announced association president Gord Tomlinson to the press.

But should we forgive them?

Well, there is one crucial aspect to the police side of this story that’s so far been underdiscussed.

Years of cutbacks by conservative-leaning governments to health care, welfare, assistance programs, and housing have created a volatile social milieu, particularly for people experiencing intense psychological or addictions-related crises. And police are now left alone as the front line responders to an increasing number of explosions of anxiety and frustration at overcrowded boarding houses, underfunded social service agencies, short-staffed care facilities, downtown streets and, sometimes, even homes and airports. (For more insight on this issue, see also this deputation to Toronto police by Canadian rights activist and survivor of forced psychiatric treatment Don Weitz.)

In 2005, Movie Monday showed Crisis Call by Canadian Laura Sky, a thoughtful documentary that had gathered interviews with police officers about this growing nation-wide phenomenon. Three area police officers answered questions after the showing, and overall it became clear that our police, mainly trained to handle criminals, dislike having to fill this gap in our social safety net, and are feeling increasingly overwhelmed and ill-trained for the role.

Victoria’s Sgt. Grant Hamilton confirms that “the majority” of police interventions today involve alcohol, drugs or mental health issues. “When no one else can come,” he adds, “you call the police. We’re the only ones who can always come.”

Though reluctant to comment on the broader political issues, Hamilton points to the significant impact on police of lack of housing alone and states, “We definitely want a solution.”

All of this could explain, in part, the rough, hurried way the RCMP treated Dziekanski. His situation seemed to require an interpreter, border staff who weren’t bogged down in the minutiae of ridiculously expanded anti-terrorism responsibilities, or maybe a crisis interventionist or just a responsible security guard. But to four heavily armed police officers, Dziekanski was just another time-sucking irritant.

All of which also begins to explain why quickie-takedown Tasers have become so popular, misused and vehemently defended by police.


Since 1999, thousands of North American police forces have been arming with Tasers, and deployments are rising steadily. Municipal police in BC’s Lower Mainland used Tasers 152 times in 2006, up from 97 in 2005. With some controls in place, Victoria police Taser deployments remained steady, at 79 in 2005 and 74 in 2006 (though these numbers don’t distinguish between actual uses and merely drawing the Taser).

Conservative calculations link 300 North American deaths to Tasers, 20 in Canada.

Maybe most Taser uses are appropriate. Nevertheless, abuse of Tasers is obviously rampant. From Halifax to Victoria, Nunavut to Miami, six year olds, retirees, and even unarmed people in wheelchairs have been Tasered.

Particularly telling is the number of minor infractions that, somehow, escalate into violent conflicts. Amnesty International’s report on Canadian Taserings includes a speeding infraction, a suspected unpaid cab fair, a man refusing to leave a bar, and a man with cerebral palsy being evicted. Police searching an Edmonton hotel used Tasers to rouse sleeping suspects. A distressed 82-year old Victoria man was Tasered trying to escape Beacon Hill Villa. (The Villa itself is now under investigation for elder abuse.)

These aren’t the types of situations which we would ordinarily expect to cause officers to fear for theirs or anyone’s lives. And in the past, such situations were not typically associated with police shootings. So what’s going on? The chair of the Toronto Police Services Board recently expressed worry that “the Taser could lead to lazy policing”, and indeed, these accounts suggest police may become bolder, less patient and more provocative themselves when they have Tasers at hand.

Even when suspects are under control, Tasers are frequently used: An Ottawa protester passively resisting arrest was Tasered. An impaired driver resisted being fingerprinted and was Tasered three times. A jaywalker returned to talk, but refused to sit down, and was Tasered twice. A Halifax woman was shocked three times while handcuffed in a jail cell.

Far from saving lives, such situations are clearly more about what the UN Committee Against Torture has condemned as using Tasers for “pain compliance”. Indeed, while much attention has focused on Taser safety, Amnesty International has pointed out that equally concerning is the way Tasers give police a portable, easy-to-use manner to inflict terrible pain without leaving appreciable marks. (Public Taser demonstrations usually inflict split-second jolts, but in the field Tasers fire for five seconds, and can fire longer and repeatedly. By most accounts, the pain is excruciating. ) (Note: Here’s a police training video that looks at least a little more realistic…)

Yet our governments and police apparently don’t see a serious problem, and so far aren’t demanding or instituting fundamental changes to how Tasers are handled. Still more internal “reviews” are coming, but there’s been no commitment to a comprehensive, independent evaluation.

