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Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Man dies in Tennessee

Jermaine Ward, 28, died on April 28, 2008

"A dispatcher noticed that something "just wasn't right" with Ward as he awaited processing..."

Monday, April 28, 2008

Vancouver Police Board fails to block lawsuit over taser-related death

April 28, 2008
Canadian Press

VANCOUVER — The B.C. Court of Appeal has dismissed a bid by the Vancouver Police Board to block a compensation suit related to the death of a man who was jolted with a Taser almost four years ago. Robert Bagnell died in police custody in June of 2004 during an altercation with Vancouver police. His family is suing the Police Board under the Family Compensation Act, claiming the Board was negligent in supplying police officers with Tasers, and failed to ensure the stun guns were independently tested and properly maintained. The Board attempted to have the suit dismissed, claiming it had no reasonable chance to succeed, and the city of Vancouver should be the target of any suit. But a lower court rejected the argument, and the B.C. Court of Appeal has upheld that ruling. The appeal court says it’s not obvious that the claim against the Police Board would fail, and the issue should be left to be argued during a trial.

See the Reasons for Judgment

North Carolina man dies

Paul Thompson, 24, died on Sunday, April 27th

"Police say his reaction to the measures were not normal. He had been in critical condition since Tuesday morning."

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Families of taser victims speak to the Commons Committee reviewing the user of tasers in Canada

On April 16, 2008, Zofia Cisowski (mother of Robert Dziekanski) and her lawyer, as well as I and my mother, attended the meeting of the House of Commons Committee on Public Safety and National Security. Our submissions have now been added to the SECU website as evidence. See here.

You can also listen to the proceedings here.

Friday, April 25, 2008

What's in it for the coroners?

Earlier today, I learned that, on Monday, the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, currently reviewing the use of tasers in Canada, will hear from two Canadian coroners: namely, Graeme Dowling (Chief Medical Examiner for Alberta) and Andrew McCallum (Regional Supervising Coroner for Eastern Ontario).

See the Notice of Meeting

I do not know Andrew McCallum's position on tasers but I *do* know that he works for the same Ontario government Ministry that employed Dr. James (Jim) Cairns, - the Ontario Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services. The same Ministry that allowed tasers into Ontario, the same Ministry that found tasers had nothing to do with the deaths of Peter Lamonday, Samuel Truscott and James Foldi and which has yet to hold an inquest into the death of Jerry Knight who died FOUR years ago, the same Ministry that, according to the Globe and Mail, allowed its deputy chief coroner, Jim Cairns, to accept payment from Taser International for lecturing at their conferences. And on and on it goes. OK, I think we can guess what Andrew McCallum's stance will be.

Here's what the taser manufacturer had to say about Graeme Dowling on its website:

Medical Examiner Says TASER Devices Not a Death Sentence

WASHINGTON, June 12, 2006 (PRIMEZONE) -- TASER International, Inc. (Nasdaq:TASR), a market leader in advanced electronic control devices released the following News Alert:

According to news reports from Alberta's Edmonton Sun in Canada, a local medical examiner has stated that misconceptions and misinformation about police TASER devices are causing misguided speculation in excited delirium deaths. Excited delirium is a condition that causes victims to display extremely aggressive behavior and "superhuman" strength and often requires several people to control the affected individual. Most often excited delirium victims stop breathing and do not respond to resuscitation attempts.

Dr. Graeme Dowling of Edmonton's medical examiner's office stated that there are actually "no definitive cases where TASERs have actually killed anybody." Dowling also noted that because the electricity from a TASER device flows across the skin surface, as opposed to through internal organs, there is no effect on the heart. "The frustrating thing for us is these deaths occur and the immediate speculation is TASER," says Dowling.

To date, TASER systems have not been named in any in-custody death situation in Edmonton.


Later today, a fellow blogger left a comment on "340 dead after taser use." I didn't want it to be missed, so here it is in its entirety:

Okay, let's lay it out:

Taser has cultivated close relationships with many leading coroners and medical examiners. They sponsor almost-'captive' organizations that sponsor nice seminars in pleasant locations. They pay for coroners to attend. They're deeply involved in the coroner and ME business. Skeptics might find this cozy Taser+Coroners relationship very suspicious.

Would you eat ice cream from an ice cream company that was this friendly with coroners and medical examiners? I certainly wouldn't.

If you ask many coroners, they'd tell you flat out that tasers are perfectly safe (because Taser told them so, and Taser wouldn't lie, would they?). Some skeptics might use the word brainwashed. Taser has had quite the head start in this.

Many of these coroners have been told that the various tasers emit only about 2 mA ("average"), but I'll bet most don't realize that the M26 emits 162 mA RMS and the X26 emits 151 mA RMS. The industry standard method to measure electrical waveforms is RMS (like your household power is 120 volts RMS).

I'll put it out again because it's important:

Taser M26 is 162 mA RMS
Taser X26 is 151 mA RMS

These RMS values, which appeared on earlier revisions of their specification sheets, have been curiously expunged from the later revisions.


Taser sues coroners that have found that the taser was a contributing factor. They're in court this week in fact.

There are other coroners that list everything (EVERYTHING!) except (!) the taser. Amazing!!! Why? Well, see above. And see below too.

The taser leaves zero internal footprints. There is no physical evidence. This 'proof issue' is a huge problem for opponents of Taser. It's as if Taser has invented a magic electric rifle that can take down victims (and possibly stop their heart) without leaving a sign.

But to claim that the taser is perfectly safe in the face of such numbers is an insane position.

If Taser was honest, they would provide a numerical risk value. The number will not be zero. I've never seen such a number. Even Boeing has to submit a thick report showing their estimated risk for the wings falling off (etc.).

Look for my post "Looking for 'proof' in all the wrong places" on my blog www.Excited-Delirium.com for further discussion on this issue.

Perhaps the standard for proof should be that someone died and there were all those little Taser serial number tags found scattered around at the scene. At least it is strong evidence that the taser is a possible contributing factor to the death.

It's naive to exclude the taser as a possible contributing factor because Taser told them so.

And when you see the ethical missteps associated with Taser, you wouldn't trust them as far as you could throw them.

No waking up from proliferation of 'nonlethal' weapons

April 25, 2008
Geoff Olson, Vancouver Courier

North America not far away from becoming Deadwood with stun guns

Several years ago, in his essay Shadow Dancing, the San-Francisco based tech writer Erik Davis wrote on how post 9/11 America had invaded his dream world.

"I have more than occasionally found myself half-awake at 3 a.m., facing hypnagogic bouts of fear and paranoia induced by current events. Sometimes these apocalyptic spectres slip into my dream life proper. Once I found myself outside of Berlin at night, on the side of some wet and nameless interstate. The city was hosting a gathering of national police forces from around the developed world, there to show off their latest tech. With a steel roar, a stream of the latest urban tanks careened out of an underpass, bulbous cartoon things festooned with the baroque weaponry of Japanese mecha and designed, clearly, to control domestic unrest. My god, I thought, it has begun."

Has it?

Last Saturday's Vancouver Sun headline, "Fare Prey," was sub-headed "Greater Vancouver transit cops tell fare cheats: comply with police or expect to be tasered." Asked if officers would continue with the practice of tasering non-violent fare evaders, Inspector Daniel Dureau of the Greater Vancouver Transportation Authority Police is quoted, "Absolutely. Absolutely. Yup."

Welcome to the new normal. With deaths and injuries climbing from Taser use across North America, it appears law enforcement agencies--including TransLink's paramilitary arm--feel emboldened to carry on with business as usual. Last November, the Vancouver Police Department said it was getting 70 more of the stun guns, in spite of the public outcry over a Polish immigrant's death at Vancouver International Airport.

And now we learn that several hours of surveillance footage recorded at YVR the night Robert Dziekanski was Tasered and died were "inadvertently erased" by the Canada Border Services Agency.

In our post-9/11 world, we're told we have to trade some of our freedom for security. Or is it security for freedom? I forget. And I'm not sure what fare evasion or a foreigner's desperate confusion has to do with any of this. I'm starting to feel like Erik Davis, tossing and turning in his sleep.

This story is bigger than excitable cops with new toys. A few weeks ago, I caught a 60 Minutes report on the newest entry into the U.S. military's arsenal of "non-lethal weapons," a microwave ray gun that can create localized hotspots hundreds of metres away. An enthusiastic CBS reporter offered himself as a guinea pig, standing in a test range and waiting for the cannon to fire. He grimaced and moved quickly out of the hotspot, smarting but uninjured.

Proponents of the microwave cannon tout it as a safe alternative to traditional weapons for crowd control, and hope to earmark it for trouble spots like Iraq and Afghanistan.

The 60 Minutes episode continued with scenes of volunteers out in the field, playing the part of placard-carrying protestors. They scrambled the moment the 100,000 watt beam hit them. But something caught my eye; I hit the rewind to get a closer look at the wording on the protestors' placards. "World Peace." "Peace Not War." "Love for All."

Of course, placards on a test range aren't proof the Pentagon's ray gun is actually intended for domestic crowd control. But surely these field tests, filmed for the edification of higher-ups in the Pentagon, say something about the military mindset--if not the grunts testing the new tech, then the bigwigs in Washington's five-sided fear factory.

To make sense of all this, we need a bit of historical context. After the 1993 Waco debacle, U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno and Deputy Secretary of Defense John Deutch signed a "memo of understanding," under which the Pentagon would share "dual use" non-lethal technology with domestic law enforcement agencies. What that meant is that over a decade ago, a path was smoothed so that more so-called "nonlethals" could find their way into the lockers of U.S. SWAT teams and police officers. With the "harmonization" of Canada and the U.S., it's probably no accident we now find ourselves in an electrified wild west, from Kelowna to Kansas. It's Deadwood with stun guns.

And now nonlethals are available for domestic use: Taser has short-range models for everyone from housewives to gangbangers, and even offers a Taser holster with space for a music player. You can't make this stuff up--but you can imagine the profits if there's ever an arms race in nonlethals between flatfoots and fare-evaders.

