Fort Myers gun shop hosts Taser party, but guests are no-show
Owner says his plan may need tweaking
BY GABRIELLA SOUZA • GSOUZA@NEWS-PRESS.COM • AUGUST 31, 2008
First it was Tupperware and Mary Kay cosmetics.
Now it's Tasers.
Fort Myers gun shop Guns R Us is the latest to sell its wares via a community gathering, or a party, of sorts. But unlike mascara and food storage containers, this product is a nonlethal weapon capable of giving an attacker a 50,000-volt jolt.
Guns R Us' owner Brian Waldron decided to hold the parties at his shop at 2075 Broadway because an influx of people came to his shop within the last six months inquiring about Tasers. Waldron estimates he's sold about 30 Tasers in the last two months. Tasers carry the jolt to the attacker by firing two darts.
"We've been running into more and more people who aren't gun friendly," he said.
On Saturday, Waldron planned to hold the first party. He'd scheduled a certified Taser instructor, passed out about 400 flyers and laid out refreshments.
But by noon, an hour after the party's scheduled start, no one had showed up. Waldron said he had been expecting about 50 people.
"You go and do it, and now where is everybody that wants to do it?" Waldron said.
But he wasn't dismayed. This was, after all, the first try, and Waldron admitted maybe his plan needed tweaking. Perhaps he should hold a party in a woman's home, channeling the success of those party products that have come before the Taser, he said.
The $300 Taser model Waldron was peddling is different from the one carried by law enforcement. On the law enforcement Taser, the darts the device fires can travel 30 feet and a civilian Taser travels 15 feet.
That's to ensure in a civilian-officer confrontation the officer would have advantage, said Charlie Mesloh, associate professor in the Division of Justice Studies at Florida Gulf Coast University and director of its weapons and equipment research institute.
Mesloh said Waldron's idea is not unique; he has heard about Taser parties occurring across the country. And Taser International, the Scottsdale, Ariz.-based company that makes the weapon, also holds seminars on Tasers.
"It's certainly a good marketing technique," he said.
Carrying a Taser for self defense does not require a permit in Florida, although you must be authorized to have one at a school. And if you buy one, Taser International will do a background check and if you have felony arrests, you may have to give back the Taser and receive a refund.
Lt. Dennis Eads of the Fort Myers Police Department has no problem with his neighbor Guns R Us holding the gathering, although he said if it was up to him he wouldn't call it a party.
"It's not different than if they were having a firearms display," he said.
Eads, who trains new officers in Taser protocol, has been Tasered at least half a dozen times. "It hurts," he said. "It's like losing all control of your entire body. You can't move; it completely immobilizes you."
Eads said he only knows of bounty hunters and bail bondsmen who own Tasers now, but could see more people in the future opting to buy Tasers.
Lorie Fridell, associate professor of criminology at the University of South Florida, said her worry about the availability of Tasers was the device could fall into the wrong hands. "It could be used by a spouse against a spouse, a parent against a child," said Fridell, who is doing research on Tasers.
Eads' concern with more people buying Tasers is owners won't know how to properly work it, since no training is required to have one. Hitting someone with the darts isn't as easy as it looks, Eads said. "It could be as dangerous as it is helpful," he said.
WELCOME to TRUTH ... not TASERS
Sunday, August 31, 2008
Fort Myers gun shop hosts Taser party, but guests are no-show
Friday, August 29, 2008
August 29, 2008
MONTREAL - Ask Marie-Jésula Registre whether she feels any anger over the fact a police taser that fires a 50,000-volt charge was used six times on her son Quilem and she replies softly, her eyes rimmed with tears. "I'm a Christian. I don't keep anger in my heart. But this has been devastating blow for myself and our family. He was our only son."
Maria-Jesula, her husband Augustin-François and their, daughters Francine and Chantal, met with reporters Friday after a Quebec coroner added more questions to those the Registre family have had since Quilem's death on Oct. 18, 2008, days after being tasered by Montreal police officers.
"The main question is: 'Why?'," said Evans Sanelus, Quilem's cousin, "No one deserved the fate (Quilem experienced), no matter what they've done in life. If a (police officer) is there to do their job, their first objective is to protect and to analyse a situation before intervening."
Quilem's father called for an independent, public inquiry into his son's death, an exercise he said would result in "justice" being done.
That call for a public inquiry, echoed by Dan Philip of the Black Coalition of Quebec, follows the publication of a coroner's report into Registre's death that concludes that while the cocaine and alcohol in Registre's system may have contributed to his demise, the fact police found it necessary to subdue him with six 50,000-volt electrical charges made it "difficult to believe (the taserings) played no role in his death."
Coroner Catherine Rudel-Tessier was also critical of the lack of information personnel at Sacré Coeur Hospital received about Registre's condition once he was transported by Urgences Santé from the scene of his arrest on Rivard St. for running a stop sign. "Mr. Registre was first received at Sacré Coeur Hospital as a traffic accident victim who was intoxicated," she wrote. "The treating physicians deplored ... the fact they had been given so little details on the use of (a Taser) and Mr. Registre's condition beforehand."
Rudel-Tessier also noted she was unable to personally interview the two officers who arrested Registre, their version of events provided to her only in incident reports filed two days after his arrest on Oct. 16 and one day before his death.
"I therefore have no explanation why the use of other forms of force (rather than the Taser) were insufficient or inefficient," she wrote. "I had no access to the process of their decision making nor any details on their strategic thinking. We can ask if there was another way, other means of subduing Mr. Registre and calming him. Since he was visibly agitated, one would think back-up could have been called in, ambulance technicians in particular, since this was a medical emergency. Even if Mr. Registre did not pull a gun, was the fact he didn't respond to an order to raise his hands sufficient reason to immediate resort to (the Taser)?"
What the coroner did glean from the police reports was that only one of the two officers who arrested Registre - who they described as being "hysterical" after attempting to drive away from the traffic stop and slamming his car into another vehicle parked nearby - was trained to use a Taser.
Rudel-Tessier recommended that the Montreal police ensure all members of a team equipped with a Taser be trained to use it, and that training programs educate officers in how to restrain a suspect once they've been it with an electrical charge.
She also called on Quebec's Public Security Department to examine the possibility of ordering the province's police departments to equip their tasers with cameras to record the circumstances of their use.
A spokesperson for Claude Dauphin, chairperson of the city's executive committee and responsible for public security, said the police department has been asked to examine the coroner's findings and produce a report that would detail what changes, if necessary, would be made to existing procedures.
August 29, 2008
The Canadian Press
MONTREAL — The family of a Montreal man who died after police zapped him several times with a Taser says a coroner's report still leaves questions unanswered about his death.
Quilem Registre died last year, four days after Montreal police subdued him using a Taser. A Quebec coroner's report into his death suggests that had the officers been better trained they could have brought the agitated Registre under control without using a Taser.
Registre's family gathered at the offices of a local community organization Friday to demand an independent public inquiry.
"All we feel is that if we have our questions answered and we have the policemen's version, we will feel a little bit better," Registre's cousin Evans Sanelus said during a news conference at the Black Coalition of Quebec. It still won't bring Quilem back. But if we have justice, then maybe we will feel a little bit better."
The family said they want to hear from the police officers.
"If they would have taken the time to use better judgment, maybe the situation would have been different." Sanelus said. "We're asking for a public inquiry to re-evaluate the entire situation."
Registre, 38, was stopped by Montreal police in October 2007 for driving erratically.
Police have said he was intoxicated and aggressive and they used the stun gun - which emits a 50,000-volt electrical charge - to subdue him.
In her report, coroner Catherine Rudel-Tessier said the Taser cannot be blamed for Registre's death. However, she said the fact he was struck six times may have been a contributing factor.
Rudel-Tessier said electronic stun guns can be effective policing tools and should be used instead of firearms whenever possible.
Registre's loved ones, meanwhile, do not want his death to be in vain. "Life goes on, he's dead but we're still alive," Sanelus said. "We have to ask for justice. That's the only thing we can do right now and that's what Quilem would have wanted."
Kate Slater, a lady we have come to admire and are getting to know through this website, sent the following poem to me this week, saying "here's a poem for your mother."
I hope that Kate was inspired by the song my mom recently wrote called "Taser Me Baby."
Thank you, Kate - you are an inspiration to both of us too!
My Magic Gun
I'll tase you till you're down and twitch
So my partner can handcuff you.
No, I'll tase you till you produce your hands
And a jolt so you'll stand up too.
I'll tase you till I figure out
Just what I want you to do.
Don't say you won't, my magic gun
Won't never ever ever harm you.
Don't say you can't, you'll take the ride
It's your fault if it hurts you.
Hey, I let them tase me right in the back.
I yelled and I fell over too.
I did what was expected, not scared and not mad,
So why don't you do that too?
I'll hold down the trigger till you do.
The docs say if you're delirious
the magic gun might not stop you.
The docs say if you're delirious
to fire quicker and a lot to save you.
The docs say if you're delirious,
it just might damage you.
Which of the docs is telling the truth?
And what's a policeman to do?
I'll trust my trainer, he says that it's fine
And he trusts his trainer and so on up high.
They all pass on the latest information
And no one has a reason to lie.
And no one had a reason to die.
If you think, if you think, that you're scared it will hurt
You'll say "Don't tase me bro!"
If you think, if you think, that you're scared it will kill
You'll raise you hands and go.
So thanks to all the folks who up and die,
As long as we can claim it ain't so.
If I think, if I think, it won't do any harm
I'll blow cartridges at thirty bucks a pop.