Instead, most North American police have become so attached to Tasers, they’re manipulating the political landscape and misleading public perception.


From the beginning, police have presented Tasers as a “nonlethal alternative to deadly force that saves lives”. How could any reasonable person not embrace that?

Unfortunately, every word of that statement is misleading.

When Victoria police wrote their “Final Report” on Tasers in 2005 for the Police Complaint Commissioner, they themselves lamented that the term “nonlethal” had “inadvertently” created “unrealistic” expectations in the public. They recommended Tasers be described as “lower lethality” weapons.

That description hasn’t caught on.

Meanwhile, claims about “saving lives” bloat absurdly.

Const. Mike Massine, who co-authored Victoria’s report, told the Canadian Press in November he would’ve had to kill several people but for the Taser. It’s hard to question such personal, anecdotal evidence. But police reps cobbled together these statements from officers and in 2004 told the CBC Tasers had saved 4,000 Canadian lives since 1999. (CBC updated that web page in 2007 and, somewhat ironically, kept the same figure. Here’s the original CBC page from 2004 thanks to Archive.org’s WayBackMachine.) At that point, such claims appear for what they are: pro-Taser propaganda. If true, that would mean without Tasers our police would’ve engaged in annual slaughters twenty or thirty times Canada’s historical rate for police shootings, making them bigger homicidal maniacs than all of our murderers combined. (Our suicide rates haven’t changed, so police weren’t saving those lives, either.)

As for Tasers being “an alternative to lethal force”, that was corrected during the 2005 inquest into the shooting death of Saanich’s Majencio Camaso. Use-of-force expert Const. Wayne Unger said Tasering the unstable man would have been inappropriate, unless the attending officer had been backed up by someone with a firearm. Similarly, Massine recently explained to CP, “I had somebody watching my back with a pistol. [A Taser] works in concert with lethal force. It’s never intended to replace it.”

Essentially, unless there’s still time, space and opportunity to turn to lethal force if need be, police aren’t supposed to use finicky, fallible Tasers.

So then, are Tasers an alternative to lethal force in life-threatening situations, or an alternative to try, along with patience, physical restraint and batons, before a situation becomes truly life-threatening? Police answer differently depending on whether they’re justifying their Taserings or their shootings.

This December, the RCMP Complaint Commissioner’s report confirmed such “usage creep” meant police were far too often using the Taser “earlier than reasonable” in situations that weren’t even “combative” let alone life-threatening for anyone.

Though he too still feels Tasers save lives, Victoria’s Sgt. Hamilton also confirms, “The Taser was never intended as a replacement to lethal force.” He instead describes a scenario where a knife-waving man ignores police commands. “Can we let that person walk away?” Depending on “very fluid” situational factors, Hamilton says, like relative size of a police officer to a suspect, officer skill level, or presence of different weapons, a Taser might become a helpful option in the use-of-force continuum.

Hamilton’s argument helps bring some focus and forthrightness to the whole Taser debate, but such honesty is still too rare. More often, for example, police have even been turning to bald cover-ups to protect the Taser’s reputation. The video of Dziekanski’s death showed the RCMP lied brazenly about how much they tried to calm Dziekanski and how dangerous he was. After Robert Bagnell died in 2004, Vancouver police didn’t even tell their own investigating detective they’d Tasered the heavily-drugged and disoriented man. The detective learned it from witnesses later, and then for weeks police hid the fact from the public and Bagnell’s family.

Certainly, shootings in some cities have become slightly less common after Tasers were introduced. Yet have Tasers made it more common for police to accidentally kill people they had no intention, or need, to kill?


According to police and manufacturer Taser International, Tasers have been “contributing factors” and “linked” to deaths, but have virtually never caused a death. (Taser International sent “legal demand letters” to 60 Canadian news outlets insisting on corrections to statements “blaming the Taser” for Dziekanski’s death.)

However, many medical studies and field safety reviews were either funded by Taser International, or involved police and people who’ve been on Taser International’s payroll, and it’s on such literature that many coroners base their conclusions about cause of death.

These intertwining relationships between police, coroners and Taser International run deep. BC’s chief coroner was the Surrey RCMP superintendent until 2001. Victoria’s Sgt. Darren Laur held stock in Taser International and professionally trained other agencies in Taser use until a few months before he began work on the VPD’s Taser evaluation. Ontario’s deputy chief coroner has been accepting all-expenses-paid trips from Taser International to give speeches about excited delirium, the mystery “disease” that supposedly causes many Taser victims to die.

