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Friday, August 28, 2009

Medical examiner rules young man's Taser death a homicide

Michael Patrick Jacobs Jr., 24, died in Fort Worth, Texas on April 18, 2009.

"The Tarrant County medical examiner ruled Thursday that the death of a mentally ill man in April who was shocked twice by a Taser stun gun wielded by a Fort Worth police officer was a homicide. According to Nizam Peerwani’s report, an officer shot Jacobs twice with the Taser, once for 49 seconds and another time for five seconds. An autopsy found no drugs, no system abnormalities and no electrolyte imbalances in Jacobs’ body, Peerwani wrote. Jacobs died of "sudden death during neuromuscular incapacitation due to application" of the Taser, Peerwani wrote.

Thursday, August 27, 2009


SEVEN young men have died in the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA this month alone, after they were tasered, bringing the total # of North Americans who have died proximal to taser use to at least 442.

436. August 9, 2009: Terrace Clifton Smith, 52, Moreno Valley, California
437. August 12, 2009: Ernest Owen Ridlehuber III, 53, Greenwood, South Carolina
438. August 14, 2009: Hakim Jackson, 31, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
439. August 18, 2009: Ronald Eugene Cobbs, 38, Greensboro, North Carolina
440. August 20, 2009: Francisco P. Sesate, 36, Mesa, Arizona
441. August 22, 2009: T.J. Nance, 37, Arizona City, Arizona
442. August 26, 2009: Unidentified male, Age unknown, Los Angeles, California

See also: A List of the Dead

California man dies after being tasered

August 26, 2009: Unidentified male, Age unknown, Los Angeles, California

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Memphis turns down Tasers

August 25, 2009
By JEANNE KNIAZ, Voice Reporter

A request by the Memphis Police Department to implement the use of Taser electronic stun guns as a method of subduing suspected criminals has been turned down by the city council.

Deployment of electronic control devices has been a subject of debate since Memphis Police Chief Elena Danishevskaya acquired three units for her department through a grant program many months ago.

At their most recent meeting the council revisited the controversial topic and, after airing opposing opinions, once again shunned the electroshock weapons - capable of immobilizing subjects via a 50,000-volt discharge - as an option for the city's officers.

"My feeling, still, is that Tasers for this department is not for us," Mayor Charles Garber said.

Often touted as a safe alternative to containment versus firearms, Taser use by law enforcement officials has escalated in correlation to mounting opposition as questions arise with respect to the risks associated with this method of restraint.

Tasers temporarily debilitate individuals via the projection of probes connected to the unit by wire. An electrical pulse transmitted through the wires to the point where the probes come in contact with the body effectively eliminates neuromuscular control and coordinated movement for the duration of the surge.

Alternative methods to Taser deployment include utilizing pepper spray, mace, batons, bodily force or bullets.

Proponents argue that Taser technology incapacitates confrontational or high-risk subjects who endanger peace-keeping officials, the public or themselves and that overall the devices are safe with a low incidence of injury.

A study funded by the National Institute of Justice in 2007 determined that, of roughly 1,000 incidents involving Taser use, 99.7 percent of the cases involved no injuries or only mild consequences such as scrapes and bruises. In 0.3 percent of the cases a hospital admission was required.

Taser-associated deaths and injuries during the last decade have propelled this issue to the forefront of public debate with respect benefits versus risks.

According to Amnesty International the total number of deaths in America following Taser gun usage has risen to 351 since June 2001.

A report issued by the human rights organization last December cited concerns suggesting that Taser use can aggravate conditions previously compromised by drugs, exertion or illness and has even resulted in the deaths of seemingly healthy individuals.

The city of Warren is currently a defendant in two separate lawsuits concerning Taser usage by police officers - one claiming that the excessive force ultimately led to the death of an unarmed 16-year-old, and another wherein the defendant claims that during a diabetic emergency he was victimized by a Taser incident and a false arrest.

These issues weighed on the minds of Memphis City Council members as they discussed the possible use of three Taser devices their police chief had obtained through a grant program in 2006.

"I know it's been controversial in the past and I was wondering if the council would entertain a special meeting where we could have an expert come in and answer our questions?" Councilman Eric Schneider asked after reiterating that their police chief would like to implement usage.

"I just think that it is too risky. How many times have you had, in the last two years, any kind of problem?" Mayor Garber inquired of Danishevskaya who answered that on two occasions Tasers could have been effective - the first involving a suspect who reportedly had a gun, and the second a suicidal subject who was brandishing a knife.

"That was a good opportunity to use something like a Taser because, obviously, you don't want to shoot somebody like that but you do want to contain them. It is a good tool when properly used," the chief said.

Further discussion did little to influence action in favor of stun guns.

Councilwoman Kim Gunst commented that she would like the police chief to be able to carry a Taser, while Councilman Terry Treend remarked on the low number of instances in the community that require restraint.

Referring to the Warren lawsuits, Memphis Mayor Charles Garber said city couldn't afford the risks associated with Taser usage.

"There are two suits right now ... where in fact somebody has died after being tasered. It is not necessarily the Taser itself but the medical problems that they had prior to being tasered. I don't think we can afford the lawsuits and that is my personal opinion," he said.

"I'll try to keep an open mind but I agree with the mayor. I don't think we should have Tasers in the city of Memphis. I really have a problem with it. Things have come out in the paper. I know that doesn't happen very often but, for me, once is too much," Councilman Larry Wilson said, alluding to Taser-related deaths.

"I really couldn't support it."

Council members them moved to support a suggestion that the city police committee investigate options for disposing of the department's current Taser devices and report as to their findings at the next city council meeting.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

TWO Arizona men die

In slightly more than 24 hours, two Arizona men in their thirties died after they were tasered:

August 20, 2009: Francisco P. Sesate, 36, Mesa, Arizona
August 22, 2009: T.J. Nance, 37, Arizona City, Arizona

Thursday, August 20, 2009

North Carolina man dies after he is tasered

Ronald Eugene Cobbs, 38, Greensboro, North Carolina - died on August 18, 2009

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Decision regarding Taser use by Saskatchewan police to come around end of 2009

August 18, 2009
By Anne Kyle, Leader-Post

REGINA — Saskatchewan front-line police should know by year's end or early 2010 whether they will be equipped with Tasers as a use-of-force option and when they can use these devices.

The Saskatchewan Police Commission, which is developing policy and protocol on the usage of conducted energy devices (CEDs), is gathering submissions from interested parties and undertaking its own research, and will be examining the recommendations in the Braidwood Report — which was released last month setting out stringent standards for the use of CEDs by British Columbia police — before making its decision, said acting chairman Paul Korpan.

"We are right now defining the scope of our own research. We have a budget for it and a time line for it. We are really at the stage of exercising our diligence in determining the scope of what research we are undertaking, independent of what the Braidwood Inquiry did,'' Korpan said.

"However, we are going to give considerable weight to the Braidwood Report, I think in my opinion — I can't speak for the other commission members — as a great deal of work and resources went into that report.

"In fact, the researchers we have retained are going to be in communication with the research team that were used in that report. Some of the medical information in that report is out of date now, by a year, so we are going to bring that information current and look at this afresh.''

In July of 2008, the commission, which oversees and regulates the province's 14 municipal and First Nations police forces, placed a moratorium on the general use of CEDs by front-line officers in response to the controversies surrounding several high-profile Taser-related deaths and the lack of technical and medial information tied to their usage.

Currently, Tasers can only be utilized by SWAT members in Saskatchewan in tactical situations.

"I think it is pretty safe to say we are going to be looking at the Braidwood recommendations around special training for officers in identifying persons who may have mental health issues,'' Korpan said, noting B.C. does not have an independent civilian commission with police oversight so government there has to establish regulations regarding the use of force.

"We will be setting rules around the use of Tasers and a protocol for training in the use of those weapons.''

Korpan added the commission will likely render its decision late this year or early in 2010.

Edmonton police chief directed to charge officer over Taser incident

August 18, 2009

Police Chief Mike Boyd has been directed to lay charges against an Edmonton cop who repeatedly used a stun gun on a 16-year-old boy nearly seven years ago.

In its decision, the Law Enforcement Review Board calls for charges of "unlawful or unnecessary exercise of authority" and "insubordination" against Const. Mike Wasylyshen.

The board also recommends a presiding officer outside of the Edmonton Police Service oversee the disciplinary hearing.

According to an agreed statement of facts, Wasylyshen and four other officers were dispatched to a complaint of people trying to steal a parked car. The call was in the area of Abbottsfield Road. The cops, including Wasylyshen, ordered the people out of the vehicle without first questioning them or conducting a query on the licence plate. Three of four people inside immediately exited, but Randy Fryingpan was passed out in the backseat "as a result of his alcohol consumption and did not respond to the order to get out of the vehicle."

Wasylyshen fired his Taser at Fryingpan eight times over a period of a little more than a minute.

Fryingpan was arrested and later taken to the Sturgeon Community Hospital "where he was noted to have bruising to the left eye area, a skin flap laceration to the left fifth finger and a broken tooth."

Later, at the Edmonton Young Offenders Centre, he was observed to have several marks on his body "that appeared to be consistnt with burns caused by a Taser," states the decision.

The board concludes that: “Wasylyshen deployed his Taser on (Fryingpan) eight times in the span of 68 seconds, in what appeared to be an effort to remove the passed-out youth from the vehicle," states the decision.

"No evidence was presented to justify the use of a Taser; nor was any evidence presented to explain why the Taser was deployed eight times in just over a minute."

During the incident, Fryingpan suffered a blow to the back of his head. He fell to the ground and chipped his tooth, states the decision.