And if you suffer from "unanticipated death"
Well, it's your fault anyway, because --you--
weren't right in the head, didn't comply with orders, did all that coke,
had a bad heart, or were black or white or red or human,
or leaking scary sweat, or you wanted to die, or you had a stapler,
or you swore at me, --or you had a bad day--
or I did.
Cause I didn't intend to kill you.
It's a non-lethal weapon, they say. And non-lethal means
it's a weapon used by men who don't intend to kill.
If it did, it was your fault that you died in hell.
And if I had thought that it would kill you, --well-- . . .
Please see the new website, Prevent Dangerous Harm.
"This advocacy group was established subsequent to the death of our son and brother, Patrick D. Hagans. On May 13, 2007, in Franklin County, Ohio during an altercation with law enforcement officers, a Taser was used. Patrick became unconscious and was admitted to a local hospital. Having never regained any awareness, Patrick was removed from life support and passed away May 16, 2007. The task of our advocacy organization is to support agencies that are demanding further research and stricter regulations regarding the use of Tasers for both law enforcement officers and private citizens. If your belief is “SAFETY, NOT HARM” please join us in this crusade to make our world a much more protected place for all. Help support our efforts in furthering education and awareness of Taser usage in your community and others."
I encourage your support of this advocacy group and, to that end, you may wish to purchase one or more "Don't Taser Me" wristbands at this site.
Posted by Reality Chick at 09:37
Friday, 29 August 2008
Press Release: Campaign Against the Taser
Campaign Against the Taser (CATT) has expressed deep concern about the Police Commissioner's decision to introduce Tasers, describing it as unprincipled and dangerous. "Our analysis of the preliminary information about the trial initially released by the police indicated that more than 40% of incidents between just September 2006 and March 2007 were in breach of the Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) drawn up to regulate Taser use during the trial period", spokesperson Marie Dyhrberg said today.
"The Police Commissioner's decision has been made despite repeated calls for delay until the public had had the opportunity to view and comment on all relevant information about the trial, not just the summaries released by Police, which the Chief Ombudsman called "sanitised". Despite the Chief Ombudsman's recommendation in May that wrongly withheld information be released to CATT, the police have still not provided information covering the full year of the trial."
In CATT's report, Stun guns in Aotearoa New Zealand? The shocking trial, serious concerns were raised about inappropriate and dangerous use of Tasers during the trial, such as use of the weapons in service stations, on individuals in mental health crisis, on people whose behaviour was not assaultive, and the disproportionate number of Maori and Pacific people targeted with Tasers. In addition, it highlighted the increasing controversy over the use of Tasers overseas as the death toll among those struck by police Tasers continues to rise, and the United Nations Committee Against Torture's description of the use of TaserX26 weapons as constituting a form of torture which could in certain cases cause death.
"There has been no public discussion of these concerns, and without the complete set of information about the New Zealand trial, it has not even been possible for the public to properly assess the trial. The trial has been run by Police, assessed by Police, and now the decision has been made by Police, with no transparency or openness in the process", Dyhrberg said. "Transparency is especially important in a trial, which is supposed to provide an opportunity for reflection and considered debate - this trial has had neither."
"The Police Commissioner said that the debate in the House on Wednesday did not raise any new issues. That is no wonder - how can the matter be properly debated when most of the relevant information is kept secret? A decision such as this, which will change the face of policing in New Zealand, should be subject to a rigorous democratic process and public scrutiny. The decision is both unprincipled and dangerous, and the lack of process and transparency around it is unacceptable in a modern democracy."
It is inevitable that at some point there will be serious injuries or deaths related to Taser use, and that the introduction of the Taser will needlessly increase the violence of policing in New Zealand. CATT remains concerned about the lack of thorough and independent investigations into Taser use and its effects. The Campaign is also concerned that Tasers will be used as a tool of routine force, not of last resort, and that vulnerable groups (such as those with mental health issues) will again be inappropriately subjected to electric shocks.
August 27, 2008
By MICHAEL STAPLES, The Daily Gleaner (New Brunswick)
Police forces should impose a moratorium on stun guns until ongoing studies into their safety are completed, says an associate professor of criminology at St. Thomas University. Michael Boudreau said police forces across the country should stop using tasers until a report by the Canadian Police Research Centre is released.
The much-anticipated report was expected to be unveiled this week at a meeting of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police in Montreal but will remain under wraps until next year. The report will be subjected to an independent peer review and will only be released in 2009, with a longer-term study due in 2010, Steve Palmer, the executive director of the Canadian Police Research Centre, said earlier this week.
"There have been far too many deaths related to the use of tasers," Boudreau said. "So, if the police feel that they need more time to study this issue, fine, but in the interim, rather than declare that tasers are an acceptable intermediate force option, police forces across the country should impose a moratorium on their use until the report is released. Otherwise, a cloud of doubt will continue to hang over the effectiveness of tasers."
Boudreau said it would appear that the police, including the RCMP, are finally listening to the mounting criticism of taser use and are taking the time to study this issue. In addition to the ongoing study, the provinces need to commission independent bodies, separate from the police services, to conduct detailed investigations of taser use, he said.
"While further study into taser use is certainly needed, a delay this long means that full police accountability of taser use will not be forthcoming," he said.
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
August 27, 2008
JASON MAGDER, The Montreal Gazette
Ontario Provincial Police Commissioner Julian Fantino says Taser stun guns shouldn't be banned, but perhaps the training methods on the devices should be reviewed. "The debate has gone off the rails," said Fantino, who is in town to attend the annual conference of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police at the Palais des congrès.
"We've got into this big debate about banning (Tasers). In my experience, conducted energy devices save lives. It's an intermediate tool that police officers should have available to them. What we need to debate is the proper use of the tools, and the accountability."
Since 2001, 280 people in the U.S. have died after being shot by a Taser stun gun, and Tasers were found to be a possible cause or contributory factor in 30 of those deaths, Amnesty International reports. In Canada, there were 15 deaths as of May, but none has been directly attributed to the use of a Taser.
Fantino would not comment on the death of Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski, who died after he was shot with a Taser stun gun at Vancouver airport in October. Autopsy results have not yet been made public.
On the heels of that incident, the association ordered a study into whether the weapon is safe, but that study will only be completed by 2009 at the earliest. Yesterday morning, Steve Palmer, who is heading the research as executive director of the Canadian Police Research Centre, met with reporters.
While interim results of his report were expected to be made public at this week's conference, Palmer said a decision was made last weekend at a meeting with the executive of the Canadian Association of Police Chiefs to cancel that briefing.
"We decided to pass it out to an independent body so that the work that comes back has all that scientific rigour and validity that goes into a peer-reviewed document."
He said the decision was not related to the fact that Taser International is a major sponsor of the annual meeting. Until the study is completed, Palmer said, police forces can use the recommendations on the use of the weapon made in 2005, which said the device is safe.
Yesterday, Stephen Tuttle, the vice-president of communications for Taser International, was displaying the device and the latest products the company is offering at the conference's hall of exhibitors. The company was also showing a tiny device known as an extended range electronic projectile. It's the size of a 12-gauge shotgun shell, and can be fired from a shotgun to incapacitate a person with an electric shock from a distance of about 20 metres.
Tuttle said people should wait for the reviews of cases like the Dziekanski incident to draw conclusions about the safety of the Taser. "We stand behind the safety of our technology," Tuttle said. "First and foremost, you have to look at what are the alternatives to use of force."
The conference wraps up today. Sûreté du Québec deputy chief Steven Chabot, the association's president, is to give a briefing to reporters this morning.
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
August 26, 2008
The Montreal Gazette
MONTREAL - The man studying the use of Tasers and other stun guns said he won't make any recommendations about the use of the weapons until 2009. Steve Palmer, the executive director of the Canadian Police Research Centre, said his report will be submitted for review by independent peers. That is why it will take so long, the force made public today.
Palmer was mandated by the Canadian Association of Police Chiefs to conduct the study, and he was expected to present an interim report at the association's annual meeting, being held in Montreal this week. Palmer met with media this morning, though only to answer questions about the scope and the methodology of his report.
Monday, August 25, 2008
Ronald Adkisson, 59, Creston, Iowa
Report finds no wrongdoing in man's death
Associated Press - November 3, 2008 10:54 AM ET
CRESTON, Iowa (AP) - A report shows that Creston police officers did nothing wrong when they Tasered a man who died minutes after being released from jail. Police used force, including a Taser, to subdue 59-year-old Ronald Adkisson on Aug. 25 after a disturbance at a Fareway grocery store. Officials said Adkisson had a seizure at the store and became combative when officers tried to arrest him. He was found dead on the sidewalk outside the jail 15 minutes after he was released. An autopsy showed he died of a seizure disorder. A report by the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation and the autopsy report were reviewed by Union County Attorney Timothy Kenyon. It found that officers followed department protocol and that their actions did not cause Adkisson's seizures.
August 25, 2008
Jason Magder, The Gazette
MONTREAL - A much-anticipated interim report on the use of Taser stun guns in law enforcement that was to be presented Monday afternoon was cancelled.
Steve Palmer, the Executive Director of the Canadian Police Research Centre, was commissioned by the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police to conduct a full-scale review of stun gun use. The review was ordered after Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski died after being stunned by at Taser gun RCMP officers at the Vancouver International Airport.
Palmer was expected to present an interim briefing to the law enforcement officials at the annual meeting of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police in Montreal Monday afternoon.
However, over the weekend, officials decided to cancel the briefing. The Canadian Police Research Centre operates under the banner of Defence Research and Development Canada, a special operating agency of the Ministry of National Defence.
