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Saturday, July 25, 2009

A Response to the Braidwood Report

It is with great pleasure that I post the following message I received today from Dr. Mike Webster. His observations mirror my own thoughts on THE BRAIDWOOD REPORT. I watched last week`s news conference on the release of the report on television last week with avid interest and devoured every word. But, I have had ZERO time to sit down and put my thoughts on this report into words. Mike Webster and I are of one mind and I cannot tell you how glad I am to be able to share this message with my readers. Thank you, Mike, for putting it into pretty much the same words that have been stuck inside my head since Thursday.

A Response to the Braidwood Report

It's been two days since the Commissioner released his first report. This one dealing with the Taser itself. I note through observing the media coverage that I appear to be one of the few Taser critics that is not entirely satified with it's recommendations. I have mixed feelings.

I would like to begin this brief response by complimenting the Commissioner. I have the greatest respect for him and find him to be a very thoughtful and considerate man.

To honour my promise of brevity,I will note in sum the positive aspects of the Report and deal more at length with those aspects that cause me concern. I applaud the Commissioner's recommendations in those areas that include: subject self harm; paramedic assistance; AED's; provincial regulations; training; certification; testing; reporting; research; review; and RCMP compliance.

I am disappointed that a moratorium on neuromuscular incapacitation devices ( i.e. the Taser among others ) was not declared. The Commissioner's recommendations largely address the use of the weapon and not the significant questions that still exist with regard to the weapon itself. A Human Effects Center of Excellence study ( 2006 ) told us:

" The peer reviewed and open literature ( on Tasers ) contains very limited objective scientific research data on the mechanism of action, efficacy, safety, and acute and long term effects of these devices."

These questions remain unanswered. My fear is that without a moratorium,and only the Commissioner's recommendation for further research,the community will become complacent,fall back to sleep,and it won't happen.

Short of a moratorium the threshold for deployment should be " the threat of death". That is,the weapon should only be used in those situations that would otherwise require a firearm. The Commissioner has recommended the threshold be moved up to the potential for " bodily harm'. This recommendation impacts upon and weakens his other recommendations involving emotionally disturbed persons and multiple cycling of the weapon.

Setting the threshold at the potential for " bodily harm " leaves too much room for police perception. I believe it's much easier to reach concensus on what is life threatening than what may constitute " bodily harm ". The four RCMP members involved in the death of Robert Dziekanski have already told us that they perceived him and/or the stapler as having a potential for " bodily harm". Moreover,we have heard several use of force experts go on at length about how police perception is the most critical factor in the use of force. It seems to me that if the Commissioner's recommendations had been in place on October 14 2007 Robert Dziekanski would still be dead.

In closing,I would like to thank the Commissioner for assisting the community in getting it's foot in the door in our attempt to regain confidence and trust in Canadian policing.

Mike Webster

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