The board said there is sufficient evidence to suggest Wasylyshen "could have administered the blow."

Judge Jack Easton later halted Fryingpan's trial for breaching his bail conditions after concluding the teen's charter rights had been repeatedly violated by Wasylyshen, who, the judge declared, had used excessive force on the teen.

But Wasylyshen was never disciplined over the incident, as the EPS found insufficient evidence to support charges against him.

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

Queensland CMC - Police Taser review cover-up: Pyke repeats call for Royal Commission

August 18, 2009

“Queenslanders need to ask why the joint Crime and Misconduct Commission and Queensland Police Service Taser Review Report is being suppressed,” former-Queensland MP and former-Queensland Police Service Sergeant Peter Pyke said today.

Pyke says sources confirm the Taser Review Report was completed at least ten days ago, and warns that the failure of the Bligh Government to publish the report smacks of a high-level cover-up. “I’m told the Bligh Government is ducking for cover over the Taser Review Report because it is scared witless of the implications,” warns Pyke.

The review was announced on 15 June 2009, in response to widespread community alarm about Tasers following the death of Antonio Galeano of a heart attack in Brandon, North Queensland on 12 June 2009, after multiple applications of a Taser by Queensland police.

“The Bligh Government is particularly vulnerable to the implications of the CMC component of the Taser Review,” says Pyke. Pyke says the CMC component of the latest Taser review lays bare two issues likely to further injure the Bligh Government and erode public confidence in the Queensland Police Service, already damaged by allegations of corruption earlier this year.

“The first matter Queenslanders need to consider is what I have been told are ‘serious safety concerns’,” says Pyke. Pyke says the the Queensland Police Service appears to have failed to understand, and train for the alleged ‘serious safety concerns’ related to Taser-use.

“Think that’s bad?” asks Pyke, “It gets worse.”

“The other matter is the question of corruption,” says Pyke.

Pyke says the CMC report into the Queensland Police Service acquisition of Tasers has exposed something seriously smelly about the process, both within the Police Service, and inside the Police Union Executive.

“Former-Police Minister Judy Spence may also have some questions to answer,” says Pyke.

Pyke says the CMC component of the Taser Review is highly critical of the Queensland Police Service and says this latest crisis puts the need for a Royal Commission into high-level corruption and police misconduct beyond question.

Pyke says a meeting of the Queensland Police Union Executive today, Wednesday 19 August 2009, is expected to urgently discuss the implications of the CMC report.

“Has the Police Union Executive been slipped an advance copy of the CMC’s report into Tasers?” asks Pyke.

Pyke has previously said that the QPS is engaged in a high-level cover-up of Taser problems. Pyke repeated his call for a royal commission, and for the sacking of Commissioner Bob Atkinson, and Deputies Ian Stewart and Kathy Rynders, whom Pyke says have failed to properly administer the Police Service.

Shocking: Taser producer files suit against Inquiry recommendations

August 18, 2009
By Am Johal, rabble

Taser International seems to have a greater interest in moving product than it does in improving the safety of its devices or acknowledging the role of its patented devices in killing people. In its haste to file legal challenges, the company is trying to silence its critics and create its own regulatory policy regime.

The question is, will governments, courts and the international human rights system stand up to this rogue corporation?

In a bizarre, American-style legal and public relations intervention, Taser International filed a lawsuit last week against the recommendations of the Braidwood Inquiry.

Taser International is using hardball American public relations tactics to grow its company, despite clear evidence of human rights implications associated with use of their device. Much of this is happening with the full support of Canadian and American policing agencies. The Canadian media's failure to criticize Taser International on these matters effectively is a reflection of Canada's underdeveloped public sphere.

The 18-month inquiry, completed in July 2009, concluded that tasers can cause death in specific circumstances, particularly to those with underlying health conditions and when there are multiple uses of the weapon on the same person. The inquiry was initiated after the high profile death of Robert Dziekanski at the Vancouver Airport, where he was approached by four RCMP officers and tasered repeatedly.

On Friday, David Neave, an attorney for Taser International in Canada said, "We provided ... more than 170 studies, periodicals (and) reports with respect to the safety of the device and use-of-force questions. All of that information clearly indicates that when the device is used properly there is not cardiac effect. For reasons unknown to us, that information did not wind its way into the report."

According to Taser International, the taser is used by 350,000 police officers in over 12,750 offices in 45 countries. The weapon has been deployed in the field approximately 547,000 times. Another 680,000 human volunteers have been exposed to the taser, largely during police training.

Justice Braidwood and the inquiry wrote a 556-page report over an 18-month period. For the manufacturer of conducted energy weapons to conclude that certain information was not included is nothing more than a public relations intervention.

By using American-style legal intervention in Canada over delicate public policy matters, Taser International is pursuing an offensive strategy that dehumanizes the victims -- those who have died as a result of the weapon being approved without rigorous, independent studies to verify its safety. Taser International, by using legal maneuvers, is also attempting to place a chill on critics of the device.

Taser International recently announced the release of a new model of taser that can fire multiple shots even though multiple uses have been implicated in deaths. Taser International has also released personal tasers in the United States that can be bought in hot pink or leopard print. In Canada, the taser is a prohibited weapon, but is unregulated and sold on the retail market in the U.S.

In June 2008, Taser International lost its first product liability claim in the United States. Taser was forced to pay $6.2 million related to the death of a California man who was hit multiple times by police.

At the time, Doug Klint, vice president and general counsel of Taser International, said, "Certainly, this was a tragedy for the [Robert Heston] family as well as for the officers involved. We however do not feel the verdict is supported by the facts including the testimony of the world-class experts who testified on our behalf with scientific and medical evidence. Our commitment to continue to defend our life-saving products and to support law enforcement remains unchanged."

Since 2001, there have been over 300 deaths in the U.S. associated with taser use and 25 in Canada. A significant number of those deaths involved either prolonged use of the taser or multiple uses. In over 20 of these cases, coroners have listed tasers as a contributing factor in the deaths. Only about 10 per cent of the deaths involved individuals who were carrying weapons.

Last year, Dalia Hashad, director of Amnesty International's domestic human rights program said, "Science paid for by Taser International should not be trusted. There is an open scientific question on the safety of this device. They are an unknown quantity in many areas and need to be studied further before they are unleashed on the public. We have to start talking about whether force is necessary or not in specific questions, rather than whether a gun or a Taser should be deployed."

An RCMP led study found that 'usage creep' of the device was widespread and altered its process for using the device higher up its 'use of force' spectrum.

Justice Braidwood was appointed the sole commissioner under B.C.'s Public Inquiry Act. The Braidwood Inquiry found that if tasers do contribute to death, the most likely cause is ventricular fibrillation likely caused by the weapon's electrical current leading to "a chaotic rhythm of the heart's two ventricles." In this state, the heart can beat 200-300 beats per minute, the individual can lose consciousness in 5-10 minutes and die within 10 minutes.

It is also possible that the taser can induce spasms in the muscles of respiration that can interfere with an individual's ability to breathe.

There are still outstanding questions and a lack of evidence to prove that tasers are safe weapons. The hundreds of people who have died after being tasered around North America should give obvious cause for concern.

Unfortunately, for some corporations like Taser International, the bottom line has a greater value than human rights.

Most importantly, the legal action by Taser International should not be used as a pretext to prolong the implementation of recommendations related to taser use, both provincially and nationally. Nor should it be used by policing agencies to advance a policy agenda on tasers that does not meet the test of the public interest.

Am Johal is a rabble columnist and the founder and Chair of the Impact on Communities Coalition.

Pennsylvania man dies

Hakim Jackson, 31, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania - died on Friday, August 14, 2009

EDITORIAL: No sign of bias

Taser International Vice President of Public Relations and Government Affairs, Peter Holran (TASERPeter), on Twitter today: Globe and Mail (Canada) editorial on TASER - chooses to ignore scientific facts in lieu of emotional opinions: http://tinyurl.com/qz8yew

First they call Canadians "hysterical" - now we're "emotional." Good thing we're exceedingly more intelligent than Taser International thinks we are.

August 18, 2009
Globe and Mail

There is a word for Taser International Inc.'s accusation of bias, levelled at a former British Columbia appeal-court judge who held the most thorough inquiry into the taser's dangers ever done in this country. That word is "ridiculous."

Was Thomas Braidwood biased, as a Taser lawsuit charges, because he concluded that the taser can cause "serious injury or death" and that police use it too much? Of course not. Twenty-five people in Canada have died after being tasered, yet most police forces in Canada have been loath to acknowledge that the stun gun is dangerous.

Mr. Braidwood chopped away at the existing bias until the truth could be seen. Ten B.C. police agencies that use the taser rely exclusively on the manufacturer's training materials, he noted. Whose bias is in play? Not Mr. Braidwood's. He very reasonably said police should not rely on manufacturers when the materials "encroach into policy areas or topics of medical risks that may be under dispute."

Did he refuse to hear from Taser International, twist facts, deliver a diatribe? No, no and no. He brought before him - in public hearings - experts from emergency medicine, cardiology, electrophysiology, pathology, epidemiology, psychology and psychiatry. He listened to the evidence. Was that an act of bias?

It is worth recalling why the B.C. government called the inquiry. A Polish immigrant, Robert Dziekanski, was tasered five times by RCMP officers at the Vancouver Airport. Unarmed but for a stapler, he gave no resistance at any time to the advancing four officers. He died within minutes. A video of the incident showed as horrific a piece of brutal and incompetent policing as this country has witnessed for some time. Was Mr. Braidwood biased because he doesn't associate such scenes with Canada?