Taser International, the company that manufactures stun guns for many law enforcement agencies, is one of the main sponsors of the annual conference.
"It was decided it would be more valuable to have the study stand up to the rigours of peer review before being released," said a spokesperson for Defence Research and Development Canada.
The spokesperson didn't know if the interim report is expected to be made public. The final report has not yet been completed.
The main theme of the conference's theme is "better diversity management through partnership," and workshops will deal with issues of racial profiling, as well as reasonable accommodation.
The conference is being held at both the Palais de Congrés and the Fairmont Queen Elizabeth hotel. It began last night and will run until Wednesday.
Saturday, August 23, 2008
August 23, 2008
QUEBEC — No criminal charges will be laid after an Italian immigrant died in police custody two days after he was shocked four times with a stun gun.
Crown prosecutors say there is no evidence Quebec City police used more force than necessary in apprehending Claudio Castagnetta last September. The Crown decision came after it studied the autopsy report into Castagnetta's death as well as the findings of a Quebec provincial inquiry into the incident. And the Crown says there is nothing in the autopsy report to indicate Castagnetta's death was caused directly by the stun gun.
Castagnetta died Sept. 20 from self-inflicted head wounds while he was being detained by Quebec City police. His death came two days after he was shocked four times by police using a stun gun when they were called to a convenience store. At that time, Castagnetta appeared disoriented and refused to leave. Witnesses said he resisted when police attempted to handcuff him and he was struck several times with the stun gun.
The Italian government complained to the Quebec government about the speed with which the province addressed the matter.
Friday, August 22, 2008
August 22, 2008
Canwest News Service
MONTREAL (CNS) -- Police chiefs will spend three days in Montreal next week talking about reasonable accommodation, racial profiling and Taser use, among other subjects.
The theme for the annual conference of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, which starts on Sunday and runs until Wednesday, is better diversity management through partnership. The theme was chosen a year ago, but it couldn't be more timely considering recent events.
A Montreal police officer shot and killed Fredy Villanueva, 18, in Montreal North last week, prompting a riot in the streets and criticism that members of ethnic minority groups who live in that area are often harassed by police.
Last fall, the RCMP's methods of dealing with immigrants was called into question when Robert Dziekanski died at Vancouver International Airport. He didn't speak any English and was trying to meet his mother who had come to the airport to pick him up. However, after many hours of waiting, he had become agitated. He died after RCMP officers tried to subdue him with a Taser stun gun.
The use of Taser guns is under review and police chiefs are expected to be given an update on the findings at the conference next week. However, it's unclear if media will get access to that report. Reporters were told Thursday they won't have access to the conference, but might be able to interview some of its participants.
"It's always been like that," said Patrice Cardinal of the Surete du Quebec, a spokesperson for the conference's organizing committee. "The conferences are really just for participants of the conference."
Reporters will be invited to meet some of the event's sponsors, and there will be a news conference on Wednesday so the association can present recommendations on police policy made by conference participants.
August 22, 2008
A former Winnfield police officer pleaded not guilty Thursday to charges of manslaughter and official malfeasance in the racially explosive case of a 21-year-old African-American man who died after being shocked with a Taser nine times while handcuffed and in police custody.
Scott Nugent, 21, will remain free on $45,000 bond. He faces up to 45 years in prison if convicted.
Nugent, who is white, was fired from the police force four months after Baron Pikes' death.
Thursday, August 21, 2008
This week, I am asking my readers for a little help. I'm on vacation and will not be able to monitor the taser news as closely as usual. PLEASE, if you learn of any taser-related deaths, post a comment to this thread and I will update the site as soon as possible. Thank you for your assistance.
Posted by Reality Chick at 09:38
Monday, August 18, 2008
"This is fairly unusual in Calgary," said Constable Gord Denis.
That's only because this is just the beginning - we are going to see many more instances of citizens attacking each other with tasers. Wait for it.
August 18, 2008
NADIA MOHARIB, The Calgary Sun
Police are looking for two men who launched an unprovoked attack on a homeless man, hitting him across the head and repeatedly jolting him with a Taser before swiping his cellphone and bike.
Const. Gord Denison said although incidents seeing crooks armed with Tasers are rare, any case is disturbing. "This is fairly unusual in Calgary," he said yesterday.
"But they're a weapon and no different than a knife or any other weapon" when used with violent intent, he added.
Denison said the unsuspecting man in his 40s was ambushed as he walked near 5 St. and 23 Ave. S.W. just before 4 a.m. on Aug. 11.
"The victim was a harmless, homeless guy minding his own business, walking his bike," Denison said.
"This was for no apparent reason."
The man was reaching for his cellphone to offer to one of the strangers, who had asked to borrow it, when a second man jumped from the bushes and began hitting him with what might have been a metal pipe.
The first suspect then repeatedly jolted the victim with a stun gun.
Then the suspects took the man's cellphone and mountain bike, leaving him with contusions to his head and neck area as well as bruising and burn marks to his back.
Police said a Good Samaritan phoned for help upon hearing the commotion.
Police are now trying to find the victim again to see how he is faring while hoping to get leads on finding suspects behind the cowardly crime.
Anyone with information about the attack is asked to call Denison at 403-567-6100 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.
The suspects are said to be two white men about 6-ft.-tall with heavy builds, one bald and the other dark-haired.
There may have been a possible third suspect who rode away on the stolen bike.
Sunday, August 17, 2008
August 17, 2008
The Canadian Press
VANCOUVER — While RCMP brass and its media relations division scrambled to keep from being "crucified" over Taser use and the death of a man at Vancouver's airport, they also had to deal with an increasing barrage of complaints accusing officers of being everything from clowns to killers.
Email documents, released to The Canadian Press under the Access to Information Act, showed great concern from Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day's office down to the RCMP's British Columbia media relations office over the public's perception about the death of Robert Dziekanski.
"I am going to get some advice, but I think I might wade in here to set some of the record straight with the media," RCMP Chief Supt. Dale McGowan wrote in an email to the Cmdr. Peter German.
"We are being crucified on why the Taser usage and our members' actions at the preliminary stages."
German later replied that he had "just watched the Taser video on BBC TV in Australia!"
Weeks before, RCMP media spokesman Sgt. Pierre Lemaitre wrote to management that Cpl. Dale Carr - the media spokesman for the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team - had concluded there was a possibility of an "international incident" because of Dziekanski's death.
In one email days after the death, Day's office issues an "urgent" request to RCMP to see the latest media lines Mounties have sent out on the Taser incident.
Lemaitre outlined suggestions for what the RCMP should tell the media, including that the death was being reviewed on several levels and that the investigation was continuing.
On October 14, 2007 Dziekanski spent hours in the international arrivals area at the Vancouver airport before he was confronted by four RMCP officers.
A bystander's video of the confrontation shows the officers attempting a brief conversation with the confused and sweating Polish man before Dziekanski was jolted twice with a Taser.
He died minutes after the officers pinned him to the ground.
Sgt. Tim Shields - who has just taken over the communications section at E Division in Vancouver - said in an interview last week that the entire issue has hurt the Mounties' public image.
"Yes, of course it has," he said. "And we hope that when more of the facts are made public ... it will present a clearer picture of truly what happened."
The eyewitness video was seized by officers at the scene for evidence, and the owner later threatened legal action to get it back, saying he wanted to release what he recorded to the media.
In the hours after the death, Lemaitre told the media that officers at the scene attempted to calm the man, but they felt threatened.
When the eyewitness video was finally released, it showed police using the Taser less than half-a-minute after first confronting the man.
After the tape was aired around the world, the RCMP were inundated with angry emails.
"Sgt. Pierre Lemaitre should be fired for purposely misrepresenting the facts and suppressing the video on a false premise," wrote one person who's name was removed from the documents. "It appears you have been caught in an outright lie," wrote another, whose name was also stripped from the email. The email had a subject line reading "state-sanctioned murder."
Lemaitre told one correspondent he had to work with the information that he was given by the investigation team, and he suggested that if he had it to do over again, he would have said nothing.
"In the world of communications, police have often been criticized for not giving details and/or information regarding an incident resulting in allegations that we are hiding something," Lemaitre wrote.
He told the complainant several investigations will reveal why officers did what they did. "As for myself, as a spokesperson, in the future, I will consider saying that we have no comment, there's an ongoing investigation, and weather the storm of media criticism that we are not forthcoming."
Despite Lemaitre's comment, Shields said police haven't changed the way they deal with the media. "We have to ensure that we have an open relationship with the media because we rely on the media to get the message out to the public," he said.
Another member of the public wrote asking police "So how are you going to lie your way out of this one?" and made reference to the Mahar Arar where RCMP handed over inaccurate information about the Canadian man to U.S. authorities. "You clowns are nothing but a sad, expensive joke," the writer ended.
Later correspondence grew increasing hostile and is riddled with foul language. Some are even threatening. "When will charges of manslaughter be brought against the officers?" asks a member of the public. "Seeing as there will be no proper action taken against the criminals, I should hope a similar fate befalls their families."
Carr and Lemaitre responded to several of the writers.
It is vitriol Shields said he's never seen before from the public.
"After the millions of good things that we have done, it was very disheartening to see that level of backlash and anger from the public."
Not all the emails were negative. Chris Newel of the Clearwater RCMP wrote to Lemaitre suggesting police put out a news release indicating how many times a Taser was used successfully. "I see on the news eight people have died in five years - that's about 1.5 a year. How many would have died if we didn't have the Taser?" Newel wondered. "Of those eight, how many had pre-existing conditions that likely contributed, if not were the cause, of death?" "Thanks for that," Lemaitre replied. "Stand by for the autopsy results! We might be in for a surprise, like Tasers didn't kill this guy, pre-existing medical conditions and or drugs in the system, wait and see."
