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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Officers appeal misconduct decision in Taser inquiry

June 20, 2009
The Canadian Press/CTV

VANCOUVER -- The RCMP officers involved in Robert Dziekanski's death are appealing a court decision that allows a public inquiry to make findings of misconduct against them.

The four Mounties challenged Commissioner Thomas Braidwood's authority to allege misconduct against officers on the federal police force -- something the commissioner has warned he'll consider when he writes his final report.

But a B.C. Supreme Court judge dismissed their claims, and now the officers are taking the case to the B.C. Court of Appeal.

A lawyer for the officer who fired the Taser, Const. Kwesi Millington, has already filed his appeal and the others are expected to follow.

David Butcher, who represents Const. Bill Bentley, says the case raises important constitutional questions about such a provincial inquiry's authority over federal police officers.

Prosecutors in B.C. decided last year not to charge the officers but Braidwood is considering a number of allegations made during the inquiry, including that they lied about what happened at the airport that day.

The inquiry is currently on hold until September as lawyers investigate an internal RCMP email that surfaced earlier this month that raised questions about the officers' testimony.

California man dies after being shot with taser

Shawn Iinuma, 37

June 30, 2009
Richard Brooks, The Press Enterprise

A 37-year-old Fontana [California] man died Monday morning after being Tasered when he became violent while being treated for an apparent methamphetamine overdose, Fontana police said.

Police and fire were summoned to the 7500 block of Cherimoya Avenue by Shawn Iinuma's family at 1:15 a.m. because he had been using meth and was acting strangely, investigators wrote in a statement.

A lengthy struggle ensued after he became violent and police Tasered him, the statement said. Iinuma stopped breathing after being restrained. He died at Kaiser Permanente Fontana Medical Center.


A comment received here this morning says:

How many times does this sequence of events need to play out? When will good men recognize and stop this scenario? ~

Occam's Razor, the generally accepted principle of Logically Connected Progressions, or, to quote Sir Isaac Newton, proclaims: "We are to admit no more causes of natural things than such as are both true and **sufficient** to explain their appearances. Therefore, to the same natural effects we must, so far as possible, assign the same causes."

Shawn Iinuma, a human being, was intoxicated with drugs, involved in a "lengthy struggle", tasered and he died. He didn't die during the "lengthy struggle", but only after the pain/torture/control device was used, where what remaining ability to use his muscles, was mindlessly, rapidly depleted by a device which has no ability to know when the muscles, including the heart, have reached an inability to resume normal function.

The common intervening factor in these deaths is the introduction of a "control device, or a method of restraint", and the post-mortem search for other factors ignores Occam's Razor, which says all the factors you need to look at are the agitated state of the arrestee, his near state of exhaustion and the introduction of a dangerous electrical device which rapidly exercises muscles without any feedback mechanism to warn that the normal chemical factors which will stop a spiral to certain death, have been over-ridden by the stun device.

It is approaching insanity to look for other "causes" or explanations. Occam and Sir Isaac Newton would conclude "It was the taser/control/restraint which led to this death."

Tasers On Campus - REJECTED

June 29, 2009
By WKRG Staff

The Mobile County School Board voted down a proposal that would allow security officers to carry tasers on school campuses. The issue was on the agenda during Monday night's meeting.

Before the meeting, Superintendent Roy Nichols recommended that the school board should adopt a policy that strictly outlines when security officers can use a taser. He also recommended that security staff be trained and certified by Mobile Police.

The proposal was rejected by a vote of 3 - 2. Ken Megginson and Judy Stout voted in favor of the proposal.

Monday, June 29, 2009

RCMP Corruption

I was given permission to post this letter here. The "original" is posted on the Canadian Civil Rights Movement website.

June 25, 2009

Dear Mr. Riddle,

In my letter to Zofia Cisowski, I promised her that I would continue to shine a critical light on those that I believe are ultimately responsible for her son’s death. Moreover, I closed my letter by stating that I thought someone needed to stand up and assert that “the emperor wears no clothes”. It is in that spirit and in light of recent events that I pick up my pen once more.

As you are well aware on June 19, 2009, a federal lawyer (representing the RCMP) produced an e-mail that suggests the four RCMP members committed perjury while senior executives stood by and said nothing. This revelation has placed in the spotlight a group of RCMP executives (that reach across the country) who seem to believe that they can not only make the rules but break them. Tragically, Robert Dziekanski’s role in this national tragedy has been to expose the corruption that exists in the upper echelon of the RCMP.

There are very few corrupt police organizations, however most of them have members who commit corrupt acts from time to time. This may sound shocking to the average person who until recently likely never thought much about the internal workings of law enforcement agencies. The term “police corruption” has been used to describe many activities including: bribery; violence and brutality; racism, favouritism or nepotism; and the fabrication and destruction of evidence. Any definition of police corruption must address both “financial” and “process” corruption. When we hear of police corruption most of us think of a policeman perhaps receiving a “kickback” (for referral services) or being part of a “shakedown” (receiving a bribe for not following through on a criminal act). These are examples of financial corruption. We don’t often think of “the fix” (the undermining of a criminal investigation or some other proceeding) as being an example of police corruption; however, it is and RCMP executives appear to be guilty of it.

It is generally accepted that police corruption necessarily involves an abuse of position or authority. What is really corrupted then is the “special trust” that is invested in the occupation. Am I surprised that, it appears as if, the RCMP executive attempted to interfere with the outcome of a public process? No I am not, as they do it to their own on a frequent basis.

It is a fact that approximately half of the RCMP’s frontline employees do not trust their employer. They are afraid for their safety and well being. Where do you suppose this mistrust originates? The RCMP executive routinely breaks the “special trust” it should have with its’ own employees.

After more than 30 years working as a clinician for the RCMP I could relate dozens of horror stories illustrating management’s corrupt treatment of its’ own employees. I won’t though, as I must honour the confidentiality of my patients. However, you can get a taste of what I’m talking about by re-visiting the Gatehouse and Gillis article in the November 14, 2007 MacLeans magazine. In each of the cases cited, by the authors, there is either evidence of, or strong suggestion of, corrupt activity on the part of RCMP management including; racism; favouritism or nepotism; harassment; misuse of resources; unwarranted or frivolous investigations; interference; and, the fabrication or destruction of evidence. Am I surprised that four RCMP members may have perjured themselves with executive approval? Not at all.

How could this apparent descent into corruption possibly occur within such a once revered institution? One explanation is often termed “The Dirty Harry Problem” (or just cause corruption). At the heart of this problem is the question of whether “a morally good end” ever justifies the use of ethically, politically, or legally dangerous means to its’ achievement. Once inside the RCMP it doesn’t take long before one learns that in the culture of the RCMP nothing is more important than the image of the organization. Culpable (corrupt) behaviour actually becomes honourable when carried out under a moral justification to preserve the image of the Force.

The answer to the above posed “ends-means” question is that “dirty means” must always be regarded and punished as dirty – even though their use can be justified under the extreme circumstance of saving the reputation of a Canadian icon. We must always be cognizant of the “slippery slope”. This phenomenon has two facets: the logical and the psychological. The logical version suggests that although the gap between major and minor transgressions may be significant, there are many other transgressions in the gap which makes the setting of some logical boundary impossible. Have they gone as far as interfering in criminal investigations?

The psychological facet points to the process of self labeling that occurs as an individual (or organization) moves from minor to major forms of corruption. There is a continuum of steps, at each of which a moral decision is required. Each step involves a gradual redefining of self as someone who can execute ever more serious forms of corruption. The journey is long but the steps are small between minor and major transgressions – so small it becomes progressively easier to justify the next one based upon the acceptance of the last one. So what transgressions will we find along the RCMP’s apparent journey into corruption?

I am sending this letter to you for a couple of reasons. First, because someone needs to use the word….corruption. We seem to be hesitant to use it in relation to our once beloved national police service. In this regard, don’t forget there are very few entirely corrupt police organizations, but we should not be surprised that there may be corrupt elements with the RCMP.

Secondly, the surfacing of this e-mail should serve to both catalyze and galvanize the Canadian public. If what we now suspect is true, this will constitute an oppression of our civil liberty; it is the public’s right to know. We must get behind a complete re-invention of the RCMP or it will only get sicker and sicker. The causes of police corruption include: factors that are intrinsic to the job; the nature of police organizations; the nature of “police culture”; the opportunities that exist for corruption inherent in the “political” and “task” environments; and the nature and extent of the effort put into controlling corruption.

Some may be discouraged by the challenge and say “but we have no forum” for such a transformational change. I would say the people of Iran have no forum to address the corrupt activities of their government either – but look at them.


Dr. Mike Webster
Police Psychologist

'Why shoot me?' asks Taser victim

June 29, 2009
BBC News

It was the first time the weapon was used in Northern Ireland

The first person to be shot with a Taser stun gun in Northern Ireland says he doesn't know why he was fired at.

On Friday, all charges against Declan Smith, 38, of Elaghmore Park, Londonderry, were dropped.

He was tasered by police last August after claims that he had locked himself inside a house with his two children.

District Judge Barney McElhom told him that he left the court with no stain on his character.

Mr Smith said he was woken in the middle of the night on 24 August last year, to find his house surrounded by armed police.

"They shouted for me to come out and I tried to get out through the front door, but it was locked.

"So I shouted: 'I'll go to the back.'