God knows where we'll be a decade hence with this nonsense, unless we start demanding some accountability from our supposed public servants. In his Shadow Dancing essay, Erik Davis had the option of curling up and going back to sleep. We may not have it so comfortable.

Man dies in Memphis

Dewayne Chatt, 39, Died on April 24, 2008

Man dies in Cincinnati

Kevin Piskura, 24, UNARMED, Died on April 24, 2008

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Four-day trial ends in lawsuit by Taser

April 24, 2008
Akron Beacon Journal

A judge is expected to rule next month on whether to force the Summit County Medical Examiner to delete the use of a Taser gun as a contributing cause of death of three men who tangled with law enforcement. A four-day trial ended Thursday in Summit County Common Pleas Court. Visiting Judge Ted Schneiderman accepted written arguments from Taser International Co. attorneys. County attorneys have until Wednesday to file their response. Taser International and the city of Akron is suing Summit County Medical Examiner Lisa Kohler. The three deaths at issue are: Dennis Hyde, 30, who died in 2005; Richard Holcomb, 18, who died in 2005; and Mark McCullaugh Jr., 28, who died in 2006. Kohler's office listed the cases as homicides and said the electrical shocks by the Tasers contributed to the deaths. Taser and city of Akron attorneys say the Tasers played no role in the deaths.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Alberta man's family seeks answers into taser death

April 23, 2008

The family of an Alberta man who died after being hit by an RCMP Taser in Red Deer almost two years ago hopes a fatality inquiry starting Wednesday will reveal the answers they've been looking for.

"We want to know why a 28-year-old man that is completely strong ends up dying," Surya Doan said in an exclusive interview with CBC News and the Canadian Press. "If it wasn't the Taser, what was it?"

Doan and her family believe RCMP officers used excessive force to subdue her brother, Jason, a pipeline worker, on Aug. 10, 2006, in a park in the central Alberta city.

Internal RCMP reports obtained by the two media outlets offer some details of what happened that day. Jason Doan was smashing car windows and wielding the broken end of a shovel, so officers chased and brought him to the ground, then shocked him with the controversial stun gun.

"His left arm was already in a handcuff and three officers were over him at this point," said his sister, who spoke to police and eyewitnesses herself. "They administered a five-second stun mode to him. They said at that point, he was continuing to struggle so they administered another five second, 50,000 volts."
Police stunned him a third time because they said he was still fighting back.

"They turned him over to put his handcuff on him in the front and he was blue. His face was blue," said Surya Doan.

Jason Doan was unconscious and his heart had stopped. Police resuscitated him, but he died three weeks later of heart failure.

Internal reports indicated that police suspected Doan, who had no criminal record, was using cocaine and alcohol when officers confronted him, but a toxicology report found otherwise. "He had no drugs or alcohol in his body that day. Toxicology found none," said Surya Doan.

The medical examiner listed three factors on the death certificate: excited delirium, heart failure and undetermined causes. No drugs or alcohol were found in his system.

She has high hopes for Alberta's public fatality inquiry that begins Wednesday: "How do you say as a civilian you're mad at the RCMP? You're taught to trust them and believe in them. And it's a really confusing state for a family to have to deal with something like this … We live in a democracy," she said with tears filling her eyes.

The RCMP said it can't comment on what happened to Jason Doan, but did say it welcomes the inquiry.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Family of Alberta man who died after hit by RCMP stun gun questions use of taser

April 22, 2008

LACOMBE, Alta. - The sister of an Alberta man who died after being zapped by an RCMP Taser hopes a fatality inquiry will explain why an officer jolted him three times and what role the stun gun may have played in his death.

Jason Doan scuffled with three Mounties just after noon on Aug. 10, 2006, after a man was seen damaging vehicles in a Red Deer neighbourhood.

RCMP said they hit Doan with a Taser three times after he struck an officer with a shovel handle. As a struggling Doan lay prone on the ground with one wrist handcuffed, shocks of up to 50,000 volts were shot into his body. When Mounties rolled him over after the third shock, his face was blue.

The strapping 28-year-old pipeline worker went into cardiac arrest. He then suffered seizures and plunged into a deep coma, dying in hospital three weeks later. He never regained consciousness.

"We want to know why he died. We want to know why a 28-year-old man, who is completely strong, ends up dying from being in a coma. If it wasn't the Taser, then what was it?" asked his sister, Surya Doan, 36, who is speaking out for the first time.

The confrontation happened more than a year before Robert Dziekanski, 40, died at Vancouver International Airport after he was stunned twice with a Taser and wrestled to the ground by RCMP. The Polish man's death, caught on video by another passenger, set off an international uproar over Taser safety.

Continue Article

In Doan's case, the medical examiner listed three factors on the death certificate: excited delirium, heart failure and undetermined causes. No drugs or alcohol were found in his system.

Doan had no criminal record.

A censored RCMP Taser report obtained by The Canadian Press and the CBC under the Access to Information Act says police believed or suspected that cocaine or alcohol "had an impact on the suspect."

It is believed to be the report filed after the Doan confrontation, although the exact date and his name were stripped. Other details included in the form match what happened that day.

The report says that the suspect was aware that RCMP were going to use what the Mounties call a "conducted energy weapon" and that the suspect was warned three times - each time before he was shocked with the stun gun.

The report also says the use of the Taser avoided injuries to the suspect and police.

Surya Doan said her family is still devastated by Jason's death. A provincial court judge in Red Deer is to set the terms and date for the inquiry on Wednesday. Such inquiries cannot assess blame but may make recommendations on how to avoid similar deaths.

"These are questions that our family would like to know. Why his death certificate says undetermined? We would like to know why it says that he died of excited delirium, which is a psychiatric term. It is not a medical term," said Doan, 36, who teaches special needs students.

"We certainly don't understand the effects of the Taser on his body. We have questions as a family and we need them answered. For two years we have asked for them to be answered."

Faced with media questions about the Doan case following Dziekanski's death, RCMP in Red Deer held an information session on Tasers.

Supt. Brian Simpson called the stun guns a safe weapon. He also said the Mounties have adequate training and accountability protocols that work.

That doesn't make sense to Surya Doan, who said she cried when she watch Dziekanski struggle and die on video more than a year after her brother did. She wonders why RCMP needed to stun Jason three times.

"I could understand maybe once that they (Tasered) him, just to subdue him. Maybe I could even understand twice. But the third time and they turned him over and he was blue? He couldn't have been fighting that hard. The physical body does not fight when you have no oxygen."

Doan said her brother was treated like a criminal even when he was in hospital, his arms tied to a bed with leather restraints.

And she is still haunted by the memory of watching the man she grew up with waste away from his injuries.

"A week later, my brother was wearing diapers. His body just completely stopped functioning. To see a young man who was that strong and had such strength and endurance to be in that state is very, very painful to watch," she said, softly crying.

An RCMP spokesman declined to comment on the Doan inquiry other than to say that it is important for the judge to reach her own conclusions and recommendations.

Taser report forms from the RCMP show that Mounties have used the stun guns more than 4,000 times since introducing them seven years ago. The RCMP has more than 2,800 Tasers and some 9,100 Mounties are trained to use them.

Arizona-based manufacturer Taser International has stressed the device has never been directly blamed for a death. It has, however, been cited repeatedly as a contributing factor.

Surya Doan said she hopes the fatality inquiry will force police and governments to take a hard look at how Tasers are used.

"I don't think that they should be using them at all if they haven't more of an understanding," she said. "I'm not quite sure how we as a society have bought into the fact that it is OK to stun people with it."

Mentally ill man dies after struggle with Richmond police

Uriah Samson Dach, 26, Richmond, CA

... officers used pepper spray, stun guns and batons to try to subdue the 6-foot-3, 350-pound Dach, police said. The officers and Dach struggled in the center, on the front porch and in the driveway, Gagan said. The officers called for backup, and when two more officers arrived, all four were able to pin Dach to the ground and handcuff him, Gagan said. Once he was on the ground, however, the officers realized that Dach had stopped breathing, Gagan said. Efforts to revive him were unsuccessful, and he was pronounced dead at Doctors Medical Center in San Pablo.

In the line of fire

April 22, 2008
Keith Vass - Victoria News

Tasers often used on non-assaultive, unarmed subjects, but that’s as it should be, say police

A man is fighting with police, kicking at them, locking his legs with theirs and refusing to let go. Another is armed with a knife, threatening passers-by. One, wanted for dangerous driving and already being held on the ground by police, refuses to bring his arms out from underneath his body. All had their confrontation with Victoria police brought to an end by a Taser.

Drawn from Victoria Police Department use-of-force reports accessed through Freedom of Information legislation, the three cases present a small sample of the 48 times officers drew their Tasers in 2007.

Some contain more detail than others on what led police to deploy the Taser. “Aggressive; tensed up, clenched fists” is all one says.

Others are harrowing. In one case, a man arrested the night before by heavily-armed tactical officers who seized two guns, barricaded himself in an apartment after being released. After he challenged police to “take him on,” smashed furniture and threatened to leap from a seventh-storey window, an officer Tasered him when he turned his back.

As controversy around the weapon mounts, a B.C. inquiry into police Taser use prepares to hear submissions while other agencies face allegations of “usage creep.”

To understand how and why Victoria police are using the weapon, the News reviewed 183 use-of-force reports from 2005 through to the end of 2007. We requested every incident where police drew the Taser to threaten its use or delivered its 50,000-volt, 2.1-milliampere jolt in either the pain-compliance based ‘push-stun’ mode or by firing the weapons barbed probes to disrupt muscle control.

In an interview, Const. Mike Massine, the VPD’s Taser trainer and co-ordinator explained how they train officers to use the weapon, when each of its three modes of use is appropriate and where the device fits in the range of force options.