He did not invent the risks. The most likely cause of death from a taser is ventricular fibrillation; the electrical current of the gun triggers a chaotic heartbeat. A second cause may be "spasm in the muscles of respiration ... interfering with the subject's ability to breathe." The B.C. government has accepted all of Mr. Braidwood's recommendations, which include strict limits on taser use. The truth about tasers is now in plain sight, and no amount of lawsuits from Taser International can obscure it.

Talk before Taser, mental-health group urges police

August 17, 2009
By Anne Kyle, Regina Leader-Post

REGINA — Talk first; Taser later, if you must.

That's the message the Canadian Mental Health Association put forward Monday, urging that police officers use crisis-intervention techniques instead of Tasers whenever possible when dealing with the mentally ill.

In its brief to the Saskatchewan Police Commission, which is reviewing whether front-line municipal police officers will be allowed to carry Tasers, the association recommended a combination of training and policy changes for the use of conducted-energy devices.

The association's Saskatchewan Division is recommending police officers get training in crisis intervention, and resort to Tasers only as a final alternative before lethal force.

"There are some de-escalating techniques that you can do once you understand what someone, who is psychotic or very anxious, is looking at," said Dave Nelson, the association's executive director.

"Somebody who is psychotic is very likely going to be terrified of police, because they have already got all these paranoid ideas and notions going around in their mind about people out to hurt them, and stuff,'' he said.

"As a police officer, you have got to know about that and the techniques to de-escalate the situation, and you need to try them, first."

If talking doesn't work, then police officers have a whole range of choices, but Nelson said Tasers need to be placed higher up on the scale: immediately before, and only as an alternative to, deadly force in eliminating the risk of bodily harm, when all other options are exhausted.

The RCMP are also recommending Tasers be moved up the use-of-force scale, he said.

Other recommendations included: developing a policy specific to people exhibiting symptoms of mental illness, requiring emergency medical assistance be on standby before deploying a Taser, and restricting its use to a single discharge.

The association also recommends that an independent investigation be made into the long-term health consequences for people who are stunned by the devices.

In July 2008, the Saskatchewan Police Commission placed a moratorium on an earlier decision that would have given the province's 14 municipal and First Nation police services the authority for general use of Tasers.

The decision was placed on hold pending a comprehensive study of the devices, their use and their health effects.

The commission cited the controversies of several high-profile Taser-related deaths, and a shortage of information about the full consequences of the use of the devices.

No one from the commission was available to comment Monday.

This summer, an inquiry report was released into the death of Robert Dziekanski, a Polish man who died after RCMP officers shocked him with a Taser at Vancouver International Airport.

It recommended that the threshold for police using a Taser should be raised from "active resistance" by a suspect, to a threat of the suspect inflicting bodily harm.

Taser International, which produces Tasers, is trying to get the B.C. Supreme Court to quash the report's recommendations.

Monday, August 17, 2009

BRITAIN: Police use of Tasers on increase

August 17, 2009

The number of times Tasers were used by police in England and Wales has risen, Home Office figures show.

The stun guns were used 250 times in the first quarter of 2009, up from 187 in the previous three months.

They were discharged 62 times between January and March, compared with 35 in the last three months of 2008.

In Northern Ireland, Tasers were used 51 times between January 2008 and April 2009 and were discharged on eight separate occasions.

The Home Office figures are the first published since all police forces in England and Wales were authorised to give Tasers to non-firearms officers who are specially-trained to use the devices.

This followed a 12-month trial in 10 forces last year.

Specially trained units have now used Tasers 1,098 times since the trial began in September 2007. They were discharged 190 times.

Policing, Crime and Security Minister David Hanson MP said he was "determined to give police all the tools they need to crack down on violent crime".

He added: "Tasers are a vital tool for our frontline officers and that is why we allowed forces to issue them to specially-trained units.

"They are making a real difference on our streets and helping to keep both the public and our police officers safe.

"Tasers have helped defuse dangerous situations where people could have been seriously injured or even killed. And often just the threat of the device is enough.

"On many occasions, drawing or aiming a Taser has proved enough of a deterrent."

Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Tom Brake said the devices should be "for a few specially trained officers, not standard issue".

He said: "The government has put large numbers of Tasers in the hands of police officers without any debate.

"Given the increase in Taser use and the fact they have killed hundreds of people in the United States, we must have a full public debate before we slip any further down the slope to fully armed US-style policing."

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Taser maker has uphill battle with judicial review: experts

August 16, 2009
By David Karp, Vancouver Sun

VANCOUVER — Taser International will have a tough time convincing a court to quash the Braidwood inquiry’s recommendations surrounding Taser use, two experts say.

“It doesn’t sound like something I’d think would have a huge chance of success, but as soon as I say that, no doubt I’ll be proven wrong,” said David MacAlister, a professor with Simon Fraser University’s department of criminology.

“It sounds to me like they have a lot of money and the report didn’t come out the way they wanted it to, so they have nothing to lose by challenging it.”

On Friday, Taser International, which manufactures the Taser stun gun used by police, filed an application to the B.C. Supreme Court arguing that commissioner Thomas Braidwood made “unreasonable findings of fact” and breached “principles of procedural fairness.”

Taser International is asking the court to quash the recommendations made by Braidwood, who is leading an inquiry into the death of Robert Dziekanski. The Polish man died after RCMP officers shocked him with a Taser at Vancouver International Airport.

In July, Braidwood released a report recommending that the threshold for police using a Taser should be raised from “active resistance” by a suspect to a threat of the suspect inflicting bodily harm.

“The fact that the terms of reference (of the inquiry) are broad and the fact that it’s a policy piece he’s been asked to write and not a hearing — both of those things are going to make the court more deferential to Braidwood’s findings,” said University of B.C. law professor Cristie Ford. “It’s going to be a difficult case to make.”

Late last week, commission counsel Art Vertlieb said in an interview that there is no merit to the allegations by Taser International.

“Commissioner Braidwood ran an open, public and transparent process. He went out of his way to accommodate everybody who had a point of view,” said Vertlieb.

Taser International is also asking the court to declare that Vertlieb was biased and failed or neglected to ensure all medical and scientific literature was presented to Braidwood. But Vertlieb dismissed those claims.

“I’m as independent as the commissioner. I have no bias, nor does the commissioner. We just did our job and brought in all the evidence that we thought should be listened to, and it was up to the commissioner to listen to and weigh it,” he said.

The filing by Taser International argues the medical research used by the commission was “inadequate” and “flawed or irrelevant,” and claims the commission didn’t consider the material or experts Taser brought forward, naming four specific experts.

But one of those experts, Los Angeles-based cardiac electro physiologist Dr. Charles Swerdlow, said in an interview he believes the commission heard him out.

“My impression is that this has been a very thoughtful commission, and an enormous amount of work has gone into it,” he said during an interview. “I’m sure the commissioner thought about this pretty carefully, from my observations. If the implication from Taser is that these guys did not think about it, that’s almost certainly not true.”

UBC’s Ford said Taser International’s best chance probably lies with the procedural fairness argument, but that would still be a difficult case to make. The commission is expected to have “heard both sides, with an open mind and desire to be competent about it,” Ford said, so it would be Taser’s responsibility to establish that didn’t happen.

“The standard that Taser is going to try and establish is . . . (Braidwood’s) findings are so unreasonable that they can’t stand. The difficulty there is the amount of deference the court is going to give to the inquiry,” she said. “They are not going to rush in to second-guess Thomas Braidwood, who has been on this for a couple years now.”

The filing is typical behaviour for Taser International, SFU’s MacAlister said.

“They’ve made a policy of fighting any kind of adverse ruling, whether it be from a coroner or a commission like this. They fight it all the way,” he said. “This is just another example of them doing that.”

Group seeks to eliminate stun guns

August 15, 2009
Crystal Gutierrez, KRQE.com

ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) - A crowd of LULAC members chanted “tasers are lethal make them illegal” on the steps of City Hall Saturday evening, calling for lawmakers to take the high-voltage weapon away from officers.

LULAC is the League of United Latin American Citizens.

The protesters claim the weapon is not only a form of torture, they said it's deadly and minorities are targeted more frequently.

“Our community and the African American community are getting tased and getting killed by these taser guns,” NM LULAC District Director Ralph Arellanes said.

There have been a total of 437 stun gun deaths nationwide since the weapon was introduced in 2000, according to NM LULAC statistics.

The group is taking their cries to Washington, asking for the removal of electronic stun guns from the belts of officers.

In July, Kailee Martinez, 14, was shot with stun gun darts in the hip and in the head by the Tucumcari Police Chief. It took 18 staples and six stitches to piece her head back together.

LULAC members said they are outraged over the incident.

“What cause of threat did that young lady pose,” LULAC member Pablo Martinez said.

The City of Tucumcari said the chief's actions were justified.

The Albuquerque Police Department and many other departments claim electronic stun guns are a safer alternative to guns, and that they are know first hand it’s not a form of torture.

APD training requires officers to turn the stun gun on themselves before using it in the field.

“Each cadet while in the academy will be or has been tased at least one time,” Albuquerque Police Officer Nadine Hamby said.

See also: Tasered while Latino

Saturday, August 15, 2009

California man who died after police Tasering ID'd

August 15, 2009
City News Service

Terrace Clifton Smith, 52, Moreno Valley, California

This is the fourth death in California since June!!

MORENO VALLEY — An allegedly combative suspect who died moments after Riverside County sheriff's deputies used a Taser on him was identified Friday as a 52-year-old Moreno Valley man.