"I didn't know what was going on or why they were. When I went to the back door, I opened it and I was asked to step out. I stepped out and I was immediately tasered.

"I couldn't comprehend what was happening. It was very hard to take in. I kept asking why and I was getting no answers from the police. One comment that one of them said was: 'You're lucky you didn't get two live rounds in the chest.'"

In court in Derry on Friday, charges that Mr Smith had mad threats to kill, were dropped after a prosecution lawyer said the alleged injured party had withdrawn her statement.

Taser guns fire two wires which attach to the body and carry an electric shock.

The police were given permission to buy 12 Taser guns in 2008, despite opposition from human rights groups and some members of the policing board.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Happy Birthday, Bob

This week marked the five-year anniversary of my brother's death. My only brother. Bob was his name. Bob was the 58th person in North America to die after he was tasered. Bob was alone in the washroom in the building where he lived. He weighed 136 pounds. He was UNARMED and posed NO CREDIBLE THREAT to anyone, least of all to the THIRTEEN Vancouver police officers who were present. He was tasered at least twice, probably more. He died moments later.

Had Bob been treated with some modicum of compassion instead of multiple 50,000 volt taser jolts, he would have been celebrating his 50th birthday today.

Georgia: State doesn’t fund law for taser training

June 27, 2009
By Jeremy Redmon, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Georgia’s Legislature never funded a law it passed in 2006 that requires the state to train police on how and when to use stun guns, weapons families have blamed in the deaths of two Gwinnett County jail inmates.

For training, the state is instead referring local police departments to stun gun manufacturer Taser International.

The head of Georgia’s police training center says the state training would last at least eight hours longer and cover more than Taser’s lessons, including if and when officers should use stun guns on certain people such as pregnant women. Taser officials say they train police to use the weapons safely but leave it up to them to write policies on when and on whom they should be used.

At the same time, an increasing number of Atlanta area law enforcement agencies are equipping their officers with Tasers and adopting widely differing policies on when to use them. Some policies are stringent while others are less so.

“It would be best to have our own state training on that and to develop some sort of standardized policy with a recommendation of when to use a Taser and when not to,” said Frank Rotondo, executive director of the Georgia Association of Chiefs of Police.

Police promote stun guns as lifesavers that can help reduce injuries to officers and suspects. Critics, however, say the weapons are potentially lethal and can be easily abused since they sometimes leave no marks on suspects.

Police departments in Gwinnett and Fulton counties and in Alpharetta, Atlanta, Marietta and Sandy Springs use stun guns. Cobb County’s police department and sheriff’s office are planning to start using them this year. And DeKalb County’s police department is preparing to arm its officers with them this year after suspending their use in 2005, following the deaths of the two Gwinnett inmates.

When fired, some of the 50,000-volt stun guns have a range of up to 35 feet. They shoot barbed probes attached to wires that can shock a suspect for up to five seconds. The guns can also be pressed against suspects for a “drive stun.” The shock temporarily incapacitates suspects. Police officers who have voluntarily been stunned with the weapon say the pain is excruciating.

Burke Day, chairman of Georgia’s House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee, said he sponsored the legislation in 2006 to show Georgia would not tolerate police misusing the weapons following the deaths of the Gwinnett inmates. The Legislature passed Day’s law with a provision that says the state would not be required to offer the training until it is funded. The Republican lawmaker said he doesn’t see a need for the state training now but is considering calling for a legislative study committee to review how police are using stun guns.

“If there were a red hot problem — because the state probably couldn’t afford to pay right now for the training — I would suggest a temporary moratorium on using” stun guns, said Day, Tybee Island’s former police commissioner.

A review of last year’s use-of-force reports from several Atlanta-area police departments shows that officers used stun guns successfully without seriously injuring or killing suspects.

But human rights activists continue to link the weapons to injuries and deaths across the country. Amnesty International USA, for example, claims it has identified 357 people who have died after being stunned with the weapons. Among them was Elier Carlos Rodriguez Escamilla, 27, who died in 2007 after scuffling with Gwinnett sheriff deputies. During the struggle, the Norcross man was shocked with a Taser at least once. Gwinnett’s medical examiner ruled his death was accidental and caused by a syndrome called “excited delirium.” A combination of cocaine, alcohol and physical exertion brought on during the scuffle were too much for his heart, Dr. Carol Terry said.

Taser spokeswoman Hilary Gibeaut said the number of deaths Amnesty International has linked to stun guns is inaccurate. She asserted officials have listed the weapons as a contributing factor in less than 50 deaths and as the cause in only two disputed cases.

“Taser International believes in good policies, training, guidelines, and accountability, which are paramount to have a successful Taser electronic control devices program to protect lives and avoid unwarranted injuries,” Gibeaut said in a statement. “Most would agree that Taser devices and other electronic control devices are safer than punches, kicks, swarms, baton strikes, canine bites, impact weapons or even rubber bullets.”

Several Atlanta area police officers interviewed for this article said the training they got from Taser was thorough. Officers pay the company $295 to attend a course that teaches them how to become Taser instructors who can return to their departments and train their colleagues.

To become instructors, the officers must complete an eight-hour online course and then spend an additional eight hours training with a Taser master instructor. The courses are offered in Georgia and at the company’s training academy in Arizona. At least one part of the training is optional: getting stunned with a Taser.

That would be mandatory in Georgia, however, if the state decides to fund its own training program, which could cost $1 million, said Dale Mann, director of the Georgia Public Safety Training Center. “You need to know what you are giving somebody else,” he said. He wants each officer to get at least 24 hours of training, compared to Taser’s 16-hour requirement.

Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley approved a law similar to Georgia’s last month; state officials are creating a training program there. Florida is now requiring officers to attend stun gun training based on state standards.

The Southern Christian Leadership Conference, which marched to the Gwinnett courthouse in 2005 after the deaths of inmates Frederick Williams and Ray Charles Austin, called the lack of state training in Georgia “outrageous.” The SCLC said Georgia should suspend the use of Taser stun guns until the state training is in place.

Meanwhile, some Atlanta area law enforcement agencies have adopted policies for using the weapons that do not mirror national standards. The Police Executive Research Forum, a national research organization created by police, for example, has issued guidelines for stun guns that say they should generally not be used on pregnant women, the elderly and young children unless there are urgent circumstances. Taser says in its product warnings that pregnant women and the elderly are “especially at risk.”

The research forum — which developed its guidelines with the help of more than 50 law enforcement agencies that use stun guns, as well as doctors, researchers and others — also says the weapons should not be used on handcuffed people, unless they are “actively resisting” or showing “active aggression.”

The Alpharetta Police Department’s policy is silent on whether to use stun guns on handcuffed suspects, pregnant women, children and the elderly. The Atlanta Police Department, which has assigned only seven Tasers to its SWAT team, has a policy that does not address using them on handcuffed or elderly people. The Gwinnett police and sheriff’s departments and the Fulton County Sheriff’s Office’s policies do not specifically address stunning handcuffed suspects, children or the elderly. Officials from these agencies, however, say they require their officers to document each time the weapons are fired so they can be monitored.

“As policy developers, we do not want to restrict the deputies from utilizing their discretion in determining the appropriate use of force needed based on their training,” the Fulton Sheriff’s Office said in a statement.

Taser International says more than 14,200 law enforcement and military agencies use its products in more than 45 countries. The Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office, however, has decided not to be among those agencies because of the lack of state training in Georgia.

“We train our people for everything else based on state requirements, so why not this?” said Forsyth Chief Deputy Robbie Hamrick. “We just want to make sure we are getting the best information and best training from someone other than the manufacturer.”

Hamrick added rhetorically: “Why don’t we let nobody but Smith & Wesson train you on how to shoot a gun?”


How we got the story

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution started reporting on this article after Cobb County commissioners voted in April to authorize its Police Department to use confiscated crime money to buy Tasers for its officers. For this article, the AJC reviewed state laws and Atlanta-area police department policies and use-of-force reports and interviewed local police, state officials, human rights activists and representatives from Taser International Inc.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Montgomery County coroner rules taser death a homicide

June 26, 2009
KHOU.com staff reports

MONTOMERY COUNTY -- A coroner has ruled that the death of a Montgomery County man who was tasered a homicide. Deputies tasered Robert Welch in February after responding to a call of an attempted suicide. The coroner says marks on Welch’s body indicated he’d been tasered at least nine times. The deputies involved are still on the job. The Montgomery County district attorney is referring the case to a grand jury.

'Excited delirium,' not TASER, killed Brian Cardall

June 26, 2009
By Mark Kroll

I sit on the scientific and medical advisory board for TASER International and wish to comment on the column "Police search for a defense in death" by Rebecca Walsh ( Tribune, June 21).

Commenting on the tragic death of Brian Cardall, Walsh states that the TASER Electronic Control Device was "zapping Cardall full of 50,000 volts" and implies that it contributed to his death.

The actual pulse voltage delivered by the TASER X26 is 600 volts and that is in very short pulses.

This 100-fold exaggeration is provided by Amnesty International material. This anti-police activist group has long used exaggeration and innuendo against TASER ECDs as a significant fundraising tool.

It is helpful to discuss the most common electronic control devices -- electric fences. The TASER X26 ECD satisfies the Underwriters Laboratory electric fence standards and puts out only 40 percent of the output allowed. If the TASER ECD were actually dangerous, the ranchers in your readership would have to remove their electric fences lest they risk electrocuting the next person that walks into one.

