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Thursday, April 30, 2009

A Mother's Worst Nightmare...Son Tortured by Law Enforcement

What follows, in her own words, is from Barb Talon, the mother of a young man who was asleep in the wrong place, at the worst of times and was tasered *ten!!* times by York Regional Police.

Whether or not the use of a TASER is an appropriate means of subduing an individual who is persistently incompliant and/or physically aggressive towards law enforcement officers is a debate for another time.

There is no debate, however, about the great responsibility a law officer must take when making the judgment to use such a weapon on a fellow human being. Certainly, there is no truly rational argument that can be made for the tolerance of any excessive use of these weapons on a person. It can be argued that any person who is unjustly tasered, that is they have this weapon used on them when they had not deserved it, is a victim of a crime. Any person, regardless of deserving or not, who has this weapon inflicted upon them excessively, is also a victim.

My son is the victim of both of these shameful situations.

My son followed up a full work week, against his own better judgment, for a night out in downtown Toronto to celebrate a friend’s birthday. Due to his fatigue, he decided to take it easy that night, only having a couple of drinks, followed by a late night meal. Then, he followed my long given advice and his good judgment not to drink and drive, which I learned, much to my relief, when he informed me of this decision just past 3:00 AM. He chose instead to stay over at an friend’s house, on the couch. Unbeknownst to my son was that the house had been under police surveillance.

Shortly after he fell asleep, the police came in to the sleeping area...My son has suffered deep and enduring pain at the hands of those people who are charged with the great responsibility of protecting their fellow humans, our law enforcement officials. The officials in question showed an egregious lack of sound judgment in their initial decision to use this weapon on my son; a profoundly contemptible lack of responsibility when they continued to use the weapon even after my son had been physically incapacitated; and a disturbing lack of human compassion in the continued use of this weapon on my son while he was unconscious, to the point of nearly killing him.

He had been tasered "10" times amongst other injuries...he never knew what for or who had attacked him while he slept, until hours later at the Police Station. He had been asleep for maybe 10 mins.

This is a travesty to Canadian Citizens...we are paying their salaries as Public Officials to bully and taser and yes sometimes kill Human Beings as they see fit...this madness has to stop...anyone that wishes to support honest Citizens against Police Brutality: my son will be appearing in court on May 25th...Newmarket Courthourse...I wonder what will happen on this date as they have no evidence...they know by now what they did...my question is how many others have been tasered and lost their lives and cannot speak for themselves...and my prayers are with their families.

Barb Talon
(my son was asleep and Tasered by Law Enforcement "10" times)

Judge denies lower bail for ex-BART cop

April 30, 2009
The Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO—A judge has refused to reduce the bail for a former transit police officer charged with murdering an unarmed man on New Year's Day. Alameda County Superior Court Judge Larry Goodman last week denied Johannes Mehserle's motion to have his bail lowered from $3 million to $100,000. Attorney Michael Rains argued that bail should be reduced because a previous judge "abused his discretion because he was influenced by the public's outrage over this case."

Rains said Thursday that he will likely appeal Goodman's decision.

Despite the ruling, Mehserle remains free after posting the $3 million bail. The former officer has pleaded not guilty to the charges, saying he meant to fire his Taser instead of his gun when he killed Oscar Grant on an Oakland train platform.

Wounded Cop Says Taser Failed Him

April 30, 2009
By JEANINE DEBOER, Courthouse News Service

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (CN) - A police officer says his attempt to arrest a shoplifter had a deadly ending when his Taser failed him. Jared Reston says when the stun gun failed the shoplifter pulled out a gun and shot him in the chin, and didn't stop shooting until Reston pulled his own gun and killed the man.

In his complaint in Duval County Court, Reston says the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office issued him a Taser X26 ECW, made by defendants Taser International and DGG Taser. He says the device failed to "fire, sound, spark or deploy the probes" as it should have when he pulled it on a shoplifting suspect who was trying to make a run for it.

Detecting the Taser's malfunction as the officer placed it back in his holster, he pulled out a gun and shot Reston in the chin and numerous other times. Reston got his own pistol and shot and killed the suspect as he continued to advance toward him, firing, according to the complaint.

Reston and his wife are represented by Edward McCarthy and Christopher Hazelip with Rogers Towers.

Texas man dies after police taser him

April 30, 2009

Kevin LaDay, 35 - UNARMED - Lumberton, Texas

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The death of Howard Hyde

For some time now, I have been in contact here and there with the family of Howard Hyde, who died in Halifax, Nova Scotia on November 22, 2007 at the age of 45. Howard was tasered by Halifax Regional Police at least twice and he died 30 hours later. His death was ruled accidental. The official cause of death was 'excited delirium due to paranoid schizophrenia.'

Howard's sister Joanna and her husband Hunter unexpectedly found themselves on the very difficult but well-travelled road they now share with all of the families who have lost a loved one so needlessly. At this time, Howard's family is entering into the fatality inquiry process, hoping to finally get closer to the truth about what happened to Howard. It was recently reported that at least part of the inquiry, to be held in Halifax, will be broadcast live via webcast this summer.

Recently, Hunter wrote a very eloquent message to me with his thoughts around Howard's death and tasers in general. With Hunter's permission, I post his thoughts here.

I will try to give you my feelings about the instrument of control (aka t.a.s.e.r.) used by police officers against the citizenry of our country.

Firstly I will give you some biographical background as I try to explain how my thinking has evolved over the last while. I have been a family physician for well over forty years and during the bulk of that time I have worked closely with police forces. I was a police surgeon for some three years in my native Scotland, dealing with everything from drunk drivers to rape and murder.

In 1968 I emigrated to Southern Ontario and was a coroner for ten years. Because the town I lived in (Tilbury) was bisected by the county line, I did both counties and consequently I was very busy and closely involved with the Ontario Provincial Police. I then moved to my present job in Nova Scotia where I was a Medical Examiner for about twenty years and thus closely involved with the RCMP.

This background did give me a great deal of understanding of the difficulties of policing. Fortunately I never professionally encountered taser use as the police I knew did not have it and most certainly did not need it.

To my discredit, I paid little attention to the use of the taser in the subduing of rowdy and difficult "criminals," even when it was occurring in my own Province. This was due to a decision made a few years ago to eschew reading newspapers and listening to broadcast news, my reasoning being that if I did not know what our political class was up to my blood pressure would remain in the normal range and I would live longer and happier.

The case of Mr Dziekanski did manage to penetrate my bubble in October of 2007. Just over one month later it all became personal with the death of my brother-in-law, Howard Hyde, some thirty hours after being tasered. Our source of information in this death was for a very long time the news media.

I, of course, started to research the subject of "death proximal to restraint" because of a faint memory I had of such deaths in mental hospitals. Google took me to the Centre for Canadian Police Research, and conveniently gave me Sergeant Darren Laur's paper on the taser, restraint and sudden death. It also gave me the briefest of email exchange with Dr. Christine Hall. I bought their story being, of course, unaware of their connection with Taser International. I dutifully regurgitated the facts in this document to the Media and anyone else who asked me about tasers and death.

Time went by and my wife and I realized that the Province of Nova Scotia was not about to give us any information about Howard's death any time soon. Neither, apparently, was the RCMP who investigated his death for the Medical Examiner's office. They were also to investigate the conduct of their brother organization, the Halifax Regional Police. The RCMP did a masterly job of telling us nothing at all. We obtained Howard's medical records, the record of his very brief court appearance -- probably lasting only about one or two minutes --- and gave a few interviews and thus hopefully helped the Province to reach the decision that it was in its best interest to hold a Public Inquiry.

During this time my thinking about tasers and the concept of "excited delirium" continued to evolve. Watching the horror that took place in Vancouver Airport shook my long held belief that policemen were mostly honourable and could be trusted. By now I was paying attention to the news and I realized that there seemed to be an epidemic of incidents in Canada requiring the "deployment" of a taser. There also was an obvious death rate proximal to taser use. That such a death rate exists has now been reluctantly admitted by the RCMP, although not by the manufacturer of this weapon. It occurs to me that if the taser were a medical device for which alternatives existed, and such a death rate were noted, it would be abandoned.

That something very sinister happens to the metabolism of people who die soon after being tasered and restrained is, of course, obvious. By giving this metabolic calamity a name, "excited delirium", those parties involved in these deaths shift the blame onto the deceased. The main symptom which seems to be mandatory in making this diagnostic call is death. There are others of course, such as agitation, erratic behaviour and most of all, failure to obey a police officer. Now psychotic and drug produced delirium has been around for a very long time and it does have a death rate. The death is almost exclusively due to accident and misadventure while in this toxic state and does not usually take place if the individual is treated properly. Coursing 50,000 volts through that person's body does not constitute proper treatment.

Now Taser International and police associations will protest that there is no evidence that being exposed to that kind of current kills, and that if the person dies he/she must have had "excited delirium". The convenience of this diagnosis is obvious. There is also no convincing evidence that tasering, particularly when multiple, does not cause death. Taser International et al will say that many of their employees, workers, etc. have been exposed to a taser jolt and have nicely survived. To convince me that this type of electrical injury is completely safe would require an unethical and very risky experiment. Let us take a few dozen or so taser enthusiasts and keep them awake for 4 or 5 nights while being exercised to the point of exhaustion and then treat them appropriately. I would expect a death rate of zero. Now repeat the experiment but this time expose them to a few jolts of a taser weapon. If the death rate is still zero I may now concede that the weapon is possibly safe. I doubt however that the rate would be zero. Obviously such an experiment would never pass an ethics committee and there would perhaps be a shortage of volunteers.

