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Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Ontario Provincial Police sued after teen girl tasered

February 3, 2009
By Linda Nguyen, Canwest News Service

The father of a 14-year-old girl who was Tasered while inside a jail cell with two Ontario Provincial Police officers last summer has launched a $500,000 lawsuit against the province’s police force.

The girl, who is identified in court papers only as Jane Doe, was hit once in the leg “for three to five seconds” with a Taser inside the OPP detachment in Sioux Lookout, Ont., about 400 kilometres north of Thunder Bay.

The family’s lawyer, Jeff Roberts, told Canwest News Service on Monday that the girl was taken to the hospital for burn marks after the incident on July 10, 2008. The lawsuit claims that the girl was “left traumatized” when her leg went numb for a month.

More information was expected at a news conference scheduled for Tuesday.

Roberts said the two officers used the conductive energy device after the girl had been “sporadically peeling paint from the walls of her jail cell.” The lawsuit said she “remained motionless for nearly an hour.”

The girl, who is from the nearby Lac Seul First Nation, had initially been arrested the previous night for being drunk and disorderly. She eventually pleaded guilty to the charge.

“Police describe her as a dangerous girl. It’s not true.” Roberts said. “She has a cognitive impairment and her emotional responses have been stunted. She’s not a bad kid.”

The lawsuit claims police used unnecessary force to subdue the girl, after giving her only one warning.

It’s seeking $250,000 in response to negligence, assault and battery allegations. It’s also seeking $250,000 for punitive damages, an opportunity for the courts “to send a message,” Roberts said. It also is calling for an order to ban the weapon from being used on minors, except in life-threatening situations.

The lawsuit lists the OPP and the two officers - Mark Zappitelli and Andrew Hampson - as defendants.

None of the allegations has been proven in court.

OPP spokesman Insp. Dave Ross said Monday the force was not contesting that the girl had been Tasered, but that the OPP’s professional-standards bureau completed an investigation in December 2008 and cleared the officers of any wrongdoing.

“The OPP investigation was a result of a public complaint,” he said from OPP headquarters in Orillia, Ont. “The matter was unsubstantiated. The complainants are able to appeal the decision to the Ontario Civilian Commission on Police Services. I’m not sure whether they have done that.”

Ross said Tasers were only used by specially trained officers in situations “dealing with a dangerous or unstable individual.”

The conductive energy devices were only deployed in the interest of public safety, the safety of the officers, or the person in police custody, he added.

“As you recognize, conductive energy weapons are an intermediate form of force,” Ross said. “The use of force is a last resort.”

But Roberts called the subsequent police investigation “insulting and bizarre.”

“This is not a matter of us being anti-cop because we know that most cops do a great service for us every day,” he said. “This tool is something that is to be used only in emergency situations, and now it is being used frequently. I don’t understand why they feel the need to apply an electric shock to a 14-year-old girl presenting no danger to herself or anyone.”

Roberts said a surveillance video taken in the jail cell that has been viewed by the girl’s father and the native band chief allegedly showed the girl scream as she was pinned down and Tasered for three seconds by the officers. He said police have refused to turn over the video to him.

Tasers have been under intense scrutiny in recent years after the use of the weapons resulted in civilian deaths, including that of Robert Dziekanski. The Polish immigrant died of cardiac arrest at the Vancouver International Airport in October 2007, after being Tasered five times. An inquiry is now being held to investigate the circumstances surrounding his death.

Late last year, the RCMP and several municipal police forces in B.C., Alberta and Ontario pulled several X26 model Tasers for testing under claims that some may have been generating more power than regulated.


Alison said...

"Ontario's provincial advocate for children and youth, Irwin Elman, who has reviewed a videotape of the incident and the OPP's internal investigation, said he can't understand why police needed to stun the girl, who was lying on a cot when the two officers entered her cell and allegedly zapped her.

"I can tell you from what I saw there was no harm to herself or to any other person. It's not proportional to use a Taser... . It's a 14-year-old child in a cell, not harming herself or anybody else," said Elman, Ontario's independent children's advocate."


toronto real estate said...

I would like to know what was in the heads of those officers? Zapping 14 year old and GIRL? I think in good old times real men were not solving such situations in this way. I guess the girl is not an angel but there have to be some difference in dealing with aggressive violent offenders and drunk kids...
Take care

Anonymous said...

i know both those cops and they hate native people and this is most likly a racially motivated hate crime against first nations peoples. the girl is just lucky she didnt become permanantly disabled from this obvious abuse of police detaining a minor.


Anonymous said...

And they wonder why people hate cops and call them pigs. It's getting harder and harder to care when their lives are in danger since everyone elses is in danger from them. I understand their job can be difficult, but that does not give them carte blanch to do whatever the hell they want to because "you never know how a situation will play out".

They need to bring in intelligence standards for new pigs in training.

Unknown said...

I am dealing with Zappetelli right now.I strongly beleive with this case, and mine, he should never be alone with children while on duty, without proof of knowledege in proper training to deal with children. I am sorry for thr young girl that went through this. Zappettli loves making cases like a personal challenge to himself to destroy lives,