Walsh scoffs at the deadly condition known as "excited delirium" syndrome. She states, "Promoted by a retired Texas medical examiner, excited delirium is not accepted by either the American Medical Association or the American Psychological Association." This represents another of the statements of Amnesty International.

Your readers can see what the AMA actually says about excited delirium by going to their website.

"Excited delirium" is a widely accepted entity in forensic pathology and is cited by medical examiners to explain the sudden in-custody deaths of individuals who are combative and in a highly agitated state.

Excited delirium is broadly defined as a state of agitation, excitability, paranoia, aggression and apparent immunity to pain, often associated with stimulant use and certain psychiatric disorders.

The signs and symptoms typically ascribed to "excited delirium" include bizarre or violent behavior, hyperactivity, hyperthermia, confusion, great strength, sweating and removal of clothing, and imperviousness to pain.

Excited delirium deaths have been reported in the medical literature for over 150 years. The exact term is found in medical textbooks beginning in the 1800s.

The fundamentals of an excited delirium death are not that difficult to understand. Our bodies have limits to exertion. If we were to run rapidly we would eventually tire and slow down or stop because our brain recognizes signals of overexertion such as acid in our blood. If we were to continue -- because our brain ignored such signals -- we would exert ourselves until we died. The body has limits for a reason. If these limits are sufficiently exceeded we will die.

Walsh adds, "Brian Cardall is missing key symptoms of excited delirium: He had no cocaine in his system. He was not massive or obese."

If your readers read the AMA statement on excited delirium, they'll see that these criteria are actually not required.

Our thoughts and prayers should be with the Cardall family that is suffering from their sudden loss. It does them a great disservice to repeat exaggerations and innuendo from the fundraising material of an activist anti-police group to incorrectly imply that police officers killed their son.

Mark Kroll teaches in the biomedical engineering department at the University of Minnesota.


Comment by Excited Frauds: 6/26/2009 3:35:00 AM

Taser Spokes-Puppet, Mark Kroll, knows his medically invalid Taser Propaganda quite well. "Excited Delirium" was first used by the director of an insane asylum in the 1800's, and the gentleman was regarded as a QUACK.

As Mark knows, no one has ever been diagnosed as having died of "Excited Delirium" without 2 factors being present: 1.) A law enforcement officer 2.) A method of restraint being used or abused.

That makes "Excited Delirium" one of medicines MIRACLES! A "medical condition" which only occurs in the presence of a police officer or jail guard, who is trying to control a person with a method of restraint. And those taser shockers are often the restraint being used, although hand-cuffs and hog-ties also appear, as well as an officer putting his weight on the person.

Ask yourself this question: "If excitedly delirius persons are on a One Way Path to Certain Death, why aren't at least 25% or 50% of these persons dying BEFORE the taser or hog-tie is used? Why aren't excitedly delirius people dying when the officer yells "Taser! Taser! Taser!" once in a while?

The ANSWER is that the simple presence of the law enforcement officer can not trigger a "medical condition", and if it could, suspects should be dying WITHOUT the restraint or taser being applied.

There is a principle of Logic called Occam's Razor, which roughly says that usually the explanation using the fewest variables will be the correct explanation.

What killed Brian is quite simple ~ he was agitated for a period of time, then confronted and assaulted by a peace officer using a Taser and he died ~ Occam says the Taser killed him, as it should, since the Taser barbs were lodged below his skin and across his heart, which is a muscle and is directly affected by a Taser "electro-muscular control device". The Taser worked perfectly to control Brian's most important muscle - his HEART, and it went into fibrillation, eventually leading to his death.

Comment by Excited Frauds: 6/26/2009 7:39:00 AM

Mark Kroll mentions Underwriters Labs and Electric Fences ......"The TASER X26 ECD satisfies the Underwriters Laboratory electric fence standards and puts out only 40 percent of the output allowed.

"Sorry, Mark, but that is a LIE in sheep's clothing. Tasers have NEVER been submitted or reviewed for electrical safety by Underwriter's Labs. In fact, Tasers can't be used in the rain, because they will short-circuit. They aren't even "water-proof".

Mark's company - Taser International - was WARNED by "UL", in a letter, to Cease using its name or logo, in any Taser marketing material, since UL had never been asked to test Taser electrical properties or safety.

Mark knows this, yet he uses the "UL" name to make it seem that Tasers are safe, and UL agrees. Early Tasers were sold to law enforcement, using marketing materials which fraudulently mentioned "UL" Standards, to make foolish cops believe they are "UL Safe". That was a Taser LIE, and UL threatened Legal Action, if the stun gun maker didn't remove ALL references to their Labs.

The fact that Mark Kroll would use the "electric fencing" comparison, shows how shallow and deceptive he is.

Mark holds no medical degrees. He's not a medical doctor.

I suspect that Mark Kroll knows full well that Tasers can kill, and he even knows the medical path to Taser electrocutions.

Why don't you request UL to test your dangerous devices, Mark? Are you afraid of the results? Why don't you ask the FDA to approve your Taser "medical device", since it works just like those FDA Approved heart devices you are associated with?

Sadly, in many situations Tasers can induce irregular heart rhythms, especially when the Taser barbs puncture the skin across the heart. That's when they are deadliest.

"Excited Delirium" doesn't pass the Laugh Test. It is Junk Medical Science, used to hide police and Taser International responsibility in unfortunate, but too common, Taser electrocutions.


See also: Electrical Standards (March 4, 2005 - Arizona Republic) which said, in part:

Underwriters Laboratories, which has certified billions of consumer goods for electrical safety, says the graph that Taser is using does not reflect any study of the stun gun's safety. UL spokesman Paul Baker says the graph is supposed to apply to an electric fence. "We take issue with that data in relation to Taser," he said. "Underwriters Lab does not agree with Taser." The graph is based on a decades-old study that measured how much current passing through an electric fence it would take to induce ventricular fibrillation. Baker said he is surprised that Taser is still using the graph since the lab publicly stated last month that it has no bearing on the stun gun. As for the IEC standards, Ruggieri sits on the committee charged with developing and maintaining those standards. He has also helped write standards for Underwriters Laboratories. He said the standards Taser cites do not address repeating pulses used by the stun gun.

Tasering of mental patients shocks Queensland (Australia) health experts

June 26, 2009
Christine Kellett, Brisbane Times

Queensland mental health advocates have expressed horror at revelations patients threatening suicide in overseas hospitals are being Tasered to calm them down.

An international medical conference in Darwin yesterday heard security guards at a single US hospital used Taser stun guns on 27 people, including a woman who held a knife to her own throat, during a 12-month trial.

In the majority of cases, their violent behaviour improved.

Queensland Alliance CEO Jeff Cheverton said Taser stun guns were not the way to deal with people suffering from a mental illness or those in the grip of psychosis.

"It is absolutely shocking to hear that Tasers are being used in what is supposed to be a therapeutic environment," Mr Chevers said.

"People are admitted to hospital for treatment - it is absolutely not a place for weapons to be used."

The news comes after the death of 39-year-old north Queensland man Antonio Galeano, who was shot up to 28 times with a Taser during a violent stand-off with police on June 12.

The Queensland Police Union has maintined he would likely have been shot with a pistol if the Taser had not been available to officers at the time.

But Mr Chevers said the electric shock devices were unlikely to have a calming effect on mental illness sufferers and could actually make the situation more dangerous.

"When working with people who are mentally ill, the focus needs to be on de-escalation,'' Mr Chevers said.

"Turning up with lights and sirens flashing, banging on someone's door and shouting at them in a loud voice is not going to calm that person down.

"I accept that police have a difficult job, but just giving them another weapon to use does not give them a message to try and diffuse a heightened situation."

Mental health consultant to the Canadian government, Neasa Martin - in Brisbane for a mental illness conference this week - said police access to Tasers was a barrier to the development other methods of negotiation.

"I think the way Tasers have been sold to law enforcement is `oh great, these things allow us to neutralise mentally ill people and get them to care' but it doesn't always work out that way, as we have seen recently," Ms Martin said.

"Before these things came along, police needed other skills to deal with difficult situations - skills that take a longer time to develop. Giving people a Taser means those other skills are put aside."

Ms Martin is advocating a joint response to seiges and stand-offs involving mental illness sufferers that sees police team up with trained mental health clinicans and peer support workers to negotiate in tense or violent situations.

She said told the Altering States conference in Brisbane today a Canadian police trial was acheiving positive results.

A major inquiry is currently underway in Canada, where a mentally-ill man died after being shot with a Taser at an airport.

In Queensland, Tasers have come under increasing scrutiny since their introduction to frontline policing in December.

Several complaints of misuse have been referred to the Crime and Misconduct Commission for investigation, including the Tasering of an unarmed teen girl at Brisbane's South Bank.

The State Government announced a four week review of the weapons in the days following Mr Galeano's death, after data downloaded from the Taser used in the stand off showed the weapon had been fired 28 times.

Authorities have not ruled out a malfunction.

Recently released surveillance footage has also sparked debate in New South Wales - where Tasers will soon be introduced - after it showed a Sydney man shot from behind with a Taser for apparently jay-walking.

Australian hospital emergency departments are unlikely to follow the US's lead on stun guns, and Mr Chevers said he was confident Queensland Health would never approve such a trial.

