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

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Manitoba Liberal Leader calls for suspension on taser usage

July 31, 2008
BREAKING NEWS - Winnipeg Free Press

Following a recent Taser related death, Manitoba Liberal Leader Dr. Jon Gerrard today charged the provincial government with continuing to put Manitobans at risk by failing to provide and implement guidelines for proper Taser usage.

"The lack of appropriate guidelines and standards for Taser usage creates a tough situation for law enforcement officers," Dr. Gerrard said. "I have called for a suspension on Taser use for some time now and recent events have reinforced this notion that Taser usage should be put on hold until proper guidelines and protocols are available and implemented."

On the afternoon of Tuesday, July 22, Michael Langan, 17, was shocked by a police Taser in a back lane behind 871 William Ave. He was rushed to the nearby Health Sciences Centre in critical condition and was pronounced dead.

Langan was the first person to die in Manitoba after being Tasered by a police officer.

A fatal Taser incident in British Columbia in October 2007 sparked national outrage.

"This is an issue of humanity and the fact that a weapon labeled as non-lethal has on several occasions caused fatalities is ample reason to reassess the situation," Dr. Gerrard said.

Saskatchewan released its taser report, listing 21 recommendations including the call for a multi-disciplinary team with medical practitioners to analyze complied data on the human effects of Tasers.

Tasers have been used in Canada since 1999 and according to Amnesty International there have been more than 290 fatalities in North America following Taser shocks since 2001, approximately 22 occurring in Canada.

Zapped by The Economist

July 31, 2008
The Economist

Do electronic stun guns take more lives than they save?

WHEN an electronic gun designed to immobilise but not kill emerged from the pages of science fiction and went into manufacture a decade ago, police forces around the world snapped it up. Instead of shooting suspected criminals who posed a threat, they could now zap them with 50,000 volts of electricity and have them safely in handcuffs before they recovered enough to resist or flee.

But are stun guns really non-lethal? Canadians have been wondering since a Polish immigrant died last October at Vancouver airport after police subdued him with a Taser, the most popular brand of the electronic weapon. An amateur video of the incident posted on YouTube sparked a public debate, and several official inquiries. On July 22nd a 17-year old youth in Winnipeg became the 21st person to die in Canada after being fired at with a Taser.

The gun’s American manufacturer, Taser International, has sold 300,000 of them to police forces in 45 countries. It contends that just because someone dies after receiving a jolt, it does not necessarily follow that the Taser was to blame. It says—and some doctors agree—that pre-existing heart conditions, drug and alcohol abuse, and the agitation of having been pursued are all more likely causes of deaths in police custody. Tom Smith, Taser’s chairman, told a committee of Canada’s Parliament earlier this year that although 50,000 volts sounds like a lot, a static charge from a doorknob is almost as high.

Such arguments have proved persuasive with juries. Taser International has won or had dismissed 71 lawsuits for wrongful death or injury. Most of these cases were in the United States, where just over 300 deaths following Taser use have been recorded. (The company suffered a rare courtroom loss earlier this year when a Californian jury ordered it to pay $6.2m to the parents of a man who died after being shocked. It is appealing.) A company spokesman points out that no medical examiner in Canada has pointed to the Taser as a contributing factor in any deaths.

Yet doubts persist. In June the parliamentary committee urged the federal government to commission independent studies. Amnesty International, a human-rights group, wants a temporary ban on Taser use until the research is complete. None of the official reviews backs that, but they call for tighter rules on the use of Tasers and better training for officers who handle them. The Saskatchewan Police Commission has reversed a plan to deploy more Tasers and is restricting their use to specialised teams. By limiting the use of conventional guns by police the stun guns may indeed save lives.

But Canadians do not like their police to be trigger-happy, even with “non-lethal” weaponry.

Sensible decisions on tasers

July 31, 2008
Randy Burton, The StarPhoenix

At last, someone in a position of authority within law enforcement has had the gumption to question conventional wisdom on Tasers. While other jurisdictions continue to argue that there is no conclusive evidence they are dangerous, this province has decided otherwise.

The decision by the Saskatchewan Police Commission that it will not authorize municipal police forces to use Tasers, at least for now, is a bold stand. Its decision is all the more courageous given that it reversed a previous approval of the electronic control devices.

Institutions at any level are generally reluctant to admit they may have made a mistake, but there are good reasons for the police commission to have reconsidered this issue.

At the latest count, there have been 22 people killed by Tasers in Canada, a number that suggests there is something more than just bad luck involved. The best-known case is that of Robert Dziekanski, the Polish visitor who died at the Vancouver International Airport after being hit with Tasers by local RCMP officers. Dziekanski was upset and acting out after being contained in the arrivals area of the airport for eight hours without food. When he started throwing chairs around, the police arrived and let him have it with the Tasers, killing him within minutes.

That incident has been the subject of a number of different reviews, and so far at least, none of them have come back with the conclusion that the Taser was a good idea under the circumstances.

Nor has anyone suggested it was the ideal response to the case of 17-year-old Michael Langan, the Winnipeg boy who was killed by police just last week. Langan was allegedly spotted breaking into a car and flashed a knife when he was confronted by city police. They say he refused to drop the knife after several warnings, so they hit him with one shot of the Taser, which killed him on the spot.

This incident casts a different light on various theories presented in the past as to why Tasers kill people. Clearly, Langan was not an overweight middle-aged man with a chancy heart. He was a young fellow in good physical condition, accustomed to walking at least five miles a day. According to his parents, he had no health history that would suggest he was likely to die from an electric shock.

And this is precisely the problem. No one seems to be able to accurately predict what effect the Taser will have on its victims, or where the line is between subduing a suspect and creating another law enforcement accident.

This is exactly what Saskatchewan ombudsman Kevin Fenwick concluded in recommending Tasers be kept out of provincial jails.

On the face of it, Langan was precisely the kind of person the Taser was designed to deal with. Police were facing an unpredictable and potentially violent subject who clearly represented a threat to the physical safety of the officers. Yet the Taser produced exactly the outcome that it is supposed to have been designed to prevent. Langan wound up just as dead as if he'd been shot through the heart.

Obviously, there has to be a better way.

It's understandable that police would be reluctant to give up any tool that gives them an edge in dangerous situations. So it's no surprise that the Saskatchewan Association of Police Chiefs should be asking for further review of the police commission's decision.

While the police are not exactly arguing that the Taser is safe, they do say they will have to rely on other tactics if the stun gun is not available to them. "If the next step in some circumstances is the firearm, well, we know what often the result of that is," says Prince Albert police Chief Dale McFee, president of the police chief's association.

"We just want to make sure that our officers aren't second-guessing themselves and that they do have every tool readily available to them."

The problem, of course, is that police don't always regard the Taser as a weapon of last resort. Too often it's used just because it's easier than physically restraining someone, or talking someone like Langan out of doing something stupid. For example, the young man who refused to stop heckling presidential candidate John Kerry was Tased just because he was annoying.

More recently, a young man in Missouri who fell off an overpass was Tased while lying on the shoulder of the road below as a means of preventing him from running into traffic. None of these examples inspire confidence in the discretion of police.

This is precisely why we have civilian oversight of policing agencies. It should not be left strictly to the police to decide what policies and procedures are effective. Occasionally police have to be reined in when their infatuation with weaponry begins to overtake common sense.

This is one of those times.

Until it can be proven that Tasers are not resulting in unintended deaths, they should be left on the shelf.

It may take awhile for other jurisdictions to follow suit, but the Saskatchewan Police Commission will eventually be seen as a leader on this question.

Officials slam taser verdict

July 31, 2008
Heather Polischuk, The Regina Leader-Post

Although they will respect a Friday decision by the Saskatchewan Police Commission to limit the use of conducted energy devices (CEDs) within municipal police forces, Regina's mayor and police chief say they are not necessarily pleased.

The topic came up during Wednesday's meeting of the Regina Board of Police Commissioners. Regina Police Service Chief Troy Hagen and Mayor Pat Fiacco said they hope the SPC will continue to educate itself about CEDs -- commonly known as Tasers -- with a view to the possibility of further CED deployment in the future.

"Sometimes Tasering is going to save someone's life as opposed to killing someone ...," Fiacco said following the meeting. "What we don't want to do is put our police in a situation that the only resort that they have is a gun."

Hagen said the RPS, like the Saskatchewan Association of Police Chiefs, supports "any further use of force options that may be available to our police officers, rather than having to use our service revolver. In principle, we support any devices or any training that will enhance and lessen the risks to the suspects that we're confronting.

"So initially, obviously, the (SAPC) would have preferred that we would have had an expanded deployment of Tasers to frontline personnel, insuring that there were appropriate levels of training and reporting and accountability measures built into the policies that may have been contemplated. However, the Saskatchewan Police Commission has concluded that at this time they're not in favour of further deployment of the CEDs ... We certainly respect the commission's decision."

Late last year, the Regina Police Service shelved plans to make CEDs available to all officers by the end of 2008. Instead, the devices are now only available to SWAT members for use in tactical situations.

While Taser use has been linked to deaths in several jurisdictions across Canada -- including Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski -- Regina has not been one of them. According to statistics referred to at the meeting, CEDs were deployed 11 times by the RPS in 2006 and 21 times in 2007 (once Tasers were made more widely available to members). Due to limiting their use, Tasers have not been used by Regina police in 2008.

In coming to its decision, the SPC referred to controversy that ignited over Taser-related deaths as well as a lack of adequate information on the full consequences of CED use.

Fiacco said he hopes the SPC will look into bringing in a medical professional to explain exactly what happens when a person dies after being Tasered. The mayor said he heard such an explanation last year in Calgary, during which a medical expert noted something called excited delirium caused death in some who were Tasered, rather than the Tasering itself.