Terrace Clifton Smith died Sunday following a confrontation with deputies in the 28-700 block of Alessandro Boulevard in Moreno Valley, according to the Riverside County Coroner's Office.

Deputies encountered Smith shortly before noon after residents called to complain that he was randomly banging on their front doors and walking in the middle of the street, according to the sheriff's department.

When deputies tried to detain him, Smith became “physically combative with them,” said sheriff's Sgt. Dennis Gutierrez.

As deputies tried to put Smith in restraints, a Taser was used on him, at which point he quit resisting and was handcuffed, according to Gutierrez.

Within moments of being restrained, Smith had a seizure, Gutierrez said.

Deputies rendered first aid, followed by paramedics, who rushed Smith to Riverside County Regional Medical Center, according to the sheriff's department.

Smith was pronounced dead at the hospital at 12:34 p.m. Sunday, the coroner's office stated.

Sheriff's Detective Javier Rodriguez said the sheriff's homicide unit and the District Attorney's Office are investigating the case.

“Right now, we're waiting on the cause of death,” Rodriguez said. “We have to wait for toxicology results just to see what, if anything, was in the person's system.”

Autopsy results may not be released for another four to six weeks, Rodriguez said.

Taser sues Canadian government

August 15, 2009
Robert Anglen and Andrew Johnson, The Arizona Republic

Taser International Inc. filed a lawsuit Friday in Canada blasting a government report that prompted severe limitations on how and when law-enforcement officers in British Columbia can use stun guns.

Officials with the Scottsdale-based manufacturer called the Braidwood Inquiry biased and asked the Supreme Court of British Columbia to quash all of its findings and declare those involved in compiling evidence derelict.

"We provided . . . more than 170 studies, periodicals (and) reports with respect to the safety of the device and use-of-force questions," David Neave, an attorney for Taser in Canada, said Friday. "All of that information clearly indicates that when the device is used properly there is not cardiac effect. For reasons unknown to us, that information did not wind its way into the report."
The 18-month-long Braidwood Inquiry, headed by retired Judge Thomas Braidwood, concluded in July that Tasers can cause death.

In his 556-page report, Braidwood criticized law enforcement for putting the stun gun on the street with little or no independent testing and recommended restricting use of Tasers. Within hours, the head of public safety in British Columbia adopted all 19 of Braidwood's recommendations, including a ban on Tasers in non-criminal situations or where there is not an imminent threat of bodily harm.

A spokesman for the Braidwood Inquiry said Friday that officials were surprised by Taser's reaction.

"We didn't expect this type of action to be taken," said Chris Freimond. "Mr. Braidwood is an experienced and respected jurist."

The Braidwood Inquiry was sparked by the 2007 death of a Polish immigrant at Vancouver International Airport who stopped breathing after being shocked five times by Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers.

Braidwood was charged by the provincial government with looking into Taser use in the province, where Tasers were introduced in Canada. Braidwood was also asked to provide a complete record of the circumstances surrounding the airport death, which is still ongoing.

The Braidwood Inquiry involved public testimony by Taser executives, police officers and opponents of the stun gun. It examined medical research, testimony from doctors, and test studies supportive and critical of the stun gun.

In its petition, Taser said it was treated unfairly by the inquiry. It accused officials of overlooking key information, including scientific studies and expert testimony, in favor of the stun gun.

Taser points specifically to the lawyer and to the chief overseer of medical and scientific research, saying any conclusions in the report are tainted by their bias. It asks the court for an injunction restraining Braidwood from making any conclusion about the medical safety or risks of the stun gun. Taser also says the Braidwood Inquiry violated law by releasing the report without first giving Taser the chance to provide a response to the findings.

Judge in taser probe rejects bias allegations

August 15, 2009
Ian Bailey, Globe and Mail

The Braidwood inquiry's lawyer is rejecting allegations of bias in a motion by Taser International Inc. that seeks to quash findings by the probe into police taser use.

The stun-gun manufacturer, based in Scottsdale, Ariz., yesterday followed through with a pledge to file a motion in B.C. Supreme Court seeking to quash findings last month made on the safety of tasers as part of a first-phase report by Thomas Braidwood, a retired justice of the B.C. appeal court. The company alleges bias by the inquiry's commissioner, its lawyer and a medical expert.

“I have every confidence the courts will sort this out,” Art Vertlieb, lawyer for the inquiry, said in an interview yesterday.

No date has been set for a court hearing to deal with the submission, the second attempt to seek judicial intervention in the work of the inquiry after lawyers for four Mounties sought to head off Mr. Braidwood's ability to find fault in their conduct in dealing with Robert Dziekanski. That bid was rejected by the B.C. Supreme Court.

The 40-year-old Polish immigrant died on Oct. 14, 2007, after a confrontation at Vancouver International Airport with the police, drawn to the scene because Mr. Dziekanski was acting erratically. Mr. Dziekanski was subjected to about 30 seconds of taser blasts.

He died of cardiac arrest. The use of the taser has not conclusively been linked to his death, but Mr. Dziekanski's demise has prompted an ongoing debate over the police use of stun guns, including the ongoing Braidwood inquiry.

“Commissioner Braidwood ran an open, transparent and public hearing and everyone had a chance to come and say what they wanted. Mr. Braidwood is no more biased than I and I am no more biased than he is,” Mr. Vertlieb said in an interview.

But the motion filed by David Neave, a Vancouver-based lawyer for the taser producer, suggests Mr. Braidwood and his team ignored Taser-provided studies and research, and relied on “inadequate” medical research.

“The commission was selective in the material it considered without good or any cause,” says Taser's submission. “Further, the commission refused or neglected to consider the medical and scientific research which supports the general safety or efficacy of conducted energy weapons when deployed against a human being, giving rise to a reasonable apprehension of bias.”

Last month, Mr. Braidwood issued 19 recommendations limiting and reforming the use of tasers, including tougher standards for their deployment, a five-second limit on their discharge, and province-wide standards on their use, training and reporting on use.

The B.C. government immediately adopted the Braidwood recommendations.

The inquiry is now in a second phase, which is more focused on the fate of Mr. Dziekanski.

Mr. Vertlieb said Mr. Braidwood has done his best to consider all opinions and materials on taser use.

“There was extensive material filed and presented by many people and the commissioner worked very hard to consider all the different issues and concerns as is indicated in his report,” Mr. Vertlieb said.

“The commissioner had people from Taser come and present personally and more evidence that Taser wanted was produced and listened to by the commissioner and the commissioner went out of his way to listen to the differing points of view.”

Mr. Vertlieb, travelling outside B.C. yesterday, said he was hard-pressed to assess the merits of Mr. Neave's submission because he had not had an opportunity to examine it.

The Braidwood inquiry is to resume in September. It was adjourned until the fall when an e-mail among senior RCMP officials suggested the four Mounties discussed, in advance, the option of using a taser on Mr. Dziekanski. That would have been at odds with the officers' testimony to the inquiry. The contradictions are to be the subject of further hearings.

System failing mentally ill in jails: experts

August 15, 2009
Megan O'Toole, National Post

Phase one of an inquiry into the death of a Nova Scotia man who was Tasered while in police custody ended yesterday, and experts say the process has underscored a dire need for changes in the treatment of mentally-ill prisoners.

After five weeks of testimony and a number of controversial witnesses, including officers involved in the struggle to subdue Howard Hyde of Dartmouth, N. S., the inquiry has been adjourned for two months.

Testimony to date has shown a number of systemic flaws, observers say, including a severe lack of co-ordination between police and health-care services.

"There were a lot of balls dropped," said Stephen Ayer, executive director of the Schizophrenia Society of Nova Scotia, noting the case underscores the need for police to be better trained in how to handle mentally-ill prisoners. "Right from the get-go, police didn't give Howard a fair shake."

The paranoid schizophrenic, who reportedly harboured a deep fear of police, was initially arrested for assault after an argument with his girlfriend, who told authorities Mr. Hyde had not been taking his medication.

At that point, Mr. Hyde should have been taken to hospital for assessment and treatment, Mr. Ayer said, but instead he was taken to the Halifax police detachment. Rambling and in a psychotic state, Mr. Hyde apparently attempted to flee after a booking officer took out a knife to cut the drawstring off his shorts.

That prompted a violent struggle, captured on surveillance video and shown during the inquiry, in which a shirtless

and frantic Mr. Hyde screams and struggles to escape. Police say they were concerned he would reach for a knife from a nearby drawer of weapons, and shocked him with the Taser to regain control. He collapsed and was taken to hospital.

The use of a Taser on a paranoid schizophrenic person, as an aggressive act, "could have a tendency to make things worse, to have the issue escalate out of control," noted University of Alberta psychiatrist Patrick White.

While hearing testimony from a couple of the officers involved in the scuffle, the inquiry learned -- contrary to earlier official reports -- that Mr. Hyde had not been asked to co-operate as officers struggled to handcuff him, nor was he warned the Taser would be deployed.

Chris Summerville of the Schizophrenia Society of Canada said a better technique would have been attempting to talk Mr. Hyde down from his psychotic state, then handcuffing him once he had calmed down. Police should be trained for such situations, Mr. Summerville said, but in many cases they are not.

Mr. Hyde's girlfriend, Karen Ellet, has said he "was treated as a prisoner, not as a mental-health patient."

After doctors cleared Mr. Hyde to leave the hospital, they requested he have a follow-up psychiatric examination after his morning court hearing, or that he be returned to the emergency room -- something the officers were not authorized to do.

Neither happened, and Mr. Hyde ended up back in his jail cell, where he died about 30 hours after receiving the initial Taser jolt. Nova Scotia's medical examiner pegged the cause of death as "excited delirium" linked to his mental illness.