No drugs or alcohol were found in Dziekanski's body, but the cause of death still hasn't been released.
A briefing document written in November 2007 for RCMP Commissioner William Elliott said it was the B.C.'s Coroner's Office that left police in an embarrassing position after RCMP refused to release the bystander's video before it was used at the coroner's inquest.
Elliott said the coroner, "in an unprecedented action and in contradiction to his request of the prior week," sent a letter to the Integrated Homicide Investigative Team saying the coroner's office instead had no problem with the videotape being released. "This left no legal basis for the videotape to be held," Elliott wrote.
The reverberations from Dziekanski's death and the release of the videotape are still being felt, with most of the investigations ongoing, including a public inquiry which will begin hearing witnesses testify in October about the night Dziekanski died.
The B.C. Crown is looking at a police report into whether charges should be laid against the officers involved.
Saturday, August 16, 2008
August 16, 2008
Robyn Doolittle/Joanna Smith, The Toronto Star
Rob Maltar had been waiting nearly a year for the thick envelope to land on his doorstep.
Expecting to find answers about how his brother died while in police custody, he ripped open the package. Out tumbled a stack of paper. Scanning it, his heart sank. Inside, sent from the Attorney General's office, was his own testimony, a collection of newspaper clippings, a series of memos between government officials. And not much else.
"They didn't give me anything I didn't already know," he said.
Maltar's frustration is not unique.
Twenty-two individuals have been fatally shot by police in Ontario over the past five years. Like Maltar, many of their families feel robbed of an explanation by the only agency that could give them answers: an agency that twice in the past decade has been told in government reviews that it needs to become more transparent.
The week his brother died – Sept. 18, 2005 – Maltar filed an access-to-information request for all the records involving his brother's death. James Maltar died in a Port Credit police detachment; the SIU cleared police after ruling that he shot himself with an officer's gun.
Maltar was denied the director's report, follow-up reports, the police witness list, witness statements, investigator's notes, police officer's notes, police communication, a compact disc of images, scene videos and any records from the Centre of Forensic Sciences.
"I got a bunch of letters from one person to another person about information they were sending back and forth, but I never got the information they were sending," the 44-year-old Maltar said.
The SIU is unique in Canada as the only fully civilian agency that investigates police. Police agencies are required to call the SIU whenever a civilian is seriously injured or killed in Ontario and police are involved.
Operated under the umbrella of the Ministry of the Attorney General, it has 41 civilian investigators:
Twelve are full-time, stationed at the SIU's Mississauga office.
Twenty-nine are strategically located throughout the province.
Of the full-time investigators, five are former police officers (who are barred from investigating their former forces). Seven have experience in various government agencies, labour, immigration, corrections, the legal profession or medicine..
Once an incident is investigated, findings are submitted to the SIU director, currently former Crown attorney James Cornish, who decides whether to clear or charge police officers. From there, the report is sent to the Attorney General. No one else gets access to it.
The unit's creation in 1990 was trumpeted as a landmark of police accountability in Canada. But today, there are signs that confidence in the SIU has eroded.
Governments and their agencies often cite the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act when withholding information, says lawyer Barry Swadron, a prominent Toronto social justice lawyer. For example, witness testimony is often withheld to protect the identity of the witness. But the content could be released if the names are blacked out, he said.
"They hide behind legislation too much." Maltar was told the records he requested are protected under the act, which states a ministry "may refuse to disclose a record that is a report prepared in the course of law enforcement, inspections or investigations."
Former Ontario judge George Adams first called for greater transparency in 1998. He had been asked by the provincial government to find ways to improve the SIU after years of tension with police.
He recommended the SIU director submit his reports not just to the attorney general after each investigation, but also to the public whenever no charges were laid.
The Attorney General's office declined to comment on this story.
In 2003, when Adams reviewed the SIU again, reports were still being withheld.
The SIU's summary of the 2003 report on its website states: "both the police and community groups see value in the director's report being available to the public."
Adams said at the time that releasing the reports would require an amendment to freedom of information and privacy legislation, and called it "central to providing the necessary accountability and community confidence."
And he acknowledged the agency had moved toward adopting the spirit of the recommendation by including more details in its media releases and debriefing families.
Today, the SIU is again under investigation by a government agency, this time the Ontario Ombudsman. Citing this probe, expected out next month, the SIU declined to participate in the Star's story.
"As the interview you seek directly relates to matters the Ombudsman's Office is investigating, out of deference to the Ombudsman's process, it would be inappropriate for me to comment on these matters," Cornish said in a letter couriered to the Star.
Nov. 3, 2006. Julian Falconer had been debating this moment for months. The prominent trial lawyer, who specializes in police accountability, was about to publicly lambaste the SIU – an agency he had spent a decade championing.
And he was going to do it on a legal panel at the Criminal Lawyers' Association's annual conference, while sitting directly alongside SIU director Cornish.
Falconer blasted the erosion of "accountability" and "leadership" within the agency, and questioned if the SIU was earning its tax dollars. He highlighted a case in which his client, Hafeez Mohamed, was beaten "within an inch of his life" after Durham police found him driving drunk. The SIU cleared police of all wrongdoing.
Sitting in his Yorkville office two weeks ago, Falconer thumbs through a stack of graphic photos taken after Mohamed's arrest. They show his face was beaten raw.
"You can't measure the quality of the organization or its institutional progress by the number of charges it's laying per se," he said recently. "That's not a fair way to measure. On the other hand, extremes do tell a story.
"For years to have gone by without a charge being laid under the directorship of Cornish, it's probably an indicator that we ought to be asking more questions."
Since 2003, the SIU has cleared police of wrongdoing in 29 of 31 fatal shooting cases. Two are ongoing.
The SIU hasn't charged an officer after a fatal shooting in nearly a decade: The last was March 31, 1999. York Region police Const. Randy Martin was charged with second-degree murder in the 1998 killing of Tony Romagnuolo. A jury cleared the officer the following December.
Prior to that, the SIU charged York police Det. Robert Wiche in the fatal shooting of Faraz Suleman on June 19, 1996. After being acquitted in court, Wiche launched a $30 million lawsuit against the SIU. It was thrown out in May 2001.
A search by the Star unearthed only one case since 1994 in which an SIU firearms charge against a police officer was upheld in court. Det. Const. Carl Sokolowski was convicted by a judge of careless use of a firearm, relating to the 1991 shooting of Jonathan Howell. Howell was left disabled.
Sokolowski was convicted, but granted an absolute discharge, meaning he did not have a criminal conviction registered against him.
At the end of 2006, Falconer took his concerns to the Ontario ombudsman, André Marin. A little over a year ago, Marin announced he would be launching a full-scale investigation into the agency.
Marin, who helmed the SIU for two tumultuous years ending in 1998, said his office has received 20 complaints since the beginning of 2006. His probe will focus on eight of the most "compelling" cases. Hafeez Mohamed is one of them. So is the death of James Maltar.
Even when some families manage to find some of the dots, they can't figure out how the SIU connected them. Simone Wellington's 15-year-old son, Duane Christian, was shot and killed by Toronto police shortly before dawn on June 20, 2006. The SIU cleared police two months later.
By the end of the year, Wellington, her brother Roy Wellington and her lawyer Peter Rosenthal were able to meet with Cornish and the case investigator for an explanation.
Based on that meeting, the family launched a $2 million lawsuit against the province, Cornish, and then-deputy director James Ramsay – who had made the final decision while Cornish was on leave – for "the negligence of the SIU investigation."
None of these allegations have been proved in court.
SIU spokesperson Frank Phillips confirmed the agency had been named in the suit, but said since it is before the courts, it would be inappropriate to comment further. "The allegations contained in the statement of claim have not been proven and a statement of defence will be filed," he said.
The statement of claim alleges the SIU was negligent in closing its investigation before receiving the pathologist's report. The claim also alleges it did not compare Const. Rowena Edey's initial interview with the final autopsy results.
The statement of claim also alleges the SIU was negligent because its investigators did not interview Const. Steve Darnley, the officer who shot Christian, even though he volunteered his account; did not ask Edey "obvious" questions such as why she drew her firearm; allowed the officers to keep their firearms until about seven hours after Christian had been shot and did not compare Edey's account with forensic evidence.
During their Dec. 19, 2006 meeting, Cornish "claimed that the SIU's investigation was thorough," the statement alleges. According to the statement, Cornish said he "might have" chosen to interview Darnley, and did not know why Ramsay had decided against it. He dismissed proposals to reopen the probe, the statement alleges.
Simone Wellington said she had trouble understanding how Ramsay came up with his decision to say the officers were "legally justified" in shooting her son. "I know that there is no way – based on the information they gave me – there's no way that any sane, logical person would see that that makes sense," Wellington said. "I don't understand. I still don't understand."
A patchwork of police oversight models exist across the country. Some police leaders bring in another force to conduct a sensitive investigation – whether by choice or as a matter of policy. Other forces have ad hoc arrangements in which observers are brought in to keep an internal investigation in check.
The closest system to the SIU is in Alberta, where the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team was created on Jan. 1. It is headed by a Crown attorney, and has 10 current police officers acting as investigators, along with seven civilians.
In other parts of the country, there is a similar information lockdown to Ontario's, says Falconer.
