July 25, 2008
JOE FRIESEN, The Globe and Mail
WINNIPEG -- A 17-year-old girl says she was tasered three times while confined to an RCMP holding cell in Selkirk, Man.
The girl, who was 16 at the time of the incident, said she was held down by four officers, one for each limb, while a taser was used on her legs and groin area. She said the third shock lasted between five and eight seconds and left her screaming in pain.
She still has scarred skin tissue and irregular shooting pains in her legs, and is seeing a psychologist to deal with the trauma. Her mother wants to know why the officers had to resort to such force when they could have walked away and left her in the locked cell.
The RCMP carried out an internal investigation into the incident, which occurred last November, but the girl's lawyer said the force recently advised them in a letter that it had concluded there was no criminal wrongdoing.
The family will now proceed with a public complaint against the officers involved.
A spokesman for the RCMP said he couldn't comment on the specifics of the case.
But, speaking in general terms, the spokesman added that there's no prohibition against using tasers in cells. They are used when officers feel there is a risk to their safety, he said.
The girl, who was arrested as a minor and can't be named, admits she was behaving badly at the time.
She had been intoxicated and resisted officers when they attempted to put her in the holding cell overnight. She fought back, and eventually four officers threw her into the cell. She says she hit out in anger at the last officer to leave the cell, at which point he called the others back in and they held her down and tasered her.
"I think the tasering of a child under the age of 18 in a locked cell is an abominable and excessive use of force," said the girl's lawyer, Catherine Dunn.
The girl's mother said her daughter was never charged in connection with the incident. It began when her mother came home and found the family van missing and reported it stolen. Police intercepted the vehicle, which was being driven by her daughter's friend, and arrested the group of girls.
The RCMP then told her at the police station that she would be kept overnight because she was intoxicated. She says she panicked, and refused to let go of her chair. Two male officers then physically pulled her away, removed items of her clothing including her bra, and threw her into the cell.
That's when she was tasered.
"She's in a cell. She's no danger to anybody," her mother said. "Whatever she did, she didn't deserve to be tortured like that. ... As a parent, if I did that to a child I would be arrested, charged and my children would be apprehended."
Her mother said she believes her daughter's treatment was exacerbated because she's aboriginal.
The girl, who is a high-school student, said her wounds were painful for days. The taser broke the skin, leaving red and bloody circular marks on her thighs. The police didn't tell the girl's mother about the incident when she picked her up the next morning, and the girl was too ashamed to tell. As a result, the wounds became infected.
The recent death of a 17-year-old boy who was tasered by Winnipeg police brought horrible memories flooding back for the girl. She knew what he was feeling, she said: a hot, burning pain that rips through every muscle.
"I have dreams about it," she said. "It was like an intense, sharp, rushing pain through my whole body. They didn't need to taser me."
WELCOME to TRUTH ... not TASERS
Friday, July 25, 2008
July 25, 2008