"In some cases, unfortunately, it was as a result of mental issues with the individual," Fiacco said. "In other cases, it was because they were under the influence of narcotics that put them in this state ... I'm hoping that we can investigate this even further to make sure that the right decision at the end is going to be made."

The commission also looked at June's crime statistics, which showed a significant year-over-year decline in robberies and break-and-enters. Mischief and willful damage increased as did auto theft. Hagen said members of the auto theft strategy committee will meet to look at that issue.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Police batons more dangerous than tasers: study

I post this here, not because I believe a word of it, especially when I see the usual suspects involved in this so-called study. I post this here, only to give some semblance of balance.

Dr. Hall's name seems to be attached to every taser marketing study in Canada.

July 30, 2008
Sherri Zickefoose, Canwest News Service

CALGARY - As the national debate over the safety of Tasers rages on across the country, a new study finds that batons are causing a higher rate of injury than other weapons wielded by police during arrests.

The two-year Calgary study - the first use-of-force examination of its kind in Canada - also found pepper spray to be the safest tool employed by police to subdue suspects resisting arrest.

The Canadian Police Research Centre report examines 562 cases where Calgary police used Tasers, pepper spray, batons, weapon-free control techniques and vascular neck restraints - 'choke holds' - on people resisting arrest.

The 14-page study found that Tasers "scored high" in safety for both suspects and officers in Calgary, a city of over 1 million. Though it was used in nearly half of all cases involving suspects resisting arrest, only one per cent ended up hospitalized, and 87 per cent sustained either minor injuries or no injuries at all, according to the report.

Batons, on the other hand - used in only six per cent of force-involved arrests - caused the greatest rate of serious injury. Fewer than 39 per cent of subjects were uninjured. More than three per cent were hospitalized, and nearly 26 per cent required outpatient treatment.

"The commonly held belief . . ." that Tasers carry "a significant risk of injury or death . . . is not supported by the data," said the report, researched by Dr. Christine Hall, an epidemiologist based in Victoria and Calgary use-of-force expert Staff Sgt. Chris Butler. The report says the stun guns are "less injurious than either the baton or empty-hand physical control."

On Friday, the Saskatchewan Police Commission announced it won't be authorizing the general use of Tasers or conducted energy devices (CEDs) by members of the province's 14 municipal and First Nation police services until more information is available. SWAT team members will still be allowed to use the stun guns.

Pepper spray, used in roughly five per cent of force-involved arrests in Calgary, produced the lowest rate of injury to suspects. More than 80 per cent of people sprayed suffered no injuries. Fifteen per cent had minor injuries and four per cent had what researchers called "minor outpatient" injuries that needed medical attention but not hospitalization.

Police who used the spray suffered no injury in nearly 89 per cent of cases.

"No use-of-force technique available to police officers can be considered 'safe.'. . . Every use-of-force encounter between the police and a citizen carries with it the possibility for injury for one or all of the participants, however unexpected that injury might be," says a synopsis of the report.

The study is expected to be posted online by the Canadian Police Research Centre at the end of August. It's part of a larger use-of-force and restraint study set to be completed by 2009.

"The whole point was to look at all subjects and situational features to see where the problems lay in injury and death. The benefit of doing that is you don't only restrict your evaluation to bad outcome, you look at the whole denominator," said Hall.

"Use of force by police officers is really, really low. In two years and 827,000 face-to-face interactions, use of force occurred in 0.07 per cent."

U.S. agencies are also participating in the larger study, said Butler, adding American and Canadian use-of-force statistics are similar. Recent Canadian fatality inquiries involving police actions are highlighting the need for consistent use-of-force tracking, said Butler.

"That database isn't available anywhere else in Canada. To my knowledge, we're the first agency to develop it. We could search hundreds of incidents to compare subject injuries, officer injuries," he said.

"We're trying to come up with a retrospective look at police use of force and in custody death and looking to see if there's a safest way of managing these types of events."

See also Injuries vs. Death

Mayor still behind taser use

I wonder if the "Calgary doctor" Fiacco refers to is well known "excited delirium" advocate and taser promoter Dr. Christine Hall.

July 30, 2008
Newstalk 650, Saskatoon

While respecting the decision of the Saskatchewan Police Commission, the Mayor hopes they will eventually allow tasters for frontline officers. Right now, it's status quo and the devices are just used by SWAT teams.

But Pat Fiacco went to Calgary last year to a presentation by a doctor and he thinks in cases where a suspect has died they're getting a bad rap. He'd like officers and the Commission to hear that presentation also. Fiacco is fearful more deaths will occur if guns continue to be the main tool at the police's disposal.

Drummond was tasered several times: witness

Come on people - if the RCMP officer says that William Drummond was only tasered once, then it *must* be true! If the RCMP "file itself" has no indication that there was more than one Taser being used, then it *must* be true! RCMP files are never wrong, are they??

Note to William Drummond: Be VERY skeptical of the RCMP's statement that the "electronic record" of the device shows that the taser was deployed only once that day. It has been proven time and again (my brother's case is a classic example) that the electronic record or data download feature cannot be relied upon for any degree of accuracy.

RCMP played that card early in the Dziekanski incident as well (before witnesses and a video came forward with a much different story).

July 30, 2008

William Drummond was allegedly hit with a Taser several more times by a plain-clothes police officer after being tasered once by an RCMP officer Jun. 22.

Rev. Michael Alden Fells of Digby told reporters outside the Halifax Regional Police station yesterday that a witness to the Jun. 22 altercation reported the additional Tasering. “He actually witnessed one of the officers Taser William Drummond three or four times,” Fells said. “He asked him to stop because he thought he was going to kill him.”

Fells says the witness, a young white man named Chad Tid, was reluctant to come forward with this information, but finally filed a statement with Digby RCMP on Monday night. Tid was not at home yesterday but a family member said “he made his statement to police” and he’s not going to answer any more questions about what he saw that night.

Drummond, who was at the protest yesterday said he doesn’t know if he was hit with more than one Taser, but he knows he was shocked three or four times. “I felt two more zaps and then when I was on the ground I felt another one,” he said. Police have confirmed Drummond was Tasered once by an RCMP officer.

Sgt. Mark Gallagher with the RCMP said Drummond was only struck once with a Taser. “The file itself does not have any indications that there was more than one Taser that was being used,” Gallagher said.

EDITORIAL: More than a mere shock

July 30, 2008
Editorial in the Salisbury Post, North Carolina

The weekend death of a Statesville man who was shocked by police Tasers — the second such death in the Charlotte area this year — is another grim reminder of the concerns surrounding these devices and why they need to be used judiciously and in accordance with strict guidelines.

Anthony Davidson, 29, died Sunday after being Tasered at the Statesville Police Department. Authorities said the shoplifting suspect become physically aggressive while being booked and was Tasered by at least one officer. The suspect, whom officers believed was perhaps under the influence of drugs or another impairing substance, was taken to the hospital, where he later died.

It will take a thorough investigation to provide more details about Davidson's death, what role Tasers may have played in it and whether their use conformed with departmental guidelines. The duration and number shocks administered, in particular, appear to be key factors in fatalities. In a March incident in which a Charlotte teen died after being Tasered, an investigation found that the suspect had been shocked for 35 seconds, longer than the recommended limits.

More law enforcement agencies in North Carolina and across the nation are issuing Tasers to some officers, including the Rowan County Sheriff's Office, which has used them for a few years, and the Salisbury Police Department, which recently made its first Taser purchases. Statistically, only a minute percentage of Taser incidents result in death or serous injury, and there's no corresponding computation of how many officers — and suspects — have been escaped serous harm because the officers used a Taser to disable a violent suspect rather than resort to a firearm. Certainly, a Taser is a lower level of force than a bullet.

But with more than 277 Taser-related deaths recorded nationwide, these are not benign instruments. They're potentially deadly weapons and should be used with due restraint.

EDITORIAL: Testing times for tasers

July 30, 2008
Editorial in the Regina Leader-Post

Editorial: The Saskatchewan Police Commission is wisely erring on the side of caution in delaying approval of general use of Tasers by municipal police forces.

It's been touted as an alternative to police guns that will save lives, but the Taser is itself under fire following a series of deaths and controversial incidents.

In particular, a bystander's video of the final moments of Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski, who died after being Tasered by RCMP officers at Vancouver airport last fall, prompted a series of reviews and inquiries and persuaded the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary to suspend Taser use for all but its tactics and rescue unit.

Now, the Saskatchewan Police Commission has reversed its earlier decision to allow the province's 14 municipal and First Nations police forces to use Tasers, pending more scientific and medical information that "definitively" concludes whether or not Tasers cause deaths.

The federally regulated RCMP is exempt from the decision and has resisted calls for a moratorium on its use of Tasers. SWAT teams like Regina's will still use Tasers if necessary.

While there are many stories about Tasers being used successfully to defuse dangerous confrontations without lasting harm to the victim, there are too many opposing instances of people -- like Dziekanski -- dying after being Tasered to ignore. Indeed, on the day the Saskatchewan Police Commission made its decision last week, a 17-year-old youth suspected of theft died in Winnipeg after being Tasered.

While there is conflicting expert opinion on the medical implications of the short, intense electric shocks delivered by Tasers, there is general agreement that Tasers have sometimes been used inappropriately. For example:

- An Edmonton constable faces disciplinary charges for allegedly using his Taser on two sleeping men during a robbery investigation in a hotel;

- A Charlotte, North Carolina police officer was suspended for five days following the Taser-related death of a 17-year-old grocery store employee during a confrontation. The officer is said to have Tasered the victim twice in the chest, once for 37 seconds and a second time for five seconds -- far beyond recommended use. An autopsy concluded that the teen died from a heart attack.