In part, this is because all police are subject to legislation that prevents them from releasing information. Also, he says, "there is a tendency on police services when investigating police to be very sparse with information."
The creation of the SIU as a civilian agency was supposed to change that. "What was expected to be a major advance in transparency and accountability has fallen flat in regards to families getting information," Falconer said. "It has always been the expectation that the recommendations in the Adams Report would be fulfilled and one of the hallmark recommendations was the sharing of the SIU reports.
"There is simply no excuse for this to have not been done."
The RCMP generally does not release details of its internal investigations, either. Even so, the chairperson of its public complaints commission, Paul Kennedy, said transparency is the best way to instill public confidence when investigating police.
"There is an issue of public perception as to the partiality or impartiality in terms of these investigations and whether or not `the police officer' is being treated in a similar fashion as a member of the public would," he said in an interview.
"There is a need, I think as a matter of policy, for greater transparency saying what the decision was. If it's to prosecute, it's clear in court. If it's not to prosecute: why?
"I think that's just a reflection of the evolving public expectations ... The public cynicism about public institutions is ... higher now, it's more cynical now and for that I think we collectively have a responsibility to look at how we do business and make greater efforts to be transparent if we can."
Sitting at her dining room table in Hamilton, Karyn Graham scans through a diary she dutifully kept after her son Trevor was fatally shot by police in Nov. 2007. Trevor, a crystal meth addict, was robbing a drugstore at the time.
The latter pages of Graham's book are filled with questions she had for the SIU following its decision to clear the officer. She posed all 31 to the SIU investigators during her meeting with them.
Can I get a copy of the director's report? No. Could they prove to me this was just and definite? That's not our mandate.
Why not wait until he went outside to arrest him? Unclear. She felt her life was in danger. Does the evidence at the scene prove her life was in danger? They couldn't answer that.
"I've never had a clear explanation of what happened," she said. "They did tell me that within eight seconds of him going through to the checkout, to the time he went past the magazine stands and into the exit door, he was shot."
Graham has asked the privacy commissioner's office for all records, documents, video, audio and photographs relating to her son's death. Staff were quick to advise her some of it may not be accessible.
With files from Noor Javed
August 16, 2008
MATTHEW TREVISAN, Globe and Mail
Rick Anthony remembers a time in policing when there weren't many options available to officers faced with a life or death situation. "Your gun was your distance weapon and your baton was your close-up weapon," said Mr. Anthony, a detective with the Victoria police. "Your mouth was both."
But now, many forces across the country use a variety of "less-lethal" weapons - that is, a weapon less lethal than a gun but still able to inflict fatal damage - in their arsenal.
One of those weapons, the taser, has generated controversy in high-profile instances such as the death of Robert Dziekanski, who died last fall after being tasered by RCMP at Vancouver International Airport. But another weapon, which has been in some police arsenals for more than a decade, has also had its fair share of publicity. And police have recently said that it is more reliable than the taser and can be used at a much greater distance.
Developed originally as a way for police to control crowds during unrest in Northern Ireland, the ARWEN, the acronym for Anti-riot Weapon ENfield, fires plastic bullets and is used by law enforcements agencies across the country, said Brian Kirkey, president of Police Ordnance, the company based in Markham, Ont., that manufactures and distributes the gun worldwide.
"It would be fair to say most medium to large agencies in Canada have an ARWEN system in their equipment inventory for both their tactical team and their public order unit," he said.
The current model, the ARWEN 37, fires plastic bullets at a rate of 74 metres a second and can be used as far as 100 metres away. Getting hit by one of the bullets feels the same as getting beamed by pitch hurled by a major league pitcher, Mr. Kirkey said.
Tactical officers who fire the guns aim for a suspect's stomach, or extremities such as the upper thigh and lower arm, as a way to disarm suspects or get them to comply with police. "It'll break bones if it hits," Mr. Kirkey said. "You don't want to hit them in the head. You don't want to hit them in the neck. That's where you have a potential fatality."
In August of 1984, Sean Downes died after he was hit in the chest by a plastic bullet fired by a Northern Ireland police officer, an incident that garnered attention because of a photo of Mr. Downes's body showing a huge bruise on his chest.
In Canada, the gun first garnered attention in Vancouver in 1994 when, during a Stanley Cup riot after the Vancouver Canucks lost in Game 7 to the New York Rangers, a man was shot in the head by one of the plastic bullets.
In 2001, the man's civil suit against the Vancouver police force and the city of Vancouver was dismissed, and a B.C. Supreme Court judge found that the officer who shot the man, Ryan Berntt, acted reasonably, according to news reports at the time.
Despite the potential for serious harm, Inspector Clark of the Calgary police tactical team, said the ARWEN is instrumental in providing an opportunity for police to disarm a suspect without inflicting a fatal wound.
The Calgary police department has been using the gun since 2007 and has discharged it five times.
Police forces across the country that employ the ARWEN include Toronto, Vancouver, Ottawa, Halton and Victoria. ***
The ARWEN 37T Tactical
Claimed to be the first less lethal tactical weapon to combine lightness, high accuracy and the ability to fire up to five shots without reloading.
Light weight with minimal rotational torque. Semi- automatic function - can fire five rounds in four seconds
37 mm foam, wood or tear- gas ammunition
Telescoping butt stock
The ARWEN is 64 - 69 cm long
Rifling:Five lands / five grooves
Rate of twist: One in 540mm right hand twist
Weight unloaded: 2.98 kg
Weight loaded with five rounds:3.61 kg
NINIAN CARTER/THE GLOBE AND MAIL
August 16, 2008
Canwest News Service
MONTREAL -- Steve Palmer, executive director of the Canadian Police Research Centre, will give an update of his organization's study of Taser use in Canada, at a meeting of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police Aug. 24-27 in Montreal.
The research centre, an arm's-length organization that falls under the Department of National Defence, was asked to conduct the review by the association after a Polish man, Robert Dziekanski, died when he was shocked with a Taser by police at Vancouver airport last October.
Palmer's presentation will be an overview of the report, which is not yet complete. The final report is expected next year.
"It's looking at safety issues, the medical literature (and) usage statistics," he said.
Taser International, manufacturer of the weapons, is a "platinum" sponsor of the conference, meaning it will get an advance list of participants and be able to attend conference sessions, display banners and signs and provide promotional items to delegates.
Other platinum sponsors include Loto Quebec, Motorola and the RCMP.
August 15, 2008
Marianne White, Canwest News Service
QUEBEC - The Italian ambassador to Canada criticized the Quebec government Friday for failing to provide explanations for the sudden death of an Italian immigrant almost a year ago.
Claudio Castagnetta, 32, died Sept. 20, 2007, while in custody of Quebec City police. He was reportedly shocked four times with a police Taser and jailed without receiving medical care.
"One year to find out what happened is not acceptable. You expect that possibly in some distressed, out-of -control African place - but not on this continent," Ambassador Gabriele Sardo said in an interview with Canwest News Service.
He said the handling of Castagnetta's death and other Taser-related incidents in the country conveys a negative image of Canada.
Twelve people have died in Canada since 2005 after police jolted them with electric stun guns.
"People will wake up to this reality, so before taking a trip to Canada you'd better be aware that you can be shot (with a Taser) under some conditions and these are not the ones one would reasonably expect across the ocean," Sardo said.
His comments come as the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police is preparing to meet Aug 24 in Montreal where new research into stun gun safety will be presented.
The review was commissioned after a Polish man, Robert Dziekanski, died last October when he was shocked with a Taser by police at Vancouver airport.
The Italian government stepped up its pressure for answers about Castagnetta's death in the light of Dziekanski's death. Last December, the Italian Foreign Ministry took the unusual step of summoning the Canadian ambassador to Italy to complain about the pace of the investigation and request more information.
Castagnetta was arrested last Sept. 18 outside a convenience store in Quebec City for public disorder. He was walking barefoot in the store and refused to leave the premises. Eyewitnesses recounted he looked confused and disoriented.
The police said Castagnetta resisted arrest by stiffening his body and they had to use a stun gun.
He was taken into custody and the next day, during his transportation back to the jail from the courthouse, he was seen banging his head several times. He was not taken to the hospital and a day later died from what a preliminary coroner's report called self-inflicted wounds to the head.
Castagnetta's family and friends are upset he was not taken to the hospital even though he went into convulsions while in jail and showed signs of psychological disorder.
In a letter sent to Italian-Canadian MP Joe Volpe, Castagnetta's father asked him to put more pressure on Canadian authorities.
"It would appear that there is a desire to simply shelve the results of this inquiry and never share information with my family," Corrado Castagnetta wrote earlier this month. His letter was published by the Canadian Italian daily, Corriere Canadese.
The Italian ambassador lamented that despite numerous interventions from his country's authorities no information surrounding Castagnetta's death has been released.
"It's very, very disappointing, to say the least," Sardo said. "And it's something that inevitably would make you lose trust in the work of authorities."
The provincial police have completed their investigation and handed in the report to the public security ministry. A spokeswoman for Quebec's chief Crown prosecutor said a decision on whether charges could be laid against police or prison guards will be made "in the next few weeks."
The Italian ambassador expressed his frustration in a letter sent this week to Quebec Premier Jean Charest. Sardo also said Italian officials boycotted the events related to the 400th anniversary of Quebec City this summer to send a "strong message" to the government.
A spokesman for the premier said a reply to the ambassador's letter is expected.