I have seen the video of Howard's tasering many times now. It still has the capacity to fill me with abhorrence that we are prepared to countenance such a barbaric tool. I now understand his fear and his confusion that fellow humans would behave in such a manner and that it would be legal. Joanna heard the soundtrack this morning for the first time and I am sure that it will haunt her.

The inquiry will be a very difficult time, but it must be borne if it will contribute to a total ban on taser use in Canada. Of course it should not take this inquiry nor another single death for this ban to occur. I fear that more families will undergo the pain of such deaths before the obvious solution happens. It is just as much a tragedy when a police officer is killed, but I have yet to see it convincingly shown that a taser would have prevented such an event. If it had I am sure that we would have heard about it in no uncertain fashion.

I have some difficulty in organizing my thoughts on this subject without a kind of rage taking over me.

Wasylyshen agrees to disciplinary hearing over Taser incident

April 29, 2009
Elise Stolte, Edmonton Journal

EDMONTON — An Edmonton constable accused of Tasering a teenager passed out in the backseat of a car has agreed to refer the matter to an internal disciplinary hearing if all other officers connected to the file are excused.

A lawyer for Const. Michael Wasylyshen and four other officers made the request in an agreed statement of facts submitted to the Law Enforcement Review Board on Wednesday.

In October 2002, Randy Fryingpan, 16, was passed out in the backseat of a car. According to the statement, the data port on Wasylyshen’s Taser shows the trigger was pulled eight times in about one minute.

Later, when Fryingpan was taken to the Sturgeon Community Hospital, he had bruising under the left eye, a cut on his finger, a broken tooth and several burns on his body consistent with those caused by a Taser.

Wasylyshen recently came to public attention issuing a tearful apology after being convicted of assault for an off-duty incident on Whyte Avenue in December 2005.

Fryingpan’s mother complained about her son’s treatment in 2002, but then police Chief Bob Wasylyshen, the constable’s father, refused to call in outside investigators.

Then in February 2005, Provincial Court Judge Jack Easton ruled Fryingpan suffered “cruel and unusual treatment” and refused to punish him for breaching bail conditions by drinking.

In September 2005, then police chief Darryl da Costa reviewed the internal police investigation and decided charges were not warranted against the officers, including Wasylyshen.

Fryingpan’s lawyer appealed to the Law Enforcement Review Board.

They reserved their decision Wednesday and promised to issue a written decision soon.

Dziekanski's death linked to Tasering: Pathologist

April 29, 2009
Suzanne Fournier, The Province

An eminent forensic pathologist told the Braidwood inquiry Wednesday morning that Robert Dziekanski’s death — after five Taser jolts and restraint by the RCMP — was likely a “cardiac-related” death linked to the Tasering.

Dr. John Butt, a forensic pathologist with almost 40 years’ experience who was awarded the Order of Canada in 2000 for his work, disagreed with the report by pathologist Dr. Charles Lee that failed to mention use of the Taser but did conclude “chronic alcoholism” contributed to Dziekanski’s death.

Nor did Lee make any mention of marks on Dziekanski’s back — which were photographed by homicide detectives present at Lee’s autopsy of Dziekanski — that were consistent with the puncture marks of Taser probes.

Butt said that Lee’s failure to mention the Taser and traces of it on Dziekanski’s body were significant oversights.

Butt also disputed Lee’s conclusion that Dziekanski’s heart showed signs of alcohol-related damage and disagreed that with Lee that “chronic alcoholism” could be said to be a “contributory factor” to Dziekanski’s death.

“I think this is probably a cardiac-related death 'de novo,' a new event unheralded by previous symptoms,” said Butt, noting that he reviewed Dziekanski’s health records back to 1994 and found “no indication” of heart problems or high blood pressure.

“Dr. Lee concluded, in part, that alcoholic heart disease ‘would have put (RD) at increased risk for development of an arrhythmia and sudden death,’” noted Butt. “After finding the microscopic slides of the heart to be essentially normal, I was unable to conclude that the features that I saw represented alcoholic cardiomyopathy.

“Nothing in those [health records] suggests that he was a drinker, either,” said Butt, although he said he did agree with Lee that Dziekanksi’s fatty liver and a partly deteriorated section of his brain were serious signs of alcoholism.

Butt’s report, released by the inquiry Wednesday, questioned why Lee, who viewed a bystander video of Dziekanski crashing to the floor and screaming in pain after being Tasered, mentioned Dziekanski’s agitation but not the Taser.

“Given the circumstances of the death of Dziekanski, in my experience it would be uncommon for the role of a weapon (e.g. Taser) to be left without a discussion as was so in Lee’s report,” noted Butt’s report.

Butt also urged that “caution is advisable about use of the term ‘excited delirium,’” which has often been cited as a cause of death following Taser use. Butt said that “diagnosis” is “questioned by those practicing psychiatry . . . often is defined by persons who have neither training in nor experience with aberrant behaviour.”

Walter Kosteckyj, the lawyer for Dziekanski’s mother Zofia Cisowski, replayed the bystander video shot by Paul Pritchard and Butt agreed that Dziekanski can clearly be seen clutching his heart and howling with pain after being Tasered.

Butt also agreed that Cpl. Benjamin Monty Robinson can be seen on the video kneeling on Dziekanski’s upper back and neck with considerable force.

Dziekanski began turning blue shortly after that “restraint,” which Butt told Kosteckyj is an indication he may also have been in respiratory distress.

Snoring noises emitted by Dziekanski, as he lay facedown in handcuffs, may have been “agonal breathing,” a feature Butt said is common in deaths that he has reviewed.

Concluded Butt, whose testimony continues Wednesday afternoon: “I believe that increasing exertion and stress seen following the dischrage of the Taser likely contributed to the death of Robert Dziekanski.”

Dziekanski would still be alive if not for RCMP confrontation: pathologist

April 29, 2009
The Canadian Press

VANCOUVER, B.C. — Robert Dziekanski would likely still be alive if he hadn't been stunned multiple times with a Taser and restrained on the floor of Vancouver's airport by four RCMP officers, says an expert pathologist.

Dr. John Butt, who has served as chief medical examiner in Alberta and Nova Scotia, told a public inquiry into Dziekanski's death that the stress of the confrontation - including the use of the Taser - likely caused the Polish man's heart to stop.

He said it was a death that could have been avoided.

"Is it fair to say that, in your opinion, had Mr. Dziekanski not been Tasered, not been restrained on the floor, that he would still be alive today?" asked Walter Kosteckyj, the lawyer for Dziekanski's mother.

"I suspect that, yes," Butt replied during his testimony Wednesday.

"Is that a strong opinion?" asked Kosteckyj.

"Yes," replied Butt.

The inquiry has heard widely differing opinions on how much, if at all, the Taser is to blame for Dziekanski's death.

Butt and the pathologist who conducted the autopsy on Dziekanski say the weapon may have contributed, while two experts paid by the company that makes Tasers insist it played no role at all.

Butt, who reviewed slides from Dziekanski's autopsy, said the stress of his agitation, multiple Taser stuns and being restrained by police on the airport floor likely contributed to his heart stopping.

Still, he couldn't say how significant a factor the Taser played.

Butt was called in to review several reports provided to the inquiry, and he agreed with the autopsy's finding that Dziekanski's cause of death could be described as "sudden death during restraint."

It's a little-understood term used for deaths in custody when there is no clear, anatomical cause of the death.

Butt disagreed with several findings in the autopsy report and in other reports provided to the commission.

For example, he said he could find no evidence that Dziekanski's heart was damaged due to chronic alcoholism. That's a contributing factor listed in the autopsy report.

Butt said Dziekanski's liver and brain showed classic signs of alcoholism, but the man's heart didn't appear to be affected.

"I just don't agree with that," said Butt. "I don't think there is alcoholic heart disease so I don't think that it has any role (in Dziekanski's death)."

He acknowledged that he didn't have an opportunity to examine the heart himself, but he said it would be a finding that could only be confirmed through microscopic slides, which he had access to.

A lawyer for the federal government told the inquiry Dziekanski may have been on heart medication, however Butt said there was no indication of that in his medical records, including from a mandatory health exam required to immigrate to Canada.

Butt, who worked on a report about Tasers for the B.C. Police Complaints Commission four years ago, said he was also concerned the autopsy report barely mentions the fact that Dziekanski was stunned with a Taser.

Dr. Charles Lee, who conducted the autopsy, told the inquiry earlier in the week that the Taser may have contributed to Dziekanski's death. But his report makes one mention of the weapon, only to explain marks on Dziekanski's body.

"I don't see how one could possibly not mention the Taser in the commentary in this case," said Butt. "Whether or not that's going to say that it's hugely relevant to the cause of death, it's enormously relevant to the events in this case."

Lee has told the inquiry that while he knew Dziekanski had been shocked by a Taser, he was not aware he was shocked multiple times.

His autopsy report, along with two others provided to the commission, also mention excited delirium, a controversial term often used in in-custody deaths that has since been removed from RCMP training manuals.

Butt acknowledged the controversy surrounding the term, and also noted that in most cases where it is used, subjects are on drugs or suffering from mental illness such as paranoid schizophrenia.