"I can't imagine a situation where Queensland Health would tolerate that."

He said Queensland hospital staff were often criticised for discharging or turning away mentally-ill patients when better access to support services immediately after their release could prevent tragedies occurring.

"(Antonio Galeano) is not the first person to be discharged from hospital only to come to the attention of police and then be involved in a fatal incident.

"The I think people in mental health units work very hard, but their training is limited to a clinical setting.

"It is important to the safety of all of us...that more in-home and community support services are made available for people as soon as they are released from hospital."

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Utah Citizen who wanted Hurricane police to put a hold on Tasers says he's being followed

June 25, 2009
By Paul Rolly, Salt Lake City Tribune

A member of the St. George Citizens Review Panel says the Hurricane Police Department has put tails on him and harassed him at work since he told a St. George television station the police chief refused his request to put a hold on the use of Tasers after the death of Brian Cardall.

Ronald Smith says the review panel recommended a delay in the use of Tasers by police during the investigation of the death of Cardall, who was shot twice with a Taser by a Hurricane Police officer while in the middle of a psychotic episode.

But when he asked Chief Lynn Excell on behalf of the panel for the temporary moratorium, the chief refused. Later, in an interview with KCSG TV in St. George, Smith spoke of the conversation with Excell and the chief's refusal to put a stay on the use of Tasers.

That, according to Smith, angered the chief, who came to the convenience store where he works and berated him. He said a police car remained for hours at his place of employment and a person who claimed the chief was a relative suggested to Smith's boss he should be fired.

The police department has refused to speak to the media about the case, but attorney Peter Stirba, who was hired to represent Hurricane after the Cardall incident, released this statement:

"Mr. Smith's allegations of harassment by the Hurricane City Police Department are pure fiction, plain and simple. Nobody in the Hurricane Police Department is following Mr. Smith or otherwise observing what he does, monitoring him or causing him any difficulty, period."

Antonio Calderon, another member of the citizens review panel, says several witnesses have corroborated that the police appeared to have a surveillance on Smith, however.

Another taser ho study

Taser International has issued a news release about a "New Medical Study [that] Shows TASER Device Has Minimal Physiological Effect On Humans in Simulated Arrest Scenarios -
Fighting or Fleeing From Police is Most Detrimental to Health."

The news release says "The research led by Dr. Jeffrey D. Ho of the Department of Emergency Medicine, Hennepin County Medical Center, looked at the human physiology involved in common subject behavior, as well as police tools and tactics in arrest-related scenarios."

According to the publication, Mother Jones, Taser International pays Dr. Ho to conduct studies and testify— he got $70,000 during a recent 12-month stretch (see Mother Jones - Taser's Delirium Defense).

According to sources, Dr. Ho got a ride to the Braidwood Inquiry in a Taser jet.

According to his resume, Dr. Ho "is a licensed deputy sheriff in the state of Minnesota and currently serves with the Meeker County Sheriff’s Office. "

A Google search for the other author of the study, Dr. Donald Dawes, shows that Dr. Dawes and Dr. Ho play nice together.

Doctor on Taser payroll testifies at Braidwood Inquiry
May 11, 2009
Marcella Bernardo, CKNW Vancouver

An emergency room physician --who's done research supporting the use of Tasers by police-- has told the Braidwood Inquiry he doesn't believe the stun gun killed Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski. Doctor Jeffrey Ho is a shareholder in Taser International and some of his research is funded by the company. While testifying via video-link from Germany, Ho confirmed he was paid more than $60,000 by Taser last year. Much of his research focusses on the stun gun's alleged impact on the heart, but under questioning by a lawyer representing Dziekanski's mother, Ho admits he's not a heart specialist. He testified, "I hold a medical licence in the state of Nevada, but no board certifications anywhere else." Ho also admits some of his research was co-authored by a former Taser employee who has no medical expertise.

Still No TASERs in Moose Jaw (Saskatchewan)

June 25, 2009

Discover Moose Jaw

Its a controversial tool that most police departments around the world use to try and prevent death and injury. But in Moose Jaw and across the province, its affect on the human body are still being investigated.

Some officers swear by it, others refuse to carry it.

Its been 35 years since the first TASER was developed and 15 years since its modern counterpart hit the market and yet the affects of the "non-lethal" weapon have not yet been fully verified.

More investigation needs to be done before local police begin using TAZSERs. The Saskatchewan Police Commission has been reviewing the issue over the last few years and is now looking for input from stakeholders.

The commission wants to make sure all safety and public policy implications have been evaluated and that the technology is fully understood before coming to a conclusion according to Chair Mitchell Holash.

"We're committed to making a quality decision here with the best information available. We won't compromise the quality of the decision with some artificial time line. Its my hope that we can work through this process in this calendar year but we'll know better after we see these submissions."

Here in Moose Jaw, the TASER has been sitting on the shelf for a number of years as the local police service has been waiting for an official decision from the commission before bringing the device into active service.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Thanks to Critical Mass for informing me that someone with Yahoo ID "patti_will_die_like_bobby" posted the following message today on the Yahoo Finance TASER International, Inc. (TASR) message board:

Keep trying Patti ! 24-Jun-09 04:29 pm "Dig a little deeper each day ! I love it. Your brother was a turd and deserved to die ! Time for a trip to Ontario very soon."

rick_solosky_loves_taser posted the following on the same message board:

It appears that the board bashers are losing their ID's 24-Jun-09 08:55 pm
One by one they will all go down. TASERS ARE THE BEST INVENTION IN LAW ENFORCEMENT HISTORY !!!! No OOPS about t. I can't wait to piss on Bagnells grave !!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Utah citizen review panel asks law enforcement to halt Taser use

June 24, 2009
By Melinda Rogers, The Salt Lake Tribune

A citizen review panel in southern Utah's Washington County is asking law enforcement agencies to stop using Tasers until an investigation into the death of 32-year-old Brian Cardall -- who was shocked twice with a Taser on a highway earlier this month --is completed.

The St.George Citizens Review Panel includes a former Nevada corrections officer, a former Los Angeles police officer and a St.George attorney among its members. The group contacted the Hurricane Police Department last week to ask Police Chief Lynn Excell to put a "temporary moratorium on Taser use," said Ronald Smith and Antonio Calderon, who are members of the panel.

Excell told Smith he won't ban Taser use as the Washington County Critical Incident Task Force continues to investigate events leading up to Cardall's death on June 9, Smith said Wednesday.

But that's not stopping the citizen review panel, which is considering legal action against the Hurricane Police Department and may ask for a temporary injunction from the court to keep Tasers from officers until the county's investigation is complete.

"We want to avert another tragedy," said Calderon, a former corrections officer, in a Wednesday interview.

"Here was this 32-year-old man who was unarmed and completely naked. And he was subdued with a Taser. We're wondering if the Tasers are defective, we're wondering if people with mental health issues act adversely to Tasers," he said.

Excell, who was at the scene when a Taser was deployed on Cardall, did not return a message seeking comment on Wednesday.

Smith said he worries Hurricane police officers aren't properly trained on when and how to use Tasers.

The Hurricane Police Department has not yet received the crisis intervention training the state's mental health advocacy organization sees as critical, according to Sherri Wittwer, the executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness in Utah.

Modeled after a Memphis program, the Utah training is run by the Salt Lake City Police Department. If Hurricane police had received mental health training, the outcome of the Cardall case might have been different, Smith said.

"I want to make sure that the (Hurricane) police department isn't responsible for anybody else's death. Why not find out if something is wrong with these Tasers before they are used again? I don't think that is an unreasonable request," he said.

Hurricane police officer Ken Thompson twice deployed a Taser on Cardall on the side of a State Road 59 near Hurricane after Cardall's wife called 911 to report her husband behaving erratically while having a bipolar episode.

Cardall was shocked once when he failed to respond to an officers' commands to get down on the ground, according to recently released 911 call recordings of the incident.

Cardall was shocked a second time with a Taser when was already on the ground.

Salt Lake City attorney Peter Stirba, who is representing the Hurricane Police Department during the investigation into the Taser incident, has maintained the officers acted appropriately. The family of Brian Cardall has said a Taser should not have been used in the situation.

Hurricane police have declined to comment as to why the officer chose to use a Taser instead of attempting to subdue Cardall with other methods. Thompson, one of multiple officers on the scene, waited 42 seconds after arriving before he deployed a Taser on a manic and confused Cardall, recordings show.

That move is concerning to Calderon, who said he doesn't understand why police are so quick to use a Taser. The devices weren't around when he worked in corrections from 1993 to 1998.

"Indiscriminate use of Taser guns is a cop out. There should be better training and stricter parameters before the use of a Taser gun is permitted," Calderon said.

Officers responding to the scene were informed by dispatchers that Cardall was bipolar and had taken Seroquel, medicine used to treat manic episodes associated with bipolar disorder. Anna Cardall told dispatchers she had given her husband the medicine 15 minutes before calling 911, but the drug usually takes an hour to "kick in," the recording shows.

Brian Cardall was naked and had been trying to direct traffic, the recording shows.

Anna Cardall told a dispatcher that her husband didn't have weapons on him. She stated he hadn't been drinking and wasn't under the influence of drugs, outside of the Seroquel.