Friday, August 15, 2008
August 15, 2008
Globe and Mail
If anyone still needs a reason why the police can't be trusted to be objective about the safety of tasers, consider that the manufacturer of the electric stun gun is a major financial backer of a Canadian police chiefs conference this month. Taser International is a platinum sponsor, which means it gave $25,000. Banners will praise its name. Delegate kits will sing of its wonders.
Imagine that Health Canada were to hold a conference sponsored by the manufacturer of a controversial drug currently under review. There would be outrage. How could the body that reviews drug safety accept money from drug manufacturers? It would not be done.
Yet that is similar to what the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police is doing. It is currently reviewing taser safety. If that review concludes that tasers are more dangerous than previously thought, police forces across Canada would have no choice but to make drastic changes to their taser policies. At the moment, those policies generally allow police to use tasers even where no major threat of physical harm exists. The policies couldn't exist in their present form if the police accepted that tasers can kill people. In spite of the 22 deaths in the past five years in Canada that followed police taser use, police forces still teach their members that tasers don't kill. (That teaching, in the face of those deaths, is reason enough not to trust the police to be objective about tasers.)
The coziness between Taser International and the police stinks. One of the authors of a 2005 study on tasers by the Canadian Police Research Centre (the research arm of the police chiefs) was Sergeant Darren Laur of the Victoria Police, who had received several payments from Taser International since 1999, including stock options for a holstering system he helped design for the taser. And over at least the past five years, the company has been a sponsor of many police chiefs' conferences, and contributed an estimated $100,000, according to Peter Cuthbert, the association's executive director. This relationship fuels public cynicism about the police.
Mr. Cuthbert doesn't deny that the public believes police are in a conflict of interest. "Oh, there's a perception there," he says. But "nobody says you have to buy that product from them."
This conflict of interest is not only perceived; it's real and direct. While the police chiefs don't directly determine policy for individual chiefs or police forces, and have no power to impose their views on anyone, in practice their research provides the foundation for taser policies around Canada.
That foundation has been fatally eroded. The police chiefs' blatant coziness with the manufacturer of the electric stun guns makes clear that elected representatives and other civilian authorities, and not the police themselves, need to redraw taser-use policies around the country.
Thursday, August 14, 2008
By Dayo Olopade | TheRoot.com
August 1, 2008--On January 17, 21-year-old Baron Pikes was stopped by the police. Nearly half a million volts of electricity later, he died on the street. Handcuffed, held down and stunned with a Taser-brand electro-weapon seven times before he died (and then twice more after that), Pikes' heart, the coroner notes, simply gave out. Amnesty International estimates that in the past seven years, 150 people have been killed after being shocked by stun guns like Tasers. But that's still a very small fraction of the population, even that fraction being stunned by police officers or worried civilians. So just how can a Taser—designed to be non-lethal force—kill you?
Tasers, often shaped like pistols, use compressed nitrogen to fire two darts at a target. The darts are connected to the gun by insulated wires that give it a range of up to 21 feet. Once the darts make a connection with a target, the Taser sends 50,000-volt electric pulses into the victim's body, causing intense muscle spasms and sharp pain. Seized, the victim often falls to the ground.
While 50,000 volts sounds like a lot, humans are actually able to conduct electricity—which is why we tend to steer clear of open sockets or stick forks into toasters that could give us a nasty shock. But despite the high voltage of a Taser's current, the relatively low amperage on the device is what allows it to immobilize but not kill you. (Being struck by lightning, by comparison, kills frequently because it sends an exponentially greater amount of voltage and amperage through a victim, at levels that our bodies just can't handle.)
Still, Taser shocks are dangerous in general because they interfere with the most important muscle in the body—the heart. When your heart beats normally, it is, like the rest of the body, already in the process of conducting electricity. The biological process that lets your heart rhythmically contract and pump blood represents "electricity going to the heart in an organized way," says cardiologist Abraham Kocheril, a specialist in electrophysiology at the University of Illinois at Chicago. So if someone gets a mini-jolt of electricity from the outside, be it from a live socket or a hospital defibrillator, they'll probably live.
But the shock had better be at the right place and the right time. Each time the heart beats, it charges and discharges stored electricity. In between contractions, the heart automatically goes into a brief recovery mode called diastole. In that tiny window of recovery time, a sudden jolt of electricity could cause the heart muscle to go into ventricular fibrillation (VF), which is essentially the first stage of a heart attack. The heart begins to pump erratically, if at all, and blood pressure drops to nothing, leaving no oxygen available for brain and body cells.
The effects of any major disruptions during this brief diastolic window can be swift and catastrophic. When young children are hit by a baseball or athletes are struck forcefully in the chest, these blows can be transduced into an electric jolt. If these shocks occur while the victim's heart happens to be vulnerable, the rhythm is disturbed and the body goes into VF, hypertrophic cardiomyopathy or cardiac arrest. This possibility is the most common explanation of sudden, sports-related deaths.
So what about Baron Pikes? Well, if somebody is prone to dying suddenly or has a weak heart, then a 50,000-volt stress would precipitate it. Some prior Taser deaths, such as one in Fayetteville, N.C., occurred because the victim was in an altered state, on drugs. Another death, in Colorado, was chalked up to the vigorous foot chase that preceded the police's use of the Taser. But people at risk of this outcome are typically those who have had heart disease, heart failure or certain congenital abnormalities.
In the case of Pikes, a healthy 21-year-old, the initial six shocks probably got him at a time when his heart was contracting, and he was not adversely affected (beyond the muscle spasms, confusion and immobility). Cuffed on the ground and in the back of a squad car, he would not have been exerting himself—nor were there more than trace amounts of drugs in his system. But that seventh time, the Taser more than likely hit Pikes' heart when it was in diastole, sending him into VF and toward sudden death.
Once a person is in VF, spontaneous recovery is rare. Ironically, the solution to the problem is to administer another electric shock—well-known to provide instant theatrics for so many network hospital dramas. In one reported case, a man was Tased while suffering from atrial fibrillation (which affects the upper chamber of the heart, not the part responsible for pumping blood. The Taser shock turned out to be therapeutic, bringing his heart back into correct rhythm. In Pikes' case, the police did continue to Tase him, without the happy ending. The coroner's report states that the last two shocks were administered after he was dead.
So the Taser, while marketed as an effective way to stop a bad guy cold without killing—and even, at times, as a women's fashion accessory—is actually a form of physiological Russian roulette. The odds of the unthinkable increase the more times one is subjected to the powerful electric current. Cruelly, Pikes made it through six rounds, which would have emptied a gun clip in a real game of chance. Tase me once, shame on me. Tase me nine times—well, the odds aren't good.
Dayo Olopade is a reporter at the New Republic.
August 14, 2008
The Canadian Press
VICTORIA — Victoria is looking for a new police chief after the city's mayor announced the immediate resignation of embattled former chief Paul Battershill under mysterious circumstances.
Battershill has been on paid administrative leave since last October and was facing a disciplinary hearing next Monday, but what prompted the leave has never been made public.
Mayor Alan Lowe said Wednesday that Battershill's resignation means the hearing has been cancelled. Lowe wouldn't give details about what's behind Battershill's departure.
"I would like to announce today that the (Victoria Police) board has accepted the resignation of Paul Battershill effective immediately as a result of a loss of confidence in his leadership of the Victoria Police Department," said Lowe during a press conference at Victoria Police headquarters.
"The disciplinary hearing set for Aug. 18 will no longer proceed due to the resignation of Battershill," he said. "The police board will not be paying a severance to Battershill. We will contribute a sum of $15,000 towards Battershill's legal fees as part of the settlement agreement. The Victoria Police Board considers this matter closed."
But Lowe suggested the Battershill matter could still face public scrutiny. The office of B.C.'s police complaints commissioner is entitled to review the findings of an RCMP investigation it ordered and has the power under the Police Act to call a public hearing, he said. "A public hearing could be held if (the commissioner's) office believes that the issues are such that they are in the public interest," Lowe said.
Police Complaints Commissioner Dirk Ryneveld was not immediately available for comment.
Lowe said an RCMP investigation of the allegations, which were never made public, against Battershill found nothing criminal against the former chief. "The investigation completed by the RCMP did not find that Battershill had committed any criminal acts, had any involvement with any criminal activity, nor did it find any financial impropriety," he said.
Lowe did say the allegations against Battershill were a personnel matter, but refused to go further. Lowe said Battershill's annual salary was $167,000.
The mayor defended the actions of the Victoria Police Board, saying the board was looking to protect taxpayers with regards to the Battershill matter. "We as a police board have acted very appropriately and we are looking after the best interests of the taxpayers," he said. "There are some things within the last nine-and-a-half months that we are unable to disclose only due to the fact that we are bound by the settlement agreement at this time."
Lowe said he believes the police board had no other choice but to suspend Battershill.
Deputy Chief Bill Naughton will remain as interim chief, said Lowe, but the police board has already hired a firm to begin looking for a new chief, who should be hired by November. Naughton said the issues involving the chief proved challenging for the department's rank-and-file members, but the officers never wavered from their duties to the public. "This department has a long and proud history," he said. "The record of accomplishment since October speaks for itself," said Naughton, citing several successful police operations, including the arrest of suspects in connection with a deadly downtown shooting. Naughton said he has not seen the investigation reports on Battershill. He would not say if he will apply for the chief's position.
Battershill, a 20-year Vancouver city police veteran, became Victoria's chief constable in 1999. He was known for supporting innovative policing techniques and led high-profile reviews on the use of Taser stun guns by police and an investigation into alcohol-related incidents at the West Vancouver Police Department.
Ryneveld ordered the RCMP to conduct an investigation under the Police Act but refused to disclose the reason. The entire matter was under a news blackout until a sensitive legal document was leaked to the media last November.