Neither was the case with Dziekanski.

While he couldn't say whether Dziekanski was suffering from any type of delirium, he said it's not something that could be detected in an autopsy, and the video of the confrontation doesn't provide enough information to make that determination.

Norfolk (England) police defend use of Taser guns

This is OUTRAGEOUS!!!! The Norfolk police's argument to justify their refusal to release the number of tasers in their arsenal is absurd and the rest of their statements add up to dangerous propaganda.

Here in Canada, we call the phenomenon of increased taser deployments "usage creep." This is all pretty new in England and the police there have a lot to learn about taser transparency ... they won't make any friends in the public with this attitude. As the fellow quoted says: "... if they use them more it could even increase gun crime, because people will feel they need more to protect themselves against the police."


April 29, 2009
LUCY BOLTON, Norwich Evening News

Norfolk police today defended the use of controversial Taser guns, after new figures revealed officers were being sent out with them three times as frequently as just two years ago.

But police refused to reveal how many Taser guns they possess, rejecting a Freedom Of Information request on the grounds the release of that information would be “inappropriate”.

Used as a weapon by officers to deal with violent or armed people, Tasers are now becoming a more frequent tool in tackling crime.

In 2008/09 Tasers were deployed - which means sent out with an officer when investigating a crime - 405 times and discharged 11 times, compared to 2007/08 when they were deployed 167 times and discharged nine times. In 2006/07 they were deployed only 134 times and discharged twice.

Tasers are a pistol-like device which uses an electrical current to stop a person in their tracks by causing their muscles to contract uncontrollably.

The device uses compressed air to fire two electric shots at the person for five seconds with a 50,000-volt charge.

Norfolk police chiefs today justified the increased use of Tasers as an “effective tool designed to diffuse high risk situations for dealing with violent people.”

Used by specially trained firearms officers, the force started using the controversial guns in 2005 and has just been issued with an extra 75 by the Home Office, costing £1,000 each, a Freedom of Information request revealed.

But the force refused to reveal how many of the devices they have in total. A spokesman said the force had decided it was not in the public interest to release that information, despite acknowledging the ongoing debate about Taser use.

A spokeswoman said: “The information could be interpreted so widely, as is evidenced by previous reports and articles, that it would be detrimental to public engagement in policing issues rather than make a positive contribution.

“Of significant concern is the potential for those intent on committing crime to use this information to determine that Norfolk is a county where they are less likely to encounter the use of Tasers, thereby encouraging them to commit crime in the county, or more likely to encounter the use of Tasers, thus encouraging them to arm themselves.”

Deputy Chief Constable Ian Learmonth said: “Our priority is to support officers working on the front line and the Taser is an effective tool designed to diffuse high risk situations and for dealing with violent people.

“Trials have shown that effective use of the Taser ultimately reduces the risk to officers, offenders and members of the public.”

Mark Buckby, 50, was stunned by one of the guns when police raided the Romany pub in Colman Road last year. He was arrested but charges were later dropped.

Mr Bucky, from South Park Avenue, said: “Taser guns should only be used in response to situations where people are armed. I think that if they use them more it could even increase gun crime, because people will feel they need more to protect themselves against the police.”

Have you had a taser gun used on you? Call Lucy Bolton on 01603 772429 or email lucy.bolton@archant.co.uk

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

‘Experts’ say Taser didn’t kill Dziekanski in Vancouver

April 28, 2009
By Suzanne Fournier, Canwest News Service

VANCOUVER — Two “experts” who both admit to being paid by Taser International said that they don’t believe the five Taser jolts inflicted on Robert Dziekanski contributed to his death.

The Polish immigrant died at the Vancouver International Airport on Oct. 14, 2007 after four RCMP officers Tasered and restrained him after he threw furniture.

Dr. Charles Swerdlow, a U.S. cardiac electrophysiologist who is paid to sit on Taser International’s scientific medical advisory board, concluded that “there is no medical, scientific evidence to support the conclusion that (conducted energy weapon) discharges contributed to Mr. Dziekanski’s death.”

Swerdlow, who testified by videolink, also concluded that “the circumstances of Mr. Dziekanski’s death are typical of the poorly-understood syndrome of sudden, in-custody death, often occurring after restraint.”

Swerdlow admitted in a letter that he has “two types of financial relationships” with Taser, and has been paid at least $122,000 since 2004 by Taser International, which also pays for his travel expenses to board meetings.

He said he bought $10,000 in Taser stock, but has since sold it.

Swerdlow said that Dziekanski’s heart could not have been fatally injured by Taser jolts because he still had a pulse after he was Tasered and lay handcuffed facedown on the floor, according to evidence from airport security guards.

A second witness, electrical engineer Dorin Panescu, who said that in 2008 he “invoiced Taser (about) $92,896 for expert consulting work,” concluded that “with a high degree of scientific certitude, it is my opinion that Mr. Dziekanski’s death was not caused by, and not contributed by, the use of a TASER X26.”

Panescu said the Taser used on Dziekanski “wasn’t strong enough” to cause his heart to stop or to beat irregularly.

Outside the inquiry, Walter Kosteckyj, the lawyer for Dziekanski’s mother Zofia Cisowski, said the fact the two men receive fees from Taser undermines their conclusions.

They are Taser’s witnesses, not independent scientists.”

Kosteckyj also noted that pathologist Dr. Charles Lee, who also testified Monday, “admitted Mr. Dziekanski would still be alive if he had not been Tasered.”

Lee did not cite the Taser as a direct cause of death, although he said he thought Dziekanski had been Tasered only once, not five times.

Lee said he was not told by the two homicide investigators who attended the autopsy to check for multiple Taser marks.

Lee’s report concluded only that Dziekanki’s cause of death was “sudden death during restraint.”

Taser's medical expert tells inquiry weapon didn't cause Dziekanski's death

"An autopsy concluded Dziekanski died of sudden death following restraint" (full article below - emphasis mine).

From websters-online-dictionary:

Sudden, Adjective
Happening without warning or in a short space of time

Immediate, Adjective
Very close or connected in space or time

Short space of time/very close in space or time - I can't tell the difference!! Can YOU tell the difference??

It's been awhile since I heard the "it would happen immediately" theory of a deadman (see article below - emphasis mine). But, for those of you who are just joining us, it is a favourite among taser fans, after guys die *almost* immediately, shortly thereafter, later the next day - some even check out for real a few weeks later in the middle of a coma they couldn't find their way home from.

Remember the other good 'ole taser expert/excited-delirium pusher, Dr. Jim Cairns - former Chief Deputy Coroner for Ontario? He used to love that "it would happen immediately" stuff AND he was never once sued by Taser International whose spokes"people" also try this one on every now and then to see if we're still awake up here. Coincidence? I don't think so, folks. In fact, Taser International even kind of sort of rewarded Dr. Cairns for being such a good boy by paying him to repeat the company's mantra at conferences. See Taser manufacturer picked up Ontario Deputy Chief Coroner's tab to give lectures which says "But Dr. Cairns's attendance raises questions about the appearance of bias when probing the issue of whether tasers can kill. While he has not presided over any taser-related inquests, his expert opinion on the role of tasers in certain in-custody deaths has often been solicited. At a 2005 inquest, he testified that an Ontario man, who was tasered three times by police and died less than an hour later in hospital, was not killed by the taser because of the time lapse between the shocks and his death."

(It was Dr. Cairns' "expert opinion" that the taser had nothing to do with my brother Bob's death because Bob didn't die immediately after he was tasered - within seconds just didn't cut it for 'ole Dr. Cairn$. Had to be ZAP! DEAD! He went public with that conclusion on Ontario Today (CBC) even before the autopsy report had been completed. He just *knew*! I guess expertise must be seen to be had, to be had - especially when you've been a key component to province-wide approval of tasers for the province of Ontario.)

*** Rant over ***

Until today, I somehow missed that the good Dr. Swerdlow had such impeccable credentials as a medical adviser to the manufacturer.

Answer me this, Dr. Swerdlow: What if the guy is writhing on the floor in agony and terror and he's too busy just trying to survive to die immediately??? Huh? What about that?

It'll be a hot night over the Comments section at the CBC website!

April 28, 2009
The Canadian Press (in Metronews Vancouver)

VANCOUVER, B.C. - An expert for the company that makes Tasers has told a public inquiry into Robert Dziekanski's death that he doesn't think the stun gun contributed to man's death.

Dziekanski died in October 2007 after four RCMP officers confronted him at Vancouver's airport and stunned him several times with a Taser.

Dr. Charles Swerdlow, a heart specialist who sits on Taser International's medical advisory board, says he doesn't believe the death is at all related to the Taser.

Swerdlow says if electric current causes an irregular heartbeat, such as ventricular fibrillation, it would happen immediately.

He notes that an airport security guard testified he checked Dziekanski's pulse three times before firefighters arrived, and he had a pulse each time.

An autopsy concluded Dziekanski died of sudden death following restraint.

Braidwood Inquiry

Scheduled Witnesses (Subject To Change)

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Dr. Charles Lee (Pathologist) Continued
See CBC's coverage of Dr. Charles Lee's testimony on Monday, April 27th.

Dr. Charles Swerdlow (Cardiac Electrophysiologist)(video/teleconference)
Dr. Swerdlow gave a presentation on sudden deaths after use of taser at the Braidwood Inquiry in June 2008.