Growing awareness of these tight relationships has prompted our federal government to promise an investigation into Taser International’s links to Canadian officials. In the meantime, this “common ground” with coroners and police has been helping the company win a running gun battle of lawsuits from Taser victims and their families. In return, according to the Globe and Mail, the company assists governments and police in their own legal defenses.

And what happens if you’re not “on side”? In 2005, Cook County’s Medical Examiner declared that a police Tasering had in fact caused the death of a Chicago man. Taser International lobbied for a judicial review and its hired experts publicly attacked the coroner’s credibility.

Forensic Engineer James Ruggieri published a study suggesting Tasers in real circumstances could give more dangerously intense shocks than the manufacturer states. (See an interesting article about it all part-way down here.) The company called Ruggieri a “high school drop-out” who couldn’t do basic math. Yet Taser International’s own 2003 medical review had concluded that, due to “physiological variables”, it was “impossible to accurately calculate” how much electrical shock a Taser would deliver into a human body. Similarly, the most recent inquest into the Bagnell case featured expert testimony that Tasers can administer shocks many times the manufacturer’s specs.

And that’s just the beginning of the medical unknowns.


In police Taser reviews, negative findings may be downplayed or disappear. For example, the Canadian government’s own investigation of “stun guns” in 1990 found the weapons deadly and recommended banning them. Lead scientist Andrew Podgorski still speaks out against Tasers (more from Podgorski here.) However, his study isn’t discussed in the VPD’s report.

Overall, Tasers appear to be relatively safe when used on healthy, relaxed people. But how many times are Tasers being used on healthy, relaxed people?

That summarizes the glaring, suspicious gap in the medical research.

We already know prolonged, multiple shocks from Tasers are dangerous. But how deadly is even one Taser shock for people undergoing heart stress already? This at-risk group would include people taking most recreational drugs, withdrawing from drugs, taking psychiatric medications with heart-related side effects, experiencing high levels of adrenaline-stress, or who are just unhealthy.

Basically, this at-risk group would include practically everyone most likely to be Tasered. Furthermore, it’s known electrical shocks could interact with these other risk factors to induce cardiac arrest much later.

Unfortunately, most Taser studies have considered electrical shock alone as a possible cause of immediate cardiac arrest. Even the VPD’s report lamented this dearth of research into “such potentially relevant factors as drug ingestion and the elevated heart rate provoked by physical struggle”. The authors hoped two upcoming studies would address these gaps.

In 2006, the University of Wisconsin released one of those studies. It concluded Tasers could very occasionally cause cardiac arrests, even in healthy humans, if the barbs land close to the heart.

Taser International called Webster’s study flawed.

This December, the British government released the other widely anticipated study. It boldly announced Tasers wouldn’t likely cause immediate heart attacks. On the final page, the scientists quietly qualify their findings, though, by noting that they didn’t consider some factors which could make heart attacks more likely, “such as illicit drug intoxication, alcohol abuse, pre-existing heart disease”, prescription drug use, or physical stress.

Evidently, it’s another useless study that’s nevertheless been useful for police and Taser International-the company promptly linked to it from their website’s front page. It’s helping them market their more powerful, wireless, shotgun Tasers to governments, and some sleek pistol models to women.

Reposted here with permission of the author. Copyright by Rob Wipond.

Police shocker: the taser is here to stay

February 9, 2008
HENRY AUBIN, Montreal Gazette

The videotape of RCMP officers' gratuitous and fatal use of a Taser against a man in Vancouver last fall prompted a nationwide eruption of public horror over police forces' use of this weapon. In the wake of that incident, many law-enforcement officials have voiced concern and reviewed their use. So, problem over, right? Wrong.

Don't let officialdom's regretful tone fool you. Now that the Vancouver affair has blown over, Tasers are creeping back in much of the country.

Let's start with Quebec. Although the incidents drew little attention because they were not videotaped, two men died in Quebec last year in the days after police shot them with the electric-shock device. Quebec City police tasered a 32-year-old translator, Claudio Castagnetta, after they stopped him for loitering and, according to witnesses, he resisted being placed in a patrol car by making his body rigid. And in Montreal Police tasered 38-year-old Quilem Registre after they stopped him for erratic driving and, they say, he became aggressive.

Quebec's public security ministry, which oversees police forces across the province, issued a report on Tasers in mid-December. The ministry immediately accepted all the report's recommendations for restricting the police's use of Tasers, but those restrictions are slight.