Whether the reports released represent every Taser use by the force is unclear. We received 69 for 2005, 66 for 2006 and 48 from last year. But statistics from the Police Services Division of the Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General show the Victoria police reported 79 Taser deployments to the ministry in 2005 and 59 in 2006 (numbers for 2007 are not yet available). A government spokeswoman said the discrepancy is being investigated.

And while the recent figures suggest Taser use has become more restrained, the government numbers show Taser usage by Victoria police was less common before 2005. In 2004, the ministry recorded 20 deployments, nine in 2003, 33 in 2002, 16 in 2001 and 32 in 2000.

In a detailed look at the 48 available reports from 2007, 24 Tasered subjects – half of the total – were deemed actively resisting but were not assaultive. Seven of those cases saw the Taser used in push-stun, 14 in probe deployment, five cases saw both modes used and in one case the weapon was only shown.

In 21 cases, police recorded the subject was assaultive, though only one presented a perceived threat of serious injury or death.

Six people either had a weapon in hand or had one within reach, while in another case police had received a report a man had a knife though it proved false. It was used five times to control somebody threatening suicide or self-harm.

In 28 cases, police were also in hand-to-hand scuffles with the subject, though the reports don’t always indicate which came first, the struggle or the shock. Six times another police weapon was used; three of those were pepper spray, two were shotgun fired impact rounds and one a steel baton.

Nine times police used the push-stun mode to get someone already under police restraint to produce their arms for handcuffing.

Across all three years, push-stun was used in 54 per cent of all Victoria Taser incidents, sometimes after the probes had also been fired.

Not one of the 183 reports records serious injuries requiring hospital care resulting from the Taser, though some needed treatment for puncture wounds from the device’s probes or cuts and abrasions.

Use of the Taser on non-assaultive, unarmed subjects has placed the RCMP under fire from the force’s public complaints chair, federal politicians and civil liberties groups, alleging Mounties are using the stun gun at a lower threshold than intended.

But Massine insists police have never viewed the weapon only as a replacement for deadly force, nor is there an obligation to start at a low level of force and work higher.

In policy and training, Victoria officers are told the Taser is an option at the level of “active” resistance, but doesn’t have to reach “assaultive.”

Active resistance, as police use the term, includes refusing verbal commands, pulling away, tensing muscles and ‘turtling,’ pinning arms under the body to prevent handcuffing -- anything that would hinder police making an arrest.

“The bottom line is, in any situation where there’s a level of resistance there’s a potential for extreme violence,” said Massine, adding police have to read often subtle cues to gauge if someone is about to become assaultive.

Rather than match resistance with an equal level of force, police are trained to go one step higher, Massine said, to bring the situation under control quickly. “The longer these things go on, the more likely subjects and officers and bystanders are to get injured,” he said.

B.C. Civil Liberties Association executive director Murray Mollard stood by the group’s call for a moratorium on all stun gun use based on safety concerns and noted a United Nations committee in November said Taser use could be seen as a form of torture.

The use of push-stun to achieve pain compliance is a growing worry. “No one has really examined the degree of pain this imposes on individuals,” he said.

But Massine counters that the Taser in push-stun is actually a lesser force option than other weapons. The effects of a Taser jolt end the moment the current stops flowing. “As soon as I turn it off, it’s gone, it’s done,” he said.

Manitoba aboriginal leaders want review of man's being shot, then stunned by taser

April 22, 2008

WINNIPEG - Leaders from a remote Manitoba First Nation are questioning why an RCMP officer zapped a suspect with a Taser after shooting him with a gun during a confrontation earlier this month.

Police were called to investigate an assault April 5 on a snowmobile trail at the Manto Sipi Cree Nation, formerly known as God's Lake First Nation.

Terrance Yellowback, 27, admits he was brandishing a table leg and refused to drop it, despite an officer's commands to do so.

Yellowback says the constable fired two shots from her service pistol, missing with the first and striking him in the side with the second, before using the Taser on his chest.

Chief Roger Ross says the community has been kept in the dark about what happened, so he's asking Manitoba Justice Minister Dave Chomiak for an independent review to go along with the RCMP's investigation.

Yellowback is facing three assault charges, including assaulting a peace officer, along with a charge of resisting arrest.

Taser maker disputes autopsy findings

April 22, 2008
Stephanie Warsmith, Akron Beacon Journal

Just before Dennis Hyde died, he said to one of the Akron police officers who had just used a Taser on him: ''Thank you. Thank you. You are sending me home.''

Whether the Taser shocks contributed to the death of Hyde — and two other Akron men in separate incidents — is the central question in a civil case this week in Summit County Common Pleas Court.

The Taser International Co. is suing Summit County Medical Examiner Lisa Kohler, who ruled the use of the stun gun-like weapons were a contributing factor in the deaths.

Akron still has police officers using Tasers. The city is siding with the company against the county, which is defending Kohler.

The results of the lawsuit could have broad implications. Civil and criminal cases are pending in the local cases, and Tasers have been linked to dozens of other deaths across the United States.

During opening arguments Monday, Assistant Akron Prosecutor Patricia Ambrose called Tasers ''a crucial, nonlethal instrument'' used by thousands of officers.

Ambrose said the city and Taser will show Kohler incorrectly blamed the weapons and that ''excited delirium'' instead was responsible. Excited delirium is used to describe deaths of suspects who are in police custody and are highly agitated or under the influence of drugs.

John Maley, one of two attorneys representing Taser, said the weapons give officers an option other than ''guns, batons and fists.''

He said there is no scientific evidence to prove Tasers kill
people and Kohler did not understand the way Tasers work when she made her rulings.

Maley said Taser wants visiting Judge Ted Schneiderman, who is presiding over the case, to modify the cause of death findings to delete references about the weapon contributing to the deaths or to say it was undetermined whether it contributed.

John Manley, chief counsel in the Summit County prosecutor's civil division, said the Taser company's request ''asks the court to issue an order that steps on the thought-out, carefully deliberated'' findings of three pathologists.

''We are not saying this is the sole or direct cause,'' Manley said. ''We are saying it contributed in some way. How much, we may never know.''

Manley pointed to Taser's product warning, which says ''it is important to remember that the very nature of self-defense, use of force, and physical confrontation or incapacitation involves a degree of risk that someone will get hurt or may even be killed due to physical exertion, unforeseen circumstances and/or individual susceptibilities.''

Manley said the three men in this case may have had ''individual susceptibilities'' that made the use of Tasers lethal for them.

The three deaths at issue are:

• Hyde, 30, who died in January 2005 after being shocked with a Taser multiple times by Akron police.

• Richard Holcomb, 18, who died in May 2005 after being stunned with a Taser by a Springfield Township police officer.

• Mark McCullaugh Jr., 28, who died in August 2006 after a struggle with deputies in the Summit County Jail. The deputies used pepper spray and a Taser to restrain him. (Five deputies have been indicted in his death.)

Kohler's office listed the cases as homicides and said the electrical shocks by the Tasers contributed to the deaths.

The civil trial will last at least through Thursday, with both sides calling competing expert witnesses. Kohler, who is sitting beside Manley during the trial, is expected to testify this afternoon.

In an unrelated case, a Taser has been linked to an injury in Oxford over the weekend.

A Chicago man is in critical condition after being stunned with a Taser Saturday by police. Officers called paramedics when Kevin Piskura, 24, had trouble breathing.

The Butler County prosecutor is reviewing the case.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Braidwood Inquiry Website

From Page One of the Braidwood Inquiry website:

The Government of British Columbia has appointed the Honourable Thomas R. Braidwood, QC as the head of two inquiries.

The first commission of inquiry is a "study" commission to report on the use of conducted energy weapons (Tasers) in British Columbia, and to make recommendations respecting their appropriate use.

The second commission of inquiry is a "hearing and study" commission to provide the Dziekanski family and the public with a complete record of the circumstances of Mr. Robert Dziekanski’s death and to make recommendations the Commissioner considers necessary and appropriate.

Thomas R. Braidwood, QC, the sole commissioner for these inquiries, is a former judge of the Supreme Court of British Columbia and the Court of Appeal of British Columbia and Yukon Territory.

The first commission will receive written submissions and hold forums for individuals and groups to make presentations to the commission. For more information on the submission process or to participate in a forum please visit the Submissions or Forums pages.

The commission is committed to an open process and looks forward to hearing from interested parties and the public. The commission will review all submissions received. The commission will keep the public informed on its proceedings through regular updates to this website.

Taser firm sues medical examiner over her rulings

April 22, 2008
Karen Farkas, The Plain Dealer (Cleveland)

Tasers don't kill, say the makers of the stun guns, so they went to court Monday to protect the company's reputation.

Taser International Inc. wants a judge to order Summit County Medical Examiner Dr. Lisa Kohler to change her rulings that "electrical pulse incapacitation" contributed to three men's deaths.

A hearing began Monday in Summit County Common Pleas Court before visiting Judge Ted Schneiderman and is expected to last several days. Experts for Taser and Kohler will testify whether any medical, scientific or engineering evidence can demonstrate a Taser can cause or contribute to a death.

In Ohio, the ruling of a medical examiner is assumed to be presumptively valid, John Manley, chief counsel of the civil division of the Summit County prosecutor's office, said last week. Manley is representing the medical examiner in the trial.

"It means the other side has the burden of proof to prove it is not," he said. He said such cases are uncommon.

Taser use has been controversial. Police use them to immobilize combative suspects, generally when nothing else short of deadly force would work. The weapon carries a 50,000-volt charge delivered through two barbed wires shot from the gun.

The company has successfully fought numerous wrongful death claims filed by families.

In the Summit County case, the focus is Kohler's ruling of the cause of death of three men. All three had other contributing factors - including drug use or heart disease - but Tasers were used on them before they died.

Dennis Hyde, 30, died Jan. 5, 2005, during a struggle with Akron police. Three officers used Tasers. Hyde of Hartville had broken into a house through a window. Kohler ruled the electrical impulse of the stun gun was a contributing factor along with methamphetamine and blood loss from glass cuts. Akron joined Taser in its lawsuit for that case.