Dr. Dorin Panescu (Electrical Engineer)(video/teleconference)
Dr. Panescu has has been retained as an expert witness by Taser International in a wrongful death suit (see here).

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Dr. John Butt (Pathologist)
Dr. Butt, pathologist and a former chief coroner, told the Braidwood Inquiry in May 2008 that there are no obvious features on a body to indicate to a pathologist that a Taser has directly caused a death and said he believes Tasers can contribute to a sudden death(see here).

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Dr. Jeffrey Ho (Emergency Medicine)(teleconference)
Dr. Ho, an ER doctor whom Taser pays to conduct studies and testify—he got $70,000 during a recent 12-month stretch (see Mother Jones - Taser's Delirium Defense)

Dr. Walter Martz (Toxicologist)

Cop agrees to internal hearing into stun gun allegations

April 28, 2009

Const. Mike Wasylyshen has consented to an internal disciplinary hearing into an incident nearly four years ago when he zapped a sleeping teen with a Taser, confirmed a local lawyer.

The 33-year-old son of former police Chief Bob Wasylyshen recently came to an agreement with Randy Fryingpan's lawyer to proceed with a hearing.

Both parties are now awaiting a written decision from the Law Enforcement Review Board.

"We'll be back (today) to present a new agreed statement of facts," said lawyer Erika Norheim. "Hopefully the board will like it and approve the agreement."

In October 2002, Wasylyshen and five other police officers responded to a noise complaint near Abbottsfield Road. Fryingpan, then 16, had been drinking and smoking pot with several other youths when Wasylyshen and two other officers found him passed out in the back of a car. Wasylyshen is said to have shocked him with a Taser several times. Charges against Fryingpan were dropped in February 2003 after Judge Jack Easton ruled that he had suffered cruel and unusual treatment.

In May, Crown prosecutors argued there was insufficient evidence to charge Wasylyshen.

Fryingpan's lawyer launched an appeal to the Law Enforcement Review Board in 2005.

An internal disciplinary hearing was recently ordered for a December 2005 off-duty incident involving Wasylyshen in which he punched a man on crutches on Whyte Avenue, called him a cripple and threatened to burn down the home of a security guard who came to the victim's aid.

He pleaded guilty to two counts of assault, was fined $500 and given a criminal record.

Monday, April 27, 2009

How appropriate ...

Be sure to check out excited-delirium's shredding of the logo shared by the Canadian Centre for the Prevention of In-Custody Death (whose president is Guelph, Ontario police constable Gary Mulder) and the American Institute for the Prevention of In-Custody Death (which has been linked to Taser International). Seems "anyone" can hang a shingle for a centre or institute for the promotion of excited delirium - no medical credentials required!!

Colorado man dead after "over-the-counter brand" taser used

It was only a matter of time before one civilian killed another with a "taser/stun gun/ecd/cew/over-the-counter-call-it-whatever the hell you like" and I suspect we will begin to see many more such incidents in the months and years to come. I am not going to add these incidents to the official body count on this site - I will leave it up to someone else with a lot more time on their hands to start keeping track of the civilian attacks on each other.

See excited-delirium for further analysis of the situation.

By Meaghan Collier
Monday, April 27, 2009 at 5:21 a.m.

COLORADO SPRINGS, COLO. -- According to Colorado Springs police (CSPD), a man is dead after an incident which occurred early Monday.

It happened at 4 a.m. at 2700 Wingerbourne St. Police say they arrived at the residence to find a man who was not breathing and a second male who might have been suffering from a seizure.

Medical personnel were requested and CPR was started on the unconscious male. Efforts to revive him were unsuccessful. He was pronounced dead at the scene and the second male was taken to Memorial Hospital for treatment.

CSPD officials continue to investigate the death and say the man was allegedly struck with an over-the-counter brand electroshock device which was found and recovered at the scene. It is not know what, if any, contribution this device may have had in the death, nor has it been fully determined if the device was even used and/or is functional.

Only the coroner can determine if the death was a homicide.

No additional information has been released about the incident.

RCMP didn't tell pathologist Dziekanski suffered multiple Taser stuns, inquiry hears

The forensic pathologist who performed the autopsy on Robert Dziekanski was not told by the Mounties that the Polish immigrant had been stunned by a Taser as many as five times, a public inquiry into his death heard Monday.

Charles Lee testified that two RCMP investigators sat in on the autopsy, and that they never said the energy weapon had been fired at least five times at Dziekanski.

"Isn't that a significant fact, sir?" Walter Kosteckyj, the lawyer representing Dziekanski's mother, asked Lee.

"It's something that would have been nice to know," Lee said about the number of shocks deployed from the Taser. "But I don't think it would have ultimately changed my final cause of death."

Dziekanski died Oct. 14, 2007, at Vancouver airport's international arrivals area after being confronted by four Mounties, all of whom were summoned after he became unruly. Dziekanski stopped breathing as he lay handcuffed on the floor.

Dziekanski's heart stopped as a result of the stress of both the Taser stuns and the struggle with police as they pinned him to the ground and handcuffed him, Lee testified.

RCMP officers at Vancouver airport discharged a Taser five times while restraining Robert Dziekanski on Oct. 14, 2007. (Paul Pritchard)
Dziekanski died in a situation that has come to be known as "sudden death following restraint," a phenomenon for which pathologists have no real explanation, said Lee, who has performed as many as 3,000 autopsies.

Kosteckyj also questioned Lee about what he saw in an amateur video of the incident.

Lee agreed that it looked like Dziekanski was suffering from being jolted with the Taser and appeared in pain, and his body was spasming.

But Lee couldn't give an opinion as to which contributed more to Dziekanski's death — the stress of the Taser stuns or the physical struggle with police as they pinned him to the ground.

Combination of factors
Lee said he doesn't believe the Taser was responsible because sudden death occurs in other cases when the energy weapon is not used.

"In those situations, the other forms of restraint were also clearly significant," he said.

The Taser jolts "probably contributed to his death in the same way that the tackling by the police officers played a role in his death. I can't say one is more important than the other," Lee said.

But he did offer an opinion about the snoring sound Dziekanski made moments after being handcuffed.

"That's probably when he started to become unconscious, and that's probably about the time he stopped breathing and his heart stopped," Lee testified.

Lee said Dziekanski was in relatively good health, although there were signs of atrophy on a portion of the brain, an enlarged heart and a fatty liver.

"It certainly suggested he was [a] chronic alcoholic," he said.

A toxicologist is expected to testify this week at the inquiry.

The provincially mandated inquiry was called in the wake of Dziekanski's death and is being overseen by Thomas Braidwood, a retired B.C. Court of Appeal justice. Braidwood will make recommendations to prevent similar deaths and he could make findings of misconduct against the officers or anyone else involved.

EDITORIAL: Coverup shakes faith in Mounties

April 27, 2009
The Peterborough Examiner

As the inquiry into the shameful RCMP stun-gun death of Robert Dziekanski at Vancouver airport increasingly becomes a parade of Mounties up to their tunics in horse manure, at issue is far more than shocks, lies and videotape.

It is about just how badly broken the federal force has become, and the lasting damage to both our justice system and the public’s faith in law and order.

For most Canadians, the Dziekanski inquiry long ago stopped being about what four Mounties armed with 250,000 volts did to a hapless Polish traveller who arrived at Vancouver Airport on Oct. 14, 2007, to visit his mom.

All those sickening details of his final seconds with the RCMP welcoming party are on the now famous amateur video shot by a private citizen who thankfully happened on the scene.

Instead, the inquiry is all about the Mounties trying to explain why they repeatedly zapped a confused man holding a stapler, and writhing on the floor.

And when it was all over and Dziekanski was dead, how was it the national police force, sworn to uphold the truth, “misinformed” the public about the deadly encounter?

Last month, the inquiry heard RCMP testimony so at odds with the video of Dziekanski’s death that most ordinary folk must have wondered, just how stupid do they think the public is?

This past week, the force finally admitted what has been apparent since the video was first pried from RCMP clutches (under the threat of legal action) weeks after the tragedy.

“We found that there was some information that was provided and made public that was not accurate,” RCMP Sgt. Tim Shields told reporters outside the inquiry room last week.

“For those inaccuracies, we apologize and we are sorry.” Talk about too little too late.

Some of those “inaccuracies” included such minor issues as depicting Dziekanski as a raging crazy person who had been struggling with three police officers, swinging an object over his head, when he was downed by two jolts from the Taser.

Turns out he had a stapler at his side (not overhead), and his only contact with the Mounties was after he was on the floor in pain from the first of five (not two) 50,000-volt hits, and four (not three) burly cops piled on him, one on his neck.

So much misinformation from police involved in the incident might have explained how the RCMP media relations officers came to feed the same crock to reporters and the public.

But last week, one of those officers admitted he and a colleague from the PR department had watched the video before briefing the media.

They were later ordered by a superior officer not to correct the record, supposedly to protect potential evidence, including the video.

RCMP Commissioner William Elliott recently asked the public not to jump to any conclusions, and to have sympathy for his position.

All of which can only damage the image and morale of a force already in the dumps after years of misguided management from the commissioner’s office down.

Imagine how embarrassing and demoralizing the flimflam from the Dziekanski inquiry must be for all the devoted men and women who serve with distinction on the national force.