Brian Cardall is heard moaning and screaming for about five seconds after Thompson first deploys a Taser on him. Following a two-second pause, Thompson deploys the Taser on Cardall again. He says in the recordings Cardall had tried to get up.

After the Taser was used on Cardall a second time, he quit breathing and had no pulse, officers state on the recording.

Washington County Undersheriff Jake Adams said Wednesday that his agency hasn't been contacted by the citizen review panel with a request to stop using Tasers, but would take such a request "into consideration."

He said the investigation into the Cardall case by the critical incident task force is continuing. The task force is comprised by 12 detectives from the Utah Highway Patrol, St. George Police Department, Washington County Sheriff's Office, Ivins Police Department and Washington City Police Department, Adams said.

Missouri activists hope Taser settlement teaches lessons

Wednesday, June 24, 2009
BY Christine Lesicko, Missourian

COLUMBIA — With the announcement of a settlement in the Taser death of a Moberly man, local activists who pressured the Columbia Police Department to adopt strict guidelines for the use of Tasers said they hope the incident sent a strong message.

“What happened was abuse of a Taser weapon. Hopefully lessons will be learned from this incident statewide,” said Mary Hussman, a member of the Coalition to Control Tasers.

Family members of Stanley Harlan, 23, who died after being shocked with a Taser in August 2008, will receive $2.4 million in an out-of-court settlement with the city of Moberly.

The city will also suspend the use of all Tasers until two town hall meetings are held and a revised Taser policy is issued, according to a news release from Moberly City Manager Andy Morris.

Harlan was shocked several times with a Taser in front of his house after Moberly police stopped him and tried to arrest him on suspicion of driving while intoxicated, according to previous Missourian reports.

He was pronounced dead at about 2 a.m. on August 28, at Moberly Regional Medical Center.

In November 2008, Randolph County Coroner Gerald Luntsford ruled Harlan's death a homicide. The incident was investigated by the Missouri State Highway Patrol and the FBI, neither of which found any criminal wrongdoing by officers. In January, a special prosecutor assigned to the case announced that no criminal charges would be filed against the officers.

The lawsuit against two Moberly police officers and the city was finalized Monday morning in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri.

Columbia police have faced criticism for their own use of Tasers, partly because of Harlan's death and other incidents involving the weapons.

The most public of these occurred on July 25, when Phillip Lee McDuffy, 45, of Columbia fell 15 feet from Providence Road bridge over Interstate 70 onto an embankment after police shot him with a Taser. McDuffy was critically injured in the incident, according to previous Missourian reports.

In December, the Missourian reported that McDuffy made a settlement offer to the city of Columbia for $500,000. Deputy Police Chief Tom Dresner said Tuesday that he had not heard anything about the McDuffy settlement and as far as he knew, the case was still pending.

In March, the Columbia Police Department admitted improper Taser use in two cases from September and October 2008. In April, the department issued stricter guidelines for Taser use, including improvements to internal oversight, training and medical care for people shot with a Taser, according to previous Missourian reports.

In April, as one of his first orders, Police Chief Ken Burton chose to adopt all 52 guidelines regarding Taser use set by the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF), largely as a result of pressure from the coalition.

Dresner said there have not been many Taser incidents since the adoption of the new guidelines, and the department feels “very comfortable” with the policies that have been implemented.

Hussman said implementing PERF guidelines was an important step by the Columbia Police Department.

“We have higher standards here (in Columbia) thankfully, but we need to verify that the PERF standards are being adhered to," she said. "It still has to be shown that officers will adhere to those standards, which is why the coalition thinks that all Taser offense cases should be open to the public.”

Ed Berg, another member of the Coalition to Control Tasers, emphasized that a Taser is a "less lethal weapon, not a non-lethal weapon."

"They should only be used when there is danger to the police, to the public or to the person involved in the incident," he said. "There needs to be specific guidelines for use of Tasers, and police need to follow them.”

The city of Moberly did not admit any fault or liability in the settlement and will not use any of its own funds to make the payment, according to the release. The city's insurance company will be responsible for the payment.

Moberly also agreed to have at least one Automatic External Defibrillator in an on-duty patrol unit and to require officers to complete a training course on recognizing and responding to medical distress.

Stephen Ryals, an attorney for Harlan’s mother, Athena Bachtel, said the settlement “is a bittersweet conclusion to the case.”

“The money is not an issue for my clients, but they were pleased to get reforms in Taser policy and medical reform,” Ryals said.

The family intends to continue working to get the officers responsible for Harlan’s death prosecuted, Ryals said.

Saskatchewan Police Commission Looks for Input on Taser Use

June 24, 2009

Right now, Chiefs of Police in Saskatchewan can authorize the use of CEDs - or tasers - only for emergency response teams.

But the Saskatchewan Police Commission is reviewing the devices to determine whether there should be widespread use throughout the province's municipal police forces.

And the Commission is looking for input. Chair Mitch Holash says they've approached a number of organizations like - Saskatchewan Association of Chiefs of Police, Saskatchewan Federation Amnesty International, the Provincial Ombudsmen, the Saskatchewan Health Association and the Mental Health Association - to make written submissions.

Holash says they are consulting with groups the Commission feels have a mandate that touches on public interest. He says they hope to make a determination this year but points out there are large amounts of information to sift through so the information will dictate the process.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

taser executive tweets on tasering canadians with intellectual disabilities

A prominent Taser International executive "tweeted" the following statement on Twitter earlier today: "I'm all for tasers if they prevent this: "Police shoot mentally disabled man""

So, as it turns out, Doug Minty, a 59 year old man with intellectual disabilities, died on Monday night after he was shot with a gun an as-yet undisclosed number of times by an Ontario Provincial Police officer. The Toronto Star report above says neighbours heard "multiple gunshots." The Barrie Examiner says police discharged a weapon "at least once" and are "searching for witnesses." (Did anyone get VIDEO?????) When the officer arrived there was an "interaction" between him and an occupant of the home. The involved officer was not injured. The North Bay Nugget says "Police were called to 21 Lawson Ave. shortly after 8 p.m. in response to an altercation between a door-to-door salesman and a resident of the home ... Several neighbours said they heard four shots go off."

To the tweeting Taser International executive mentioned above, who holds this news up as a fine example in FAVOUR of tasers, I say: In Canada, we DO NOT shoot NOR do we taser our most vulnerable citizens. This man had INTELLECTUAL DISABILITIES, for god's sake. He did not need to be shot with a taser any more than he needed to be shot with a gun!!!

And, in fact the last time a taser was used on a person with intellectual disabilities in Canada, it was used by the same outfit - Julian Fantino's Ontario Provincial Police - when they tasered a 14 year old girl with intellectual disabilities to bring her to compliance with officers’ orders to stop scratching paint off the walls of the holding cell where she was being held. A $500,000 lawsuit against the OPP is in the works.

And, in October 2008, the Toronto Police tasered an intellectually disabled man multiple times. A $9 million dollar lawsuit is in the works.

I'm sickened by today's news and by Taser International's use of this tragedy as a pathetic attempt to sell more tasers.

Doug Clark: Glimpse of justice rises from great travesty

June 22, 2009
Doug Clark, The Spokesman-Review

Well, hallelujah!

Turns out a brute with a badge can’t just get away with thumping and shocking the hell out of an innocent, mentally ill janitor in this town.

I know. Suspects are innocent until proven guilty.

Let Spokane police Officer Karl F. Thompson Jr. have his day in court for his violent encounter with Otto Zehm.

For the moment, however, I’m savoring the sweet sounds of U.S. Attorney James McDevitt handing down two indictments against Thompson.

Count One: Thompson “struck and repeatedly struck Otto Zehm with a baton and tasered him …”

Count Two: Thompson knowingly lied to investigators.

Monday’s trip to the federal building made me proud I’m still a journalist.

Thompson faces up to 30 years in the joint, although we all know that sort of sentence will never happen.

I don’t want to jinx things. But given the fickle nature of juries, Thompson might very well skate out of this SPDisaster just like ol’ Shonto-shooting Jay Olsen.

But seeing anything come Otto’s way at this point is powerful medicine.

McDevitt’s words put a lump in my throat while I sat taking notes in a drab conference room.

What happened to this 36-year-old special-needs citizen on March 18, 2006, is such a stain on our community.

By now you all know the story – how Otto went into a North Side Zip Trip to buy a plastic jug of Diet Pepsi and a Snickers bar.

What he didn’t know was that some nitwit had previously dialed 911. She reported that Otto had been behaving suspiciously while near an ATM.

That set the wheels in motion.

Along came Thompson. The mayhem soon followed. Otto was beaten, shocked with a Taser and hogtied. A plastic oxygen mask was placed on his face yet never hooked up to oxygen.

No wonder the man suffered a heart attack and died en route to the hospital.

Speaking of travesties, did you see that front-page headline in Saturday’s newspaper?

“Zehm to blame for fight with officers, city says.”

I about spit up my coffee. My mood got worse reading the adjoining story.

“Otto Zehm knew or should have known that he was being detained by a peace officer and had the duty to refrain from force to resist such detention,” stated part of the city’s 56-page response to a civil rights lawsuit filed by Otto’s mom, Ann.

It must be liberating to work in the city attorney’s office and not be encumbered by trivialities like, oh, shame.

Yes, I’m thrilled about Monday’s indictments. But this should never have reached the federal stage.