For example, the province's earlier rules, apparently ignored by the officers who zapped Castagnetta with impunity, barred tasering people who were only "passively resisting" arrest. The new rules says officers can use the Taser on people whose "resistance represents a significant risk to the safety of the officer or anyone else." Despite the change in wording, the versions differ little in their practical application.

Indeed, the new rules also say officers should assess a person's "potential for violence." The word "potential" is a loophole giving officers' enormous discretionary power. Officers might claim after the fact that even mild-mannered individuals had given them reason to believe they would become aggressive.

The report also cavalierly dismissed France's practice of clipping a camera (made by the Taser's manufacturer) onto the weapon and recording all the action in video and audio. The report says current training "conditions police to place their hands (on the Taser) in a way that would obstruct the camera's view." Evidently, it would be too much to change the training.

The panel that wrote the report had 26 members and associates, of whom 25 are from the world of law enforcement - that is, from the the police departments, the police academy or the ministry. (The exception is a doctor employed by the province.) So much for taking into account the broad public interest.

Incidentally, Montreal could set tougher rules for its own force. So far, however, the Tremblay administration has given no sign of concern.

Elsewhere in Canada, it's much the same lethargy. After the Vancouver incident, the Commission for Public Complaints against the RCMP made recommendations for changes. The RCMP, however, rejected a key one: The elevation of Tasers from the category of "intermediate weapon," a relatively humdrum status that includes pepper spray, to the serious category of "impact weapon." If Tasers were in the latter group, they could be used only against people who are "combative" or otherwise dangerous.

In New Brunswick, police chiefs ordered a review of Taser use, and have concluded no substantive changes are needed.

As for Toronto, its police chief is certainly demanding change - but it's not in the direction that reformers would like. He wants to buy 500 additional Tasers.

The devices are supposed to be substitutes for firearms. Too often they are substitutes for talk.

In Montreal, a coalition of critics that includes two councillors from the city's ruling party - Warren Allmand and Marvin Rotrand - is asking to suspend the use of Tasers until impartial research is in on how these 50,000-volt guns affect people with various health problems or who are high on drugs. Twenty people in Canada have died after being tasered, says Amnesty. If governments require the pharmaceutical industry to test its wares for health effects before selling them, why not ask the same of Taser International? By the way, the company is poised to launch later this year a new model that will make the current one look like a peashooter. The current handgun-style model zaps people as far away as eight metres. The new model is a 12-gauge shotgun with a range of 30 metres.

Unless politicians suddenly wake up, we ain't seen nothing yet.

Tasers need to be banned

February 9, 2008

Police across Canada should consider following New Brunswick's example when it comes to Tasers. Police chiefs in New Brunswick recently updated their policies on Tasers following a string of deaths involving the devices. It includes more training for officers and re-certification requirements at least once a year.

The policy also deals with mental health issues and how police can spot someone in the "excited delirium" condition. This mysterious condition is often cited in cases where someone has died after being hit by a Taser.

The only weakness of the new policy is it provides no guidelines for officers on when to use the device. It is up to the officer's judgment. The officer must decide if the person is in an "excited delirium" state before they shock. Besides not having the expertise, it stands to reason in an emotionally-charged situation, officers might not make the best judgments.

In a life or death situation, a lot is at stake.

I used to be a proponent of the Taser. Any alternative to deadly force, I thought, was a good thing. But, like others, I do not see them now as an alternative to deadly force as they can often be the instrument of deadly force. Amnesty International has already cited evidence of deaths in the United States related to Taser use. Without conclusive research, police should treat them as a firearm. It should not be drawn unless there is real threat of personal harm.

After the shameful and unnecessary death of Robert Dziekanski, the Polish national who died after being struck by a Taser by the RCMP at Vancouver International Airport, it has become obvious Tasers are being used too casually.

While opposing a ban, I find calls for a moratorium on the Taser pending further study to be compelling. What is certain is police all across Canada need further training and clearer guidelines.

The RCMP deserves credit for reviewing their policies on Tasers after the death of Dziekanski. Last November, the Canadian Press released a report documenting RCMP use of the device. The documents address hazards of the device and provide clues how to improve use.

In hundreds of cases, Tasers were used as a compliance tool and not as a means of last resort to defuse a major threat and, in the majority of cases, those subjected to Tasers were unarmed. While this makes sense, as most people stopped by the RCMP are not armed, it shows police are too quick to view Tasers as a way to restrain people in non-deadly situations. The device should not be an easy tool to keep low-risk prisoners, drunks and unruly people in line.