Carol Tooton, executive director of the Canadian Mental Health Association's Nova Scotia division, says the case could have ended differently had Mr. Hyde received proper treatment for his schizophrenic condition. The inquiry, she noted, has underscored a staggering lack of co-ordination between police, mental-health workers, courts and hospital staff -- resulting in a failure to properly deal with a man travelling between those systems.

"We often talk about working in silos," Ms. Tooton said. "It seems that [those] systems really do operate independent of one another."

The inquiry resumes in October, with recommendations from Judge Anne Derrick expected next year.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Hyde thought medications were poisoned, inquiry told

August 14, 2009
CBC News

Hearings into death of Dartmouth man hit by Taser adjourns until October

A deputy sheriff says a mentally ill man who was shocked with a Taser by Halifax police and died the next day while in custody told him he wasn't taking his medications because he believed they were poisoned.

Deputy Sheriff Jim Crook testified Friday that he spoke to Howard Hyde on Nov. 21, 2007, as the man was awaiting transfer to court for an arraignment.

Testifying at the inquiry into Hyde's death, Crook said he realized that the 45-year-old had been involved in a struggle with police and had been jolted with a stun gun.

Hyde died in a jail about 30 hours later.

Crook said he thought Hyde seemed confused and "bedraggled" while waiting in a jail cell for several hours before going to court.

The deputy sheriff said when he spoke to Hyde, he asked him if he had been taking any medications.

"His response to that was rather unusual," said Crook. "He said his medication had contained nickel, mercury and cadmium and that was why he wasn't taking any medication."

Crook testified that Hyde would speak "rationally or normally" for a period of time but then would lose his focus and begin to "go off track, seem disturbed."

The sheriff said he never shared the information about Hyde's mental state with either Crown or defence lawyers, saying he only did so as a general rule when the prisoner was violent.

After the Taser was used, Hyde was rushed to a hospital. A psychiatric exam was supposed to occur, but that never happened.

Lawyers never got form regarding psychiatric exam
A doctor had filled out a form before Hyde was released from the hospital into police custody indicating that Hyde was to be brought back to the hospital if a forensic psychiatric exam wasn't ordered by the court.

The deputy sheriffs escorting Hyde did not give the form to lawyers handling the case because legislation at the time forbade them from sharing such information with anyone but health-care providers.

In the end, the judge presiding over the arraignment did not order a psychiatric assessment and Hyde was sent to the Central Nova Scotia Correctional Facility, where he died the next day after a scuffle with guards.

Crook said he informed the admissions officer at the provincial jail that Hyde had a violent past.

He also told the admissions officer that Hyde, who had a history of schizophrenia, "was a little bit off" and that Hyde had been jolted with a stun gun the night before.

He said Hyde would talk coherently with him about the court process at one point, only to suddenly fall silent and stare away moments later.

"He would say, 'I don't want to talk to you,' and then within seconds, before there was a chance for me to go away, he'd start to talk to me again," said Crook.

Crook said he had a discussion with Hyde about the possibility of being admitted to the mentally ill offenders unit at the correctional centre, but he testified that he didn't suggest that to lawyers or to jail officials.

"In my mind, his behaviour wasn't any more aberrant than a lot of our clientele," he said.

The fatality inquiry has been adjourned until Oct. 19.

Taser International to challenge Braidwood findings

August 14, 2009
CBC News

Taser International plans to launch a legal challenge against the findings of a British Columbia inquiry into how police use the stun guns.

In an email to CBC News, a spokesman for the company said it will file papers in a B.C. court on Friday.

"Taser International intends to file an application for judicial review in the Supreme Court of British Columbia related to the Braidwood Commission," said Peter Holran, the vice-president of public relations and government affairs for the company.

Taser won't make any further comment beyond the contents of the filing, he said.

The B.C. inquiry was launched in the wake of the death of Robert Dziekanski, a Polish immigrant, who died at Vancouver International Airport in October 2007 after being shocked multiple times with an RCMP Taser.

Released in July, it concluded that stun guns can be deadly and much tougher rules must be adopted if they are to remain an option for police.

Former B.C. Appeal Court justice Thomas Braidwood, who headed the inquiry, also recommended that stun guns only be used in single five-second bursts in most cases — rather than multiple bursts — citing increased medical risks associated with repeated shocks, and that paramedic assistance be requested in every medically high-risk situation.

Taser, which makes virtually all the stun guns being used by police forces, has steadfastly argued its stun guns are safe.

It argues the inquiry based its recommendations largely on speculation and that Braidwood's recommendations do not meet the realities of modern day law enforcement.

Liberal MP Ujal Dosanjh, the party's former public safety critic who has been outspoken on the use of stun guns, said Taser's challenge is a tactic aimed to intimidate.

"I think it's a very flagrant attempt on its part to intimidate the critics of Taser and to discredit the inquiry report of a distinguished jurist," said Dosanjh from B.C.

"They are solely motivated by profit. Public safety can't be their priority," he said, adding the company has a battery of lawyers to "vigorously pursue" any critics.

The second phase of the inquiry, focusing on Dziekanski's death, will resume in September, following which Braidwood is expect to issue his second report.

Taser International to file suit over Braidwood Inquiry

August 14, 2009
Ian Bailey, Globe and Mail

Stun-gun manufacturer Taser International is going to B.C. Supreme Court Friday to try to overturn the initial conclusions of the Braidwood inquiry because it believes those rulings are unfair.

David Neave, the Vancouver-based lawyer for the company based in Scottsdale, Ariz., told CTV he will file documents outlining the company's grievances.

The main concerns of the company, he said, are that the inquiry's rulings, announced last month, will place law enforcement and the public at greater risk. Taser International argues that stun guns are safe.

“The grounds for the judicial review application are numerous. However, it appears upon a review of the report itself that the commission did not consider or refer to a substantial body of scientific and medical literature concerning the safety of the devices that Taser itself provided to the commission,” Mr. Neave said.

He referred, among other concerns, to 25 studies on the testing of the devices on people Taser provided that were not used. “The assertion is that commission breached basic principles of fairness and fundamental justice,” Mr. Neave said in an interview with CTV at his Vancouver office. “They were biased in the sense that a substantial body of science and medical study we provided to the commission was not considered.”

The B.C. government recently adopted the 19 recommendations of Thomas Braidwood, a retired justice of the B.C. Appeal Court, as standard practice for B.C. police forces.

Mr. Braidwood looked at the police use of stun guns as the first part of a process that is now looking at the October, 2007, death of Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski.

Mr. Dziekanski, 40, died following a confrontation with four Mounties at Vancouver International Airport. Mounties used a stun gun on him for more than 30 seconds. He died of cardiac arrest following a struggle with officers. Although his death has not been conclusively linked to the use of the taser, his demise has raised questions about the use of the stun guns.

Mr. Braidwood's recommendations included tougher standards for the use of tasers, a five-second time limit on the deployment of the devices and a call for province-wide standards for their use.

“Those recommendations are based on incomplete information with respect to the medical and scientific information that was available and that we provided to the commission,” said Mr. Neave.

Officials with the Braidwood inquiry were not available for comment.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Police officer to face disciplinary hearing over Taser use

August 13, 2009
CBC News

An Edmonton police officer will face an internal disciplinary hearing related to an incident in 2002 in which he used a Taser stun gun repeatedly on a teenager who was passed out at the time.

Alberta's Law Enforcement Review Board ordered Edmonton Police Chief Mike Boyd to charge Const. Mike Wasylyshen with using excessive force and insubordination.

In its ruling, the board said Randy Fryingpan, then 16, was passed out drunk in the back seat of a broken-down car when the Taser was used on him. The board ruled there was no evidence to justify the use of the Taser.

The board has also ordered Edmonton Police to bring in a officer from another police service to preside over the disciplinary hearing "in the interest of providing a fair hearing."

In 2005, former acting police chief Daryl Da Costa decided Wasylyshen would not face any charges because he felt the allegations were unfounded.

The ruling by the Law Enforcement Review Board follows a lengthy appeal by Fryingpan's mother.

Coroner's inquest set for Tasered B.C. man

August 13, 2009
Chilliwack Times

CHILLIWACK, B.C. — The Coroners Service of British Columbia has called an inquest into the 2007 death of a Chilliwack, B.C. man following an altercation with RCMP officers that involved a Taser.

Robert Thurston Knipstrom was reportedly in distress on Nov. 19, 2007. Police were called to a place of business to restrain him. In the process, they used a Taser, batons and pepper spray when making an arrest.

Knipstrom was sent to hospital for treatment of his injuries and was on life-support for several days before he died five days later.

In November 2008, the coroner's office said an investigation would probably be set for the spring of 2009. A spokesperson for the coroner said the delay was because of scheduling problems.

On Friday, the inquest was officially set for Nov. 16 to 20, 2009 in Burnaby, B.C. Presiding coroner Vincent Stancato and a jury will hear evidence from witnesses to determine the facts surrounding Knipstrom's death. The jury will be able to make recommendations aimed at preventing future deaths under similar circumstances.

Inquests are mandatory following deaths in police custody.

Report on tasering of diabetic suggests police consult paramedics

August 13, 2009
The Canadian Press

An internal police review of how Nova Scotia police officers used a stun gun to control a struggling diabetic says paramedics should be consulted if "the situation permits."

The medical director of Emergency Health Services said last year that paramedics were discussing a glucose injection to calm the man in the Sept. 14, 2008, incident when police from Amherst caught them off guard by jolting the patient.

The review released yesterday by Amherst Police Chief Charles Rushton says the use of the taser in the incident was "consistent with national and international standards."