Charges should have been filed against Thompson long ago. They would have, too, if our county prosecutor, Steve Tucker, was packing anything besides golf balls.

Law Society keeps an eye on taser inquiry

June 23, 2009
Ian Bailey, The Globe and Mail

A federal lawyer's admission of errors that kept a crucial e-mail from the Braidwood Inquiry into the death of Robert Dziekanski has prompted the regulatory body for B.C. lawyers to begin monitoring the probe for the possibility of lawyer misconduct.

The Law Society of British Columbia isn't launching a full-fledged investigation, but will be paying a great deal of attention to the inquiry once it resumes on Sept. 22, says its director of discipline.

"If, in due course, when the inquiry resumes, any evidence comes forward or any explanation comes forward from any source that raises a real issue about professional conduct or competency of any lawyer around this document or around this CD-ROM, then we would open a file at that point," Stuart Cameron said in an interview yesterday.

Until now, the society was not paying much attention to the inquiry launched by the province to look into the police use of stun guns and questions around the death of Mr. Dziekanski, a Polish immigrant, in a confrontation with the RCMP on Oct. 14, 2007.

"What changed is what happened on Friday morning," Mr. Cameron said.

As final submissions by an array of lawyers were supposed to begin last Friday, the inquiry heard that the federal justice department failed to promptly disclose and deliver e-mails on a CD-ROM provided by the RCMP, including one between two senior Mounties that suggested the four Mounties involved went to the airport intending to taser Mr. Dziekanski.

The officers denied such a plan in their testimony.

Mr. Dziekanski, 40, died of cardiac arrest.

He had been stunned five times with a taser and cuffed by four Mounties, who came to Vancouver International Airport to respond to calls that he was acting in an erratic manner. He was exhausted after a long flight to Canada and hours of being lost in a terminal.

Helen Roberts, a lawyer for the federal government, tearfully apologized to commission head Thomas Braidwood for failing to disclose the e-mail, but noted there is no evidence to show the allegation in the e-mail is factual.

Still, the existence of the message written in the month after Mr. Dziekanski's death will likely force the recall of the four officers, the two Mounties who sent and received the message, and a third mentioned in the communication. It will likely delay the inquiry's conclusion for weeks.

Mr. Cameron said no one has yet filed a complaint about the conduct of Ms. Roberts, and that the society is reluctant to do anything that would interfere with the business of the inquiry. However, he suggested the society is mindful of possible complaints about lawyer misconduct that might arise from last week's surprising conclusions.

"It's wait and see. We, at this point, don't have any intention of specifically asking Ms. Roberts for an explanation beyond what she's said. Nor do we have any intention of saying, 'Please let us know whoever else was working on the file. Pinpoint where the hand-off got fumbled,' " he said.

"We're not going to be asking those questions at this stage. That's not because we don't think it's important, but we do want due process to carry through here."

He said the society would investigate if someone files an official complaint.

Lawyers at the inquiry have raised concerns that other documents crucial to the work of the inquiry may not yet have been disclosed.

The society has varied powers to maintain and enforce high standards for legal services and also to deal with complaints or concerns about lawyer competence through informal measures or the use of committees. Lawyers can be reprimanded, fined, suspended or even disbarred for professional misconduct, incompetence, conduct unbecoming a member of the profession or breach of rules.

Lyse Cantin, a Vancouver-based spokesperson for the federal justice department, yesterday declined comment on Mr. Cameron's remarks.

The inquiry was established by the provincial attorney-general in February, 2008.

The B.C. government announced yesterday that Mr. Braidwood had delivered the first of two volumes of reports expected from his inquiry.

The document, which will be released with the approval of the provincial cabinet, covers the police use of stun guns. The second volume, which hinges on the results of hearings that would come on or after Sept. 22, will be focused on Mr. Dziekanski.

US Feds Indict Spokane, Washington officer - he’ll be tried on civil rights, ‘false statement’ charges

June 23, 2009
Thomas Clouse, The Spokesman-Review

A Spokane police officer should stand trial on charges of violating the civil rights of mentally ill janitor Otto Zehm and lying about the confrontation that resulted in Zehm’s death, a grand jury has decided.

U.S. Attorney James McDevitt announced Monday that a federal grand jury handed down two indictments against veteran Officer Karl F. Thompson Jr., who was the first of several officers to confront Zehm, a 36-year-old Spokane man who had schizophrenia.

Zehm died March 20, 2006, two days after he was beaten with a baton, shocked multiple times with a Taser and hogtied. The case sparked a cry for more citizen oversight of law enforcement.

Police officials believe Thompson’s indictment is the first to be brought against a Spokane officer.

Police officials initially said Zehm attacked Thompson, but they recanted that claim months later when surveillance video clearly showed Zehm retreating, holding a 2-liter plastic soda bottle in front of his face while Thompson struck him with a baton.

“These are not matters that we do with any sort of glee,” said McDevitt, while also criticizing local media’s coverage of law enforcement. “But where there is no local action, or where the results of the state or local proceedings are insufficient to vindicate the federal interest, a federal prosecution may be sought.”

If convicted, Thompson, 61, faces a maximum of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for the charge of violating Zehm’s civil rights. He faces a maximum of 20 years and a similar fine for the second indictment, which accused Thompson of “making a false statement in an interview” with police Detective Terry Ferguson.

McDevitt said he could not talk about the evidence that produced the charges, saying only that Thompson “used unreasonable force in violation of federal law.”

Thompson is scheduled to be arraigned at 1:30 p.m. July 9, said his attorney Carl Oreskovich, who is also being paid by the city to represent Thompson in a civil lawsuit stemming from the encounter with Zehm at the Zip Trip on North Division Street. That federal action was filed on behalf of Zehm’s mother, Ann Zehm, by the public-interest law firm Center for Justice.

“We are very disappointed in the fact that an indictment was returned,” Oreskovich said. “Karl Thompson is a really kind, decent, reasoned man. We are confident … when Karl is ultimately given his day in court and the full story comes out, that he will be exonerated. Frankly, the community ought to be proud in terms of his service to the community.”

But Breean Beggs, who is representing Otto Zehm’s mother in the civil suit, said the indictment was a step forward for police accountability.

“I spoke with his mother just before the press conference,” Beggs said. “Her words were, ‘The hurt never goes away.’ But she’s hopeful in the end that things will be improved in Spokane. The family is most concerned that there not be another dead citizen like Otto at the hands of police.”

McDevitt said the grand jury came to their decision Friday, the day city officials said Zehm was responsible for the events that led to his death. The city’s 56-page response to the civil lawsuit said in part that “any injury or damage suffered by Mr. Zehm was caused solely by reason of his conduct and willful resistance.”

Beggs pointed out that Zehm, who had been off his medications, had not committed any crimes before Thompson’s actions.

“The medical examiner ruled that the police killed Otto,” Beggs said. “To blame him … it is remarkable that anyone would even make that allegation.”

Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick said Thompson – who makes $72,203 a year – has been placed on paid administrative leave. A committee will meet to make recommendations to City Administrator Ted Danek, who will decide whether to keep Thompson on the payroll or place him on unpaid layoff status until the criminal trial is complete.

“This is the type of case that creates heartache for everyone,” Kirkpatrick said. “I have not lost sight of Mrs. Zehm in all of this. I’m a woman who feels deeply when (people) are hurting, and I see a lot of hurt.”

But the chief would not go so far as to blame Thompson, who was hired in 1997. “Open wounds never heal, so there must be closure,” said Kirkpatrick. “I’m going to lead us through this storm internally and in this city. I’m going to walk alongside anyone who will let me and say, ‘Let’s go this way, y’all.’ ”

The incident began March 18, 2006, when two young women erroneously reported to police that Zehm had stolen their money out of an ATM near Ruby Street and Indiana Avenue, according to police reports.

Zehm, who did his banking at that branch, was acting erratically as he approached the ATM, according to surveillance tapes.

The women called 911, following Zehm, and gave updates as he walked toward the Zip Trip, according to police records.

Thompson was the first to respond and found Zehm in the store. Surveillance video shows that Thompson immediately engaged Zehm from behind.

Thompson began striking Zehm with his police baton and shocked him with his Taser as Zehm held the soda bottle in front of his face. The struggle continued and eventually included six more officers who arrived to help Thompson restrain Zehm.

Zehm stopped breathing about three minutes after one of the officers obtained a plastic mask from a paramedic and placed it on Zehm’s face. The mask was never attached to the oxygen tank for which it was designed, according to police reports. At the time, Zehm was lying on his stomach while officers kept his ankles and wrists bound with nylon straps.

After Zehm stopped breathing, paramedics rushed him to Deaconess Medical Center. He never regained consciousness, and he died two days later.

On May 30, 2006, Medical Examiner Dr. Sally Aiken ruled that Zehm died as a result of homicide.

She listed the official cause of death as “hypoxic encephalopathy due to cardiopulmonary arrest while restrained in a prone position for excited delirium.” Zehm died from lack of oxygen to the brain caused by heart failure while being restrained on his stomach.

Spokane County Prosecutor Steve Tucker announced in October 2006 that he would not charge any of the seven officers – including Thompson – unless new information was revealed by the federal investigation. He said Monday his position hasn’t changed.

“All I had was the information from the Spokane Police Department,” Tucker said. “It wasn’t because I failed to act. I never got a referral to charge.”