Richard Holcomb, 18, of Akron, died May 28, 2005, after he attacked a Springfield Township police officer in a pasture. She shot him four times with her Taser. The shots were a factor in his death, and he was also in a drug-induced psychosis form using methamphetamine and Ecstasy, the medical examiner's office ruled.

Holcomb's family settled a wrongful death lawsuit in U.S. District Court with the township and the officer, but a claim against Taser was dropped by the family.

Taser also wants Schneiderman to order Kohler to delete any reference about whether a stun gun contributed to the death of Mark McCullaugh, who died in the Summit County Jail. McCullaugh, 28, died Aug. 20, 2006, during a struggle with deputies, who used Tasers and pepper spray on him.

Kohler ruled McCullaugh died of asphyxia due to the "combined effects of chemical, mechanical and electrical restraint."

Five deputes were indicted in McCullaugh's death. Their trials are pending.

Police-stunned man still critical

April 21, 2008
Morris Daily Herald

OXFORD, Ohio (AP) A man stunned by Ohio police during a fight outside an Oxford bar remains in critical condition two days later.

Police say 24-year-old Kevin Piskura of Chicago tried to interfere with the arrest of Steven Gene Smith of Mundelein, Illinois, early Saturday. Police say Piskura fought with bouncers and a police officer. And the officer used a Taser stun gun on him.

Police say they called a life squad when Piskura had trouble breathing. He was taken to an Oxford hospital and then by helicopter to University Hospital in Cincinnati.

Oxford police have asked the Butler County prosecutor to review the case.

Cops taser man who tried to flee after accident

April 21, 2008
By KELLY SHIERS, Halifax Chronicle Herald

Police officers used a stun gun on a driver after he tried to flee the scene of an accident in Dartmouth on Sunday night.

The officers had earlier decided not to pursue the man on city streets because he was driving too fast. "He tries to leave the scene and he is Tasered by responding officers because he’s not complying with the orders they’re giving him basically he was keeping his hands in his pockets and they believed he might be armed," Halifax Police Staff Sgt. Sean Auld said. "He’s been transported to hospital with minor injuries and he’s been arrested for impaired driving and fleeing police."

Staff Sgt. Auld said the vehicle the man was driving had been reported stolen in Cole Harbour and was believed to have been involved in a hit-and-run accident before Halifax police spotted it.

At the time, officers were responding to a call from another driver who reported that he had followed a vehicle from Cole Harbour Road to Portland Street and then to Highway 111. The driver being followed was driving erratically and "at a high rate of speed," the officer said. The caller believed the driver was impaired, he said.

Just before 8:30 p.m., officers observed the vehicle near the Burnside exit on Highway 111, he said.

"They started to pursue it, to try to catch up to it, and he was driving too fast," Staff Sgt. Auld said. "We made the decision to shut down the pursuit. It didn’t last more than 30 seconds."

But just a short time later, the driver lost control of the vehicle on Chappell Street. He drove through a yard and hit a car, then attempted to leave the scene on foot, he said.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Memo to tasering transit coppers

April 20, 2008
The Province

Interdepartmental memorandum

Re: Use of Tasers

To: Officers of TransLink Police, a.k.a. Greater Vancouver Transportation Authority Police Service (a.k.a. "you")

From: Chief of TransLink Police, General Larry "Buck" Stryker

Present situational: In Tactical Command Operations Coordination Centre (my van)

Priority: Top

- - - -

Fellow troopers,

As you know, the force is under fire because our Taser usage has become public through a Freedom of Information request.

Let me take this opportunity to remind you of the acceptable circumstances in which to deploy your Taser.

Number one would be:

- Encountering a Freedom of Information request.

Other situations in which your Taser can be deployed:

- On people who are violent.

- On people who could become violent and are in possession of potential weapons such as arms and legs.

- As a precautionary, on members of the public whom you suspect have their own Taser and might be planning to Taser themselves.

- And -- my favourite -- for resisting while being arrested for resisting arrest.

Do we Taser people for not paying their fare?


Do we Taser people for being non-compliant?


What does non-compliance consist of?

Non-compliance consists of saying "no" when we ask to see proof they paid their fare.

And non-compliance comes in a lot of other forms, too.

There is:

- Aggressive non-compliance.

- Passive non-compliance.

- Didn't-hear-the-question non-compliance.

- And shouting "Oh please don't Taser me, don't Taser me" in a way that could undermine the public's confidence in TransLink Police non-compliance.

One particular example of non-compliance we've been criticized for is when we Tasered a civilian for not letting go of a SkyTrain rail when we asked him to.

How did Tasering him protect the public in that instance?

Well, what if his non-compliance encouraged the world-class non-compliers of the world -- and the next day al-Qaida was holding a SkyTrain rail and wouldn't let go? Or the communist horde? Or Iran?

That would not only have profound implications on Canada's sovereignty but also mean major inconvenience for commuters.

This is not to say there aren't occasions when you should refrain from using your Taser.

Inappropriate Taser use:

- To reheat coffee or make toast during break.

- Re-charge a personal digital music device.

- In the context of combatting flies, mosquitoes or unwanted body hair.

- To light a post-tryst pair of cigarettes.

We do not think the controversy over our Taser usage is going to have any lasting negatory affect on the force.

This week we'll still, as planned, be delivering our request for the laser bazookas to TransLink board members.

And we remain confident they'll comply.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Where else can we use a taser?

April 19, 2008
Rod Allen, Assistant Managing Editor, The Moncton Times & Transcript

Recent incidents in Vancouver raise fresh questions about use of stun guns

Our cousins up on The Rock just north and east of here have a special word -- 'stunned' or sometimes just 'stun' -- to describe a person who might not be thinking clearly or, less kindly, is just plain stupid. Rarely do they use this word to describe actual 'stunnedness' -- that altered mental state which mysteriously occurs when we are smacked upside the head with, for example, a hakapik.

Incidentally, the spiked 'hakapik' club might be banned from the seal hunt down here on the East Coast, according to news reports this week, but fortunately there is still a potential market for our vital hakapik-making industry with the municipal government of Vancouver.

This august body may soon be on the hunt for an appropriate replacement for the taser, also currently under fire from various panty-waisted civic groups in this seething, hippie-infested west-coast birthplace of the seal-hunt protest.

Opponents of the taser are mewling piteously over Vancouver's decision to supply this mostly non-lethal device to the security dicks who prowl the city's vast public transit system. This, despite the fact the taser has produced stunning (chuckle) results in the maintenance of discipline amongst the citizenry, says Sgt. Willie Merenick of the Greater Vancouver Transit Authority Police Service.

According to 'Wild' Willie, all 10 incidents of taser use by his 'officers' since early 2007 were completely justified, and that's all he's got to say about a public outcry based on a separate report which states that in five of those 10 incidents, tasers were applied to people trying to avoid paying the fare.

Furthermore, in one of those five cases the offender was tasered because he (or she) wouldn't let go of a railing.

Well said, Willie, or not-said as the case may be. I'm pretty sure I know what you're trying to not-say. Why should the taser be confined, un-asks Willie, to the rather unimaginative role of somewhat largely non-lethal alternative to the scattergun or the hakapik or the morning-star in cases of self-defence? Why should it not be used by cops to teach the citizenry the meaning of the word "respect?" Willie, in fact, inspires us to wonder aloud whether the taser has yet to find its full and rightful place in our society.

True, there have been some slightly unsettling taser-related incidents on both coasts of late. A few people have died. Untidy business, that.

But think of the potential benefits if taser use was expanded to other professions. If a weapon originally intended for the police is now good enough for transit security guards then why not mall-cops? Hey, why not the little man in the booth at Moncton's downtown parking garage?

'Lost yer ticket, eh? Suuure, Mac.' Zap.

Would it be so wrong to supply tasers to teachers? Think of how this might be applied not only in matters of discipline in the hallways but in matters of correction, shall we say, in the spelling bee. One imagines New Brunswick's woeful academic record in our high schools improving overnight.

And don't forget: Education Begins At Home. 'Didn't do your homework eh, you disrespectful little brat?' Zap. 'Now eat your broccoli.' Zap. 'Faster.' Zap.

Verily, the possibilities are endless.

Think of tourism. Think of how Montrealers stroll along Moncton's Main Street in the summers and spy, to their horror, the locals wearing white, last year's black. Should Downtown Moncton Inc. consider augmenting its force of 'summer ambassadors' with, oh, I don't know, maybe the DMI Fashion Police? 'Oh my Gawwwd. Yellow sou-wester and tartan toreador pants with a horizontally striped orange blazer? Zap. And gum-rubbers?! Zap. With the tops rolled down?!!' Zap. 'Oh, why not?' Zap-Zap.

And let us not forget we inhabit the Age of Information and robots are getting smarter and smarter. The day will come when Automated Teller Machines will demand not only the vote, but the right to demand satisfaction from that disrespectful old lady trying to withdraw 50 bucks from an overdrawn account. Zip-zap, zippity doo-da pay.

Accept no delays, dear readers; we are speeding headlong into the future.

Foot-draggers will be considered disrespectful and stunned stupid.

Taser contributed to Nevada man's death

Ryan Rich, 33, died in Las Vegas, Nevada on January 5, 2008

A jury ruled Friday on the coroner's inquest into the death of a man tasered by Nevada Highway Patrol officers. In January, law enforcement says 33 year old Ryan Rich hit several cars on I - 15. When troopers tried to take Rich into custody, he resisted. An NHP officer then tasered Rich. Rich was hospitalized and later died from a seizure disorder.

The jury ruled that while restraint and the tasing contributed to his death, a seizure disorder ultimately claimed Rich's life.

Transit police's taser use left to officers' discretion, force says

April 19, 2008
David Hogben, Vancouver Sun

Greater Vancouver's transit police, under fire for Tasering so-called "non-compliant" passengers, said Friday the department's policy for Taser use is very broad and leaves a lot to individual officers' discretion.

