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Saturday, March 07, 2009

EDITORIAL: Officials too dismissive of Taser's dangers

March 7, 2009
Kingston Whig Standard

For the purposes of discussion, let's give the benefit of doubt to the four Mounties involved in the Tasering and death of Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski at the Vancouver airport.

Let's agree that the stapler Mr. Dziekanski held in his hand was a potential threat to the officers' safety and it could have been used as a "weapon."

Let's also agree that Tasering -shocking him with 50,000 volts -was the best course of action the Mounties could have taken.

And let's take the testimony of Const. Kwesi Millington, the officer who fired the Taser, at face value when he told the Braidwood inquiry, "I feared for the safety of the officers so I acted to stop the threat."

After all of this, a nagging question remains: Why Taser Mr. Dziekanski five times when the first jolt had already knocked him to the floor, writhing in pain?

Mr. Dziekanski died on the spot. Yet no one is directly attributing his death to the Taser shocks.

In part, this is due to the fact that Taser International, the U. S. company that makes the weapons, is quick to sue any person or organization making such a claim.

Second, the science is unclear as to the lethality of Tasers, the potential harm they may do and, as Millington's testimony attests, their efficacy.

The constable overused his Taser because he did not understand the potential effect that 50,000 volts -issued five times -might have on Mr. Dziekanski.

Millington stated that he didn't know if the voltage was having the desired effect. Yet by the second, third, fourth and fifth jolts, Mr. Dziekanski had already been pinned to the floor.

Of course, none of the officers' claims are valid. The stapler did not compromise, however, the safety of four fit officers standing shoulder to shoulder. And Mr. Dziekanski was no dangerous criminal.

The recent news conference held by the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police and the Canadian Police Association, at which police leaders reprimanded those who dare criticize Taser use, was an insult to the intelligence and concerns of Canadians and to the memory of Mr. Dziekanski.

Tasers create more risk than police officials, those who set the policies around use, are acknowledging.

1 comment:

Excited-Delirium.com said...

Risk even to the police? It seems clear that tasers do not save police officers' lives. Raw data suggests the opposite:

Tasers really started to become more common beginning in about 2003. Violent deaths of police officers in Canada (excluding accidents) has skyrocketed by a four-to-one ratio starting exactly then.