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Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Canada 'brainwashed' by taser manufacturer, says police expert

May 13, 2008
By Suzanne Fournier, The Province

A police psychologist who has trained Vancouver police, RCMP and the FBI to defuse crises like hostage-takings for over 30 years says Canada has been "brainwashed" into buying the Taser and being trained by the manufacturer.

[Dr. Michael] Webster told the Braidwood Inquiry into Tasers Tuesday morning that "the police, in an attempt to justify their use of the weapon in many cases, have taken to citing the hypothetical disorder... excited delirium."

Both Webster and the first witness Tuesday, Vancouver psychiatrist Dr. Lu Shaohua, said the controversial phenomenon does not exist nor does it appear in any medical textbooks as a legitimate diagnosis.

Yet Webster noted Taser actively bombards medical examiners with pamphlets about "excited delirium" to cite as both a provocation for Taser use and even cause of death.

"Canadian law enforcement, and its American brothers and sisters, have been 'brainwashed' by companies like Taser International," said Webster.

Taser sales experts "have created a virtual world replete with avatars that wander about with the potential to manifest a horrific condition characterized by profuse sweating, superhuman strength and a penchant for smashing glass that appeals to well-meaning but psychologically unsophisticated police personnel," said Webster.

Webster noted Taser "has successfully defended itself against at least eight lawsuits in which it was alleged that the victims died of Taser shocks. The company argued that the cause of death was "excited delirium" and not the Taser.

Webster said he was "shocked" and "embarassed" to see the video of the RCMP Tasering Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski at the Vancouver airport last Oct. 14, after the man had wandered around for eight hours without food or drink, lost, suffering from a language barrier and likely from the dehydrating effects of a long-haul flight.

"It is neither humane nor logical to inflict crippling pain on someone who has lost his mental balance," said Webster.

Webster, who trains police services all over the world, including Vancouver police in a one-week crisis management course, said that the safety of the Taser is still not resolved and it is crucial to give Canadian police more thorough training on crisis management skills before they resort to the Taser.

"If the Taser proves to be safe, its use in Canada (should) be restricted to only those situations involving a significant risk of death or grievous bodily harm; and that Canadian law enforcement be provided with crisis intervention skills during their basic training."

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