Insp. Bob Huston made the statement in a news conference on the sidewalk outside transit police headquarters in New Westminster. He had been asked whether allowing Tasers to be used against anyone who is "non-compliant" is a pretty broad policy.

"Yes," Huston responded. "We depend upon the judgment of our officers to deploy the Tasers properly."

Huston spent 20 minutes vociferously defending the use of Tasers. "If we didn't fully believe that Tasers save lives, reduce and prevent injuries and are effective we wouldn't use them," he said, reading from a written text.

The latest controversy over Taser use erupted this week after an article on The Vancouver Sun's editorial pages revealed the TransLink police -- Canada's only armed transit police force -- has used Tasers at least 10 times since last July.

The department's own records state that in four of those cases, the electro-shock device was used against non-violent, non-threatening passengers. In three of the incidents, the passengers Tasered were being investigated for possible fare evasion.

The use of Tasers by law enforcement officers created an international black eye for Canada last October when Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski died after being Tasered by RCMP officers at Vancouver International Airport.

Despite recent controversy over whether Tasers represent too great a danger to be used against "non-compliant" fare evaders, Huston maintained there is sufficient medical evidence to support their use.

He could not cite independent studies to support his case.

"All I can tell you is I believe, our department believes, that the Taser is a safe and effective tool."

Huston acknowledged he was not aware of any Taser testing done on subjects with medical problems such as heart disease. "I know there has been studies done in relation to animals," he said. "I am not aware of any specific studies in relation to people with heart problems."

Meanwhile, the B.C. division of the Canadian Mental Health Association re-entered the Taser debate Friday. Despite the association's earlier support for the use of Tasers as an alternative to lethal force, it said in a news release the device should be used only in extreme situations.

The association recommended that:

- "Rigorous, independent research into the effect of Tasers on vulnerable persons" be conducted, especially those suffering from mental illness, psychosis or heart problems.

- Police use-of-force policies "should be changed to place Tasers as a last choice before lethal force."

- A separate use-of-force policy be developed "for individuals apparently suffering from a psychiatric crisis."

Solicitor-general John van Dongen could not be reached for comment Friday.

Friday, April 18, 2008

No change to TransLink (Skytrain) taser use: police

There will be no change to the way Lower Mainland transit police use their Taser stun guns, Insp. Bob Houston said at a TransLink news conference on Friday. The South Coast British Columbia Transportation Authority Police Service, the police patrolling Greater Vancouver's TransLink system, defended their use of the stun guns at the news conference, saying that they are used only according to a written policy.

"We have tens of thousand of contacts with the public every year. We have deployed the Taser 10 times," Houston said. "We do not, have not and will never Taser those in our care for the non-payment of fares." When asked whether the Taser has damaged anyone’s health, he said: "All I can tell you is I believe, our department believes, Tasers are a safe and effective tool."

The B.C. Civil Liberties Association filed a complaint with the police complaints commissioner Thursday over TransLink constables' use of Tasers, which deliver an incapacitating electric shock to a targeted person.

Recently released documents confirm Houston's figure, showing that transit police have used Tasers on people 10 times since January 2007.

But the civil liberties association says transit police are turning to the Taser too quickly and for the wrong reasons. In its complaint filed with the complaint commissioner, the group says transit police are using the weapons in non-violent situations. In some cases, according to documents, police used stun guns on people who fled during fare checks.

"There's been a review … internally that suggests they have deployed their Tasers according to their policy," said the association's executive director, Murray Mollard. "I think on a second, closer look, it would be interesting to see if in fact the Taser use was not authorized by policy, and if it was, then clearly [we] want to take a run at a policy that we think would be inappropriate. We see how far police have come in their use of Tasers, and it has to stop somewhere," he said.

Transit police policy says officers are allowed to use their Tasers to control non-compliant, suicidal or violent people. The civil liberties association complaint takes issue with the phrase "non-compliant." A person's failure to obey transit police is insufficient to justify the use of a Taser, the association says.

In statement released Thursday, the police service said: "If the use of force is ever considered necessary to ensure our passengers are safe, then that event is subject to multi levels of internal review." The release went on to say, "On the rare occasions when the use of the Taser has been required, it has never generated a complaint."

Mollard said that seems to contradict the civil liberties association's own report into the 10 Taser incidents.

In response, TransLink said it won't discuss specific incidents while they remain under review.

Tasers have been condemned by the United Nations, whose Committee Against Torture determined the stun guns to be "a form of torture" that "can even cause death." Amnesty International says it has recorded 245 cases of Taser-related deaths.

B.C. Police Complaints Commission to probe taser use by transit police

April 18, 2008
The Canadian Press

VANCOUVER — The B.C. Civil Liberties Association is the latest to demand an investigation into the use of Tasers by armed transit police in Metro Vancouver. The association has filed a complaint with the province's Police Complaints Commissioner saying newly released documents suggest Tasers are being used against transit passengers in situations that border on debt collection.

The body that oversees Canada's only armed transit police service has called a news conference today and has issued a release saying members "do not, have not and will never" use Tasers on passengers for non-payment of fares. That appears to contradict documents indicating Tasers have been used 10 times in the past 18 months, including five times against riders who allegedly were trying to ride for free.

Fare prey - Greater Vancouver transit cops tell fare cheats: comply with police or expect to be tasered

April 18, 2008
David Hogben, Vancouver Sun; With files from Kelly Sinoski

Rules for passage on trains and buses are on the back of every ticket. Fare cheats who resist police can expect a Taser jolt.

Transit police say they will continue Tasering "non-compliant" passengers, despite outrage over reports that the weapon has been used against non-violent fare-evaders.

"Absolutely. Absolutely. Yup," Insp. Daniel Dureau of the Greater Vancouver Transportation Authority Police said Thursday, in a telephone interview, after he was asked if officers would still use Tasers on non-violent passengers.

Dureau, the force's media liaison officer, insisted the Tasers are used in compliance with TransLink police policy, and the force has no intention of changing that policy before a provincial inquiry into the use of Tasers makes its recommendations.

Sgt. Willie Merenick said claims that Tasers were being used on fare evaders were "really unwarranted." When Tasers are used on fare evaders, it is because they are refusing to comply with police, he said, not because they are fare evaders. "We do not, have not and will never Taser those in our care for non-payment of fares," Merenick said in a news release.

In an interview later, Merenick confirmed Tasers have been used 10 times on members of the public and were deployed "for the safety of the public, the people themselves and the police." There have been no public complaints about the force's user of Tasers, he added.

"If we didn't believe that Tasers save lives, reduce and prevent injuries and are effective, we wouldn't use them," he said. "They are an essential tool in helping us achieve our goal of keeping everyone safe."

The issue arose earlier this week when a Vancouver Sun columnist, relying on freedom-of-information legislation, revealed that non-violent passengers have been Tasered for "non-compliance" with officers.

Former B.C. Court of Appeal justice Thomas Braidwood said later the TransLink police will be included in one of two inquiries he is preparing to conduct into the use of Tasers by law enforcement officers.

Braidwood was asked to conduct the reviews by B.C. Attorney-General Wally Oppal after Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski died after being Tasered at Vancouver International Airport last October.

Other than a brief e-mail statement, transit police had refused to discuss their use of Tasers until Thursday. "Our Tasers were used against people who, within the policy, did not comply after being arrested and therefore [Tasers] were used within the policy as has been reported," Dureau said. "So we are not going to give any other detail or further detail on them. We are being reviewed, as all other police agencies, provincial police agencies are . . . by Mr. Braidwood," he said.

Dureau said the transit police will comply with any directions given by the provincial government after the inquiry is complete.

The B.C. Civil Liberties Association and the provincial New Democrats have called for a moratorium on the use of Tasers.

The FOI documents revealed the weapons have been used on 10 occasions since last July. In four incidents, they were used against non-violent and non-threatening individuals, three of whom were fare evaders.

The BCCLA, meanwhile, complained Thursday to the provincial police watchdog over the force's use of Tasers. "The fact that Tasers are being used in situations that border on debt collection by the government is outrageous," BCCLA president Rob Holmes said in a news release. "The public has every right to be concerned that there is a lack of proper control over the use and application of these devices. A full investigation is required."

In his letter to Police Complaint Commissioner Dirk Ryneveld, Holmes said using Tasers on non-violent people is repugnant. "The use of a Taser to gain compliance over non-threatening and non-violent individuals clearly does not accord with the 'use of force' policy and, in any event, is repugnant," he wrote.

Rules of engagement: SkyTrain police are the same as any other B.C. force, therefore they can use the same policing tools (including Tasers) as other police. The 93 transit police trained* in the use of the Taser must qualify at least every two years to use the weapons. Transit police now use the X-26 model, billed by its maker as Taser's "premier law enforcement electronic control device." The Taser is meant to be "an alternative option to more intrusive force response measures." A Taser is issued to qualified two-member teams, when they report for duty. Twenty of the stun guns are in the force's arsenal.

Source: Solicitor-General of B.C., February 2008 *As of December 2007

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Isn't this SPECIAL?!

The Taser Foundation's 2008 "Drive to Remember for Fallen Officers" will begin in VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA (CANADA) on APRIL 30th! Why am I not surprised at the lengths this company will go to in its quest for public support - and especially, of all places, in the beleaguered province of British Columbia (see, for example, Robert Dziekanski, Sky Train police taser fare evaders, 15 year old tasered while in handcuffs, Thomas Braidwood Inquiry).

I don't mean any disrespect to fallen officers or their families but I don't see how Taser International fits into that scene.

Here's a thought and a better fit: 7 of the 20 people who have died in Canada after they were tasered died in British Columbia. How about a Drive to Remember for Fallen Taser Victims?