- Statistics obtained under the Access to Information Act by Canwest News Service show Taser use by the RCMP growing dramatically -- 1,414 incidents in 2007 and 1,119 in 2006, compared to only 597 in 2005. B.C. led the nation in RCMP Taser use at 11.26 incidents per 100,000 people, followed by P.E.I. (11.18), Manitoba (10.83), New Brunswick (10.78), Saskatchewan (10.76) and Alberta (10.64). Ontario and Quebec have their own provincial police forces.

- "What we see is that the Taser is now being used as a substitute for the good-old traditional talking by police, or the baton or pepper spray," says former B.C. premier Ujjal Dosanjh, a Liberal MP who sits on a parliamentary committee examining stun gun use in Canada.

- Greater Vancouver Transit Authority Police have controversially used Tasers against "non-compliant" fare evaders.

It's clearly impossible to arrive at a "one-size-fits-all" guideline for Taser use, but at a minimum more intensive training -- and far more caution -- needs to be attached to its use.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Police chief disagrees with Taser decision

July 29, 2008
MATTHEW GAUK, The Prince Albert Daily Herald

A provincial police chiefs' association is at odds with the Saskatchewan Police Commission over its recent decision against rolling out Tasers to municipal forces.

The commission announced last week that they were rescinding a motion to expand usage of conducted energy weapons, commonly referred to as Tasers. While many SWAT teams have access to the "non-lethal" weapons, most officers do not.

"Not having the ability to use a Taser ... the next level of deployment to protect a citizen or officer could actually be a firearm," said Dale McFee, City Police Chief and the president of the Saskatchewan Association of Chiefs of Police.

McFee said reviews are always done any time an officer uses force, be it with a gun, baton or pepper spray. This means they're accountable for their actions, and a Taser would be no different, he believes.

He said the use of force is "not something we take lightly."

"To my knowledge I do not know of any reports that have come out to say that the Taser was directly the (cause) of death," McFee said. "There are always contributing circumstances."

Police agencies across the province submitted their guidelines on use of force to the commission before its decision.

City Coun. Greg Dionne sits on the Prince Albert police board, which vetted the policy sent by City Police. He would have preferred the commission sit on the issue for a while longer until findings from various investigations into Tasers were published.

"I'm always concerned when we don't give the men and women of the police service the equipment to carry out their jobs," Dionne said. "Unfortunately, violent crime is up in all categories and that's just a sign of the times. The devices are also there to protect citizens and not just police."

Dionne thinks the decision went against the use of Tasers because of the recent high-profile cases of Taser-related deaths, including the Winnipeg teen who died last week.

But he also pointed out that recent shooting deaths by police have occurred in Prince Albert and Saskatoon, both cities without Taser-equipped police forces. Families will be wondering why the officers didn't have the devices, he said.

"If accountability is what they're looking for, it'd be easy to be reach," Dionne said, mentioning camera accessories sold for Tasers that would record each use by an officer.

McFee pointed out that the commission's decision was a tough one to make and that the police chiefs' association and City Police will respect that choice.

"At the end of the day, the provincial police perspective is that we all want the same thing - the safety of the officers and citizens," McFee said.

However, both McFee and Dionne hope to see the commission revisiting the issue in the future.

Dionne, as president of the Canadian Association of Police Boards, also said his organization will strike a committee on Taser use at a conference next month, which will result in a unified national position on the issue.

Saskatchewan ombudsman report on tasers released

July 29, 2008
James Wood, Regina Leader Post

REGINA -- The provincial ombudsman has set a good direction for the government to follow if it ever decides to revisit its shelved plans to introduce Tasers into Saskatchewan jails, says Corrections, Public Safety and Policing Minister Darryl Hickie.

The report by ombudsman Kevin Fenwick released Tuesday said there is not enough reliable information on the health impact of Tasers, echoing comments made last week by the Saskatchewan Police Commission in rescinding its earlier approval of their use by front-line police.

Nor is there adequate information on whether the situation in correctional centres warrants the use of Tasers, despite the contention of Corrections staff that the environments have become more volatile, said the report.

"We hear these stories about the changing nature of corrections and the increased levels of violence etcetera, but it's all anecdotal . . . The reporting system within the correctional centres for acts of violence or acts that require discipline is not very good," said Fenwick in an interview Tuesday.

Fenwick's report does not make an actual recommendation as to whether Tasers should be allowed for jail emergency response teams %96 as was planned last year %96 but said a great deal of work needs to be done before any decision is made.

He recommends that the province should convene a multi-disciplinary panel that includes medical practitioners to review the available research concerning the human effects of Tasers.

Special attention should be paid to vulnerable populations such as those found in the adult correctional system.

He acknowledged that would likely require new research, as most of the research done has been in relation to policing, not corrections, and the testing has been done on healthy subjects.

The ombudsman also recommends a reporting system be established to allow Corrections, Public Safety and Policing to determine the volatility of its correctional centres and the need for Tasers.

The province was in the process of introducing Tasers at the province's three correctional centres last fall, but their use was put on hold after Polish citizen Robert Dziekanski died at the Vancouver International Airport in October after being shot with a Taser by RCMP.

Fenwick's report reveals for the first time that an inmate was Tasered last September during a cell extraction. He said the device was used properly in the situation but that it was not authorized.

It was Hickie that put the Taser implementation plan on hold after the Saskatchewan Party government took office last fall. A former police officer and federal prison guard, Hickie has repeatedly expressed skepticism about the value of Tasers in the controlled environment of a jail.

He said Tuesday he is open to new information -- including input from British Columbia, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Yukon where Tasers are allowed for use in the corrections system -- but would have to be convinced to reopen the Taser issue.

But he said the ombudsman's report would play a valuable role if that is the case. "Now that he's put forward these recommendations, we would look at these like a road map and keep (the ombudsman) in the loop if we move forward in a very responsible manner, if we even do so," said Hickie.

The Saskatchewan Government and General Employees Union, which represents jail guards, declined to comment Tuesday.

With 21 recommendations in all, Fenwick also addressed policy issues that would come into play if the government decides to adopt Tasers. He suggested they be classified as an "impact weapon" in the government's use of force management model, to be used only where there is "active, overt and violent resistance and immediate control is required." That's a step higher than its classification last year as an intermediate weapon, which is the category that includes pepper spray and batons.

Fenwick said there are valid arguments for the use of Tasers within jails. But his report also raises the issue of Tasers being used in the "stun" setting, where the device is applied directly to induce compliance, as opposed to being used to subdue a violent suspect.

"If there is a use, it's to replace the next-most serious use of force. For police officers for example, it's (use of a Taser) instead of a firearm," he said.

"When it's being used in "stun" mode, it's clearly not being used in place of the next-most serious use of force. It's being used in place of something less serious. That causes us great concern."

Protesters complain about police conduct in fight outside Nova Scotia bar

July 29, 2008
The Canadian Press

HALIFAX — Two young Nova Scotia men filed complaints of police brutality Tuesday following allegations that off-duty officers uttered a racial slur, assaulted them and zapped one with a stun gun multiple times.

The men joined their families and about 50 people carrying placards outside the front entrance of the Halifax police headquarters before lodging their complaints over an incident last month in Digby.

Nathaniel Fells, 19, and William Drummond, 20, have said that one of a group of off-duty officers used the racial slur and then took a swing at Drummond as they walked down a street in the small community on June 22.

Fells, holding a poster that read 'Fair Treatment and Equality,' said he hopes the formal complaint will lead to a thorough investigation of the officers and a ban on the use of Tasers. "It's about abuse and racism coming to a stop," he said, surrounded by supporters under sunny skies. "If they're enforcing the law and they've got a badge on that's what they're there to do. They're not there to keep black people off the streets."

The group said it was also filing complaints with the provincial and federal human rights commissions about how three on-duty RCMP officers responded to the incident.

Fells said he and Drummond were taunted into fighting by five or six off-duty police officers who emerged from a van and pursued them down the street outside a bar. The men allege that RCMP paid little attention to the off-duty officers who were still threatening them after Drummond says he had been hit by a Taser about four times.

An RCMP criminal investigation is underway into the late-night incident, and internal probes have been launched by several municipal police forces into the behaviour of the off-duty officers from Halifax and New Glasgow.

Halifax Const. David Li said the formal complaints were made Tuesday afternoon when the two young men made statements to police about what happened that night. Li said the statements will be used by the force as it conducts an internal investigation into possible officer misconduct.

Rev. Michael Alden Fells, Nathaniel's father, said the officers should be charged for what he alleges is a case of clear, unprovoked police aggression. "They were intoxicated, used racial slurs and physically assaulted our youth," he said. "We want to send a very clear message that those who enforce the law are not above the law."

The young men also say that when the Mounties arrived to investigate, the off-duty officers were left alone, even though some of them were chasing Fells. Rev. Fells has viewed a video of the incident and says it shows the on-duty officers standing close to Drummond when he is on the ground. He also said the officer who Tasered Drummond is black, while another off-duty officer zapped him several times.

RCMP Sgt. Mark Gallagher denied the allegation that an off-duty officer used a Taser, saying the electronic record of the device that was used shows it was deployed only once that day.

"We feel confident that the only person who would have used a Taser would have been the on-duty member that was trying to gain control of Drummond," he said.

"It was used once."