But he says that as a result of his review, Amherst police will change their policy on stun gun use to ensure improved communication between officers and paramedics in similar situations.

The chief says the decision on whether to use the stun gun "must always remain with the police officer who holds the responsibility to deploy the device."

Still, the new policy will state, "where the police are called upon to assist the EHS, and the situation permits, the officer shall consult with the paramedics to ensure the Taser is the most viable alternative in controlling an aggressive patient."

The report says paramedics called officers to the home in Amherst when they were unable to keep the patient's arm and body still as he went through diabetic shock.

"At some point during this process one of the paramedics indicated that he was aware that they would have to try something different," the report says.

"When questioned on whether he [the paramedic] relayed this information to the other people present he indicated he verbally told them.

"When asked, 'Who did you tell to stop controlling the patient?' the paramedic responded, 'It was just general - OK, guys let him be, we will try something different.' When asked what was the officers' response, the paramedic responded, 'Nothing.' "

Chief Rushton writes that officers think they "heard a voice say, 'No,' or something to that effect," as they applied the device.

An officer is quoted as saying this occurred "at the exact same time I applied the touch stun and I didn't know at the time to whom the voice was speaking."

Moments after being stunned, the man rolled on his side, and the medics were able to inject the required glucose in his left arm.

Dr. Andrew Travers, the medical director of EHS, has said the paramedics would have advised against using a stun gun on the man if local police had asked.

Details of the incident emerged last fall after the man's wife said she became concerned for her husband when she couldn't wake him up, so she checked his blood sugar and found it was low.

She called 911 when the 34-year-old man started coughing and was having difficulty breathing. As he awoke, he wouldn't let the paramedics administer an intravenous, so they asked police officers who had been sent to the home to assist them.

The woman, whose name was withheld, left the room but said she ran back into it when she heard officers warning they were about to use the taser. She said she asked the officers not to use the device.
After the taser was applied, the medication was administered, the man's blood sugars rose and he calmed down, the report says.

The report's recommendations state that the paramedics, "should receive a debriefing by the Amherst Police, outlining police use of force options including the use of the Taser."

And it concludes with a recommendation that "communication should be improved between police and Emergency Health Services personnel. Paramedics and police must know each others' expectations and requirements in given situations."

Bobby Brown, director of field operations for EHS, said he'll take some time to review the findings. However, he agreed with the main recommendation that paramedics should be asked for their medical knowledge in similar situations.

EDITORIAL: Mounties can take action now

August 13, 2009

THE public has known for a long time that police officers should not be allowed to investigate themselves. Any doubts should have been removed following the Taman Inquiry in Manitoba, and the inquiry into the Taser-related death of Robert Dziekanski at the hands of the RCMP in Vancouver.

The two cases were fundamentally different, except in this respect: In both cases, the investigations by police into the conduct of police were flawed and below the standards that would normally be followed in incidents involving civilians. They tended to reinforce the cynical view that there's a law for the police and a law for everyone else.

In the Dzienkanski case, the rot in the RCMP's ability to investigate itself was exposed from top to bottom, but none of the lies and the half-truths would have come to light without a multi-million dollar inquiry. The same was true of the Taman probe, which revealed beyond doubt that police officers naturally, perhaps instinctively, treat their own with a sympathy and deference that impairs their ability to conduct impartial probes.

The latest salvo in the assault on the ability of police to self-regulate was launched this week with the release of a report by the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP, which concluded that the force's "approach to investigations of its own members is flawed and inconsistent."

The CPC analyzed 28 internal RCMP investigations and discovered a high level of inappropriate conduct, including cases where the primary investigators personally knew the subject member, or where a lone investigator was required to handle the case. There were also too many cases involving investigators who weren't qualified, or where the officer being investigated was senior in rank to the investigator.

The RCMP has responded that it will consider these recommendations in the future, but there is really no reason why they can't be done now, at least until a more comprehensive system for conducting internal probes is developed.

It's true that RCMP detachments are spread across some of the country's most remote and inaccessible areas, but geography does not prevent the force from conducting serious crime investigations now. In the event of a murder or serious assault, forensic experts and specialists are flown to the crime scene on an emergency basis. The RCMP merely needs to treat serious allegations against its members in the same way. If that means flying in two senior officers to ensure that a complaint is properly investigated, then so be it.

The CPC falls short in several of its recommendations. It suggests, for example, that all internal probes involving death, serious injury or sexual assault be referred to an external police force or provincial criminal investigation body.

The problem with this recommendation is that it does not resolve the question of public trust. Police investigating police, even if they do not know the subject officers personally, is no longer acceptable. It's a lesson, unfortunately, that has not been learned by the Manitoba government, which is working on legislation to create an investigative body for municipal police forces. (The RCMP in this province has indicated they might submit to its jurisdiction once they see how it will work.)

The province has decided it will use police officers to conduct investigations into allegations of wrongdoing on the specious grounds that they are the only investigators capable of conducting criminal probes. The Ontario Special Investigations Unit employs a mix of police officer and civilian investigators, but it is committed as a matter of principle to using civilians only. These investigations do not involve finding a killer, but merely uncovering what happened. They do not involve undercover work or hanging out in nightclubs, and they are jobs that many people could do with proper training.

The federal government is reviewing the question of how RCMP officers investigate themselves. It should take its cue from Ontario, which understands the importance of assuring the public that police are never above the law. In the meantime, the RCMP should embrace the CPC's recommendations and implement those ideas than can be done today.

Top Mounties failing in leadership role, watchdog says - Critics pan RCMP's reluctance to change its ways

August 13, 2009
Daniel Leblanc, Globe and Mail

RCMP brass are failing to live up to the legendary can-do spirit of the Mounties and are undermining the efforts of provincial divisions that are striving to modernize the force, watchdog Paul Kennedy said Wednesday.

Mr. Kennedy, chair of the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP, was joined by critics who panned the RCMP's reluctance this week to change the way its officers are investigated following in-custody deaths and other serious incidents involving the public.

Mr. Kennedy said he expected more than a defensive reaction from the RCMP, pointing to the force's frequent references to the “man of action” mentality of legendary Mountie Sam Steele.

“These are people who I thought used to confront a problem and do something about it,” said Mr. Kennedy, adding the RCMP is at a point in its history where it can “be a leader or a follower.”

A government spokesman suggested that Ottawa will continue to push reforms on the RCMP following incidents such as the death of Robert Dziekanski, a Polish immigrant tasered by RCMP officers at Vancouver International Airport, and the force's involvement with Maher Arar, a Canadian citizen deported to and tortured in Syria.

The RCMP has said internal reforms are under way, guided by the RCMP Reform Implementation Council, which last provided an update on its work in March.

“We have been very pleased with [the council's] work to date. However, there's much more work to be done,” said Christopher McCluskey, a spokesman for Public Safety Minister Peter Van Loan.

On Tuesday, the RCMP rejected a CPC report that said Mounties involved in serious incidents, such as the death of a member of the public, should not be investigated by their colleagues to avoid a “perceived risk of bias or intimidation.”

Mr. Kennedy accused the RCMP of failing to take a leadership role when it resisted changes to its taser policy, and said it now runs the same risk in the matter of internal investigations.

He said he was not impressed by RCMP Commissioner William Elliott's response to his report urging the national police force to let outside agencies investigate serious incidents involving its officers.

“You saw [Mr. Elliott's] answer; he has a draft policy of some kind,” Mr. Kennedy said.

He added that the response by the top Mountie reinforces the notion that the RCMP is refusing to change, even as four provincial divisions have already moved to improve their policy on internal investigations.

“The unfortunate thing here is that it portrays the image of a force that is reluctant to do something. That is really unfortunate because it belittles, and to some extent undermines, the significant effort that is being put in place by some divisions,” Mr. Kennedy said.

The public battle between Mr. Elliott and Mr. Kennedy is caused by the federal government's failure to act on long-standing calls for a beefed-up oversight body for the RCMP, critics said.

“This requires the intervention of the government,” said Liberal MP Mark Holland, who said Ottawa's inaction is inexcusable. “Does a recommendation need to be made 10, 15, 20 times before it is implemented?”

Wesley Wark, an expert on security matters at the University of Toronto, said the RCMP obviously “doesn't like to be pushed” by the CPC. He said the government must introduce legislation addressing the need to change the RCMP's internal operations.

“I am astounded that there hasn't been more progress,” Prof. Wark said.

Mr. Elliott could not be reached for comment yesterday. Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, he said he would prefer that Mounties not be investigated by their fellow RCMP officers, but it is impractical in remote communities to do otherwise. He criticized the CPC report for being negative and “bleak.”

There have been calls for increased oversight of the RCMP for years, including the O'Connor inquiry that looked at the role of Canadian authorities in Mr. Arar's torture in Syria.

South Carolina man dies after being stunned with Taser

Ernest Owen Ridlehuber III, 53, South Carolina - died on August 12, 2009

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

RCMP should limit self-investigations: watchdog

August 11, 2009
CBC News

The RCMP should not investigate its own members in cases involving death to avoid a possible conflict of interest, the head of a watchdog agency said Tuesday in Ottawa.

"In the public interest we sought to answer the following question: Can the current process of the RCMP investigating itself legitimately engender confidence in the transparency and integrity of the criminal investigation and its outcome?" Paul Kennedy, told reporters at a press conference.

"Based on the results of our research and analysis, the informed commission answer is that it cannot."

The Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP, of which Kennedy is chair, spent 19 months studying the controversial issue of the RCMP investigating itself.

Kennedy's report called for several policy and legislative changes to avoid actual or perceived conflicts. Currently, the national police force has discretion to decide how such investigations will unfold.