But the effects of this sordid affair go far beyond the RCMP.

Every day in courtrooms across the country, citizens accused of all manner of wrongdoing have their fates decided in large part by the word of the cops.

Police being truthful is obviously a cornerstone of our legal system, essential to keep the scales of justice balanced and fair to accused, victims and society alike.

It is equally important that the cops be seen to be telling the truth — a society that loses trust in the police, quickly loses respect for the law.

Unfortunately, no matter how the Dziekanski inquiry ends, it is unlikely most Canadians will take away a lasting impression of cops telling the whole truth and nothing but.

Let’s face it: Were it not for the amateur video, there is a good chance Dziekanski’s death would have been quietly filed as another routine case of police using a Taser to defend themselves in the line of duty.

Last fall, on the eve of the inquiry, Commissioner Elliott said his force was “anxious to participate to the fullest extent possible.

“We cannot provide effective policing services to communities without the support of those communities ... We have to be held accountable.”

A good place to start might be a shower of pink slips, or one obvious resignation.

EDITORIAL: Limit police use of Tasers

April 27, 2009
Vancouver Province

Given what has come out in testimony at the Braidwood Inquiry, it would be reasonable to assume the RCMP might resist controversial changes to its Taser policy.

Then again, the RCMP's recent history is not exactly rich with examples of savvy public relations.

So, it should hardly come as a, shall we say, shock that a new RCMP policy will no longer prohibit Mounties from firing multiple Taser zaps at suspects.

RCMP Commissioner William Elliott suggested that the force is open to making changes to its new policy.

"I'm not suggesting that the current language of our policy is perfect and I'm not suggesting we aren't prepared to look at further changes," he said.

Well, as a starting point, we like this policy suggestion from Liberal MP Mark Holland: "I don't see why we can't have policies that say if someone is down on the ground writhing in pain, they shouldn't be hit again with a Taser," he told reporters in Ottawa.

That certainly seems reasonable.

Day after day at the Braidwood Inquiry, the public hears more shocking testimony regarding the Mounties' handling of the Robert Dziekanski incident at YVR in 2007.

Now is not the time to make a policy change that will give RCMP officers more freedom to shock.

RCMP backtracking comes too late

April 27, 2009
Ian Mulgrew, Vancouver Sun

Slowly, but surely, the Braidwood Commission into the Taser-related death of Robert Dziekanski is climbing the RCMP chain of command to determine who in authority countenanced the coverup that occurred.

Just as Watergate began with an inept burglary and grew to ensnare the president, so the inept response by four dumb cops at Vancouver Airport on Oct. 14, 2007 is being eclipsed by the revelations of what followed.

The testimony last week of the RCMP "media relations" officers who left falsehoods uncorrected for more than a year was startling.

In the hours after Dziekanski's death, RCMP Sgt. Pierre Lemaitre, the initial spokesman in the case, told reporters the Polish immigrant had been stunned twice when, in fact, the Taser had been deployed five times.

He went on to describe Dziekanski threatening the officers, swinging an object at them and struggling violently after the first Taser jolt had no effect -- even though a bystander's video showed otherwise.

Lemaitre said he only repeated what he was told by Cpl. Dale Carr, who was working with the investigators at the scene.

So embarrassing was Lemaitre's testimony, it prompted current senior RCMP spokesman Sgt. Tim Shields to quickly apologize for the force.

Like the rest of the RCMP's backtracking during these proceedings, however, it comes 19 months too late.

Carr, who took over from Lemaitre as spokesman, said he never corrected the initial statements because he was following orders from Supt. Wayne Rideout, the man then in charge of the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team.

The inaccuracies were corrected 14 months later, in December 2008, when Crown counsel announced it would not lay charges against any of the four Mounties.

Rideout ran the investigation into Dziekanski's death and was responsible for the report used to make that charge decision.

When he appears before the inquiry, he faces some tough questions.

For instance, why were the four officers not confronted with the amateur video and asked to explain the blatant contradictions between it and their version of events?

After 18 years as an investigator, Rideout could not help but notice the glaring incongruities. Not to go back and re-interview the Mounties in light of the video appears incompetent.

I am curious to see whether this veteran career cop is prepared to wear this botch-up or whether he will point upwards, too. That's why it's not just Rideout we should hear from.

I'd like to see on the stand former RCMP superintendent Ward Clapham, hired in the summer of last year to run the BC Transit cops.

He was in charge of the Richmond detachment, whose officers were involved, and, at 49, he retired suddenly last April, less than six months after the Dziekanski incident.

Did he agree with the strategy to leave the public record uncorrected? How does he feel about the conduct of his men? I bet he could shed a lot of light on these events.

But let's cut to the chase.

The man ultimately responsible for the RCMP response to this tragedy was Assistant Commissioner Peter German.

He's the only Mountie whose ambition to one day occupy the Commissioner's office in Ottawa was threatened by the Dziekanski scandal. If there is a Richard Nixon in this drama, it is German.

I'd like to see him on the stand explaining his role. Or is he going to say this outrageous incident didn't warrant his personal interest?

He must have approved Rideout's don't-tell-the-public strategy given the international furore Dziekanski's death was generating. The RCMP is a paramilitary organization and no one does anything that isn't approved by the officer in charge.

This was German's watch. The buck stopped with him.

So I say come on down, Assistant Commissioner, and tell us about your role in this entire sordid affair. Inquiring minds would love to know.

Sunday, April 26, 2009


A letter I sent today.

Dear Chair and Members of the Guelph Police Services Board,

I am writing to you today, further to Thana Dharmarajah's April 25, 2009 Guelph Mercury article entitled Too Close for Comfort? and the editorial entitled A private firm, but a public flap which said: "The Guelph Police Services Board discussed this month a suggestion that it should review whether the officer might have a conflict of interest through running his private company. But the matter was dropped when Guelph Police Chief Rob Davis informed the panel the subject poses no such concerns." I would suggest to you, the members of the Guelph Police Services Board, that you reconsider whether this subject indeed does pose some significant concerns.

In August 2005, in a complaint which I submitted to the Office of the Police Complaints Commissioner for British Columbia, I outlined my concerns about Victoria Police Sergeant Darren Laur, who strongly endorsed tasers and played a pivotal role in their introduction into Canadian policing, but had been shown to have financial ties to Taser International. It should be noted that, like Constable Mulder, Sergeant Laur DID have the approval of the Victoria Chief of Police to operate his private company. And, in fact, during the five months following my complaint to the OPCC, the Victoria Police Chief sought to have my complaint dismissed, because he personally felt there was no recognized default having been committed by Sergeant Laur. I continued to insist and the OPCC agreed that, pursuant to the BC Police Act, he was obligated to properly characterize and process the complaint. And so in January 2006, the Chair of the Victoria Police Board directed the Chief of Police to conduct an investigation.

The ensuing investigation, which was completed in August 2007, undertook to review the issues respecting conflict of interest and police officers, including a review of existing policies and practices and legal opinions from several jurisdictions both in Canada and elsewhere. During the course of the investigation, it was determined that the Chief of Police was a witness and, as such, his role as Discipline Authority was designated to the Chief of Police of the Port Moody (BC) Police Department.

A very thorough investigation concluded that the Victoria Police Department's policies dealing with conflict of interest issues were inadequate and that there did in fact exist a perceived or apparent conflict of interest in this case. A number of significant policy-change recommendations were made to the Victoria Police Board, which the Board in turn strongly supported. Those recommendations have now been implemented into a new and comprehensive Conflict of Interest policy that will give the public more confidence and should greatly reduce the number of instances where the off-duty interests of police officers would conflict with their roles and responsibilities to the police departments with whom they are employed.

The Office of the Police Complaints Commissioner for British Columbia, in its final review of the investigation, noted that the types of policy changes as a result of the investigation were worthy of other police departments to take note of and recommended that consideration be given to amending the BC Police Act to include a section dealing with conflicts of interest. The new Victoria Chief of Police, Bill Naughton, said "it [conflict of interest] is a common, but largely unexamined, area of concern in North American policing. This is not a Victoria issue alone, this runs across Canada, and as far as I know we're the only agency across Canada trying to take a serious look at this issue."

Fast forward to Constable Mulder's Canadian Centre for the Prevention of In-Custody Deaths and its "First Annual Excited Delirium Conference."

A February 13, 2009 article in the Toronto Star said: "The Mounties [RCMP] have also dropped the term "excited delirium" - a phrase that has no medical foundation, and was criticized earlier by the Commons Committee [on Public Safety and National Security], the RCMP's public complaints commissioner, independent consultants and civil liberties groups."

I suggest that all members of the Guelph Police Services carefully review the following media reports:

A two-part NPR (National Public Radio USA) investigative report from February 2007:
Part I - Death by Excited Delirium: Diagnosis or Coverup?
Part II - Tasers Implicated in Excited Delirium Deaths

Taser's Delirium Defense: How lawyers used junk science to explain away stun-gun deaths, Mother Jones, March-April 2009

Tasers in medicine - an irreverent call for proposals, Canadian Medical Association Journal, May 2008.

Police ethics adviser quits over sponsors - Concerns over role of companies like Taser International in funding lavish conferences were rebuffed, Globe and Mail, April 8, 2009

Finally, I urge you to visit http://www.excited-delirium.com/. The website's owner has uncovered many connections between Taser International, their lawyer Michael Brave, and the American Institute for the Prevention of In-Custody Death and those who would promote excited delirium as a convenient cause for taser-associated deaths. The dash (-) in the website's address is critical because of the many similarly-named websites registered by Mr. Brave that include the words excited and delirium in the name.