Saskatchewan ombudsman concerned about using tasers in provincial jails

July 29, 2008
The Canadian Press

REGINA — Saskatchewan's ombudsman has concerns over the potential use of Tasers in the province's jails. Kevin Fenwick says the Corrections Ministry still has work to do before making a decision about whether stun guns should be allowed. Fenwick has made 21 recommendations to ensure that a proper study is done.

The ministry was in the final stages of introducing the devices last fall when the use of a Taser sparked an internal investigation, as well as the ombudsman's review.

He says he found that the ministry did not provide adequate evidence as to why electronic stun guns are needed in jails with male inmates. Fenwick also says the ministry lacked objective data to support claims of increased violence, and did not complete a health assessment on inmates to see if Tasers would be medically safe to use.

Well-founded doubt

Michael Tochor, chairman of the Saskatchewan Police Commission - "the medical evidence is inconclusive"

July 29, 2008
The Globe and Mail

If there's a medal reserved for courageous police boards, the Saskatchewan Police Commission deserves it. It has stood up against police orthodoxy nearly everywhere in Canada to voice honest doubts about tasers. "There's a grave danger of them being abused," chair Michael Tochor said yesterday. He also expressed doubts about the medical science underpinning their purported safety. "The medical evidence is inconclusive."

Two years ago, the commission - the civilian body that sets policy for the province's municipal police forces - approved the taser in principle for the use of regular officers (in addition to the tactical squads with permission now). As soon as guidelines could be developed for taser use and training, the police services would be free to roll out the 50,000-volt weapons. But after numerous deaths and appalling police misuses of the electric stun guns, the commission rescinded that approval last week. While it believes the tasers may save lives when used in appropriate circumstances, it wants to see more scientific data, and think out what policy might fit, before moving ahead.

That may seem a small step, but it seems awfully large when most Canadian police are heading in the other direction. The RCMP, for instance, use the taser nearly 30 times a week, and their civilian chair, William Elliott, has refused to make even the minuscule alteration to taser guidelines recommended by an independent watchdog. (The guidelines allow for use on the "actively resistant," and the watchdog would raise that to "combative.")

How could there not be doubts? Twenty-two people have died in Canada after being tasered in the past five years, including a 17-year-old man last week in Winnipeg. One of the 22, Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski, was shown on an amateur videotape to have been exhausted and distressed, but not violent; a clutch of RCMP officers tasered him within 30 seconds of confronting him last October at the Vancouver International Airport. Scientists have raised serious questions about taser safety at the Braidwood Inquiry in British Columbia.

Some day, civilian police boards and governments across Canada may admit to their own honest doubts. But the Saskatchewan Police Commission was first.

Ohio deputy Stephen Krendick on trial in inmate death

July 29, 2008
Karen Farkas, Plain Dealer Reporter

Akron- A Summit County sheriff's deputy, charged with murder in the death of a mentally ill jail inmate, went on trial Monday.

Prosecutors maintain Stephen Krendick stomped five or six times on Mark McCullaugh's head and sprayed his naked body with a can of pepper spray while McCullaugh was hog-tied, which contributed to his death. Kendrick also stunned McCullaugh several times with a Taser.

A forensic pathologist is expected to testify that McCullaugh died of asphyxia. The theory is that the pepper spray made his airway swell, the hog-tie restraint put pressure on his heart, and the stun gun's electrical charges caused muscle contractions that made it hard for him to breathe, prosecutors said.

Krendick's attorneys maintain that their client used the force necessary to restrain McCullaugh during a violent struggle. They said the 6-foot-2, 290-pound inmate died of heart failure from excited delirium due to his untreated psychiatric illness.

Summit County Medical Examiner Lisa Kohler had ruled McCullaugh's death a homicide caused by asphyxiation but was ordered to change the ruling to "undetermined" by a judge in another case involving the death of McCullaugh and two other men who were shot by stun guns.

Krendick, one of five deputies charged in McCullaugh's death, faces the most serious charge. His case is being heard by visiting Judge H.F. Inderlied. Cuyahoga County prosecutors are handling the case.

McCullaugh, 28, was jailed Aug. 8, 2006, after assaulting an Akron police officer. On Aug. 20, deputies were called to restrain him so he could be given medication after he got naked, defecated and wrote on his cell walls with blood, according to court documents. The deputies were charged after a year-long investigation.

Prosecutors will ask Inderlied to consider an involuntary-manslaughter or reckless-homicide conviction if he thinks the evidence does not prove murder, according to court documents.

Inderlied viewed the jail cell Monday and began hearing testimony. The case in Summit County Common Pleas Court is expected to take as long as two weeks because each side is prepared to call numerous medical experts.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Truth ... not tasers in the financial spotlight

I was pleased to learn this evening (thanks Excited-Delirium) that my blog made it onto the Google Finance TASER International, Inc. page under the Blog Post listing (right side of the page). Taser shares are in the toilet, trading at 5.02 (or -0.02 (-0.40%)).

Not only is this blog listed (today) in the #1 spot, but the lyrics to my mom's new "song," Taser Me Baby, are prominently featured. Could a recording contract be next?!

Hospital tasers 66-year-old minister over joke

Must-see TV.

Saskatchewan police chiefs want taser issue revisited

July 28, 2008
Anne Kyle, Regina Leader-Post
With files from James Wood

REGINA -- The province's association of chiefs of police respect the Saskatchewan Police Commission's decision to rescind the motion to expand the use of conducted energy devices (CEDS) but it doesn't fully agree with the decision.

"The Saskatchewan Association of Police Chiefs hopes this decision will receive further review from the commission in due course. Obviously, when you look at expanding any use of force tool, certainly, foremost in that decision is officer and citizen safety,'' said Prince Albert Police Chief Dale McFee, president of the SAPC.

On Friday, the commission, the province's independent regulatory body for municipal police, announced it was reversing its previously stated plans to allow Tasers. The commission was in the process of developing a policy for their use, but on Friday the commission chair Michael Tochor said it was rescinding last year's decision to approve the use of Tasers. That decision was in response to the controversy over the use of Tasers in connection with a number of deaths, including the death of a Polish citizen Robert Dziekanski at the Vancouver International Airport in October, and a lack of adequate information on the full consequences of their use.

"Decisions to expand the methods of dealing with difficult issues relating to the safety of officers and citizens is something our police agencies always take seriously,'' McFee said.

"We feel, if there is another tool available that improves safety for all, obviously it needs to be looked at. From a policing perspective anything that we do in relation to the use of force whether it is the use of a firearm, the use of a CED, or the use of a baton -- that is all reported and it is all reviewed. At the end of the day the police are accountable for their actions.

"Each potentially dangerous situation requires a different response and we have to remember in many situations the next response in keeping safe is the service firearm. The goal for all is safety to all,'' McFee said.

The police commission announced Friday it won't authorize the general use of CEDs by members of the province's 14 municipal and First Nation police services until more information is available. SWAT team members will continue to be allowed to use stun guns.

Regina Police Chief Troy Hagen said that the commission's decision will not change current practises within the Regina Police Service operation. Currently no Regina police officers other than trained SWAT members, who are trained in their usage, carry CEDs.

Saskatoon police chief Clive Weighill said he hoped the commission would have adequate information to revisit the Taser issue in six months.

"Naturally we would like to have that option available for our officers because right now they don't have the option. They have to go right from baton or pepper spray right up to lethal force. It would make sense to us that if there is an option available we should be allowed to use it," he said Monday.

However, Weighill would not link the lack of Tasers to the four times Saskatoon police used their firearms last year. There were two high-profile police shootings in December, one that saw a women wounded by police and another that saw the death of Dwayne Charles Dustyhorn.

Further recommended reading over at Excited-Delirium's website on this topic - "That's why it's not their decision."

The clock of inevitability

As the following two reports show, the big hand on the clock of inevitability is ticking closer to the top of the hour.

Deputies trial to resume after delay, as defense sought to remove Beacon reporter

July 28, 2008
By Phil Trexler, Akron Beacon Journal

Opening statements in the trial of a Summit County Jail deputy charged with murder in the death an inmate were delayed this morning after a Beacon Journal reporter resisted efforts to be subpoenaed as a defense witness.

Attorneys will begin their cases at 1:15 this afternoon after an agreement was reached that allows Beacon Journal reporter Ed Meyer to remain in the courtroom until a Tennessee medical examiner testifies later this week.

Jailer Stephen Krendick is on trial before visiting Judge Herman F. Inderlied Jr. of Geauga County. He is accused with five other deputies in the 2006 death of inmate Mark D. McCullaugh. McCullaugh Jr., 28.

Krendick, who waived his right to a jury trial, faces the most serious charge.

The other deputies who were indicted — Brett Hadley, Brian Polinger, Dominic Martucci and Mark Mayer — are scheduled to go to trial before Inderlied later this year.

This morning, legal arguments between the newspaper's attorney and Krendick's defense lawyers delayed the trial for more than an hour.

Meyer, who is reporting on the trial for the newspaper, was named a witness by the defense and is being asked to testify about his phone interview in May with Dr. Bruce Levy, Tennessee's chief medical examiner.

The interview came after a judge overruled Summit County Medical Examiner Lisa Kohler's finding that the use of a Taser contributed to McCullaugh's death.

Levy told Meyer by telephone from his office that he was shocked and disagreed with Judge Ted Schneiderman's decision.

Krendick's lawyers, Robert C. Baker of Akron and James M. Kersey of Cleveland, wanted Meyer removed from the courtroom in an effort to bar him from listening to other testimony.

Witnesses are generally precluded from watching the trial.

Brouse McDowell attorney Karen Lefton, representing the newspaper, reached a compromise with the attorneys that allows Meyer to stay in the courtroom and cover the trial for the paper.

Meyer agreed to leave the courtroom only in the event Levy testifies later this week.