Police, predictably, have come to the Taser's defence. It is the best option to handle a dangerous situation without having to draw their weapon, they argue. But, without adequate study into deaths involving Tasers, it is evident for some people police have to confront, Tasers could prove to be as deadly as firearms.

Sadly, police are ill-equipped to know who these people are until after they wind up dead. Until they do, the device's use should be curbed.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Quebec government faces calls to suspend taser use

February 8, 2008
RHÉAL SÉGUIN, The Globe and Mail

QUEBEC CITY -- The Quebec government is under increasing pressure to impose a moratorium on the use of tasers until an independent study can verify whether the weapons are safe for use by the province's police forces. The Parti Québécois said yesterday it will use parliamentary tactics to force Premier Jean Charest's minority government to reverse an earlier decision and impose a moratorium. "At the opening of the session, we will deploy a precise strategy to make sure all the light can be shed on this issue," said PQ House Leader François Gendron.

Furthermore a new coalition that includes Amnesty International, the Ligue des droits et libertés, various politicians and advocacy groups demanded a moratorium yesterday citing the deaths last fall of Quilem Registre in Montreal and Claudio Castagnetta in Quebec City as examples of the unsafe use of the weapon.

Tasers were used in separate incidents during the arrests of Mr. Registre and Mr. Castagnetta. Three other Canadians died last fall following multiple discharges of the electroshock weapon, including the well-publicized case of Robert Dziekanski at the Vancouver airport.

"People are worried and we need a moratorium while independent experts study the safety of this weapon," said Dominique Peschard, president of the Ligue des droits et libertés. "We also need an inquiry to determine if the taser gun contributed to the deaths of Mr. Registre and Mr. Castagnetta."

Friends and relatives of the Registre and Castagnetta families have urged the government to release all information from the Sûreté du Québec's investigation into the deaths of the two men. "It's been five months since Mr. Castagnetta died and we've received nothing from the police investigation," said Jesse Zimmer, a close friend of Claudio Castagnetta. "In Ontario, independent inquiries are conducted into deaths involving police officers. Here in Quebec the police investigate the police. That has to change."

Jacques Dupuis, the Quebec Minister of Public Security, reiterated yesterday that his government was open to all new information regarding the safety of tasers, but categorically refused to impose a moratorium. A study released last December conducted by experts and senior members of Quebec police forces recommended improved training on the use of tasers, but stopped short of recommending a moratorium.

The coalition questioned the report's neutrality noting that new information from tests conducted on animals have shown that tasers could cause heart damage.

"It is a weapon that has been denounced as a weapon of torture by a United Nations committee," Amnesty International spokeswoman Anne Sainte-Marie said yesterday.

We are waiting for answers - Sister of victim speaks out

February 8, 2008
IRWIN BLOCK, Montreal Gazette

Chantal Registre wants answers. The main one is to this question: If the Taser gun is more humane than one with bullets, why is her brother dead? She would like to know if the use by Montreal police of a Taser on Oct. 18 to subdue Quilem Registre, 38, provoked multiple heart attacks that killed him four days later.

Was there no other way to conduct his arrest on suspicion of drunk driving? she and a coalition of human rights groups and political figures asked yesterday. Because of the unanswered question, Chantal Registre said yesterday, she and her family are still in mourning. "We are all devastated," she said. "There is a big void and we don't know what to say. We are waiting for answers, and there are no answers."

She attended a news conference yesterday to support a renewed call for an immediate moratorium on the use by police of Taser guns to pacify suspects. The coalition also called for a full public inquiry into the deaths of Registre and Claudio Castagnetta, 32, who was hit by a Taser in Quebec City. The inquiry would include expert testimony into the medical and psychological consequences of being zapped by 50,000 volts of electricity.

City councillor Warren Allmand, a former federal solicitor-general, said an independent inquiry should look at the effect of Taser use on the elderly, the sick, children, women and people taking medication, alcohol or drugs. "What is the impact of repeated shots?" Allmand asked. "How many shots does it take to subdue a threatening person? What is the lethal potential of these weapons? What are the alternatives?"

The coalition rejected a report issued by a Quebec government subcommittee on the use of force because it included only one person, a physician, not connected with police or government. Independent experts must be consulted before the Quebec Public Security Department issues guidelines on Taser use, as it plans to do, the coalition said.