And please keep in mind that so-called "excited delirium" has NOT been the common denominator in the at-least 405 deaths that have occurred proximal to the taser. Tasers ARE the ONE AND ONLY common denominator.

Notwithstanding the significant controversy surrounding tasers and excited delirium, and regardless of whether Constable Mulder has been or ever will be compensated directly or indirectly in ANY way by Taser International or the (American) Institute for the Prevention of In-Custody Death or any other related organization or person, the facts which include (but are not limited to) his company bearing such a striking resemblance to the IPICD (which has so clearly been linked to Taser International), his "firm benefiting from some cooperation between the Canadian Centre and the IPICD regarding initial startup concerns and general business practices," and Taser International's use of excited delirium as a LEGAL DEFENCE to contradict its weapon's role in in-custody death lawsuits MUST be enough to prompt your Board to further investigate whether a conflict exists and whether the Guelph Police Service would want to be linked in any way to this controversy.

I do have a copy of the Victoria Police Department's new Conflict of Interest policy; however, while the policy has received Board approval, I understand that it may not yet have been delivered to the department's members and so I am unable to share it with you at this time. If you contact the Victoria Police Board directly, they may be willing to do so. And I would be more than willing to provide further background information to you, should you require it.

I look forward to a written reply from the Guelph Police Services Board at your earliest possible convenience.


Patti Gillman
Owner of TNT - Truth ... not tasers

Howard Hyde

My heart breaks anew. Today, I received the following message from the sister of Howard Hyde, along with her permission to post it here:

"I am writing to you immediately following the hearing of the audio of the tape, for the first time, of my brother Howard Hyde getting tasered by the Halifax Regional Police. It was horrifying. That is the only description I can come up with, other than I feel that it is evidence of police brutality."

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Too close for comfort?

April 25, 2009
Thana Dharmarajah, Guelph Mercury

An outspoken Taser use critic wants the Guelph Police Services Board to examine its conflict-of-interest polices because of a private company started by a city police officer.

Patti Gillman, a Belleville resident and creator of the Truth Not Tasers blog, said she's concerned about a firm started by Guelph Police Const. Gary Mulder because the company bears similarities to a like-sounding American firm with corporate links to Taser International.

Mulder's firm is called the Canadian Centre for the Prevention of In-Custody Deaths Inc. The American firm Gillman is comparing it to is the Institute for the Prevention of In-Custody Deaths.

Mulder denies any link between his company and the U.S. firm or Taser International. He has been cleared of any conflict of interest in this endeavour by Guelph's chief of police and the Guelph Police Services Board.

Both of the Prevention of In-Custody Deaths companies offer front-line police officers and others training in recognizing potentially dangerous in-custody circumstances and in offering strategies to attempt to reduce the risk of fatalities in such cases.

Likewise both also tout the existence of a condition called excited delirium and offer training on recognizing it and how it should be handled if it's suspected.

Excited delirium is a controversial label that describes an alleged state of mind and body in individuals where they have been described as being in a delirious state, with extreme strength and incoherent speech.

It has been frequently cited by some police sources as a medical condition of subjects encountered who were subsequently shocked by Tasers.

It is not, however, listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders of the American Psychiatric Association, a guide for professional psychologists and psychiatrists.

Gillman -- whose anti-Taser advocacy developed after the death of her brother Robert Bagnell in 2004 after he received at least two electrical shocks from police Tasers -- is among those voices in the debate that questions the existence of excited delirium.

"It only seems to be cited when someone has been Tasered," Gillman said.

She said she is troubled by an excited delirium conference being staged next month by Mulder's company -- a two-day Niagara Falls event that will see a workshop led by a founder of the Institute for the Prevention of In-Custody Deaths.

John Peters, the American firm's founder who is to appear at the Canadian company's event, started his firm with a corporate lawyer for Taser.

Attempts to arrange an interview with Peters weren't successful.

But Taser International spokesperson Steve Tuttle confirmed it gave setup grants to Peters' firm and has paid for Peters to speak about excited delirium and to do training about the subject at its Arizona headquarters as well as at various U.S. law-enforcement agencies.

Mulder said he wasn't aware of Peters previously receiving Taser International funding to speak about excited delirium and that isn't the case this time.

He said he will pay Peters and other speakers personally for their full speaking fees and recoup that expense from conference registration revenue. Tuttle confirmed Taser International isn't funding Peters to speak in Niagara Falls.

The conference will feature a session called Conducted Energy Devices: Are They Safe Options?

But Mulder said Taser International isn't sponsoring anything at the conference and no company will be advertising at it.

Further, Mulder said his company has never received funding from either Taser International or the Institute for the Prevention of In-Custody Deaths.

In an email this week, he said his firm benefited from "some co-operation between the Canadian Centre and IPICD, Inc. regarding initial startup concerns and general business practices."

But in the same message, he added: "I can assure you that the Canadian Centre ultimately operates independently from the Institute for the Prevention of In-Custody Deaths, Inc. or any other company."

Tuttle confirmed Taser International has no links or past funding relationship with Mulder or his firm.

"It's honestly and truly not my intention to have any association with Taser at all," Mulder said. "I am 100 per cent the owner (of this company). I have complete control over the company."

Guelph Police Chief Rob Davis said he doesn't see Mulder's personal business as a conflict of interest. Mulder signed a contract with the Guelph Police Service that his company wouldn't have any affiliation with it. "I'm satisfied that he's followed the proper protocol," Davis said.

As for the conference, Davis said he sees nothing wrong with Mulder educating others about the knowledge the officer has obtained in his policing career.

Mulder is an 18-year police veteran and has been assigned to the Guelph Police Service's training unit as a certified use of force instructor since 2003.

After fielding inquiries related to this story, Guelph Police Services Board chair Dave Clark asked at this month's board meeting whether the firm followed all Police Services Act requirements.

Davis responded at that session that it did and the matter was left at that.

Mulder said he believes in excited delirium and that he wants to educate emergency personnel about behaviours associated with it so they can act as a team when they encounter it.

"It's something that happens very fast and deteriorates very quickly and everybody's abilities and actions are being questioned," he said. "What I want to do is to provide the information so people can be informed to make the best decision under duress."

Gillman said the fact that Mulder is actively drawing attention privately to a condition that has gone "hand in hand" with Tasers in so many cases warrants a thorough police board review.

She said she is pondering a written request to that effect to the board.

In 2005, she complained to the Victoria Police Department about the involvement of one of its officers with Taser International. The officer had done a variety of paid work for Taser during the period of his employment with that police service. The department began modifying its conflict-of-interest policies after she raised that matter.

Gillman's brother died after an encounter with Vancouver police in June 2004. The 44-year-old was the subject of a 911 call to the downtown hotel where he lived and had smashed things in a common washroom.

A 2007 inquest jury found that being Tasered played no role in his death. It concluded his death resulted from "restraint associated cardiac arrest" arising from cocaine intoxication and psychosis. The jury offered no recommendations.

Gillman has said publicly she wants a moratorium on Taser use until there is more independent research on their use and possible connection to deaths that have followed their deployment.

EDITORIAL: A private firm, but a public flap

Logo of the "Canadian Centre for the Prevention of In-Custody Deaths"

Logo of the American "Institute for the Prevention of In-Custody Deaths"

April 25, 2009
Guelph Mercury

Compare the logos of a United States consulting and training firm with open ties to Taser International and an apparently independent company in the same field started by a Guelph Police Service officer.

You're left with a sense the two must be connected.

The Guelph police officer vows that's not the case. He asserts only that there has been "some co-operation" between his business, Prevention of In-Custody Deaths Inc., and its like-named and like-logoed U.S. counterpart, the Institute for Prevention of In-Custody Deaths, regarding "initial startup concerns and general business practices."

The Guelph Police Services Board discussed this month a suggestion that it should review whether the officer might have a conflict of interest through running his private company. But the matter was dropped when Guelph Police Chief Rob Davis informed the panel the subject poses no such concerns.

End of story?


But not if Patti Gillman gets her way.

Gillman, an outspoken Canadian opponent of police Taser use and the survivor of a sibling who died after being hit repeatedly by a police Taser, wants a more rigorous and public review of this subject.

For her, the issue includes and goes further than the strikingly similar names and logos of the Taser-linked firm and the Guelph officer's business.

She's troubled by the insistence of principals for both firms as to the existence and purported best in-the-field strategies for front-line emergency workers to handle an alleged condition called excited delirium.

The medical and scientific community is yet to reach a consensus on the existence of this described condition, which is frequently mentioned by police services as afflicting persons just before they were shocked with Tasers.

Taser says it has paid to inform various stakeholders of the existence of excited delirium and how to recognize it. It says, one way it has done so is by hiring the Institute for the Prevention of In-Custody Deaths and or its staff to offer speeches or training on the subject.

Gillman asserts the Guelph officer's private business efforts to tout the existence of excited delirium should spur more probing by the city police board about a potential for a real or perceived conflict of interest.

It will be interesting to see whether the police board takes this further.