McCullaugh, 6-foot-2 and 306 pounds, according to autopsy evidence, died from sudden heart failure brought on by excited delirium from a psychotic condition for which he was no longer being treated, the defense contends.

Opening statements in the trial of a Summit County Jail deputy charged with murder in the death an inmate were delayed this morning after a Beacon Journal reporter resisted efforts to be subpoenaed as a defense witness.

Attorneys will begin their cases at 1:15 this afternoon after an agreement was reached that allows Beacon Journal reporter Ed Meyer to remain in the courtroom until a Tennessee medical examiner testifies later this week.

Jailer Stephen Krendick is on trial before visiting Judge Herman F. Inderlied Jr. of Geauga County. He is accused with five other deputies in the 2006 death of inmate Mark D. McCullaugh. McCullaugh Jr., 28.

Krendick, who waived his right to a jury trial, faces the most serious charge.

The other deputies who were indicted — Brett Hadley, Brian Polinger, Dominic Martucci and Mark Mayer — are scheduled to go to trial before Inderlied later this year.

This morning, legal arguments between the newspaper's attorney and Krendick's defense lawyers delayed the trial for more than an hour.

Meyer, who is reporting on the trial for the newspaper, was named a witness by the defense and is being asked to testify about his phone interview in May with Dr. Bruce Levy, Tennessee's chief medical examiner.

The interview came after a judge overruled Summit County Medical Examiner Lisa Kohler's finding that the use of a Taser contributed to McCullaugh's death.

Levy told Meyer by telephone from his office that he was shocked and disagreed with Judge Ted Schneiderman's decision.

Krendick's lawyers, Robert C. Baker of Akron and James M. Kersey of Cleveland, wanted Meyer removed from the courtroom in an effort to bar him from listening to other testimony.

Witnesses are generally precluded from watching the trial.

Brouse McDowell attorney Karen Lefton, representing the newspaper, reached a compromise with the attorneys that allows Meyer to stay in the courtroom and cover the trial for the paper.

Meyer agreed to leave the courtroom only in the event Levy testifies later this week.

McCullaugh, 6-foot-2 and 306 pounds, according to autopsy evidence, died from sudden heart failure brought on by excited delirium from a psychotic condition for which he was no longer being treated, the defense contends.

Indictment sought for police taser death in Louisiana

July 28, 2008
By Howard Witt, Chicago Tribune

HOUSTON - Seeking to defuse growing racial tensions in the small Louisiana town of Winnfield, the local district attorney announced Monday that he will seek an indictment against a white police officer for the death of a black man who was shocked nine times with a Taser device while handcuffed in police custody.

Winn Parish District Atty. Chris Nevils said he would convene a grand jury Aug. 12 to consider possible charges against the officer, Scott Nugent, 21, who was fired from the Winnfield Police Department following the death of Baron "Scooter" Pikes.

Pikes, 21, died Jan. 17 within 39 minutes of being arrested on a drug possession warrant. Winnfield police claimed Pikes told them he suffered from asthma and was high on crack cocaine and PCP, but the local coroner found that Pikes had been healthy and had no drugs in his system. He ruled the death a homicide.

"Now is the time to take this case to the grand jury for a determination about whether charges should be brought," Nevils said in a statement. "I know there are strong feelings on both sides of this matter. But my obligation, and that of the grand jury, is to objectively sort through the facts and make a decision that is in the best interest of justice. That is what we intend to do."

Nevils' decision came a little more than a week after the Tribune published the first full account of the case amid fears expressed by the victim's family and civil rights groups that the incident would be covered up in a town with a florid history of backroom dealings and political corruption.

Nevils' predecessor as district attorney committed suicide after he came under suspicion for skimming $200,000 from his office accounts and extorting bribes from criminal suspects. The former police chief, who was Nugent's father, also killed himself, after losing a bitterly-contested election campaign marred by fraud allegations. The current police chief is a convicted drug offender who was pardoned by former Louisiana Gov. Edwin Edwards, who is currently serving a federal prison sentence for corruption while in office.

In his own written report of the Pikes' incident, Nugent acknowledged that he had subdued and handcuffed Pikes after a foot chase and that Pikes had not struggled or resisted arrest. Instead, Nugent wrote, he began Tasering Pikes after the suspect did not respond quickly enough to Nugent's order to stand up and walk to a waiting police car.

Witnesses reported that Pikes had pleaded with Nugent and two other arresting officers to stop Tasering him.

Nugent's attorney has said the former officer acted according to police procedures. But the Winnfield Police Department's written Taser policy states that the device should only be used "where it is deemed reasonably necessary to control a dangerous or violent subject."

Dr. Randolph Williams, the Winn Parish coroner, determined after investigating the death that Nugent administered a total of nine 50,000-volt Taser shocks to Pikes over a 14-minute period-and that the last two jolts were delivered after Pikes had lost consciousness.

Nevils would not reveal the range of possible charges he will ask the grand jury to consider against Nugent.

Missouri police taser injured boy 19 times

July 28, 2008

After a fall from an overpass that leaves a kid with a broken back and other injuries, cops apply voltage up to 19 times. The official explanation: "He refused to comply with the officer's instructions." According to the police, the kid was making incoherent statements about threatening cops. On the other hand, a police captain on the video tells that their actions were done also to protect the kid, to prevent him from getting into traffic.

Here's the video by local media.

Man in coma following brawl

July 28, 2008
The Mississauga News

July 28, 2008 06:55 AM - A weekend brawl in a Quebec hotel room has left a 28-year-old Mississauga man in a coma. It was just after 4 a.m. on Sunday morning when police were dispatched to the Best Western on Laurier St. in Gatineau, The Ottawa Citizen reports. Police say the trouble began when six men and two women who were occupying a room on the eighth floor heard a knock on the door. Ten people burst in when someone opened the door. Police say the six men were shot with a Taser and beaten. The women were not harmed. The intruders fled on foot. Three of the victims were taken to Hull hospital, where the Mississauga man remains in a coma. Police say the six men were in Gatineau for an Ultimate Fighting event.

North Carolina man dies after being arrested

UPDATE November 15, 2008

Autopsy: Tasers' shocks didn't kill man
By Donna Swicegood, Statesville Record & Landmark

Published: November 15, 2008

The autopsy of a Statesville man who died in July after being shocked with Tasers at the Iredell County Detention Center shows he died of a condition known as excited delirium.

Anthony Dewayne Davidson, 29, died July 27 after being arrested the day before on a shoplifting charge. Urine samples taken before he died revealed traces of cocaine in his system, according to the autopsy report.

Officers from the Statesville Police Department and staff from the jail deployed Tasers after they said Davidson became uncooperative and aggressive and tried to run.

Davidson was taken to Iredell Memorial Hospital after a jail nurse said he needed to be medically cleared because of his behavior, said SPD Interim Chief Tom Anderson.

Davidson died about 30 hours later, after being taken off life support.

The State Bureau of Investigation is conducting an inquiry into Davidson's death. The SBI has not completed its final report.

The autopsy report, obtained Friday, cites complications from excited delirium as the cause of death.

Dr. Deborah Radisch of the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Raleigh said excited delirium "causes the sudden cardiorespiratory collapse and arrest following an agitated state necessitating the use of restraints, and is generally seen in the context of the use of a stimulant such as cocaine."

Davidson's postmortem toxicology results show no traces of alcohol or narcotic drugs.

But the urine sample, taken at the hospital at 6:01 p.m. on July 26, showed the presence of cocaine, Radisch reported.

The autopsy also showed puncture wounds, associated with the Taser, on the right upper chest, left thigh and possibly the mid-back area.

There were also numerous bruises and lacerations, including on the face and upper shoulders, wrists and both ankles. The doctor said the injuries on the ankles and wrists were consistent with handcuffs and shackles.

Davidson's family contends that he was beaten by officers and jailers and the Taser shocks caused his death.

Charity Davidson, Davidson's wife, said she saw bruises and what she described as a big knot over his eye when he was at the hospital.

The autopsy indicates no damage to any of Davidson's internal organs nor any broken bones.

Redmond said the injuries were all consistent with the struggle between officers and Davidson.

The events that led to Davidson's death started around 3 p.m. on July 26 when police answered a call about a shoplifting at Food Lion on Wilkesboro Highway.

"He tried to pay with a debit card and it was declined," Anderson said. Davidson left the cart of groceries, but took an Applebees gift card and left the store, he said.

Officers found him walking in the area of Little Caesar's Pizza and took him into custody. He was taken back to the store, where the gift card was returned, and arrested.

Nothing was out of the ordinary until after Davidson saw the magistrate and was being taken to the jail for processing.

"His whole attitude, his demeanor changed. It was totally unexpected. This was a minor larceny charge," Anderson said.

Davidson, he said, became combative, fighting with officers and jailers, something Redmond described as "casting them off like flies."

After a struggle, during which three officers — two jailers and an SPD officer — deployed Tasers, Davidson calmed down and was taken to the jail nurse.

"She suspected he was on some type of substance and said he needed to be medically cleared before being processed," Anderson said.

Charity Davidson said Friday she had not seen the autopsy report and wanted to speak with her attorney before commenting on the report.

However, she did say she was surprised by the cocaine finding. "He didn't take anything before he went in there (referring to the store)," she said.

The exact amount of cocaine in his system will be determined by toxicology results on blood taken at the hospital rather than at autopsy and those results haven't been released.

Capt. Darren Campbell of the Iredell County Sheriff's Office said the autopsy findings are consistent with the investigation and reports from jail personnel as to what happened.

Anderson said he wasn't surprised by the official cause of death.

