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Monday, July 13, 2009

Taser inquest resumes in Beamsville death

July 13, 2009
Posted By KARENA WALTER, Sun Media

Ontario is looking into a new training model for police officers to keep them at arm’s length from Taser International, a coroner’s inquest heard Monday.

The province’s officers use training techniques from the manufacturer of the stun gun, but that could change, said Chris Lawrence, an expert from the Canadian Police Research Centre on use of force and excited delirium.

“Smith and Wesson don’t provide training on firearms. General Motors doesn’t show officers how to drive,” he told the jury in the case of James Foldi, who was Tasered during a 2005 struggle with police.

Lawrence said the training group, put together by the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services, and of which he is a part, met a couple of times last week and will gather again in August to design scenarios used in training.

They want to instruct Ontario officers how the Taser should be used, as opposed to it coming from instructions from the United States, he said.

Lawrence said there has been some criticism about relying on the manufacturer on how to use the Taser appropriately.

“Just to let the public know, we’re not just taking what the manufacturer said and not thinking for ourselves.”

Lawrence, a former police officer and use-of-force trainer, was the last person to testify in the Foldi case, which wrapped up evidence Monday after a six-week scheduling delay.

Foldi, 39, died July 1, 2005, after a bizarre night of breaking into houses in Beamsville, calling for help and at one point jumping through a glass window.

A pathologist ruled his death was caused by excited delirium brought on by acute cocaine posioning.

The coroner’s jury has heard from the officer who deployed the Taser that it was used twice in the probe mode when Foldi was running. It was applied another five times on stun mode to Foldi’s calves and thighs while he was struggling with officers on the ground.

Another four discharges of the Taser, recorded by the device, are unaccounted for.

Coroner’s inquests are mandatory when someone dies in police custody.

Lawrence, who wrote a report about the Foldi matter, testified he concluded the officers’ actions were consistent with prudent police practice.

He told Sara Premi, the lawyer representing the NRP, that police need to gain control of a person in an excited delirium state so the person can get medical treatment.

He said there are cases where people still die in that state without being Tasered.


The jurors will hear closing submissions from lawyers today and will decide whether or not to make recommendations in the case.

Lawrence said the training group has done a lot of groundwork over the last year and started an instruction manual.

When asked if the Foldi case would be used as a training scenario, Lawrence said it’s consistent with other events, but any examples will be generic.

Tony Brown, a spokesman for the ministry reached later by phone in Toronto, said the ministry is conducting a study with policing partners on the Taser. Operational and policy considerations in relation to training are being discussed, he said.

Brown said the study is expected to be completed by the end of this year.

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