28 cases studied

The commission examined 28 cases from across the country between April 2002 and March 2007, including six deaths.

The high-profile case of Robert Dziekanski, a Polish immigrant who was stunned with a Taser by RCMP officers at Vancouver International Airport on Oct. 13, 2007, falls outside that time frame. An inquiry into his death wrapped up in June and a report is expected later this year.

However, several other controversial cases sparked debate over RCMP self-investigations, including the death of Ian Bush, 22, of Houston, B.C. Bush was arrested in October 2005 for having an open beer outside a hockey game and for giving a false name to the officer. He was taken to the RCMP detachment and, 20 minutes later, he was shot in the back of the head by a rookie officer.

In November 2007, Kennedy's commission found that the officer who shot Bush acted in self-defence, and the police investigation into the shooting was conducted fairly and without conflict of interest.

Scope of problem not understood

The RCMP currently has no national tracking system for investigations against its members and lacks an understanding of the scope of the problem, said Kennedy.

"There is currently no national, centralized co-ordination of member investigations," he said. "That means that no member of the RCMP, including the RCMP commissioner, can tell you how many criminal investigations have been undertaken into its own members.

"More serious is that no one can tell you how many members have been investigated for serious injury, sexual assault or death nor can they identify how many charges have been laid against their members nor what the outcome was."

The commission also found that there are no national standards or policies governing how investigations are conducted, Kennedy said.

"Of real concern is the fact that the RCMP investigative guidelines specifically tell members when undertaking a criminal investigation into another member to 'take the same action as you would for any other person,'" he said.

"We disagree strongly with this principle and believe that criminal investigations into RCMP members should not be treated the same as any other investigation. Police are held to a higher standard."

Kennedy's research also found the RCMP investigators were "free of bias" and approached their assignments in a professional and conscientious manner.

'Inappropriate' patterns

However, he identified several "inappropriate" patterns in the case files:

25 per cent of primary investigators personally knew the member under scrutiny.
In 60 per cent of cases, a sole investigator was assigned, putting the investigation at risk for potential conflict of interest or perception of bias.
In almost one-third of cases, the primary investigator was of the same or lower rank as the subject member, creating potential for intimidation.

Kennedy's report called for national standards on RCMP criminal investigations involving its own members so they are conducted the same way across Canada.

He also urged legislative changes that would allow investigations to be referred to another criminal investigative body. This would be mandatory in cases involving death.

In cases involving serious injury and sexual assault, the complaints commission and a new national registrar would decide whether to refer the case to another body.

System failed mentally ill man hit by Taser, N.S. doctor tells fatality inquiry

August 11, 2009
By Michael Macdonald, Canadian Press

HALIFAX, N.S. — The first doctor to see Howard Hyde after he had been Tasered up to five times during a struggle with Halifax police told a fatality inquiry Tuesday he believes the system failed the mentally ill man.

Dr. Stephen Curry, an emergency room doctor at the QE2 Health Sciences Centre, said he became upset when he learned Hyde had died during a struggle with jail guards about 30 hours after he was discharged from the hospital on Nov. 21, 2007.

During his testimony, he was asked if he agreed that the system had failed Hyde because he did not get the psychiatric care he needed after he left the hospital.

"Yes," said Curry. "Yes, I do."

The inquiry has heard that Hyde, a 45-year-old musician with a long history of schizophrenia and conflict with the law, was off his medication when his common-law wife complained to police that he had assaulted her.

Hyde was arrested and taken to the police station, where he tried to flee when an officer tried to cut the knot on a string holding up his shorts, telling Hyde he had to "cut off one of those balls off there."

During the ensuing struggle, Hyde was hit with the stun gun a number of times and police restrained him by placing the overweight man on his stomach, cuffing his hands behind his back and pushing his lower legs toward his back.

One officer testified that he placed his foot on Hyde's back and didn't remove it until another officer said the man had stopped breathing and required CPR to be revived.

Curry said Hyde had an elevated heart rate and was incoherent when he arrived at the emergency room just before 3 a.m.

"He wasn't making any sense," he told the hearing.

The doctor told the inquiry Hyde's heart appeared to be in good shape and he seemed to be recovering quickly from his ordeal at the station.

The doctor also said he gave Hyde an anti-psychotic drug to calm him down and keep him safe and comfortable.

Curry testified he was reluctant to commit Hyde to a longer hospital stay under the Involuntary Psychiatric Treatment Act because he was concerned police would leave the hospital and Hyde might become violent again.

He said he spent about five to 10 minutes with Hyde during the 90 minutes before his shift ended at 4:30 a.m. and Dr. Janet MacIntyre took over.

During that time, police officers guarding Hyde said they were keen to get Hyde before a judge in the morning so that he could be arraigned on several charges, Curry said.

In an earlier statement to the RCMP, Curry said officers appeared "gung-ho" to get Hyde out of the hospital.

But Curry stressed Tuesday that while he appreciated the role played by police in this case, he did not feel pressured to release Hyde.

"My concern was to get Mr. Hyde stabilized," he said.

The doctor said he could have committed Hyde, but his health seemed to be rapidly improving and he could see no reason why he couldn't attend an arraignment in the morning, as police had promised.

"He was certainly improving," he said. "He seemed to be doing better by the time I left."

As well, Curry had the option of requesting a psychiatric assessment from a resident at the hospital, but he was reluctant to call anyone at 3 a.m., a "courtesy" that recognized Hyde was resting comfortably and did not require immediate attention.

Still, Curry said he and MacIntyre agreed that if Hyde was to be released, the police should be told to return him to the hospital if he didn't get a forensic psychiatric examination.

"I felt he was definitely going to get a forensic assessment," Curry testified.

The inquiry has heard that MacIntyre made arrangements for an assessment at the hospital before Hyde left, but she discharged him instead with a note to police on a health transfer form saying he had to get an assessment or be returned to the hospital.

MacIntyre is expected to testify Wednesday.

Earlier, two officers testified they didn't have the authority to bring Hyde back to the hospital after dropping him off at court later that afternoon.

On Tuesday, Curry admitted he wasn't sure how the court process worked when it came to psychiatric exams, but he assumed Hyde would get the care he needed.

"In good faith, we felt that if he had to go for an arraignment ... that he would get a psychiatric assessment."

In the end, Hyde never received an assessment and he wasn't given more anti-psychotic drugs.

The note MacIntyre gave to police wasn't passed along to the Crown attorney handling Hyde's case that day. Procedures have since changed to make sure that doesn't happen again.

Hyde died inside the Central Nova Scotia Correctional Facility in the nearby suburb of Dartmouth during a struggle with guards.

The medical examiner later concluded the cause of death was excited delirium stemming from paranoid schizophrenia.

Curry said he would have done things differently had he known Hyde would not be appearing before a judge until much later in the day.

He said the anti-psychotic drug given to Hyde would have lost half of its effectiveness in as little as 21 hours.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Tasered teen gets acquittal restored

August 8, 2009
Chronicle Herald

The Nova Scotia Court of Appeal has restored the acquittal of a teenaged girl charged with assaulting two police officers and resisting arrest.

The 17-year-old was acquitted in Nova Scotia youth court in Feb. 2008, but that was overturned and a conviction entered by the Nova Scotia Supreme Court in January of this year. The girl’s lawyer appealed that decision in June and the Appeal Court handed down its decision last month.

The girl’s mother called Halifax Regional Police to their downtown Dartmouth home on Feb. 12, 2007, because the 17-year-old was angry her sister had taken her purse and was threatening to damage the house, the original trial heard.

She was quietly looking out of her bedroom window when officers arrived, but became rude and aggressive when police told her that her mom asked them to remove her from the home.

Officers had resorted to using a Taser on the girl when she would not leave her bedroom and fought police when they tried to arrest her.

The youth court judge ruled the girl was justified in resisting arrest because officers had overstepped their authority, but the Supreme Court judge ruled the girl’s conduct escalated and became a breach of the peace once the officers began to arrest the teen. That meant that when she resisted, police had grounds to charge her with assaulting police and resisting arrest.

The Court of Appeal said the Supreme Court judge altered the trial judge’s finding to create the anticipated breach of the peace and doing so was an error in law.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Inquest called in Chilliwack Taser incident

August 7, 2009

Chilliwack residents are finally going to hear details of the Taser-related death of Robert Knipstrom two years ago when a coroner's inquest convenes in November.

Coroner Vincent Stancato and a jury will publicly hear evidence from subpoenaed witnesses in order to determine the facts surrounding Knipstrom's death on Nov. 24, 2007.

The inquest is scheduled for Nov. 16-20 at the Coroner's Courtroom in Burnaby.

Knipstrom, 36, died four days after he was Tasered, pepper-sprayed and struck with batons by Chilliwack RCMP officers responding to an "aggressive" customer report at the Eze Rent-It Centre on Airport Road.

But to date the cause of Knipstrom's death, or even if the Taser darts struck him, has not been made public.

Knipstrom was reportedly driving "dangerously" before he arrived at the store and "combative" when he got there.

The RCMP has come under fire for its use of Tasers, most notably in the case of Robert Dziekanski, a Polish immigrant who died after he was Tasered at Vancouver International Airport on Oct. 14, 2007, a month before the Knipstrom incident.

In June, 2009, the B.C. government ordered the recall of older-model Tasers used by the RCMP because tests showed they did not meet manufacturer's specifications most of the time, putting out fewer "pulses" per second, making them less effective in bringing down a subject.

It's not clear what model Chilliwack RCMP officers were using when they attempted to subdue Knipstrom, but he was reportedly pepper-sprayed and hit with a baton after the Tasers seemed to have no effect.