This Taser news release serves to remind us that it isn't ONLY coroner(s?), individual police officers and police associations in Canada who have benefited financially from this company - they have also "awarded" over $1,900,000 to the families of fallen law enforcement officers in the United States and Canada.

See below for the nitty gritty.

SCOTTSDALE, Arizona, Apr 16, 2008 (PrimeNewswire via COMTEX) -- The TASER Foundation for Fallen Officers again is partnering with 24/7 Cop2Cop News to support the second annual Drive to Remember for Fallen Officers, a two-week rolling memorial to remember the 190 law enforcement officers who lost their lives in the line of duty throughout the U.S. and Canada in 2007. This year's Drive to Remember will begin April 30 in Vancouver, British Columbia, head south to Los Angeles, then east across the United States culminating on May 13 at the beginning of the Police Week celebrations in Washington D.C.

The Drive to Remember will feature the Guardian One, a dedicated Hummer H3 completely wrapped in law enforcement graphics to honor those officers who were killed in 2007. Over the fourteen days, the Guardian One will travel more than 5000 miles, receiving law enforcement escorts across two countries, one province, 19 states, and in 25 major cities. The Guardian One will also make appearances at numerous special events scheduled along the route to remember the heroic lives of fallen officers.

More information on the 2008 Drive to Remember for Fallen Officers can be found at www.drive2remember.org.

"The Drive to Remember seeks to honor and preserve the memories of so many fallen heroes by building awareness across the United States and Canada of those who have made the ultimate sacrifice to help keep our communities safe," said Kathleen Hanrahan, president of TASER International (Nasdaq:TASR) which endowed and supports the TASER Foundation.

In a related matter, Kathleen Hanrahan has been named the new president of the TASER Foundation effective October 1, 2008, when she will retire from her current position at TASER International to dedicate her energies full-time to help grow the TASER Foundation into a world-class charitable foundation.

"This is a very exciting time, both for the TASER Foundation and for me personally," stated Hanrahan. "After nearly 13 years helping to build TASER International, I am ready to dedicate my energies to building a world-class foundation that gives back to the community of law enforcement who have sacrificed most."

About the TASER Foundation

The TASER Foundation for Fallen Officers is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization with tax exempt status from the IRS. It was established in November 2004 with the mission to honor the service and sacrifice of local and federal law enforcement officers in the United States and Canada lost in the line of duty by providing financial support to their families. It is the only organization that provides direct financial benefits to families of fallen officers from federal, state/province, county, and local law enforcement organizations in the United States and Canada.

In 2007, 190 officers in the United States and Canada were tragically killed in the line of duty. The average age of an officer lost in the line of duty is only 38 years old.

To date the TASER Foundation has awarded over $1,900,000 to the families of fallen law enforcement officers in the United States and Canada.

For further information contact Gerry Hills, Executive Director of the TASER Foundation at Gerry@TASER.com or call 602-326-6176.

This news release was distributed by PrimeNewswire, www.primenewswire.com

SOURCE: TASER International, Inc.

TASER International, Inc.
Steve Tuttle, Vice President of Communications
Media ONLY Hotline: (480) 444-4000
TASER Foundation
Gerry Hills, Executive Director

Taser Cams put to the test by Ottawa police

April 16, 2008
CBC News

A camera built into the grip of a Taser stun gun that records audio and video during its use is being tested by the Ottawa police force. About 21 officers are carrying Taser Cams in the field and will be testing them over the next six months.

The video camera is built into the bottom of the grip of the Taser and is activated by the release of the safety catch. Steve Tuttle, a spokesman for Taser International in Scottsdale, Ariz., said the Taser Cam is a response to concerns from the public, who want to make sure the devices aren't being used in a careless or brutal manner.

"Adding some accountability does not hurt," he said.

Ottawa police Sgt. Mark Barclay, the force's main stun gun expert, said police hope the cameras will calm the fears of citizens and watchdog groups alike. "Now there's going to be that other piece of evidence that can be brought forward to look at," he said, adding that it will also protect officers from false complaints. "You explain what you're doing."

Reliability an issue

The camera is activated by the release of the stun gun's safety catch and doesn't shut off until the gun is shut down. Taser International said police won't be able to override the camera or edit the footage after the fact.

Barclay said he has used the Taser Cam twice. It worked well on one of those occasions, but the other time, the camera blanked out when Barclay pulled the trigger on a man who was holding a knife to his own throat. He said that's the type of scenario the device is designed for.

So far, another problem with the cameras is that police are trained to shoot their service pistols with a two-handed hold, and may use that hold for their stun gun in a stressful situation, blocking the camera lens, Barclay said.

Recordings may be incomplete: critic

Matthew MacGarvey, a lawyer who helped win an appeal case that found an Ottawa police officer guilty of excessive force after a stun gun was used on an Ottawa man at a demonstration in 2003, said he likes the idea of the camera in theory, as pictures and audio often help get to the truth of an incident. However, MacGarvey said he believes the Taser Cam begins recording too late and doesn't show what led up to the use of the device.

Footage shot by bystanders helped MacGarvey's client Paul Smith win his case after an appeal of an internal investigation, and MacGarvey said it was also a bystander's video that led the public to question whether it was really necessary for RCMP officers to use a stun gun on Robert Dziekanski, who died moments later, at the Vancouver airport in October 2007.

In Smith's case, police cameras also videotaped the incident, but their footage blanked out during two periods coinciding with the time police used a stun gun on Smith.

"In the case of the Vancouver airport, if that video would have been shot by a police officer, I don't think we would have seen what we in fact saw," Smith added.

Smith was shot with a stun gun twice by a police officer while handcuffed after taking pictures at a demonstration outside the office of Citizenship and Immigration Canada in downtown Ottawa on May 29, 2003. An internal police investigation found two officers not guilty of excessive use of force. Smith appealed to the Ontario Civilian Commission on Police Services, which found Sgt. Paulo Batista guilty of excessive use of force in November 2005.

Vancouver's TransLink (Skytrain) police to get civilian board after Taser revelations

April 17, 2008
David Hogben, Canwest News Service

VANCOUVER - The TransLink police force - the only armed transit police force in Canada - will have a majority of civilians appointed to its board of directors as early as this summer, a provincial government official said Wednesday. The force's board of directors now has a majority of senior police officers on it, which has been adding to concerns about the force's use of Tasers on SkyTrain passengers.

The province had planned eventually to put a civilian majority on the police board, said Kevin Begg, an assistant deputy minister in the solicitor general's ministry. We have always had the intention that once we get it up and running, that we would shift it to a civilian-based board," Begg said.

The TransLink police - officially called the Greater Vancouver Transportation Authority Police - were given full policing powers at the end of 2005.

Begg said he expects civilians will dominate the board by June 30, when two civilians are added and one senior police officer is removed. He said the strong police presence on the board was needed to deal with the multiple jurisdictions through which SkyTrain and other TransLink lines pass.

In the meantime, it is the only police board in B.C. dominated by police officers, and critics say that makes the TransLink police less accountable than other provincially regulated police forces. "It's been a problem and it's inappropriate," said B.C. Civil Liberties Association executive director Murray Mollard. "You want police to be open and transparent and you want police boards to make sure that they are," he said. Mollard's comments came after it was revealed in a Vancouver Sun column that TransLink police have Tasered SkyTrain passengers on at least 10 occasions since last July.

In four documented incidents, the electro-shock weapon was used against non-violent individuals, primarily those suspected of not paying fares. Those revelations prompted former B.C. Court of Appeal justice Thomas Braidwood to include the transit police in one of the two inquiries on the use of Tasers the province has asked him to conduct.

Three of the five members of the TransLink police board are high-ranking police officers. The fourth is TransLink chief operating officer Ian Jarvis and the fifth is businessman Baj Puri.

B.C. police board directors are usually community and provincially appointed representatives, with the mayor of the municipality serving as chair.

TransLink and its police force have refused all requests for interviews on the Taser issue, except for a four-sentence statement issued early Wednesday, the day after numerous interview requests were refused. The statement by Sgt. Willie Merenick of the TransLink police said: "The GVTA Police Service is like any other police service, with its police officers trained in the various levels of Use of Force, meeting the National Use of Force Standards. The GVTA Police Service has been provided various tools to assist in the execution of their duties, with the Tasers being one. All tools are used with safety in mind, for the public and the police officers. The province is looking at the use of Tasers and the GVTA Police Service will be advised of the findings."

There was no attempt to explain why TransLink police felt it necessary to use the controversial weapon against non-violent fare-evaders who apparently posed no threat to the public or officers.

The use of Tasers by police has been controversial since Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski died at Vancouver International Airport last October after being Tasered by RCMP officers.

New Democratic Party critic Mike Farnworth said TransLink police need supervision by a civilian board, like other police boards. "The public oversight model ensures that public interest is paramount," he said.

Bruce Brown, deputy police complaint commissioner, said complaints about the TransLink police are handled the same way as those about municipal police forces. "We have received no complaints from anyone concerning the use of Tasers by (TransLink) officers," he added.

Ottawa police threaten 10 year old with taser

April 16, 2008
CBC News

An Ottawa couple has filed a complaint against local police after they came home to find their 10-year-old son handcuffed in a cruiser. Lukasz Gurzynski said officers threw him on a chair, threatened him with a Taser, questioned him and then handcuffed him.

Lukasz Gurzynski said he and five friends were in the midst of a noisy swordfight with sticks and a loud game of Xbox on Sunday when the next-door neighbour yelled at them to quiet down. The children turned the video game down and then went outside for a bit, said Lukasz. When they came back to the apartment, three police officers were standing outside.

"They came [into the apartment] with their guns and kicked the door open with their guns drawn," the boy told CBC News on Wednesday. "And when they saw there was no one in here, they hid their guns. So then they threw me on a chair and I have a scratch over here," said Lukasz, pointing to his back. "They started questioning me, and then after they threatened me with a Taser and they also threatened me that they'd put me in a straightjacket and take me somewhere. And then when they were done questioning me, they handcuffed me."