EDITORIAL: RCMP's Taser loopholes

April 25, 2009
Toronto Star

Not three months ago, Royal Canadian Mounted Police Commissioner William Elliott assured Parliament that the Mounties were curbing the use of Tasers, following a public outcry over Robert Dziekanski, who died after being stunned repeatedly at Vancouver airport.

"We have taken steps to restrict its use," Elliott advised the House of Commons public safety committee on Feb 12. If so, it is hard to see.

In fact the RCMP's new policy, issued on Feb. 3 nine days before Elliott's appearance, had dropped requirements that were designed to curb stun gun use. This week, called back to address the discrepancy, Elliott was hard-pressed to justify the changes as an improvement.

Under the old policy, RCMP officers were required to issue a warning, where feasible: "Police, stop or you will be hit with 50,000 volts of electricity." There's no such obligation under the new policy.

Under the old policy use was sharply limited. "Unless situational factors dictate otherwise, do not cycle the CEW (Conducted Energy Weapon) repeatedly, nor more than 15-20 seconds at a time against a subject." That, too, has been scrapped. The new policy merely advises that multiple or continuous stunning "may be hazardous to a subject."

Finally while the new policy says the guns are "not intended as a restraint device," there's no prohibition on using them to subdue unruly suspects who don't pose a serious threat to the police or public.

Far from "restricting" use, the new approach seems more tolerant.

Elliott still insists that, "overall," RCMP policy is more restrictive. Officers are more aware of risks, are better trained and better supervised. Certainly, they are using stun guns less often, after the beating the force has taken at the Dziekanski inquiry. And the force will tell the inquiry that "there are things that they would do differently," Elliott told the Star's Tonda MacCharles this week. That's good.

But the fact remains that RCMP policy is written in terms broad enough to legitimize stun gun use under almost any circumstances. That in itself is a concern.

Stun guns can put some people "at a high risk of death," as the RCMP now officially acknowledges. Given that risk, the force should require officers to issue a warning, except in dire circumstances. The RCMP should prohibit stun gun use except in cases of severe threat to life and limb. A Canadian Press analysis from 2002 to 2005 found that three in four suspects zapped weren't even armed. There should be a prohibition on using the guns as a restraint. And multiple jolts must be strongly discouraged, along with continuous jolting.

No one suggests Canada's police are out of control. They answered more than 3 million calls for help in 2007 and made 176,000 arrests, using stun guns in only a small fraction of cases. But 25 people have died in Canada after being jolted, Amnesty International reports. And police have reportedly zapped a balky teenage girl in a jail cell, a senior who tried to dodge a parking ticket and a heart patient in hospital.

We need real restrictions on stun gun use, to prevent "usage creep," not empty assurances that all is well. It isn't. And if the police won't adopt tough, common standards, government should impose them.

EDITORIAL: Put Tasers down for now

April 25, 2009
Calgary Herald

W hen independent tests conclude more than one in 10 Tasers malfunctions, and with at least 25 Canadians dead after being shot by police stun guns, the prudent course of action is to halt the use of these weapons. Immediately.

Not in Alberta. Solicitor General Fred Lindsay continued to emphatically defend Tasers, even while confirming a Herald exclusive showing 12 per cent of those tested functioned outside of the manufacturer's specifications.

"I have not seen any evidence yet that would indicate that even though some of them are out of spec, there is any increased safety risk in using them," Lindsay told reporters Thursday. What kind of evidence is he looking for?

An independent Ontario firm tested 412 of Alberta's stun guns earlier this year. Fifty were flawed, and should never have been put in use. Now the remaining 735 will all be tested.

To get conclusive evidence, there would have to be more Taser-related deaths to study. Only then could a direct link be established.

But the province can't wait for such an actuality. Lindsay has sufficient reason to put the use of these conducted electricity weapons on hold, at least temporarily. Perhaps governments should even consider retiring them altogether from the arsenal. They are proving to be far less than initially billed, when first rolled out across the country.

Test results from other provinces and the RCMP consistently show a 10 per cent failure rate. If Tasers can't even be guaranteed to work within specifications, how can the public be assured they are pumping out a safe amount of electricity?

Even the theory pegging the malfunctioning weapons to an aging model no longer applies. Eight of the flawed guns in Alberta were newer models. Such results, along with compelling testimony from the fatality inquiry into the death of Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski, undermine Lindsay's defence of the status quo.

Canadians simply no longer trust what the police establishment has to say about Tasers. Lindsay's assurances would be more convincing if he made public the details of the Tasers used in the two fatal incidents in Alberta. Have those guns been tested, and did they or did they not meet the specifications?

A malfunction rate of 10 per cent is unacceptable. The province needs to write an ironclad testing policy that will catch the faulty weapons before they are distributed.

At the RCMP, Commissioner William Elliott needs to reinstate rules governing the protocol of multiple discharges, this time with clear restrictions. Each discharge is 50,000 volts, and at that rate, police can't afford to be trigger-happy.

Yet, according to the shocking testimony coming out of the inquiry into Dziekanski's death, they are too quick to zap their suspects. Police initially said Dziekanski was only shot twice, whereas the weapon was actually deployed five times. Equally disturbing, the inquiry learned pepper spray could have easily been used instead.

This is telling, since Tasers were sold to the public as a last resort to lethal force. As the world now knows, in the case of Dziekanski, it was used seconds after four burly Mounties first made contact with the distraught man.

Short of major improvements -- in function, policy and police behaviour -- the next obituary written should be that of the stun guns.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Taser inquiry leaves RCMP image in tatters

April 24, 2009
By Don Martin, Calgary Herald

The retired police officer thought he'd seen the worst possible case of cop rot when he helped drag an RCMP commissioner before Parliament to face coverup perjury accusations.

But what's surfacing daily on the witness stand at the Braidwood Inquiry into the Taser-triggered death of Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski has even Ron Lewis mortified at the reputation ruination of Canada's iconic police force.

In performing its duty to document the truth internally, properly brief the public externally and testify to the facts accurately, this inquiry has become a nightmarish example of a force that is not always with us.

Lewis spent 35 years with the RCMP, including time on Pierre Trudeau's prime ministerial security detail, followed by riot squad, intelligence gathering and remote patrolling duties.

But it was his whistle-blower role in exposing RCMP pension plan irregularities that ultimately brought Commissioner Giuliano Zaccardelli before MPs for a performance which, coupled with his erratic testimony on the Maher Arar file, cut short his career as Canada's top police officer in late 2006.

Lewis has documented his battle in a just-released book, This Is Not the RCMP I Joined, a detailed account of his fight against an RCMP boardroom more concerned with protecting its squeaky clean, red serge Mountie image than doing the right thing in law enforcement.

He admits the force got a black eye from a prolonged pension scandal featuring nepotism, contract irregularities and a blind-eye refusal by senior officers to enforce the rules.

But the parade of fibbing Vancouver airport officers who zapped a confused and unarmed immigrant five times, restraining him on the floor until he died while a civilian's video camera rolled from the far side of the glass, is now giving way to evidence of a higher-level communications whitewash where critical information was ignored, suppressed or manipulated.

In vintage Watergatish style, the coverup is becoming worse than the crime.

"The investigators must've known immediately they had a huge problem, but didn't handle it well out of a sense of self-preservation," Lewis told me. "Now they're locked on a global stage and they can't get off. This is not a localized event people will easily forget. It's going to take a generation for a lot of this to go away."

It's not that Lewis has qualms about Taser use. When he applied to join the force on his 18th birthday, electrical zapper guns were only found in science fiction comic books. His usual method of taking down an unruly suspect was to apply a now-banned choke hold or whack the offender with a force-issued flashlight that usually lost its bottom and sent batteries flying. The Taser is far safer and easier, he says.

But the problem for the force goes beyond using excessive force against a frightened immigrant trapped alone in a situation he could not comprehend and waving around a stapler for protection.

While it falls far short of a justification, there's a plausible explanation for their bizarre, heavy-handed response.

Talk to RCMP and they'll confide that airport duty is a dog job where long boring days are spent serving as armed security guards, directing passengers to the nearest washroom or giving them directions downtown.

When excitement surfaces, there's an adrenalin-pumped tendency to overreact. In this case, this exuberance was compounded by the failure of the two-pronged Taser darts to properly connect with Dziekanski's torso, which may explain the multiple jolts fired by the weapon.

But nothing explains why officers acutely aware they had been captured as stars of riveting video footage would together craft and stick with a bogus script that conflicted with the pictures. And nothing justifies police communicators hired as an accurate source of public information to deliberately allow obvious nose-stretchers to rage as police facts for more than a year.

The pension plan fiasco was confined to the top level of the police force. This inquiry-probing incident started at the lowest level of policing, but is now creeping up the chain of command.

If the two RCMP apologies this week aren't backed by fresh evidence to exonerate the officer's lethal response to the hapless Dziekanski, the RCMP will need more than boosted manpower and better weapons to do their job properly in the public eye.

Perhaps the automatic videotaping of every arrest is needed to help keep their memories and the facts in sync.

National Post editorial board: The RCMP tests another new low

April 24, 2009
National Post

Thanks to the latest testimony at the hearing into Robert Dziekanski’s death, we now know the RCMP’s sorry mishandling of the 2007 tragedy reached well beyond the four officers who Tasered the Polish traveller until he died.

Corporal Dale Carr, spokesman with a unit tasked with investigating the death, made clear that the four officers are just one link in a chain of command which takes for granted that misleading the public, misinforming journalists and covering up for one another is a routine part of their job.