Tucker said he did inquire Monday about what evidence the Federal Bureau of Investigation had used to gain the indictments against Thompson.

“They said the information was sealed,” Tucker said.

Moberly (Missouri) to impose moratorium on tasers and pay $2.4 million in Taser lawsuit settlement

June 23, 2009
The Associated Press

MOBERLY, Mo. This municipality agreed Monday to an indefinite moratorium on the use of stun guns and will pay $2.4 million to survivors of a man who died after police shocked him.

Stanley Harlan, 23, died in August 2008 after Moberly police officers stunned him three times during a stop for suspected drunken driving. His family settled with the city of Moberly on Monday in U.S. District Court in St. Louis.

Harlan's mother, Athena Bachtel, sought the moratorium as a way to prevent other deaths, said the family's lead attorney, Stephen M. Ryals.

"The pursuit of justice for her son and specifically reforms of the behavior of Moberly police was paramount," Ryals said. "The monetary settlement was really unimportant to her."

Harlan was shocked after arguing with officers during a traffic stop. Authorities have said he was suspected of drunken driving. A statement from his family's lawyers said he was accused of speeding.

The readout on the officers' Taser indicated Harlan was stunned three times, Ryals said. Harlan lost consciousness and died a short time later.

Calls to attorneys for the city Monday night were not immediately returned. But the city said in a news release that no fault was admitted in the settlement and its insurance company will pay the entire settlement.

"It is never the goal or desire of any police officer to cause or contribute to the death of any person," the release said. "Mr. Harlan's death was certainly unanticipated and unintentional."

The release from the city noted that the Missouri State Highway Patrol and the FBI investigated the death and found no evidence of criminal wrongdoing. No criminal charges were filed.

But Ryals said his clients haven't given up on the possibility of a criminal prosecution.

He said he also is considering a lawsuit against the maker of the stun gun, Taser International Inc. of Scottsdale, Ariz.

The stun gun moratorium will continue until two town hall meetings have been held, and the police department has issued a revised Taser policy. The city also has agreed to assign at least one automatic external defibrillator to an on-duty patrol unit and require additional training on topics including recognizing and responding to medical distress.

Bachtel, along with Harlan's father, Darrell Harlan, and his 1-year-old son will share in the settlement.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Report handed to government on the first phase of the Taser Inquiry

June 22, 2009

VANCOUVER, B.C. — The final report on the first phase of a public inquiry into Taser use in B.C. has been handed to the provincial government, but it may be some time before the public sees the contents.

This phase of the inquiry by former judge Thomas Braidwood focused on the use of the weapon by police, sheriffs, transit security and other provincially-regulated authorities in British Columbia.

Shawn Robins of the B.C. Attorney General's office says a privacy review has to be conducted on the report and the final decision to release the document will be made by cabinet.

The inquiry was launched in the weeks after Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski died in October 2007 at Vancouver's airport after being jolted several times by an RCMP Taser.

The second phase of the inquiry was looking specifically into the death, but it fell apart last week when a RCMP e-mail surfaced suggesting the four Mounties involved had discussed using the Taser before arriving at the airport - something the officers denied while testifying.

Braidwood put off the inquiry until September while the contents of the email are investigated.

EDITORIAL: Damage to RCMP image hard to measure

June 22, 2009
The Prince Albert Daily Herald

There is considerable power in cloaking a group in a well-branded image. No better examples exist than in the world of sports.

The Montreal Canadians - les Habitants - have not come close to touching Lord Stanley's cherished cup in years, yet they are still shrouded in the mystery of one of the most storied and successful hockey franchises in history.

Likewise, in baseball, the love-them-or-hate-them New York Yankees have also cast an image as the most successful baseball franchise in history.

But images have power on both sides of the public support equation, and when things go bad for a group with a unified image, things can stay that way.

How bad must it be, then, for the RCMP? Once heralded as the "always get their man" defenders of truth and justice, there's little positive image for the Mounties these days - certainly not after Friday's bombshell news that the officers central to the Tasering death of Robert Dziekanski have openly lied under oath, if contents of an e-mail just released to the Braidwood Inquiry are at all accurate.

Further, the email implicates several high-ranking members of the RCMP in what at best appears to be actions of utter negligence, and at worst seem to suggest that many high-ranking Mounties were involved in fabricating outright lies to create a false impression of what happened the Dziekanski died.

Given the latest evidence, there are now some serious allegations that can, have and must be made, allegations that may well find more than a few officers with the RCMP facing criminal prosecution.

But even if those responsible for the death of Dziekanski - a death that now seems even more avoidable than it did a week ago - are held accountable, the stain on the RCMP serge will take years to remove.

This is not an incident that affects the few men and women directly involved in the Dziekanski death and subsequent cover-up. It tarnishes the entire force.

Just as the RCMP image once elevated its individual officers in the eyes of the public, many now associate the RCMP with a needless death and a reprehensible attempt at a cover-up in wake of that death.

The RCMP will suffer greatly because of those few involved in the Dziekanski scandal, much to the detriment of the many men and women who don the uniform with pride, passion and dedication.

Taser probe's pace blamed for oversight of crucial e-mail

June 22, 2009

VANCOUVER and OTTAWA — The federal Justice Department is partly blaming "the pace" of the inquiry into the death of Robert Dziekanski for its failure to turn over an e-mail that suggests four Mounties involved in the confrontation with the Polish immigrant were not telling the truth about their plans to taser him.

"The mistake was due to the volume of work and documents, the number of witnesses and the pace of the inquiry, counsel did not appreciate the fact that the CD-ROM contained documents relevant to the commission's request," Federal Justice spokesman Christian Girouard said yesterday. However, the issue of pacing was not disclosed last week when one of the Crown's lawyers tearfully apologized for the error that has derailed the proceedings.

The inquiry, headed by Thomas Braidwood, was established by the B.C. attorney-general in February, 2008. There have been more than 58 days of hearings from January, 2009, to June, and 86 witnesses.

Mr. Girouard declined to address questions raised by his written statement, forwarded to The Globe and Mail in response to a request for comment on last week's surprising developments at the inquiry.

But the concern about the inquiry's "pace" was scoffed at by the lawyer representing the Polish government. "It's preposterous to suggest that the inquiry is moving too swiftly for the government and RCMP to give full document production," Don Rosenbloom said in an interview. "This phase of the inquiry is now more than five months in duration. The government of Canada has had notice this inquiry would be conducted for over one year."

The provincial probe, which was supposed to hear final submissions from lawyers this week, has been postponed for three months as parties try to figure out how to deal with the disclosure of the e-mail between two senior Mounties.

The Mounties involved in the Oct. 14, 2007, confrontation with Mr. Dziekanski at the international arrivals terminal of Vancouver airport have previously testified they arrived on the scene without any plan for dealing with the 40-year-old labourer, who had attracted police attention by acting erratically after being lost in the airport for hours.

But on Tuesday, federal lawyers turned over the e-mail from RCMP Chief Superintendent Dick Bent to Assistant Commissioner Al McIntyre in which Mr. Bent says another superintendent, Wayne Rideout, told him the officers had discussed using the stun gun while travelling to the airport terminal.

Mr. Dziekanski was tasered five times, and cuffed by police. He died of a cardiac arrest. His death has prompted a continuing debate about the police use of tasers.

Commission counsel Art Vertlieb said pacing has never been an issue in the inquiry. "No one else has complained about the pace," he said. "It's moved along because the commissioner recognizes the importance of it."

He said the issue here is that the RCMP did not flag the document for the Justice Department. "The pace would be no issue if the document had been pointed out months and months ago," he said.

Instead, the inquiry has heard that federal lawyers representing the RCMP overlooked the e-mail among material on a CD-ROM provided by Mounties in April. The lawyers did not access the material until last week.

Federal lawyer Helen Roberts tearfully apologized for the omission on Friday, but did not mention the pace of the proceedings as a concern. "Any concerns about document production properly lie with counsel," she told Mr. Braidwood, who said he was "obviously appalled" at the situation.

Mr. Girouard said the government of Canada apologizes for failing to provide the documents and "continues to fully support the work of the Braidwood Commission of Inquiry."

The omission has raised a number of issues for the inquiry, which now faces the prospect of recalling the four officers as well as the other Mounties in the loop on that e-mail for further hearings, which could extend the inquiry for weeks.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Police revolt over Government's decision to let untrained officers use Taser guns

"It is ridiculous that the Home Office is lavishing millions on Tasers when some forces do not want any more." "Members of the authority are also conscious of their responsibility to reinforce the confidence of the public in the police. This could be affected by an uncalled-for increase in the deployment of Tasers, which are still widely perceived as oppressive."

June 21, 2009
By James Slack, The Daily Mail

Police are in revolt over the Government's decision to hand controversial Taser guns to officers with only 18 hours of training.

At least two forces have snubbed updated Home Office policy to make the weapons available to 30,000 nonspecialist officers, ending the practice of issuing them solely to highly-trained firearms squads.

Several others have yet to reach a decision amid concerns the use of Tasers by rank-and-file police could harm public confidence.

The rebellion by the Metropolitan Police and Sussex Police was revealed in Freedom of Information requests made to forces by the Liberal Democrats.

It came as research by the Daily Mail showed police turn Tasers on the public seven times every day.

The weapons - which deliver a 50,000-volt charge to their target - are also being fired at children.