A neighbour called the boy's mother, Santana Gurzynski, who was at a nearby apartment, to tell her that her son had just been arrested. Gurzynski said she freaked out when she walked outside her building and saw her son in the back of a cruiser. "They just walked him out in the handcuffs. He was all crying and shaking," she said.

The parents say they were gone from their home for 40 minutes, and two 12-year-old girls were among the children in the apartment at the time. The father, Tomasz Gurzynski, said his son is no angel, but the officers' conduct toward Lukasz was unnecessary and unprofessional. "No father or mother wants to see their 10-year-old boy being handcuffed and treated like a criminal," he said.

Tomasz and Santana said that ever since the Sunday incident Lukasz has been "much calmer" and sadder and has spent most of his time quietly playing games at home. Lukasz said he has been having nightmares about the police raid and is startled every time he hears a door slam.

The Gurzynskis have filed a complaint and hired a lawyer to explore their options, but say what they really want is an apology.

Ottawa Police Service Const. J.P. Vincelette refused to comment on the case specifically, other than to confirm there was an incident, but added that police do handcuff children from time to time. "In general terms, I can state that for the safety of a young person involved or for the safety of the officer involved would be two circumstances where handcuffs could be used with a young person," said Vincelette.

As for Lucasz, he says he learned a lesson and will try to keep the noise down from now on.

Tasered fare-evaders asked to testify at Braidwood Inquiry

April 17, 2008
David Carrigg and Frank Luba, The Province

Two fare-evaders who were Tasered by SkyTrain cops are being asked to come forward and testify at a public inquiry into Taser use. Murray Mollard, executive director of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, said victims of Taser-use need a voice at next month's Braidwood Inquiry in Vancouver.

"I have seen nothing on the psychological impact on being Tasered," Mollard said yesterday. "The police make much of the fact they can turn it on and off and there's no subsidiary effects. Others say it's like an instrument of torture."

Mollard was reacting to a revelation that members of the Greater Vancouver Transportation Authority Police Service have used their Tasers 10 times since January 2007, including twice against fare-evaders. In one case the fare-evader was Tasered after running from transit police and in the other case the victim was Tasered as he grabbed onto a platform railing and wouldn't let go, according to the CBC. "I don't think anybody, if they knew a Taser would come to be used on fare-evaders, would have said yes it's a good use. It's a shocking abuse," Mollard said.

Former B.C. Appeal Court judge Thomas Braidwood, who is conducting the Taser-use study as well as an examination into the Taser death of a man at Vancouver airport, told The Province that when he learned of the SkyTrain Taserings it raised a "red flag." "It [Taser use] seems to put a red flag on it," Braidwood said. "It appears that they didn't follow their own policy in the use of [Tasers]. I'm not involved in making any blame or anything but that would certainly red-flag it."

Braidwood said he was always going to include the TransLink police force in his inquiry. "They [TransLink police] were always going to be a part of it," he said. "My mandate is to look into every police force that the province has jurisdiction over, to see exactly what is going on, report back and then make recommendations about the appropriate use of the Taser."

Braidwood said 27 presentations are scheduled for his inquiry but none are from Taser victims. An inquiry spokesman said Braidwood will consider presentations from anyone with something to contribute.

TransLink police issued a news release yesterday in response to its Taser use. "The GVTA Police Service is like any other police service, with its police officers trained in the various levels of use of force, meeting the National Use of Force Standards," read the statement. "The GVTA Police Service has been provided various tools to assist in the execution of their duties, with the Tasers being one. All tools are used with safety in mind, for the public and the police officers. The province is looking at the use of Tasers and the GVTA Police Service will be advised of the findings."

Jenny Kwan, NDP MLA for Vancouver-Mount Pleasant, has called for a moratorium on the use of Tasers on transit until Braidwood's inquiry is complete.

EDITORIAL: Take that for not paying

April 17, 2008
Toronto Star

The TTC should think twice before following Vancouver's lead by arming its transit police with Tasers.

Since the beginning of last year, Vancouver's transit police have used their Tasers 10 times, including several times against passengers who had tried to avoid paying, according to recently released documents.

This is just the latest evidence that police forces across the country are prone to "usage creep" when it comes to Tasers. The high-voltage stun guns have been championed as a less-than-lethal way to defuse potentially violent confrontations.

But zapping someone for failing to buy a transit ticket? Unless the cornered free rider posed an imminent safety threat to officers or passengers, this is a shockingly heavy-handed response to a minor crime.

Following the highly publicized death last year of a Polish immigrant at Vancouver's airport shortly after he was jolted by a Taser, we have grown wary of pitches for the expanded use of this weapon. The Vancouver report is one more reminder that further reflection and stronger safeguards are needed before any move is made to distribute Tasers to more and more police officers.

Toronto Transit Commission studies using tasers

Apr 17, 2008
Debra Black and Tess Kalinowski, Toronto Star

The TTC is looking into whether its special constables should be armed with guns or Tasers. A consultant's review will cost the Toronto Transit Commission $100,000 to study its use-of-force policies, assessing if constables should "be armed with firearms, Tasers, that kind of thing," said TTC spokesperson Brad Ross. Constables now can use pepper spray, collapsible batons and handcuffs.

The study into the use of Tasers and firearms was commissioned as part of an ongoing "standard review" of the special constable forces, TTC chair Adam Giambrone said. This "independent and comprehensive assessment" will be completed by the end of the year.

Giambrone said he is not personally in favour of arming constables with either Tasers or guns. "No evidence has been provided to me so far that indicates our special constables have to be armed any further than they are today," he said in an interview. "In my opinion they don't need to be armed any further. They have the backup of the Toronto police."

Ross said the review of the TTC's use-of-force policy was triggered by "a desire to address health and safety concerns that the special constables have regarding their work."

The agency decided to ask for an assessment of what would constitute appropriate use of force by its constables while protecting themselves, staff, patrons or property.

Crimes on TTC property jumped by about 24 per cent in 2006, according to a special investigation by the Toronto Star. At least 181 TTC drivers have suffered post-traumatic stress disorder, a rate four times higher than that of Toronto police officers, according to the investigation.

Vancouver's transit police carry Tasers; it is the only armed transit police service in the country. Tasers were used 10 times in the past 18 months in the city, including five times against riders who allegedly were trying to evade paying fares. An inquiry into their overall use begins next month in British Columbia. It will also examine whether transit police should carry the devices.

The Taser's use among police forces nationally has been criticized after Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski died shortly after being Tasered at Vancouver's airport last year. Amnesty International has called for a moratorium on all Taser use in Canada.

Tasers are currently used only by Toronto police supervisors, although police chief Bill Blair has said he prefers every police officer to be armed with a Taser as well as a firearm. The TTC's 95 special constables make more than 950 arrests each year and issue approximately 5,500 provincial tickets. The constables respond to about 10,000 calls a year. By the end of this year, the number of special constables on the TTC will grow to 117.

"As the force expands and defines itself, questions like this come up from time to time," Giambrone said. Only a couple of weeks ago, an 18-year-old woman was shot in the leg inside a subway car, seconds after the bells chimed and the subway doors opened at Spadina station. Giambrone said that incident has nothing to do with the newly announced review, which had been in the works for months.

If the consultant's report recommends the use of Tasers and firearms and the TTC approves the recommendation, the final decision would still be up to the Police Services Board. Many special TTC constables are former police officers or Toronto police officers who have been seconded to the TTC force, said Giambrone.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Mother weeps over son's death as Commons committee studies taser use

April 16, 2008
The Canadian Press

OTTAWA — Instead of celebrating her son's 41st birthday and his new life in Canada, the heartbroken mother of Robert Dziekanski spoke to MPs Wednesday about the dangers of Taser stun guns. Zofia Cisowski's beloved only son died last Oct. 14 at Vancouver International Airport after being jolted twice and pinned to the floor by RCMP officers. His ordeal, caught on video by another passenger, set off an international uproar over Taser safety.

Dziekanski's slight, soft-spoken mother dabbed tears as she appeared before MPs studying use of the powerful weapons. "Every day is more painful," she told reporters after a brief statement to the Commons public safety committee. "Yesterday was my son's birthday, April 15."

Cisowski broke down as she described returning Tuesday to the airport international arrivals section where her son, who arrived from Poland on Oct. 13, spent his last moments. "I was looking for this area where my son died. And I brought a bouquet of flowers, a beautiful card... ."

Cisowski says police should be better trained and supervised on when to use Tasers - especially on people in distress. She noted that, although agitated after spending hours caught in a series of communication miscues, her son was obviously relieved to see the Mounties show up.

He had studied the iconic police force before immigrating to Canada and would have assumed the officers were there to help, she said. Instead, her apparently co-operative son was Tasered within seconds and without any other attempt to calm him.

Cisowski wonders why RCMP officers didn't do more to help immediately after zapping him. "Don't they have a responsibility to check on the man?" she asked the MPs.

Her lawyer, Walter Kosteckyj, says she suffers post-traumatic stress and intense guilt over having left the airport after being wrongly told her son had not arrived. Kosteckyj said Dziekanski was a lost soul whose fate was decided by a series of mistakes amounting to "benign neglect" by airport and immigration staff.

Cisowski spent nine hours at the airport waiting in vain for her son who was to live with her in Kamloops. She had worked two jobs for seven years to prepare for his arrival and a long anticipated reunion.

Dziekanski spoke no English and became distressed after the long wait in a secure part of the airport as his mother tried fruitlessly to contact him from the other side. RCMP were called after he damaged a computer and threw a small table.

Kosteckyj wonders what would have happened without the amateur video of the Tasering, viewed by millions of Canadians. "If we didn't have the tape what would the police be telling us about this incident today?" Kosteckyj says the RCMP still haven't answered for why they didn't immediately tell Cisowski that her son was Tasered.