Victoria lawyer David Mulroney said at the time he wrote a letter to the law firm that represents the police department suggesting possible conflicts of interest surrounding the police chief and his knowledge of freedom of information requests involving himself. Mulroney said he represents a client who filed several freedom of information requests that name Battershill and suggested a link between his client's information request and the RCMP's investigation.
The access requests targeted four areas, including the Victoria police department's dismissals without cause, suspensions with pay, expense accounts and employment contracts involving pay equity.
One package of documents Mulroney's client received revealed Battershill had credit card expenses of more than $90,000 since 2004. The documents also show the city paid up to $600,000 in severance to former police department members and officials. The request also asked for all expense and accounting records of the two high-profile reports compiled by Battershill. Mulroney has yet to receive those documents. He asked for all expenses and accounts from the Taser Technology Review conducted by Battershill and its preliminary recommendations in September 2004.
It also asked for all expenses and accounts relating to Battershill's investigation of Const. Lisa of the West Vancouver Police Department on behalf of the B.C. Police Complaints Commissioner.
Taser International has also paid $25,000 to sponsor the International Association of Chiefs of Police conference in November 2008 in San Diego.
"Take advantage of this unique opportunity available to only one company to sponsor all of the aisle signs in the exhibit hall. Each aisle sign is 4’ x 10’ and will display the aisle number along with the sponsor’s logo and booth number on the bottom in a 4’ x 4’ area. Over 50 aisle signs with your company’s information will be hung above the exhibit floor making this a tremendous exposure opportunity.
Available Sponsorship: 1 , Sold: 1 Cost: $25,000.00"
August 14, 2008
JOHN COTTER, The Canadian Press
Taser International is a major sponsor of a coming police chiefs conference where new research into electronic stun gun safety will be presented.
The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police commissioned a review of conducted-energy weapons last fall after Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski died at Vancouver International Airport when he was hit with the device by RCMP. At least five other Canadians have since died after being tasered by police.
Steve Palmer, executive director of the Canadian Police Research Centre, said he will present an overview of the report at the conference this month in Montreal, but said the full review of the weapons commonly known as tasers is not yet complete.
"It's an update," said Mr. Palmer, who declined to give details. A final report is expected by next year after a full and independent peer review.
Called RESTRAINT (Risk of Death in Subjects That Resist), the review compares tasers with other methods police use to subdue difficult people.
It also looks at the characteristics of those who have been zapped, including excited delirium, a condition in which suspects are in a heart-pounding state of agitation. Excited delirium has been repeatedly cited to explain the sudden deaths of people after being tasered.
Taser International is one of the platinum sponsors of the conference that runs Aug. 24-27. The corporation has sponsored similar events in Canada and around the world.
For a minimum $25,000 fee, platinum sponsors can display their name on banners and signs, provide promotional items in delegate kits, be given an advance list of participants and attend conference sessions.
Steve Tuttle, vice-president of Arizona-based Taser International, said the company's presence is important. "You have to be there. It is a major sales event. It is advertising," said Mr. Tuttle, who will be at the conference to answer questions about his company's products.
Mr. Tuttle said that, while the new Canadian research is important, he has DVDs that contain 130 studies that have found the devices to be safe. "You want to be there to be a conduit for information because clearly we have controversial issues in Canada, and the last thing that we want to be is shy. We stand behind our technology."
Hilary Homes of Amnesty International Canada, which has called for a moratorium on stun guns, said having Taser as a sponsor and exhibitor sends a mixed message. "It is very troubling," Ms. Homes said from Ottawa. "What we need now is an objective discussion and accountability, and this doesn't seem to be creating the proper context for what needs to be a very frank and open debate."
Officials with the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police were not available for comment.
Taser staff will be on hand to exhibit the company's trademark X26 model used by the RCMP and other Canadian police forces. Taser is not listed as an exhibitor under its own name, but under its Canadian distributor, M.D. Charlton Co. Ltd.
The company will also be promoting new products such as a wireless taser round that is fired from a shotgun and has a range of 20 metres, he said. There will also be information on new products being developed, including a system called Shockwave that fires multiple taser rounds that can incapacitate a number of people in an area up to 100 metres.
A special video camera and audio device that police can wear to show what happens when an officer restrains someone is also in the works. A video of Mr. Dziekanski's death that was shot by a member of the public made headlines around the world, but there was no police video of the encounter.
Strange that Taser International is *not* a sponsor of this conference.
August 14, 2008
TORONTO, Aug. 14 /CNW Telbec/ - Minister of Public Safety, Stockwell Day, former Commissioner of the OPP, Gwen Boniface, and Toronto Chief of Police William Blair, are among the speakers scheduled to address policing governors from across Canada at their annual conference beginning Friday at the Toronto Hilton, 145 Richmond Street West.
Some 200 delegates are expected for the two and a half days of sessions of the Canadian Association of Police Boards (CAPB). Minister Day is scheduled to speak after a luncheon on Friday, August 15 while Chief Blair will address conference delegates at the Saturday evening banquet.
The conference theme is 'Civilian Governance and Social Responsibility: Safety, Community and Sustainability'. Glen Murray will reflect on civilian police governance facing a changing urban landscape and Thomas Homer-Dixon's session is entitled 'The Upside of Down: Complex Forces at Work in Our World'. Other sessions will explore greening of police services, the use of Tasers by police officers, issues of ethics and accountability and police chiefs' and police associations' expectations of police boards and commissions.
During the association's Saturday business meeting, delegates will debate eight resolutions ranging from advocating for stricter penalties for crimes of violence involving knives to the creation of a conducted energy weapon working group and a request for immediate action on lawful access. Approved resolutions are forwarded to the federal government for action.
CAPB is made up of volunteer members of police commissions and boards across Canada that provide civilian governance and oversight of municipal police.
August 13, 2008
By Howard Witt, Chicago Tribune
NEW ORLEANS - Ruling in a racially explosive case that some forensic experts have described as police torture, a grand jury in the small Louisiana town of Winnfield indicted a white police officer Wednesday on charges of manslaughter and official malfeasance for repeatedly shocking a handcuffed black suspect with a Taser device, resulting in the man's death due to cardiac arrest.
After two days of closed testimony, Winn Parish District Atty. Chris Nevils announced that the grand jury had indicted Scott Nugent, 21, for the death in January of Baron "Scooter" Pikes, 21, while in police custody. Two other Winnfield police officers who were present during the incident were not charged.
Nugent, who was fired from the police force in May, could face up to 45 years in prison if convicted on the charges. He surrendered to sheriff's deputies immediately after the indictment was issued, a spokesman for Nevils said, and a $45,000 bond was set.
"It is our intention to show at trial that Mr. Nugent caused the death of Baron Pikes by 'Tasing' him multiple times, unnecessarily and in violation of Louisiana law, and by failing to get him medical attention when it was apparent he needed it," Nevils said in a statement. "In a civilized society, abuse by those who are given great authority cannot be tolerated."
Nugent's attorney has said previously that his client was following police procedures during Pikes' arrest.
Pikes, wanted on a drug possession warrant, was apprehended and handcuffed Jan. 17 after a foot chase. Although Nugent's police report of the incident stated that Pikes did not resist or struggle after being handcuffed, the officer administered nine 50,000-volt Taser shocks to Pikes' body after he was slow to respond to Nugent's order to stand up.
Witnesses said Pikes pleaded with Nugent to stop Tasering him. But within 39 minutes after he was first subdued, Pikes was dead.
Winnfield police claimed that Pikes told them during the incident that he suffered from asthma and was high on PCP and crack cocaine. But Winn Parish Coroner Dr. Randolph Williams found no evidence of such drugs in Pikes' system or any sign that he suffered from asthma. He ruled Pikes' death a homicide and noted that Pikes was unconscious when the last two Taser shocks were administered, after he had been loaded into a squad car and delivered to the police station.
Both Williams and Dr. Michael Baden, a nationally prominent forensic pathologist who reviewed the case, said the incident "could be considered to be torture."
The Pikes' case, first recounted in the Tribune in July, aroused fears of a cover-up among family members and civil rights groups because Winnfield, the birthplace of Louisiana Govs. Huey and Earl Long, has a long history of political corruption.
Nevils' predecessor as district attorney committed suicide amid allegations that he had skimmed $200,000 from his office accounts and demanded payoffs from criminal suspects. The former police chief, who was Nugent's father, also killed himself, after losing a close election campaign marred by fraud allegations. The current police chief was convicted of drug possession as a young man and was pardoned by former Louisiana Gov. Edwin Edwards, who is now serving a federal prison sentence for corruption while in office.
Earlier this week, the mother of Pikes' 4-year-old son filed a wrongful-death suit in federal court against Nugent, Winnfield city officials and Taser International Inc. The suit accuses city officials of civil rights violations in Pikes' death.
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
August 13, 2008
Susan Lazaruk, The Province
An RCMP officer who trains other officers in the use of Tasers has been found guilty of assault in 100 Mile House while using a stun gun.
Const. Dan Cameron was found guilty in provincial court after a four-day trial. He remains on active duty awaiting sentencing and also faces possible internal discipline.
Cameron responded to a disturbance outside Jake's Bar early on Dec. 17, 2006, and ordered Kevin Campbell, a shirtless, drunken patron who had been swearing at another officer, to get out of a vehicle or he would be hit with 50,000 volts of electricity, according to court documents.
Cameron said he had been told there was a fight outside the bar and thought Campbell was involved in it and so had reasonable grounds to arrest him. Campbell was combative and resisted arrest, according to testimony, so Cameron used the Taser against him.