"We've reviewed the investigation. I've seen the videotapes," he said. "He was not Tasered to death."


July 29, 2008 UPDATE: The Charlotte Observer says today that Anthony Davidson was shocked several times.

July 28, 2008
STEVE LYTTLE, The Charlotte Observer

Statesville police this morning said they have launched an investigation into the death of a man who was taken into custody Saturday afternoon.

They are looking into the possibility that use of a Taser by police might have played a role in the man's death.

Anthony Davidson died in a hospital overnight. He had been arrested in connection with an alleged theft at a Food Lion store in Statesville.

There are reports that police used a Taser on Davidson during the arrest, but it is too early to know if the device had any role in the victim's death.

Davidson was taken before a magistrate a short time after being taken into custody, but he collapsed a short time later and was hospitalized.

In March, a 17-year-old Charlotte man, Darryl Wayne Turner, died after police used a Taser on him -- also at a Food Lion store. Earlier this month, a Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officer was suspended for five days for his role in the Taser incident.

'Lethal' nonetheless - study shows stun safety, but more research needed

July 28, 2008
CHRIS KITCHING, The Winnipeg Sun

A landmark study of police Taser use in the U.S. suggests the device is safe after finding almost 100% of 1,000 suspects zapped suffered either mild injuries or none at all.

Despite the findings, the principal investigator of the two-year study, released last October, doesn't think a stun gun or any other weapon can be considered non-lethal and is calling for more research into its effects.

"Any weapon, all the way from your fist to a metal baton, can cause injuries and even death," said Dr. William Bozeman. "There's no such thing, in my mind, as a non-lethal weapon. I refer to (Tasers) as 'less lethal.' "

Using data from six U.S. police departments, Bozeman's study looked at 1,000 incidents where police stunned a suspect with a Taser. He found a 0.3% likelihood of serious injury.

Three people suffered a significant injury and two died, but not as a result of a Taser, Bozeman said.

"We don't have any particular cases where it's clearly evident the Taser was the cause of death," he said.

Stun guns have been deemed a contributing factor in some deaths.

The study does not argue for or against stun guns, but Bozeman said he supports police use of Tasers.

The Taser debate has reignited after the death of Winnipeg teen Michael Langan.

Langan, 17, died July 22 after he was shocked by a city police officer in a William Avenue alley when, police said, he refused to drop a knife.

The cause of death is unknown. It's the first such death in Manitoba.

Bozeman said the study is the first to explore the likelihood of serious injury and is based on human and animal studies.

Concerns about electrical safety have not been fully addressed, the report found.

Bozeman said there is a need for more research into cardiac safety and whether certain people are at greater risk of injury or death due to their age, medical or psychiatric conditions, or the presence of intoxicants.

So far, no human studies have found any evidence a Taser -- which sends a small amount of energy to the body -- can stop a person's heart but that doesn't mean it's not possible, Bozeman said.

The Manitoba Association for Rights and Liberties is among those calling for more research into the effects of Tasers.

"When we see another death we have trouble understanding why this is described as a non-lethal response," said executive director Valerie Price. "We're not drawing any conclusions yet on whether things were done appropriately in this particular case that happened (last week)."

Winnipeg police reviewed its Taser policies and training last winter at the request of a city hall committee and found nothing unusual.

Several governments or agencies are reviewing Taser policies and safety after recent deaths in Canada.

Manitoba's NDP government has not said if it will do its own review.

Bozeman said his study was funded by the National Institute of Justice but was independent from government and stun gun manufacturers, including TASER International.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Taser me baby

Last week, I featured a Winnipeg band called The Consumer Goods, after reading an article in the Winnipeg Free Press about a taser song the band wrote. A member of the band wrote to say (and I couldn’t agree more) that it was a bizarre and tragic irony that the first taser killing in Winnipeg (of young Michael Langan) should happen just days before their record was to be released.

A few hours after I posted the lyrics to their song "Serve and Protect, Uh!" on this website, I received an e-mail from my mom.

Those of you know my mom know what an amazing person she is. She's my rock. My bridge over troubled water. My shelter from the storm. My greatest ally and supporter and best friend. The one who repeats our mantra, "one foot in front of the other," when I need to hear it most.

Over the four years since Bob died, my mom has never wavered in her belief that tasers have no place in a civilized society. She speaks out on the issue with passion and intelligence at every opportunity and makes every possible effort to educate people on the various pieces of this bizarre puzzle.

My mom has also been blessed with a highly developed sense of humour. Ask those who know her and they'll tell you that her quick, sometimes absurd, talent with the written word is the stuff of legend. Over the years, she has written plays, skits, songs and ditties that have had them rolling in the aisles.

So, it shouldn't have come as a surprise that after reading The Consumer Goods song lyrics, my mom was inspired to write a song of her own. I was more than a little blown away when I read it. And we subsequently debated whether or not to use her name here and finally agreed that she absolutely deserves the credit for this. She told me that as she wrote this song, she was thinking about all the other mothers who have lost their children to the taser.

And so, without further ado, the world premier of Riki Bagnell's latest single, "Taser Me Baby."

By Riki Bagnell
(mother of Robert Bagnell, who died in June 2004 after he was tasered by Vancouver Police)








Saturday, July 26, 2008

Taser deaths are rising - can we defend ourselves from abuse?

I recommend that you click on the above link and read this article at opednews, so that you will have the benefit of the links Mr. Cormier provides.

July 26, 2008
Written by Richard Cormier

Death by Taser is increasing, and as the safety of the Taser is being debated, how do Americans protect themselves against a weapon the police believe (maybe) is safe, while testing proves it’s not, especially when wielded by police officers that use it as an instrument of torture. Most cases aren’t that extreme, however, the latest in the news is, and even in CNN’s article, the contradictions are striking - and no matter who dies, the police still attempt to defend themselves by claiming it’s safe - while the evidence proves it isn’t:

Ex-cop may be charged in case of man Tasered to death
From Drew Griffin and David Fitzpatrick
WINNFIELD, Louisiana (CNN) — A police officer shocked a handcuffed Baron “Scooter” Pikes nine times with a Taser after arresting him on a cocaine charge.

He stopped twitching after seven, according to a coroner’s report. Soon afterward, Pikes was dead.

Now the officer, since fired, could end up facing criminal charges in Pikes’ January death after medical examiners ruled it a homicide.

Dr. Randolph Williams, the Winn Parish coroner, told CNN the 21-year-old sawmill worker was jolted so many times by the 50,000-volt Taser that he might have been dead before the last two shocks were delivered.

After reading the first few paragraphs, it seems obvious that this was a homicide, and a suspect that was handcuffed was brutally “Tased” until he was dead; I doubt the officer planned on murdering his victim, but operating under the mistaken claim that Tasers are safe, it’s obvious the officer, if not attempting murder, was using the Taser to torture his victim. No matter how you look at it, a crime occurred and the officer in question was fired and may face charges. Knowing that, if you read further into the article, one statement stands out, and it’s almost absurd that the police would say something this outrageous after reading the factual evidence at the beginning of the article:

But Winnfield police Lt. Chuck Curry said race “isn’t an issue at all” in the matter. “This has come down to a police officer that was trying to apprehend a suspect that they had warrants for,” he said. “He done what he thought he was trained to do to bring that subject into custody. At some point, something happened with his body that caused him to go into cardiac arrest or whatever.”

The statement is utterly absurd after you read the complete story, however, the police are relying on the Taser’s manufacturer who claims it’s safe, therefore, whether the evidence contradicts that fact - the police continue to use these devices because they can - and also “Curry said Taser International, the device’s manufacturer, indicates that “multiple Tasings do not affect a person.”

The statement by Taser International that states “multiple Tasings do not affect a person” has been proven to be incorrect, however, Taser International is a huge corporation, and like anything that involves huge sums of money, they have their own lobbyists to thwart the investigations and safety tests that prove the Taser is an extremely dangerous weapon. If you visit Taser International’s website, I’m sure you’ll be struck with the irony of the first three words on their site: TASER - Protect Life. (sic)

Taser International can hire all the lobbyists they want, but that doesn’t change the fact that Tasers are dangerous, and under the right (or wrong) circumstances, this new “weapon” does not save lives, it takes them - and the next one could be you or a close family member. The controversy is beginning to heat-up, and now there’s a site on the Internet which exclusively points-out the danger of the Taser, STAT! Stop Taser Abuse Today:

Taser Factsheet
Despite manufacturer’s label of “less-lethal,” tasers have been involved in close to 250 deaths.


Despite police claims that tasers reduce injuries and save lives by providing officers with an alternative to using their firearms or batons, independent studies conclude that tasers are mostly used in situations where police use of lethal force – or even batons, sprays, or hand controls – would never be justified. This means that tasers actually increase the amount of danger to the public, not decrease it. (Emphasis aded) Electro-shock weapons are particularly open to abuse as they can inflict severe pain at the push of a button without leaving substantial marks. Police often subject targets to multiple taser shocks, even while in restraints and often use them against people posing no physical threat, such as against non-violent protesters or simply anyone they perceive to not be heeding a verbal command. Other studies have shown that suspect deaths by gun, or suspect and police injuries have not decreased. (Emphasis added)


Taser International is being sued by police officers across the nation claiming they were seriously injured after being shocked with the electronic stun gun during training classes. Injuries listed included “painful, permanent and progressive” hearing and vision loss and neurological damage, multiple spinal fractures, burns, a shoulder dislocation and soft-tissue injuries. Many lawsuits, including a few class action suits, have been filed from victims and victim’s families for wrongful tasering or death, although Taser, Int. has managed to get many thrown out via legal loopholes.

