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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Diabetic man zapped by police as he resisted paramedics’ treatment

Nova Scotia Justice Minister Cecil Clarke said the officer’s decision to use the stun gun was in compliance with Canadian standards. And WHAT CANADIAN STANDARDS would those be?! There ARE NO Canadian standards!

One of the people who commented on this news item said - and I can only agree: "Unbelieveable. So now what we are seeing is a God given right for police to exert a dangerous level of control over individuals who not only present combative behaviour but for medically induced combative behaviour as well. What has this world come to?"

September 24, 2008
By TOM McCOAG, The Chronicle Herald

AMHERST — An Amherst woman wants an inquiry into why police Tasered her diabetic husband as paramedics treated him.

"I just can’t believe they’d Taser an obviously sick man," the woman said Tuesday. She agreed to an interview but asked that neither she nor her husband be named.

The incident began shortly before 2 p.m. on Sept. 14 after the man’s children couldn’t wake him. "I checked his blood sugars. It measured 1.4 on the scale and it should read around eight," the distraught woman said, her voice trembling. "I’d never seen it that low before."

She attempted to boost her husband’s blood-sugar level by giving him some maple sugar, but he began making strange noises that scared her. "I called 911. They came really quick."

She admitted that her husband, who is six feet tall and 230 pounds, wasn’t keeping still for paramedics. They asked her if it was all right to call the Amherst Police Department because they needed to get an IV into him quickly. She agreed.

Four officers arrived and went into the bedroom. She left because the small room was becoming crowded. "I didn’t hear any sounds of a struggle when I heard an officer scream, ‘I’m going to Taser you. I’m going to Taser you,’ " the woman said. "I ran down the hall screaming ‘No’ when I heard the zap. When I got into the room, he was sitting up holding his side, crying."

After a few minutes, she said her husband calmed down enough to be given an IV. But she said the change in her husband’s disposition was the result of a glucose shot, not the result of being zapped with a stun gun. Paramedics offered to take him to the hospital, but he refused. "He doesn’t remember anything about the incident, is feeling fine now and is back at work," the woman said. "He really wants the whole thing dropped and we aren’t planning on suing anyone."

But she doesn’t understand why officers Tasered her husband, who has been a diabetic for 12 years.

Paul Maynard, spokesman for Emergency Health Services, said Tuesday that paramedics were trying to give the man an IV for a life-threatening diabetic condition when police were called because of the man’s combative nature. "It’s not unusual for someone to become combative when blood sugars are low," Mr. Maynard said. But he said this is the first time that he knew of where an officer has Tasered a man after paramedics were on the scene.

"I don’t know why they would have Tasered him," Mr. Maynard said. "That is a question you will have to ask the police. But it is not something that would have been recommended by the paramedics."

Deputy Police Chief Ian Naylor said the department is conducting an internal review, as required under provincial guidelines, adopted in July, involving Taser use.

On the afternoon of the incident, paramedics called police "to assist them with a combative 34-year-old man who required immediate medical assistance," Deputy Chief Naylor said. Officers attempted to restrain the man, with one officer holding each of the man’s arms and a third holding his legs, the deputy chief said. The man continued to struggle, sat up, lifted the officer holding his legs into the air and attempted to bite an officer holding an arm, he said.

"The officers were unable to control the man due to his size and strength. The officers were concerned that if he did break free, he would be a danger to himself, the . . . paramedics and the officers."

The struggle lasted about five minutes before the man was warned that the stun gun would be used if he did not calm down, the deputy chief said. He said the man kept struggling, so "a touch stun was applied to the man’s left side for approximately one second. Shortly after, the man’s resistance decreased and paramedics were able to treat" him.

Deputy Chief Naylor said the review is still underway so he could not say if the Taser caused the man to stop struggling. "All I know at this stage is that shortly after the Taser was applied, the paramedics were able to give him the medication he needed."

Deputy Chief Naylor said the public needs to know that the officers were told by paramedics that the man was facing a life-threatening situation and needed to be subdued quickly for medical treatment.

The officer who Tasered the man was trained to use the stun gun last summer. Officers must undergo Taser training every 36 months.

Provincial guidelines leave the decision to use a Taser in the hands of officers at the scene but indicate it can only be discharged "where a subject exhibits behaviour consistent with aggressive or violent resistance or active threat that may cause serious injury to the police officer, the subject or the public."

"If the province decides that (the incident) should be reviewed by an outside agency, we will co-operate," the deputy chief said.

Justice Minister Cecil Clarke said he has no problem with the actions of the Amherst officers. "It’s my understanding that all of the appropriate governance criteria have been met with regards to that case," Mr. Clarke said. He said the officer’s decision to use the stun gun was in compliance with Canadian standards. Police must determine the potential for threat on a case-by-case basis, he said.

New Democrat justice critic Bill Estabrooks would like to see better guidelines for Taser use. Mr. Estabrooks said he isn’t questioning the officer’s judgment, "but what I am questioning is the use of Tasers again in an inappropriate manner basically to sedate a patient. Maybe it would have been a situation where if he’d been allowed to calm down or if his blood-sugar level was that low, I would assume that he would have basically passed out or gone to sleep or whatever."

Liberal critic Michel Samson is not impressed that a 911 call regarding a man in medical distress ended up with that man Tasered. "Due to the lack of protocol from the minister of justice and the government on the use of Tasers, our law enforcement officials are left at a disadvantage, having to make a determination on their own as to when these Tasers are to be used."

With Dan Arsenault, crime reporter

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank God this man recovered after being tasered. Mr. Paul Maynard of Emergency Health Services states that this is the first time he has heard of a man being tasered when medical personnel were on the scene...well, check out the story about Robert Bagnell...he was tasered by Vancouver police officers and subsequently died while medical personnel were on the scene. Robert needed an ambulance, not a lethal tasering. Yes, where is the minister of safety? Where is the minister of justice? With elections looming..perhaps it's time to replace this speechless bunch!