Judge Lynne Dollis ruled that Cameron didn't have reasonable and probable grounds to arrest Campbell for causing a disturbance for fighting and therefore "was not acting in the execution of his duty when he applied the Taser to Mr. Campbell and is guilty of assaulting Mr. Campbell with a weapon, a Taser."
RCMP spokesman Sgt. Tim Shields said the force will have a "code of conduct investigation" to determine if any discipline is necessary against Cameron, which could range from verbal reprimand to dismissal.
He said the incident would not affect RCMP Taser policy because the issue in this case was improper arrest and not improper use of the stun gun.
August 13, 2008
Chad Skelton, Canwest News Service
VANCOUVER - The four RCMP officers who Tasered Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski will almost certainly appear before the inquiry into his death when it resumes this October, inquiry lawyer Art Vertlieb said Tuesday.
Under B.C.'s Public Inquiry Act, retired judge Thomas Braidwood, who is heading the inquiry, has the power to force the officers to testify.
However, Vertlieb said he doesn't think that will be necessary. "We're confident the RCMP is going to want to co-operate in a voluntary way," said Vertlieb. "This is a totally independent commission and this is the best opportunity for people to tell the commission what happened."
Dziekanski died at Vancouver International Airport on Oct. 14, 2007, shortly after being Tasered by RCMP officers.
The integrated homicide investigation team completed its investigation into Dziekanski's death in June and forwarded its report to Crown counsel.
None of the officers has been charged.
On June 25, Braidwood wrapped up the first "study" phase of his inquiry, which looked at how police use Tasers in general. Braidwood heard from about 50 presenters and received more than 40 written submissions.
On Oct. 20, the second phase of the inquiry will begin, looking specifically at the circumstances of Dziekanski's death. The second phase, unlike the first, gives Braidwood the power to make findings of misconduct against individuals, and to order people to testify before him.
On Tuesday, the inquiry officially began accepting applications from those who want to appear before it.
However, Vertlieb noted several agencies have already expressed an interest in appearing, including the Polish government, the Canada Border Services Agency, the B.C. Ambulance Service, the Vancouver airport, the RCMP and Richmond Fire-Rescue.
Inquiry representative Chris Freimond said not all those who apply will be allowed to appear. "They have to have some constructive input," said Freimond.
The second phase of the inquiry is expected to last six weeks, though it could go longer.
Braidwood's report covering the first phase of the inquiry is scheduled to be delivered to B.C. Attorney General Wally Oppal on Nov. 30.
The report on the second phase of the inquiry will likely be completed some time in 2009.
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
I guess I spoke too soon - Taser International IS, once again, a platinum sponsor of the annual conference of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police. I should have known it was too reasonable (see below) to be true. So much for progressive change.
Originally posted on June 26, 2008:
Taser International NOT a major sponsor of the 2008 Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police conference
Back in November, I made some noise here about Taser International's major sponsorship of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police annual conference. My opinion was that this posed an enormous conflict of interest and compromised the Association's integrity.
I first noticed the strange phenomenon of Taser International's sponsorship of this particular conference in 2004, the year my brother died.
Although many companies are listed as conference sponsors of the 2008 conference, Taser International is conspicuously *not*.
The Association's tagline is "Leading Progressive Change in Policing".
Is this progressive change, or what?
August 12, 2008
WINNFIELD, La. (AP) - A grand jury in central Louisiana is probing the death of a man who was handcuffed when a police officer repeatedly jolted him with a Taser. Winn Parish District Attorney Chris Nevils convened the grand jury Tuesday to consider criminal charges against former Winnfield police officer Scott Nugent in the death of 21-year-old Baron Pikes. A spokesman for Nevils said the grand jury could wrap up its probe by the end of the day. Pikes was shocked nine times with a 50,000-volt Taser as he was arrested on a drug possession warrant in January.
Nugent was fired but is appealing his dismissal. Nugent's lawyer says his client followed department protocols and didn't use excessive force. A coroner has ruled that Pikes' death was a homicide.
August 12, 2008
Raise a Little Hell with Tom Brodbeck
The Winnipeg Sun
The 42-year-old man who fell on his head after being Tasered by police over the weekend was lucky he wasn’t shot with a Glock. If information by police is correct that the suspect refused to drop his knife, police may have been within their rights to shoot him.
A Taser is considered an intermediate weapon that falls into the same category as batons and pepper spray. According to an RCMP use-of-force expert from B.C. who testified at the Dumas inquest, intermediate weapons are not supposed to be used by police when suspects come after them with sharp objects.
They’re supposed to draw their service pistols.
The reason for that is Tasers aren’t fool proof. I believe the expert said they work in about 80% of cases. Which means if an officer’s life is in danger, they can’t rely on an 80% success rate. They need a reliable means of stopping the threat at that point and the only option is a firearm.
The expert was asked at the inquest whether a Taser would have been a viable option for Const. Dennis Gburek, who shot Dumas (if Tasers were available to Winnipeg police in 2005). He said it would not have been an option, especially in the winter when the success rate falls even further because of heavier clothing.
So these guys brandishing knives should count their lucky stars they were only Tasered. They probably should have been shot.
Here's our Dutch lesson for today: A taser by any other name is still potentially lethal. But, in Dutch, it almost sounds like a toy: "stroomstootwapen."
"The Taser is to be used as an alternative to firearms." Gee, where have we heard THAT before?! Here's a new term for the next Dutch dictionary - according to Yahoo! Babel Fish translation, "usage creep" in Dutch is "gebruiks kruipen."
"The manufacturer of the electroshock gun denied that the shocks are lethal. Jelle Egas, a spokesperson for the Dutch Council of Police Chiefs, said that a dog bite or a bean bag shot causes more injuries." Hey, according to the manufacturer, the taser is safer than TYLENOL. Funny how I can't find any record of 367+ people dropping dead from Tylenol! Looks like the Dutch police have bought the propaganda - lock, stock and barrel.
August 12, 2008
BRUSSELS, Aug. 12 (Xinhua) -- Special Dutch police teams will use electroshock weapons by the brand name "Taser" for a trial period of one year, Dutch papers reported Tuesday.
The Taser gun disables its targets by giving them a 50,000-volt electric shock. Six police squads and a military police team will take part in the trial which starts around New Year's Eve.
Dutch Interior Minister Guusje Ter Horst will decide whether the electroshock guns will become part of the regular equipment of the special squads after the trial period.
The Taser is to be used as an alternative to firearms. It fires two hooks connected to the Taser gun by leads which temporarily paralyze a victim within eight meters of the shooting, making it much easier to arrest aggressive suspects. The Taser gun has been in use in the United States for years, but has received a lot of criticism. Amnesty International has reported that 200 individuals worldwide were killed after one or several electro-shocks had been administered.
The manufacturer of the electroshock gun denied that the shocks are lethal. Jelle Egas, a spokesperson for the Dutch Council of Police Chiefs, said that a dog bite or a bean bag shot causes more injuries.
The Dutch police chiefs have been urging for the procurement of electroshock guns since 2006. "A lot of research has been conducted in America, England and Canada. We have studied these reports and now want to test the guns," said a spokesperson of the Interior Ministry.
Boy, do I count myself lucky that I didn't end up in the neuro intensive care unit after I fell and banged my head on the rock-hard, frozen-solid ICE at the skating rink last winter!! I could have used a couple of extra-strength Tylenol except that I heard somewhere that they were less safe than tasers.
August 12, 2008
By Richard Gould | Hickory Daily Record
Michael Douglas Connor, 25, of Hickory is in the Neuro Intensive Care Unit at Frye Regional Medical Center after being Tasered by a Hickory police officer Monday.
Hickory Police Capt. Clyde Deal said Connor ignored verbal commands and ran after the officer tried to serve an outstanding warrant for drug and alcohol related charges. The officer caught him on Ninth Ave. and fired his Taser, Deal said.
The suspect again refused to cooperate with the officer and a second 50,000 jolt was delivered. The second charge caused Connor to fall to the ground and hit his head on a railroad tie, Deal said.
Two other recent Taser incidents involving police - one in Statesville and one in Charlotte - resulted in the deaths of two suspects.
Posted by Reality Chick at 12:25
August 12, 2008
Chad Skelton, Vancouver Sun
VANCOUVER - Those wanting to appear before the inquiry into the death of Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski must apply before Sept. 5, the inquiry announced Tuesday.
On June 25, retired judge Thomas Braidwood wrapped up the first phase of his inquiry, which looked at the general issue of how police use Tasers. Braidwood heard from about 50 presenters and received more than 40 written submissions.
On Oct. 20, the second phase of the inquiry, looking specifically at the circumstances surrounding Dziekanski's death, will begin. Dziekanski died at the Vancouver International Airport on Oct. 14 shortly after being Tasered by RCMP officers.
Details of how to apply to appear before the inquiry are available online at www.braidwoodinquiry.ca. Applicants must detail their expertise and explain why they believe they have something to add. Inquiry spokesman Chris Freimond said not all those who apply will be allowed to appear. "They have to have some constructive input," said Freimond. Those wanting to appear before the inquiry have until Sept. 5 to apply. Written submissions on policy issues will be accepted until Nov. 28. The second phase of the inquiry is expected to last six weeks, though it could go longer.
Braidwood's report covering the first phase of the inquiry is scheduled to be delivered to B.C. Attorney-General Wally Oppal on Nov. 30.
The report on the second phase of the inquiry will likely be completed some time in 2009.