Consider Cpl. Carr’s testimony. He told the inquiry, headed by former Appeal Court justice Thomas Braidwood, that within hours of Mr. Dziekanski’s death at Vancouver International Airport, he attended a meeting of homicide investigators, and twice watched an amateur video showing the confrontation that led to Dziekanski’s death. Making notes, Cpl. Carr wrote that Dziekanski grabbed a computer, ignored instructions from police, swung at the officers and continued to resist once knocked to the ground by the first Taser strike.

None of that was true. Nevertheless, he passed the imagined narrative on to another RCMP spokesman, and stood by him as he related the falsehoods to reporters. (He claims he wasn’t really listening.) When it became evident later that the information was wrong, a superior told him not to correct the record. Nor was he allowed to acknowledge the existence of the damning video, which the force gave up only after its owner went to court.

All of this comes amidst a debate about how much latitude officers should be given to use Tasers to subdue victims. In this regard, the Dziekanski revelations have done little to bolster the RCMP’s claim that its officers should be able to use such weapons at their own discretion. By brutalizing a confused traveller, and then apparently conspiring to obscure the truth about the encounter, the RCMP has squandered much of the esteem in which Canadians hold this institution.

National Post

Taser tests lead Edmonton police to pull 50 weapons from service

April 24, 2009
By Florence Loyie and Trish Audette, The Edmonton Journal

Fifty Tasers are being pulled off Alberta police officers' tool belts after tests of the stun guns showed they were malfunctioning.

But Solicitor General Fred Lindsay said he has no intention of scrapping the controversial weapons altogether.

"The thing that would have affected my decision on whether we pull them all off or not is whether there's a clear indication that the malfunctioning ... would have created a safety hazard," he said Thursday. "I don't see any evidence to support that."

Following media reports old-model X-26 Tasers used in Canada were firing at higher-than-expected voltages, Lindsay ordered 485 Tasers from across Alberta sent to an independent lab in Kanata, Ont. Of those, 42 purchased prior to Jan. 1, 2006, plus eight newer Tasers, did not meet specifications set out by the manufacturer. "Regardless of what criteria they didn't meet, we were going to pull them out of service," Lindsay said.

Edmonton police sent 175 Tasers for testing, and 15 had voltages either too high or too low, according to specifications. Still, the results do not necessarily mean those Tasers are a safety concern, said Const. Joe Tassone, in charge of Taser training with the department's officer training unit.

Even so, the Edmonton Police Service does not want to put weapons not operating within the manufacturer's specifications back into action, particularly if they are firing too low because that could potentially put the lives of civilians and police officers at risk.

The tests were the first independent gauge of the weapons ever done by Alberta's police services -- until now, the province has relied on the guarantees of Taser International.

More than half of all Tasers used by the province's police services still need to be tested.

Lindsay said he is developing criteria to have the weapons tested more often.

Edmonton lawyer Tom Engel, chairman of the Criminal Trial Lawyers Association's policing committee, said his concern with the test results is they suggest about 10 per cent of the 745 Tasers not tested are also likely not functioning properly. "It raises flags," Engel said.

Engel added the results point to a need for regular testing of all Tasers to ensure they are working properly. But he believes the Taser is a viable police tool, if used within the parameters of the Criminal Code. "It is an alternative to lethal force. The problem, of course, is these Tasers are misused all the time and you have to get a grip on that," he said.

Local cops release use of force stats

Belleville, Ontario - Population 45,986 - has 6 tasers - "used" the taser 18 times, discharged it *only* 9 times last year

Waterloo, Ontario - Population 97,475 - has ?? tasers - discharged 29 times last year

Chatham, Ontario - Population 108,177 - has ?? tasers - used seven times and "only in specific circumstances" last year

Kingston, Ontario - Population 114,195 - has 34 tasers - fired them 4 times last year

April 24, 2009

Chatham-Kent Police Service officers used force 85 times last year, according to statistics released this week.

Deputy Chief Clare Wiersma told the Chatham-Kent Police Services Board officers discharged their firearms 11 times in 2008. He said in all of those incidents, firearms were used in the humane destruction of injured animals.

Police pointed their guns at people 35 times last year and used pepper spray 20 times.

Wiersma said Tasers were used seven times and only in specific circumstances.

"The officers are using them judiciously," he told the board. "We monitor those very closely.

The Taser has prove itself to be a valuable use of force option."

According to the use of force statistics, police used a baton once and a police dog twice. Physical control was used nine times.

In 2008, Wiersma said officers were involved in 17 pursuits, which was up from 13 in 2007.

He said police chases are strictly monitored and analyzed after the fact. Many of the reported pursuits were terminated shortly after they started, he added.

Wiersma also told the board there were 28 public complaints laid in 2008 and 64 internal affairs investigations.

"For both the public complaints and internal affairs matters, there were relatively few serious misconducts," he said, adding no criminal charges were laid and two misconduct cases were dealt with through Police Service Act hearings.

He said some of the cases were resolved through informal discipline.

More Tasers malfunction in Calgary than elsewhere

APRIL 24, 2009
By Gwendolyn Richards; With Files From Renata D'Aliesio, Calgary Herald

More than 30 of the 50 Tasers being pulled from service for working incorrectly are from Calgary, but police say they have no plans to reconsider the practice of using the energy weapons.

In all, 190 Tasers belonging to the Calgary Police Service were tested, along with another 222 from other municipal police services in Alberta, at the request of the Solicitor General over concerns the weapons were functioning outside of the manufacturer's specifications.

Of those, 31 of Calgary's were found to be working outside of the "strictest definition" of Taser International's specifications, said CPS Supt. Trevor Daroux.

But, since the weapons were found to be malfunctioning with such a small variation from what the manufacturer outlined, Daroux said there is nothing to indicate they should stop using the weapons altogether.

"The deviation was very, very small, either above or below. There is no indication at all the deviation would result in that device being any less effective than what it was before," he said.

Daroux said the service is constantly evaluating their use-of-force tools and Tasers will remain one of those.

"The position of the service is that conducted energy weapons remain a valuable use of force option," he said.

The Solicitor General said there is no reason to pull all Tasers from service, even as the province pushes ahead with testing on the remaining 735 Tasers that have not yet been examined.

Alberta's malfunction rate of 12 per cent is only slightly higher than other provinces saw. In B. C., eight Tasers of 82 tested were found to be malfunctioning, while in Quebec five of 52 stun guns were not operating within specifications.

Based on that, Fred Lindsay estimates testing on the remaining Tasers will find another 75 are operating outside of specifications.

Still, he said, there is no evidence malfunctioning Tasers affected the safety of the public or the officer using them.

"The thing that would have affected my decision whether we pull them all off or not would be whether there was a clear indication that the malfunctioning or operating out of specification would create a safety hazard and I have not seen any evidence to support that," he said.

But Amnesty International Canada -- which has called for a moratorium on the stun guns--said it remains concerned about links between Taser use and the deaths of 25 people in the country.

Spokesman John Tackaberry said test results for Alberta's Tasers are cause for concern over the weapon's reliability. Even more disturbing, he said, is that the test results included newer models.

"The testing now is consistently eroding the credibility of the information about the reliability of the weapon, making it suspect for officers to use," he said.

"We think this is a cautionary note about the necessity for police forces to use the weapon with extreme caution, only under the most pressing circumstances under the force continuum where there is a threat to the individual other individuals or the officer involved," he said.

His comments are echoed by Liberal MLA Kent Hehr who has consistently called for Tasers to be removed from service until all the testing has been completed.

Of the 412 Tasers sent for testing from across the province -- 339 models purchased prior to Jan. 1, 2006 and 73 newer devices --50 were found to be mal-functioning. Of those, 42 of the older models were not operating as specified, as were eight of the new stun guns.


Alberta solicitor general Lindsay still supportive of Tasers

April 24, 2009

Alberta solicitor general and Minister of Public Security Fred Lindsay says he still feels confident about the use of Tasers after a government test showed more than 10 per cent of the devices used by police services were malfunctioning.

A total of 412 newer and late-model Tasers that were tested by a technology firm in Ontario found 50 that didn’t operate within specifications, according to a government report.

Less than 20 of the malfunctioning devices were giving out a jolt that was higher than tolerable, the report said.

Lindsay, who was once jolted by a Taser, believes the test still ensures Tasers are an effective tool in law enforcement.

“We bought an instrument that was supposed to be up to specifications and we weren’t going to deviate from that, irregardless if they were slightly over or significantly over,” said Lindsay.

“We pulled them out of the market and we had them recertified or destroyed.”

Lindsay says another 735 Tasers used by all police forces in the province, including the Edmonton Police Service, will be tested immediately.

And the test results were similar to findings in British Columbia and Quebec where both provinces found one in every 10 Tasers were defective.

“I don’t have any evidence to suggest one way or another (if this caused fatalities),” said Lindsay.

“This goes back to the assumption that if they are out of spec, they have contributed to injuries. We don’t have any evidence to suggest that at all.”

Police Chief Mike Boyd has said city police are not going to change policies around Tasers after the RCMP moved to restrict the use of the stun guns because it can kill in certain cases.

Mounties will now only use Tasers if there is a real threat to public safety because it’s too dangerous to use on suspects who are only resisting arrest, said RCMP Commissioner William Elliott last winter in Ottawa.