When people are claiming that the United States is rapidly becoming a “Police State”, the Taser is adding to that perception; I’m fifty-seven years old, and I can’t remember a time when the public was as afraid or suspicious of the police whom are hired “To Protect and Serve.” Depending on where you live, some police forces appear to be “militarizing” themselves, and when you are pulled over for a speeding ticket or other minor infraction, it’s disquieting looking in your rear-view mirror and noting that the officer who is getting out of his car is wearing combat boots, is dressed in what appears to be military fatigues, and hair that’s cut so short they almost appear to be skinheads. (I’m fortunate. I live in a county in Northern Georgia where most of the Sheriff’s officers still look like police, not Nazi Storm Troopers - and I haven’t heard of any Taser abuse.)

Even in Chicago, in a city known for it’s violence, there are studies underway that are also disputing the safety of the Taser. When the police themselves are starting to sue Taser International, that should be a nationwide wake-up call that Tasers need to go - into a trash can!

Chicago Study Calls Taser’s Safety Claims Into Question
January 30, 2008 by CBC News
Taser stun guns may not be as safe as their manufacturer claims, according to a study carried out by Chicago researchers, CBC News has learned. The team of doctors and scientists at the trauma centre in Chicago’s Cook County hospital stunned 11 pigs with Taser guns in 2006, hitting their chests with 40-second jolts of electricity, pausing for 10 to 15 seconds, then hitting them for 40 more seconds. When the jolts ended, every animal was left with heart rhythm problems, the researchers said. Two of the animals died from cardiac arrest, one three minutes after receiving a shock. (Emphasis added)

Even USA Amnesty International is getting involved in the controversy in regard Tasers, and below are excerpts from a document that was filed in October, 2007:

USA - Amnesty International’s concerns about Taser®(1) use: Statement to the U.S. Justice Department inquiry into deaths in custody

However, we have serious concerns about the use of electro-shock devices in law enforcement, both as regards their safety and their potential for misuse. Portable and easy to use, with the capacity to inflict severe pain at the push of a button without leaving substantial marks, electro-shock weapons are particularly open to abuse, as our organization has documented in numerous cases around the world.

While in the United States police operate under professional standards,(8) we are concerned that many U.S. police departments are using Tasers to subdue non-compliant or disturbed individuals who do not pose a serious danger to themselves or others. As our reports have documented, there are many cases where we believe use of Tasers has contravened international standards which require that police use force only when strictly necessary, in proportion to the threat posed, only for as long as the threat exists and in a manner designed to minimize pain or injury. We have documented disturbing instances where we believe that Taser use has amounted to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment which is absolutely prohibited under international law. (Emphasis added)The U.N. Committee against Torture has called on the United States to deploy Tasers only as a non-lethal alternative to using firearms.

We are particularly concerned about the capacity of Tasers to be used in close contact situations as a stun weapon – including in situations where individuals appear to be already effectively in custody – and to inflict repeated shocks over a relatively prolonged period. While we believe the drive-stun mode is especially open to abuse, we note that in dart-mode also there have been instances of alleged abuse, with officers able to inflict repeated shocks once the darts have taken hold.

We know that Taser abuse is rising, and again, Amnesty International has been documenting cases where Tasers have been used when they weren’t necessary, and in fact, on several occasions, appeared to be used out of pure spite - and when people witness police officers abusing citizens for refusing to turn around, or evening sitting while handcuffed, the public is left with the impression that our police forces are becoming mean-spirited and seem intent on intimidating the public rather than protecting them - and that perception is one that leads many citizens to view the current conduct of many of our police forces to be more “Soviet Style” and thus believe that America is turning into a “Police State.”

These are some of the cases documented by Amnesty International and all include a video of the incident:

TASERs on Video
Viewer discretion is advised.

* December 20, 2007, Daytona Beach, FL - Elizabeth Beeland was struck by a TASER after she became loud and unruly at Best Buy.

* November 18, 2007, Trotwood, OH - Valreca Redden was struck by a TASER while pregnant. Police claim that they did not know she was pregnant at the time.

* October 14, 2007, Vancouver, BC - Robert Dziekanski became agitated after waiting ten hours in the Vancouver International Airport. Police shocked Dziekanski with a TASER multiple times, and soon after he was pronounced dead.

* September 17, 2007, Gainesville, FL - Andrew Meyer persistently questioned Senator John Kerry at a university forum. University of Florida police tried to escort him from the auditorium and later struck him with a TASER for resisting arrest.

* September 14, 2007, UT - Jared Massey was struck by a TASER for refusing to sign a speeding ticket.

* September 2, 2007, Warren, OH - Heidi Gill got into an altercation with a bartender and mistakenly got into the wrong car while waiting for her friend to drive her home. When she refused to get out of the vehicle, she was struck by a TASER multiple times.

* November 23, 2006, Austin, TX - Eugene Snelling was pulled out of his car after trying to get his license and registration. He was struck by a TASER less than a minute later.

* November 14, 2006, Los Angeles, CA - Mostafa Tabatabainejad, a student at UCLA, neglected to show his student identification card at the library. He was then asked to leave, and when he refused he was struck by a TASER multiple times.

* November 13, 2006, Sheffield Lake, OH - Kristina Fretter was taken to the Sheffield Police Department after being picked up for drunk driving. She was later struck by a TASER while wearing handcuffs.

Last night, while finishing-up this article, we experienced a severe thunderstorm and I lost my last four paragraphs - and they say everything happens for a reason. Early this morning, I was interviewed by Don Nicoloff on “Evident Footprints”, which is a BBS Radio Production, and during the course of the interview I learned there had been another Taser death in Cleveland, Ohio that he had just learned about on the radio. There’s no doubt the Taser is dangerous, and the way it’s being used in the U.S. and Canada is, IMO, a type of “behavior modification” which dates back to Pavlov’s Dogs and the famous psychologist, B.F. Skinner, who is known as the “father of behavior modification.”

The general population is being taught, through negative reinforcement that if you question authority in any way, protest, fail to mow your lawn when told, and other insignificant incidents that brought about Taser discharges, the message is loud and clear - you will be hurt, and in some instances, that may include the loss of your life. Taser use is widespread and growing by the day, so we can expect more deaths and incidents where ordinary citizens are “taught a lesson” that if they don’t comply immediately, no matter how absurd or insignificant the incident is, each and every one of us will feel the pain of non-compliance and Tasers are being used to intimidate large swaths of the general population. This could be an unintended consequence of their use, or it could be part of a larger plan to teach the citizenry that “resistance is futile.” I believe it’s the latter based on the enormous amount of taser incidents that occur almost daily, and in situations where if the office was armed with only his firearm and baton, death might have been circumvented. The studies have indicated that Tasers have not brought down officer related “shootings” where they needed to use deadly force, but add to an officer’s arsenal to use punishment whenever they feel their authority is challenged or in some cases, to “teach some suspects a lesson.”

To increase their bottom-line, Taser International is now offering these devices to the general public, and because they have been classified as “safe”,they are being allowed to sell what is sometimes a lethal weapon to the general public. LINK Imagine yourself operating a business, going to your car with the nightly deposit, and suddenly, from a distance, being “Tased” and find yourself writhing on the ground in pain while a thief runs off with your deposit, purse, or anything else they choose to steal. It’s bad enough that we have to fear how the police use these devices, but to know they could easily wind-up in the hands of criminals is so shocking to the conscious that I find it hard to believe. Criminals that are inclined to robbery and strong-arm theft will have a silent method of rendering a victim helpless without anything more than a muffled scream - and IMO, this is a device that should not be released to the general public.

In summation, imagine that you are an individual such as I with multiple health problems, and you see an officer drawing a Taser. You know the effects could be lethal, and if you attempt to run, it’s can be classified as “felony evading the police” or “resisting arrest.” It seems that there should be a way that the public can protect themselves from being “tased”, however at this point, there is absolutely nothing we can do to stop the use of a device that is nothing more than an advanced “cattle prod”, and in this author’s opinion, treating those whom they are supposed to “protect and serve” like a common animal is demeaning, unconstitutional, and if we make it through the Bush administration with our Constitution and liberty intact, this is an issue that needs to be raised on local, state, and federal levels. No matter how you parse the argument, being hit with 50,000 Volts is “cruel and unusual punishment”, and the Taser is a device that can be used to torture, maim, and kill its victims, and for the general health and welfare of the public, Congress needs to step-in and make the discharge of a Taser at least as serious as when an officer discharges his/her firearm - or in the alternative, ban these devices completely.

People all over the United States are expressing opinions that we are rapidly turning into a “police state”, and I have to agree. Below is the definition of a “police state” by Wikipedia. Read it, and as you do, perhaps you will understand the necessity of removing Tasers from the police arsenal and expecting our police officers to behave in a civilized manner, which is the general public’s expectation and constitutional right(s). At any rate, the fallacy that Tasers are safe is incorrect, the deaths are mounting, and if we intend on keeping our dignity and respect as a nation, our police forces need to take a look in the mirror and decide if they are there to serve the public, or act in a manner that is turning public opinion against the police in many communities throughout this country - and that in itself is a sad state of affairs. We need the police, they are part of any civilized society, and I look forward to the day when some of our police departments return to their roots and their appearance is one that invokes trust and respect. When you look in your rear-view mirror and see what looks like a “Nazi Storm Trooper” approaching your vehicle, or even your home, that stereo-type will always invoke fear and distrust; hopefully, once Bush is gone, sanity will return to our nation and we can begin to operate again as a free and democratic society - one that doesn’t require our police officers to “militarize” themselves and intimidate those who rely upon them for their safety and well-being.

When tasers go wrong

July 26, 2008
By: James Turner, Winnipeg Free Press

Are police too quick to turn to the supposedly non-lethal weapon?