The Quebec coroner's office is investigating the cause and circumstances of Registre's death and that of Castagnetta in September. Castagnetta, an Italian immigrant, was walking around barefoot in a Quebec City store and refused to leave. He died in a police cell two days after he had been tasered three or four times.

Quebec Public Security Minister Jacques Dupuis sees no need for a moratorium or an inquiry, as no study has blamed Taser use for any deaths in Canada, spokesperson Philippe Archambault said yesterday. About 150 Tasers are used by police forces in Quebec. All officers who get one receive special training, he said.

A total of 20 people have died across Canada since 2000 after they were tasered by police, Amnesty International's franco-phone branch said yesterday.

Montreal police have 16 Tasers in their arsenal and they are distributed as follows:

Five are available for the SWAT team; there are four each for the police force's intervention groups that control riots and work at detention facilities; two are for training and one is at the Montreal courthouse, Inspector René Allard says.

Guidelines for Taser use in Montreal specify two situations: The person to be apprehended represents a high risk of violence,or police consider there is a high risk of injury to the person to be arrested, to officers or to bystanders, Allard says.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

California man dead after being stunned with police taser

Richard Earl Abston, 53, unarmed

The usual sequence of events. According to a police spokesperson, "... he became inactive and then started to become unresponsive. The officers immediately took attention and called an ambulance. CPR was started at the scene ..." The cause of the man's death hasn't yet been determined. A postmortem is scheduled for Friday.

Sister of Quilem Registre and Montreal groups want moratorium on taser use

January 7, 2008
The Canadian Press

MONTREAL - The sister of a man who died after an altercation where police zapped him with a stun gun joined a chorus of activists and politicians Thursday calling for a moratorium on the use of the Taser.

Chantal Registre sat quietly during a news conference where the Quebec League of Human Rights, Amnesty International and others decried the use of the weapon to subdue suspects police deem unruly. The groups argued too little is known about the medical risks posed by stun guns and what they do to elderly persons, psychological patients or people on drugs.

Registre said she believes police improperly use stun guns and that cops should use the training they get at the police academy to subdue suspects. "I think they think it's a toy," she said after the news conference. "It's not a toy. It's really not a toy. I have the proof it's not a toy," she said. "I don't have a brother any more."

Her brother Quilem Registre was stopped by Montreal police in October 2007 for driving erratically. Police said he was intoxicated and aggressive and they used a stun gun - which emits a 50,000-volt electrical charge - to subdue him. He died in hospital several days later of liver and heart failure after his condition deteriorated.

"We're upset, the whole family is upset," Chantal Registre said, adding that her family is still awaiting an explanation of what happened to her brother. "We're always waiting for answers but we don't get them."

Quilem Registre's death came days after an incident in Vancouver that put stun gun use by police on Canadians' radar and sparked a widespread debate on the issue. RCMP used Tasers on Robert Dziekanski, 40, who had flown to Canada from Poland to join his mother. The Polish-speaking man became distraught after being stuck in the airport for several hours and police said they needed the zapper to control him. He died within minutes of the police intervention, which was captured on video.

Manufacturer Taser International maintains the deaths cannot be blamed on the device, which immobilizes suspects with an electrical shock. Since 2003, at least 17 Canadians have died following stun gun incidents.

Warren Allmand, a former federal solicitor general and past president of the International Centre for Human Rights, said a full, independent medical and technical review of all models of stun guns is needed. "What is the lethal potential of these weapons and how should they be categorized in relationship to other weapons and control mechanisms?" Allmand said. "What are the alternatives? It is only when we have the answers to these questions that the government can draft appropriate guidelines or directives for the use or non-use of Tasers."

Marvin Rotrand, a Montreal city councillor, said he is still trying to get a copy of the guidelines for use of stun guns by city police although he has been assured it is infrequent. He said he has been told the Montreal force only has 13 Tasers compared to 500 in Toronto. He's concerned that there is a push by police forces in Canada to make stun guns an everyday part of the street cop's arsenal.

"We find that very, very scary," Rotrand said. "We want there to be extremely strict rules if this is even going to be used by police. We want to know in advance whether this is a valid alternative to lethal force or this is something that is going to create a situation that many of us are going to regret afterwards."

(A report in today's Montreal Gazette says: The National Congress of Italian Canadians supports the moratorium and public inquiry call in connection with the death of Claudio Castegnetta, 32, in Quebec City in September. The Italian immigrant was a visibly disturbed man, wandering around barefoot when he refused to leave a Quebec City store. He died in a police cell two days after he was hit three or four times by a police Taser gun.)