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Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Toronto police allegedly taser developmentally disabled man

October 8, 2008
Toronto Social Justice Magazine

On August 11, 2006, Toronto Emergency Task Force police officers entered George Lochner’s room, where he was lying on his bed, ordering him to stand up and raise his hands, according to Brian Shiller, who summarized Lochner’s remarks (not verbatim) at the press conference held today at the law offices of Ruby and Edwardh.

“Lochner alleged that police then tasered him and pushed him to the wall,” said Shiller, admitting that Lochner’s recollection was jumbled. “Then they tasered me on my hand and punched me in the stomach two times.”

According to Shiller, who is assisting Ruby in the case, 43-year-old Lochner corrected himself later, saying the officers grabbed him, put him on the bed and punched him in the eye. “And you can see how badly his eye is bruised,” said Shiller, holding up a photo of Lochner.

Other photographs confirmed what appeared to be five different sets of Taser hits.

“Since multiple triggers are common with each one, at least five (perhaps many more) charges of electricity were sent through his body,” said Clayton Ruby, who is representing the Lochner family against the Toronto Police Services Board and the officers involved in the tasering.

The photographs revealed what appeared to be Taser marks on the front, back and shoulder of Lochner’s body. “This is clearly abusive and unnecessary force against an unarmed citizen of Toronto.”

On this particular day, said Ruby, the police had the idea that they were going to enter and arrest George’s brother, Silvano, with a warrant for a dispute between neighbours. The warrant was signed by the Justice of the Peace to authorize its use in another jurisdiction. But there was no signature for its issuance. “So it wasn’t a valid warrant,” said Ruby.

Yet the police entered the house pursuant to the warrant.

“It’s just useless,” said Ruby. “What’s clear is that the Justice of the Peace didn’t read the document and the police didn’t bother reading the document or they would have seen that it was defective and immediately gone and gotten advice.”

Ruby said the police had no legal authority for entering the Lochner home.

The lawsuit seeks damages for $9 million dollars. “And it seeks something else as well,” said Ruby. “It seeks an end to the abusive use of Tasers.”

Last year, a video recording showing an emotionally wrought immigrant dying after being hit with a police Taser at an airport - the eighteenth person to die since July 2003 after being hit by a Taser in Canada - touched off a fierce debate in Canada on police actions in the case and the rules governing use of the weapon.

“Chief Blair is addicted to Tasers and that addiction has got to stop,” he said. “They should be banned not only because they’re dangerous and they appear to cause death – fortunately not in this case – but because their use cannot be controlled.”

But police say Tasers have saved 4,000 lives since police forces started using them in Canada in 1999. Earlier this year, Toronto Police Service Chief William Blair stated that Tasers, in the hands of properly trained officers, can save lives.

In the 2006 Annual Report on the Use of Tasers by Toronto Police, Chief Blair reported that there were no deaths attributed to the deployment of the Taser by members of the Service. In the same report, he concluded that the Taser has been proven to be an effective intermediate force option for front-line policing in the de-escalation of violent incidents.

However, the 2006 Report also stated that 33% of the subjects tasered were perceived to have a mental disorder, another 63% perceived to be in crisis.

According to Ruby, Lochner is autistic with reduced mental capacity.

“From the police point of view, they’re (Tasers) wonderful,” said Ruby. “It’s so convenient for the police. They don’t have to get their shirt messed; it’s quick and efficient.”

Ruby argued that instead of using a Taser, the police should talk to the person they’re confronting.

“You want them (police) to persuade them to comply with whatever request they may have,” he said. “And you want them (police) to wait until the crisis – or what they think is a crisis - has passed.”

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