Home Office figures show that from December 1, 2007, to the end of last year, police threatened to use them on suspects 2,672 times - a 194 per cent increase on the previous three years combined.

The number of discharges of the weapons was 660, up 126 per cent.

Other figures show police fired Tasers at under-18s 28 times from January 2007 to August 2008.

Since being introduced in 2004, they have been brandished 4,046 times and discharged 1,181 times.

LibDem home affairs spokesman Tom Brake said: 'Tasers should be left in the hands of speciallytrained firearms officers. By making Tasers available to 30,000 officers we are descending down the slippery slope towards fully-armed, U.S.-style policing. Having police patrolling the streets would be of more benefit to the public than locking them away for two days and training them to use deadly weapons. Tasers have killed over 300 in America since 2001, yet the Home Office maintains they are non-lethal. It would be far better to spend tight police budgets putting more bobbies on the beat than on putting Tasers in their pockets. It is ridiculous that the Home Office is lavishing millions on Tasers when some forces do not want any more.'

Last November, the then Home Secretary Jacqui Smith announced plans to buy 10,000 Tasers and train 30,000 officers to use them.

Training will use up 60,000 police days and cost nearly £10million. The Home Office has spent £8million on buying Tasers. Officials hoped all forces would allow non-specialist officers to carry the weapons, following a pilot programme in ten parts of the country.

But, of the 33 forces who replied to LibDem inquiries, the Met and Sussex Police said they would not be giving Tasers to non-firearms officers.

South Yorkshire and Devon and Cornwall Constabulary have not decided and Cleveland Police are not introducing any new Taser weapons.

Sussex said: 'We are not extending Tasers beyond firearms officers.'

The Metropolitan Police Authority said: 'The MPA has not been advised by the Met that there is any urgent operational demand for extra Tasers.

'Members of the authority are also conscious of their responsibility to reinforce the confidence of the public in the police. This could be affected by an uncalled-for increase in the deployment of Tasers, which are still widely perceived as oppressive.'

The Independent Police Complaints Commission has begun an inquiry into an incident in Nottingham last Monday where a 40-year-old man on the floor was Tasered up to three times as he was punched by police.

A Home Office spokesman said: 'We have one of the few police services that do not regularly carry firearms and are keen to keep it that way.

'We have undertaken unprecedented testing of Tasers, submitted these devices for independent medical assessment and are advised the risk of death or serious injury is very low.

'The former Home Secretary approved Tasers for officers facing violence or threats of violence of such severity that they need to use force to protect the public, themselves or the people threatening violence.'

Friday, June 19, 2009

If true, RCMP e-mail shows four officers have lied through their teeth

June 19, 2009
By Ian Mulgrew, Vancouver Sun

The Braidwood Inquiry into the Taser-related death of Robert Dziekanski has been blown up and left in ruins by the revelation a key RCMP e-mail was withheld from the commission.

After months of outrage about the conduct of the four Mounties who responded to Vancouver Airport Oct. 14, 2007, who can believe that at the last minute, a federal lawyer would produce what many would consider a smoking gun — an e-mail saying the officers decided to use the Taser before confronting the Polish immigrant?

If true, the Nov. 5, 2007, e-mail titled Media strategy — release of the YVR video, from RCMP Chief Supt. Dick Bent to assistant commissioner Al McIntyre, establishes the four have been lying through their teeth.

This critical document suggests the four officers committed perjury and that senior officers sat silent while they did so.

Worse, it seems there are many other documents that have not been turned over that may be relevant.

This e-mail was one of 260 documents on a CD sent by the RCMP to the justice department last April, yet the federal lawyers didn’t open the CD until last week.

Last week? Evidence delivered in April didn’t get opened until last week?


Helen Roberts had every reason to be in tears Friday as she apologized to the public inquiry into Dziekanski’s death for failing to disclose what appears to be not just germane but also startlingly important evidence.

If Roberts had cried over Dziekanski mother’s pain, I would be moved — but a veteran lawyer wet-eyed over another screw-up in this case? I think they were crocodile tears.

Commissioner William Elliott’s carefully parsed press release was equally unbelievable: “This was simply an oversight. Unfortunately in an exercise of this magnitude, such an oversight can occur.”

Bollocks. No one but a moron overlooks the import of an e-mail like this.

The officers deny the explosive content is true and Roberts says Bent was wrong in what he said. But their protestations ring hollow after almost 18 months of bluster and denial. So does Elliott’s threadbare these-things-happen excuse.

The situation is as bad as the most virulent critics of the Mounties feared. This is no longer about four officers who made mistakes in judgment: It’s about an organization that thinks it is above the law.

“I find this delay in disclosing it to the commission appalling,” an upset Braidwood said. “The contents of this e-mail goes to the heart of this inquiry’s work.”


Braidwood says his inquiry will resume on Sept. 22 after commission lawyers have time to review the e-mail, conduct an investigation and perhaps call the senior Mounties to testify about the document.

I think not.

There was a time when I thought Oct. 14, 2007 was the day that would live in the annals of RCMP infamy, but June 19, 2009 has eclipsed the tragedy of Dziekanski’s death.

On Friday, a country’s faith in a once proud, once revered institution died.

We have left the realm of how to regulate Taser use and the circumstances of Dziekanski’s death and entered the world of criminal conduct — which is beyond Braidwood’s provincially rooted authority to investigate.

If we needed any prod to reopen the decision not to prosecute these officers, we now have been given it.

It is time to thank commissioner Braidwood for his excellent work in bringing these unsettling facts to light and it’s time to appoint a special prosecutor.

The B.C. Law Society should also begin an investigation into the conduct of Roberts and any other federal lawyer involved in this staggering lack of disclosure.

That was not an “oversight.” It was professional incompetence or a cover-up.

B.C. RCMP statement on the Braidwood inquiry

June 19, 2009

B.C. - RCMP Commissioner makes statement about Braidwood Inquiry

The Commissioner of the RCMP, William Elliott, wishes to make the following statement regarding today's events at the Braidwood Inquiry:

- From the outset, the RCMP has cooperated fully and participated fully in the Inquiry.

- We have produced thousands of documents to our legal counsel for their review and for them to transmit all relevant material to the Commission.

- Commissioner Braidwood was informed that a specific document was not provided and he himself accepted the Government of Canada's sincere apologies for this oversight.

- This was simply an oversight. Unfortunately in an exercise of this magnitude, such an oversight can occur.

- It was the RCMP, working with our legal counsel, who brought this oversight and this document to the attention of the Commission.

- The Commission indicates that it will thoroughly look into the matter, including into the relevance, if any, of the specific document, about which there are significant questions.

- The RCMP is as disappointed as all of the parties involved in this inquiry that there will be a delay in the completion of the Inquiry as a result of this unfortunate development.

- We will continue to cooperate fully with the Inquiry. The RCMP wants all of the facts surrounding this tragic event to be known so that we can learn as much as possible and make any further required changes to the RCMP's policies and practices.

The RCMP will not be making further comment on this issue.

EDITORIAL: Subdued to death

"As nonlethal weapons go, the Taser is by far the most lethal."

June 19, 2009
Salt Lake Tribune

The commands from police came in machine gun bursts -- loud, agitated, insistent, repeated. "Come here! Get down on the ground! Get down on the ground, now!" But Brian Cardall, naked and disoriented, didn't, and arguably couldn't, obey.

Cardall had an excuse for his actions -- stopping traffic, stripping, behaving irrationally. He had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. He was suffering a mental health episode.

The same can't be said for Ken Thompson, the Hurricane police officer who shocked Cardall with a Taser capable of delivering 50,000 volts, then jolted him again when the Flagstaff, Ariz., resident allegedly attempted to rise.

After Thompson arrived at the scene along State Road 59 in southern Utah at 1:17 p.m. June 9, it took just 42 seconds until he deployed his stun gun. Within minutes, Cardall was dead, the third Utahn to die after being shot with a Taser.

Not to reduce Cardall, 32, to a statistic. He was much more -- scholar, researcher, artist, musician, husband, son, father of one with another on the way. But the statistics are telling.

As nonlethal weapons go, the Taser is by far the most lethal. According to Amnesty International, which tracks Taser deaths and advocates for a moratorium on their use until the devices can be more extensively studied, at least 350 Americans have been subdued to death with the instruments since 2001.

Thompson says Cardall stepped toward him, a claim that one witness confirms, and another disputes. Cardall's family says Thompson used unnecessary force. The attorney hired by Hurricane says the officer acted appropriately.

Cardall was unclothed, so he was obviously unarmed. He was young and in shape, but hardly a physical menace. And his wife had told dispatchers that he had taken medication that would calm his behavior if given time. But Cardall ran out of time.

We won't attempt to try the case here. The Washington County Critical Incident Task Force is investigating. The county attorney will review the reports and decide if the use of force was justified under Utah law. A jury, either criminal or civil, may be asked to render a final verdict.

But there's a more wide-ranging problem to be addressed.

Arizona-based Taser International has sold stun guns to more than 13,400 police, military and corrections agencies in 44 countries. And while the company contends that its products are safer than other "nonlethal" weapons, the death toll continues to rise.

Law enforcement agencies that arm officers with Tasers need to revisit their use-of-force policies, which often put Tasers on par with pepper spray. It's time for police departments to reduce the seemingly casual use of the device; to make it the weapon of next-to-last resort.