IT'S abundantly clear that 17-year-old Darryl Turner's last day on Earth was a bad one. Watching the last moments of his life unfold on silent surveillance-camera footage is stark evidence. On the publicly available footage, Turner, a dreadlocked youth from Charlotte, North Carolina, storms about the small grocery store where he works as a cashier. He pushes over a merchandise display in anger.

It's believed he's in trouble with the store's management for not paying for something he had for lunch that day.

It's the afternoon of March 20, and the boy is fuming. He's seen confronting the store's manager, even throwing something at his boss in a rage. Police are called, and an officer arrives. Jerry Dawson, a 15-year veteran of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department, briskly enters the store, his hand already reaching for his Taser. Police said the officer issued commands for the youth to stop.

Turner continues to move around, walking past the officer, which is when the stun gun is fired, striking the boy directly in the chest. The teen is unarmed. At first, he shows no sign of being incapacitated. He continues walking away from Dawson. Then the teen collapses on the store's carpet. Attempts to revive him are unsuccessful.

A medical examiner's autopsy and toxicology report on the boy's death released to the Free Press shows he had no intoxicants in his system.

Download the medical examiner's report from North Carolina

The official cause of death is a heart attack precipitated by his agitated state and the use of the Taser. A recent review of the officer's conduct determined that although the use of the weapon was justified, he had jolted the boy for too long.

Dawson was recently handed a five-day suspension without pay by a police review board that determined his Tasering of the teen twice -- once continuously for 37 seconds, and another for five seconds -- went beyond what was necessary or proper under police policy.

He will not face criminal charges.

The police department told reporters in Charlotte that "the initial use of the Taser is not in question," and the weapons have been effective in reducing injuries to suspects and officers. Police also said if Turner had complied with officer demands, the weapon would not have been needed.

In an interview with the Free Press Thursday, the family's lawyer, Ken Harris, said it's not yet decided if a civil suit will be launched against police or Taser International, the company that manufactured the stun gun used on Turner.

What's really striking about Turner's death is how little time the veteran officer seems to spend assessing the situation or talking to Turner to try calming him.

Fast-forward to last Tuesday, when 17-year-old Michael Langan died after being Tasered by police behind 871 William Ave. after they found him brandishing a knife, and the same issue arises.

Did police do enough to de-escalate the situation before shocking him?

The boy's father, Brian Minchin, said Winnipeg homicide detectives told him the boy was "zapped" once, fell to the ground and his heart stopped. "They asked him several times" to put down the knife, which had a blade about eight centimetres long, Minchin said.

"He just started carrying a knife," Minchin said.

Not every police agency is an unabashed fan of the stun guns, and controversy surrounds what Amnesty International has called "a slippery slope" towards the Taser's increased use, and sometimes abuse, by police.

In the U.S., 11,500 law-enforcement agencies use conducted-energy devices such as the Taser. More than 250,000 of the stun guns are in active use, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. In Canada, 73 police agencies use the weapons.

The American Justice Department warned in a June report on Taser use that "there may be circumstances in which repeated or continuous exposure is required, but law enforcement should be aware that the associated risks are unknown.

"Therefore, caution is urged in using multiple applications," the report said.

In England, where police have undertaken an extensive campaign to reduce the "epidemic" of stabbings in recent months, the Metropolitan Police Authority has moved to combat the problem as its top priority.

However, the vast majority of beat constables don't carry guns or Tasers, instead relying on their batons and pepper spray when dealing with a threat. Officers are required to radio for a special-response unit if an armed response is required.

However, 10 police forces in England -- including the 31,000-officer Metropolitan force -- began a year-long pilot project late last year after the British Home Office approved the increased use of the weapons by officers not in specialty firearms units.

Halfway through the test project, the weapons are being used more often.

The Home Office said in May that Tasers were used 252 times between September 2007 and the end of February. The weapons were discharged in only 31 situations, meaning they were most often used to coerce suspects into standing down when threatening officer or public safety.

Last year, Winnipeg police used or unholstered their Tasers 173 times. They were discharged or touched to a suspect to cause "pain compliance" 103 times.

Compliance with police orders by talking suspects down from their actions and not using force is the mantra of English policing, according to experts and a British Home Office spokesman.

Tim Matthews said this week that historically, English people have shown an aversion to weapons -- a cultural preference that's always influenced how police operate.

"The policy in this country has long been that the police should not generally be armed. That gives a character to our policing that we should not readily give up," Matthews said. "A traditional bobby on the beat, if he needs support, he calls a unit on the radio." The use of weapons by English police is rare, Matthews said. "It must always be a last resort."

A recent paper published by University of Exeter professor Brian Rappert further describes the key difference between North American and British use-of-force policies. "In the U.S., most agencies have in place a use-of-force continuum, (but) in the U.K., the preference is for a less prescriptive 'conflict-resolution model,' " he writes.

What this suggests is that in some places, the belief is that a threat should often be quelled by talking first and shooting later.

Winnipeg police said Thursday that each situation is different and each requires officers to use their own educated judgment. "Ideally, de-escalating is the ideal situation, but they're trained to recognize if a force application is warranted to protect themselves or another person. (If it's warranted), then they're justified in doing so," said Const. Adam Cheadle of the officer safety unit.

It's not known yet what caused Langan, a boy standing 5-foot-6 and weighing 145 pounds, to die. The provincial medical examiner, Dr. Thambirajah Balachandra, said it could take months for additional tests to be completed before an official cause of Langan's death can be determined.

Police Chief Keith McCaskill said that historically, there's been "a number" of cases where officers have used their Tasers when dealing with suspects armed with weapons, including knives, and serious injury didn't occur.

"If the device wasn't there, a firearm would have been the only other option available to officers."

Taser standards

July 26, 2008
The Ottawa Citizen

The Canada Safety Council has long advocated and fully agrees that standards for the efficacy and use of Tasers must be developed. This is a position shared by many concerned organizations.

Relying strictly on manufacturers' specifications is completely unacceptable. The fact that this has not happened is simply mind-boggling and inexcusable! Think of any other electrical product that is not subject to testing and certification.

Without question, establishing minimum standards would be a step in the right direction to further ensure police accountability and to allay public fears and concerns.

Emile Therien, Ottawa
Past president,
Canada Safety Council

No tasers for municipal police in Saskatchewan due to safety concerns

July 26, 2008
The Canadian Press

REGINA — Regular municipal police in Saskatchewan will not be issued Tasers because of safety concerns over the conducted energy weapons, the province's police commission announced Friday.

"After questions about the safety of the equipment arose, accompanied by the public inquiry in British Columbia ... the commission believed it was not prudent to move forward with the authorization of conducted energy weapons for general use," said Michael Tochor, chairman of the Saskatchewan Police Commission.

"We will await the findings and recommendations of the various inquiries and studies taking place now before moving further on the issue."

RCMP and municipal police tactical teams already use Tasers and will continue to do so, he said.

At one point the commission initially approved the weapons for regular municipal police, but decided to hold off until a proper policy was developed for their use. While that policy was being put together, members of the commission became increasing concerned about the safety of Tasers because of cases in other provinces, Tochor said.

He did not make a direct reference to Robert Dziekanski, who died at Vancouver International Airport last October after being Tasered by RCMP, or the death of Michael Langan, 17, in Winnipeg earlier this week after he was shot with a stun gun by city police.

"There is a general feeling that it hasn't been established one way or the other that Tasers ... are safe, so we would like more medical and scientific information on that," Tochor said.

"There is also the question of when is it appropriate to use a Taser? Do you use it because a 16-year-old girl in Manitoba isn't doing what the police are telling her to do? Or do you use it when someone is swinging a sword at you?

"To date we haven't been satisfied that there has been a policy set out that will allow the appropriate use of Tasers, yet prevent abuses of Tasers."

A 17-year-old girl said this week she was zapped by a stun gun three times while confined to an RCMP holding cell last year in Selkirk, Man. Her family is proceeding with a public complaint against the officers involved.

Twenty-two people in Canada have died after being hit by a Taser, which can shoot 50,000 volts into a person with such force and heat that it can blister skin.

Arizona-based Taser International has said the weapons have never been directly blamed for a death, although they have been cited as contributing factors.

A British Columbia inquiry into Taser use generally and as it pertained to Dziekanski is to resume Oct. 20. As well, the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police has commissioned research on Tasers to provide a national perspective on the use and safety of the weapons.

Andy Buxton, spokesman for Amnesty International, called the Saskatchewan Police Commission decision a positive step forward. "It's a small victory in the sense that it doesn't go as far as we would like to see a complete moratorium on the use of Tasers until all the facts are on the table," he said. "Having said that, a small victory is better than no victory whatsoever. The less proliferation of these Tasers, the better," Buxton said from Toronto.

Cpl. Don Perrett with the RCMP's national use of force unit said the Saskatchewan decision will have no effect on the Mounties. "It does not affect the RCMP because we fall under the RCMP Act. We do have policies and procedures in place with respect to the use of any (Tasers). This will not affect our operations," he said from Ottawa.

Bernie Eiswirth, director of the Saskatchewan Federation of Police Officers, said in some cases municipal forces in the province had already begun to slowly issue Tasers to regular officers and train them in their use. The retired Regina police officer said he hopes the police commission's decision won't result in too long of a delay.

"We'd like to get them back. We can't be too critical but we do want them not to drag their feet on this too long," Eiswirth said.

"There always are safety concerns with any kind of tool that police use. We think at the end of the day, like in any other jurisdiction, the decision will be made that everyone will be back using the Tasers, but that there will be really clear guidelines for their use."