Patti Gillman's brother Robert Bagnell died soon after being Tasered by Vancouver police in a rooming house on June 23, 2004. She told MPs that officers initially said he died of "an apparent drug overdose." Toxicology reports later showed that he had less than half of what would be considered a lethal dose of drugs in his system, she told the committee.

(I actually said "We learned [at the inquest] that it was possible that Bob had LESS THAN HALF THE LETHAL AMOUNT of narcotics in his system – not nearly enough in and of themselves to kill him.")

"If using the Taser on my brother was the right thing to do, why would the police have not disclosed that immediately?" Gillman wonders what might be different today if her brother's death, and that of 18 other Canadians who've died soon after being Tasered, had been caught on video. "I believe that if Canadians could see with their own eyes what really happened, not the police's tidy version of events but what really happened ... they would be outraged."

Kosteckyj still can't understand how Dziekanski was left to wander the Vancouver airport for hours. "Why aren't some alarm bells going off?" he said. "There's no one there to help that lost traveller."

Kosteckyj also criticized the way police put use of force ahead of tactful negotiation during their encounter with Dziekanski, suggesting good law enforcement is a lost art. "It's knowing how to interact with people at the right time."

Police recently completed a homicide investigation into Dziekanski's death, but there is no word on whether charges will be laid.

Canada Border Services Agency officials say there were several attempts to help Dziekanski. They point out he was given several glasses of water. His luggage was retrieved for him and staff helped find his documents. Numerous attempts were made to contact his family. And once his family reached staff by phone, there was an effort to locate him.

In November, the Border Services Agency announced several steps including a review of services to international travellers and installation of more cameras in the agency's area of the Vancouver airport. More patrols and security checks, along with changes to ensure people report for secondary examination within a reasonable time, are also being considered.

Vancouver transit riders tasered for not paying fares

April 16, 2008

VANCOUVER — The country's only armed transit police have been tasering passengers who try to avoid paying fares. According to documents provided in response to a Freedom of Information request, police patrolling public transit in the Metro Vancouver area have used tasers 10 times in the past 18 months, including five occasions when victims had been accosted for riding free.

In one incident, a non-paying passenger was tasered after he held onto a railing on the SkyTrain platform and refused to let go. "After several warnings to the subject to stop resisting arrest and the subject failing to comply with the officers' commands, the taser was deployed and the subject was taken into control," said the report provided by TransLink, the region's transit authority.

An internal review of the incident concluded that the action taken by transit police officers complied with the force's policy and was within guidelines "set out in the National Use of Force Model," the report said.

On another occasion, a passenger was tasered when he fled from police who found him without a payment receipt during a "fare blitz." This time, however, the passenger got away because, as recounted in the report, "the Taser was ineffective due to the subject's clothing and [he] escaped the custody of the officers."

Politicians and civil-liberties activists alike decried the use of tasers on individuals who were attempting merely to avoid paying a fine for not buying a ticket to ride. "I think it's absolutely uncalled for, absolutely reprehensible, and the police should not be doing that," federal Liberal public safety critic Ujjal Dosanjh said in Ottawa yesterday.

On the face of it, the use of tasers by transit police here is far outside guidelines that say they should be used only if someone is suicidal, violent or about to injure himself or someone else, Mr. Dosanjh said.

"Their current use is absolutely inappropriate," he said, adding that the latest revelations, coming after a storm of recent controversy over taser use by regular police forces across the country, have brought him close to calling for a moratorium on the powerful stun guns. "This is the kind of example that would lead people like me, who have so far resisted asking for a moratorium, to actually call for that," he said.

Murray Mollard of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, which supports a moratorium, said he was shocked by the news of transit passengers being tasered. "To apply a taser on someone fleeing the scene while trying to evade a fine is, quite frankly, an outrageous abuse of this weapon," Mr. Mollard said. "Do we really need police officers with guns and tasers using them in the context of fare evasion? I don't think so. This really is very hard to believe." But he stopped short of blaming the police. "They do what police do," he said. Instead, he pinned the fault on cabinet ministers responsible for the police who refuse to restrict taser use.

In a move that sparked heated debate in the province, the government gave the green light for transit cops to carry weapons 2½ years ago. There are about 125 officers on the transit force. The region's popular, elevated SkyTrain system operates on a partial honour system, without turnstiles. However, riders caught without a ticket are subject to heavy fines, as high as $175. Officers ask passengers at random for proof of payment.

Yesterday, the head of the RCMP admitted the police force did not do a good job making information public about taser use, and vowed that changes will be made.

"Frankly we did not handle this matter very well," Commissioner William Elliott told the Canadian Club of Ottawa. "We should not have needed two kicks at the can. We must learn from that and do better."

The taser controversy will be in the spotlight again today - the mother of Robert Dziekanski, the Polish immigrant who died after being tasered by the RCMP last year at Vancouver International Airport, is expected to testify before a parliamentary committee in Ottawa.

SECU taser study meeting on April 16, 2008


Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security
Meeting No. 25
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Room 209, West Block

Taser Study


As individuals
Walter Kosteckyj, Lawyer
Zofia Cisowski, Mother of Robert Dziekanski
Riki Bagnell, Mother of Robert Bagnell
Patti Gillman, Sister of Robert Bagnell

B.C.'s inquiry into tasers will include use by transit police

April 16, 2008
Canwest News Service

Vancouver-area transit police will be included in a public inquiry into the use of Tasers by B.C. police officers after reports the stun guns were used on at least four non-violent transit users in the past year.

Former justice Thomas Braidwood, who is conducting two inquiries into Taser use, said Tuesday he will examine reports that passengers -- primarily those who had failed to pay their fares -- were Tasered by SkyTrain transit police.

B.C.'s SkyTrain police are the only armed transit police force in Canada. "That is unique and we will look at it," he said of the Taser reports. Braidwood's comments followed a Vancouver Sun column Tuesday that showed Tasers had been used four times against non-violent passengers.

The information, obtained by Vancouver writer Gordon Keast under Freedom of Information legislation, also showed that SkyTrain police have used the stun gun on 10 occasions since last July.

TransLink spokesman Peter Lowe said he couldn't comment on the reports, noting that the Greater Vancouver Transit Authority has its own police board and know the issue. "They have to address it themselves," he said.

Taser policy gap worrying

April 16, 2008
Victoria News

It’s been 10 years since the province OK’d the use of conducted energy weapons – more commonly known by the brand name Taser – but left the specifics regarding what is or isn’t acceptable in their use up to individual police agencies.

Victoria Police Department officers were the first in Canada to carry the devices in December 1998, the department's first policy for their use was approved by the Victoria Police Board that month.

In three years of records accessed by the Victoria News, the VPD’s most common deployment of the Taser has been the push-stun method, in which suspects resisting arrest are touched directly by the electronic weapon and given a painful jolt of current.

However, the current policy, amended four times since the initial one was written, lists only two methods of using the Taser to control a subject: officers can threaten to use it, or deploy it “to cause a motor dysfunction,” which involves firing a pair of barbed probes into the subject then sending a jolt of current through them.

According to figures generated from police reports, the push-stun method of using the TASER – was used in 54 per cent of all Taser deployments from 2005 to 2007. Using the barbed probes to cause a muscle dysfunction was a close second.

We find it more than a tad alarming, that somehow -- it’s unclear why -- the most common mode of use of the weapon is not only absent from the use of force policy for Tasers written for the department, but has not been approved by the Victoria Police Board, whose job as the force’s civilian oversight is to rule on what level of force is acceptable.

Whether it was the result of an oversight somewhere in the process of policy approval or a deliberate decision by the board remains unknown.

We’re confident Victoria police officers are receiving solid training in the safe and appropriate use of the weapon. And while the pain compliance role of the push-stun mode may make some cringe, used appropriately it can help end police confrontations quickly and with fewer injuries to police, suspects and the public than hand-to-hand fighting or other intermediate police weapons.

But it’s concerning that such a gap should exist between the department’s understanding of how the Taser fits in their arsenal and what has been clearly endorsed by the police board. The gap could open the way for a lawsuit from someone claiming the weapon was used on them unlawfully, potentially putting taxpayers on the hook for damages.

An amendment to the policy is already in the works, but the gaffe still demands an explanation from police management and the board. We hope it doesn’t end up costing more than red faces.

B.C. transit police stun fare cheaters with taser: documents

April 15, 2008
CBC News

Transit police on SkyTrain stations in Metro Vancouver have used Taser stun guns on passengers who didn't pay the fare and tried to run away, CBC News has learned.

Transit police have fired Tasers 10 times since January last year, and three cases involved non-violent suspects, according to internal police reports obtained by CBC News using access to information laws.

In one case, a person ran from transit cops during a check for free-riders and "the Taser was deployed as the subject fled," the documents say. Another person who didn't pay the fare was arrested but "grabbed onto the platform railing and refused to let go … the Taser was deployed."

A Taser may be used when "the situation demands control over a non-compliant, suicidal, potentially violent, or violent individual and lower force options were ineffective," according to the transit police policy.

Stunning someone without a transit ticket doesn't qualify as an appropriate use of a Taser, said Murray Mollard, executive director of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association. "I would call it a shocking abuse and misuse of a very significant weapon," Mollard told CBC News Tuesday.

Liberal MP Ujjal Dosanjh, who's on a federal committee reviewing the use of Tasers, said transit police have gone too far. "That's the example where Taser use has just gotten out of hand and I believe the government needs to actually bring them under some kind of control," he said.

Federal New Democrat MP Penny Priddy also called such a use of Taser "absolutely intolerable."

B.C.'s solicitor general didn't comment on whether transit police use of Tasers was justified, saying the officers must adhere to the same standards as other police when it comes to proper use of the Taser. "They are expected to conduct themselves in the same manner using the same tools as other police, and they are subject to the same review process [and] the same accountability through the office of the police commissioner," John van Dongen said.

Dosanjh said British Columbia should be proactive in ensuring SkyTrain police are using Tasers properly.

Van Dongen said he will wait for Ottawa's report on Tasers before taking any action.