Letter to the Editor: Taser inquiry missed opportunity

July 31, 2009
The Toronto Star

Letter to the Editor

In failing to recommend that standards be developed for Tasers, the Braidwood inquiry, unfortunately, has squandered an outstanding opportunity to move this agenda that much more forward. The federal government, as recommended in an RCMP report, must now take the initiative and set standards for Tasers used by all police services in Canada, under its power in the Criminal Code to regulate firearms. Standards for their efficacy and use must be developed.

The fact, acknowledged by the manufacturer, is that one in 20 of these devices fail. This failure rate defies all logic, is inexcusable and smacks of shoddy manufacturing and quality control. No other electrical product can be legally sold in Canada unless it is tested and certified by a recognized national standards organization.

Until these standards are in place, police services should place a moratorium on the purchase of these electrical devices. Establishing minimum standards would further ensure police accountability and allay public fears and concerns.

Emile Therien, Past President, Canada Safety Council, Ottawa

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Calgary police who fired taser not at fault in man's death: agency

"It is not helpful to blame resulting deaths on “excited delirium,” since this conveniently avoids having to examine the underlying medical condition or conditions that actually caused death, let alone examining whether use of the conducted energy weapon and/or subsequent measures to physically restrain the subject contributed to those causes of death." - Braidwood Report, July 2009

August 6, 2009
The Canadian Press/Globe and Mail

An Alberta government agency that investigates deaths linked to police says Calgary officers who fired a taser at a man are not responsible for his death.

“I've concluded that the actions of the four subject officers were justified in all of the circumstances,” Clifton Purvis, head of the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team, said Wednesday.

“No criminal charges will flow as a result of their actions in relation to this tragedy.”

Mr. Purvis said police were called Nov. 1, 2008, after someone spotted a man acting erratically.

When they arrived, they saw Gordon Bowe from Castlegar, B.C., in the basement of a vacant house, running in the dark and screaming.

He had cuts from breaking through a pane of glass and didn't respond to verbal commands from the police.

One officer fired his Taser while trying to arrest Mr. Bowe, 30, but since one of the machine's prongs did not make contact, the stun gun did not work.

Eventually the officers were able to physically subdue and handcuff Mr. Bowe, at which point they noticed that he was in medical distress.

Mr. Bowe was treated by paramedics on the scene and died in a Calgary hospital the next day.

The taser was deployed three times, he said, and twice it was not effective due to the missing prong. It was fired in “stun mode” a third time during the struggle with Mr. Bowe.

Mr. Purvis said he's satisfied that Mr. Bowe died of excited delirium syndrome related to cocaine toxicity, not as a result of the taser.

No marks on Mr. Bowe's body suggest the third attempt made contact, although it's not known for sure, he said.

EDITORIAL: Lessons learned on Tasers

August 6, 2009
Edmonton Journal

Long before the death of Robert Dziekanski at Vancouver International Airport, serious questions surrounded the use of Tasers by Canadian law enforcement officers.

Sadly, it took a deadly international incident to finally embarrass government officials into action. We might be forgiven for speculating darkly on what an investigation would have looked like had the multiple Taser blasts fired by RCMP on the Polish immigrant not been captured on video by a bystander.

The report of B. C.'s independent commission into the affair, headed by Thomas Braidwood, was released July 23. It criticized that province for its lack of a cogent Taser policy and made no fewer than 19 recommendations. They centred on limiting the use of conducted energy weapons including Tasers to "truly criminal offences."

To its credit, Alberta has been quick off the Braidwood mark by unveiling tougher rules here. The 11-page document tendered by Solicitor General and Minister for Public Safety Fred Lindsay says police forces in Alberta must hew to the regulations or face having their CEWs taken away. They may be used only "when there is a real likelihood of injury to the officer, subject, or bystanders."

There will be those who say the new regulations don't go far enough, and hope Ottawa steps in with uniform standards for all police forces in Canada, using its Criminal Code jurisdiction regulating firearms. Certainly, the single fact that even Taser Inc. admits to a failure rate of around five per cent might raise flags, since the Canadian Standards Association would never sanction the sale of imported toasters or electric razors with that dubious track record.

National action could be a reasonable possibility. In the meantime, though, the Alberta government deserves respect for its timely action. In the past, provincial guidelines allowed constables to unleash their Tasers when faced with "actual or threatened resistance to lawful arrest," a category wide enough to drive a tank through.

We have come a long distance from the days when Edmonton officers used the device to wake up drunks. City police say their current guidelines are already in step with the latest provincial regulations. The RCMP has announced it has imposed similar restrictions.

The Taser was initially thought to be a humane and effective way for brave, sensible law enforcement professionals to neutralize "bad guys" with relative impunity. With the subsequent deaths of 25 people in Canada and more than 300 fatalities in the U. S., we've discovered that is simply not the case.

Limiting its use to extreme cases has been the hard lesson learned. Alberta stands at the forefront of that recognition, which is always where we want to be.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Hyde 'confused' after Taser hit: N.S. nurse

August 4, 2009
CBC/The Canadian Press

An inquiry probing the death of a mentally ill man who was struck by a Taser by Halifax police has heard that Howard Hyde was "restless" and "confused" when he was taken to hospital after being shocked twice.

Susan Hedley, a registered nurse who helped care for Hyde in the early-morning hours of Nov. 21, 2007, testified Tuesday that paramedics said the 45-year-old man had schizophrenia and was off his medication.

She said Hyde was "talking, but not really connecting ... thoughts" when he was brought into the trauma room of a Halifax hospital.

Hedley also testified that paramedics indicated Hyde had been shocked by a Taser and was given CPR.

She said an electrocardiogram (EKG), a test that records the heart's electrical activity, was performed on Hyde, and the machine showed there was abnormal activity, though she did not elaborate.

Hyde, who was eventually released from hospital, died in a correctional facility about 30 hours after being struck by the stun gun.

Alberta man dies after police use Taser

August 4, 2009
By Laura Tester - Red Deer Advocate

New Alberta guidelines on police use of stun guns fail to get tough on training, says the sister of a Lacombe man who died after being Tasered three years ago.

Surya Doan spoke in reaction to new government guidelines on conducted energy weapons which were introduced on Friday. All police agencies, including every RCMP detachment in Central Alberta and the municipal police force in Lacombe, must abide by them.

She said the three police officers and one civilian turned her 28-year-old brother Jason Doan over after he was Tasered and found he was blue in the face. He suffered heart failure while fighting with the four on the lawn outside an Oriole Park home on Aug. 10, 2006. He was in a coma for 20 days at the Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre before he died on Aug. 30.

Surya Doan said the officers should have training to recognize when a person is suffering a serious malady, such as a grand mal seizure, so that medical help isn’t delayed.

Jason Doan had been observed in a highly agitated state by some Red Deer residents who saw him smashing car windows, shouting and yelling at no one and threatening to kill any police officer. He hit an officer over the head with a pitchfork handle before he fought Red Deer Mounties and was eventually subdued with three Taser jolts in less than one minute.

Tasers emit a five-second burst of 50,000 volts of electricity intended to temporarily paralyze a person.

Doan said police officers should be Tasered during training in the same kind of heart-pumping state that someone might be going through at the time of being hit with an electrical jolt.

“Why don’t they get both police officers on a treadmill with their heart rate on as high as some as these people are experiencing that they Taser,” Doan said. “And give them three different cycles of the Taser — 15 seconds each, just to see what compliance they will get. If it doesn’t kill you, why isn’t that part of training?”

“Any other recommendations, I am sure aren’t anywhere close to where they should be,” Doan added.

Solicitor General spokeswoman Michelle Davio said the guidelines say police need to assess the information from emergency dispatch before they go into a situation, so they can call medical assistance as needed.

By proper assessment of the situation, officers will know how to respond to potentially violent situations, she said.

The guidelines also say a police officer must consider what other use-of-force options are on hand first before deploying the conducted energy weapon.

An officer who believes a suspect may cause harm to him or herself or a bystander can use the stun gun, but someone who is simply running away isn’t enough reason to do so. The guidelines also say careful consideration must be given prior to using a conducted energy weapon on a subject restrained by handcuffs or any other restraints.

Previous guidelines said officers could fire the stun guns if someone tried to resist arrest, or even just threatened to do so.

Alberta police must now have a Taser co-ordinator, set requirements for ongoing testing and set up a use-of-force reporting system for Tasers — all of which must be monitored by the Solicitor General and Public Safety.

RCMP welcomed Friday’s announcement from the provincial government.

“We welcome the guidelines and we are of the belief that these new guidelines and our policies are fairly consistent in the application in how CEWs are to be used,” said Cpl. Wayne Oakes, media relations officer for Alberta RCMP K Division. “There will be an increase for public accountability — which can only be a good thing,” Oakes said the RCMP already exceed the guidelines recertification requirements, which is asking officers to be trained every two years.

“Our current policy is that anyone using or carrying a Taser be trained every year,” he said.

The RCMP have had a Taser co-ordinator for many years who is responsible for overseeing the reports on stun gun use that come in from all detachments.

All new Tasers must be tested before being put into service.

“We are committed to complying with whichever level of policy, guidelines or regulations that places the greatest onus on us,” Oakes said.

He expects any changes that must be made will be done as soon as possible.

More than 25 Canadians, at least three from Alberta, have died after encounters in which Tasers were used.

Alberta’s move comes a week after the B.C. government imposed similar restrictions on Taser use following the release of the Braidwood report into the 2007 death of Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski at Vancouver International Airport.

Settlement reached in teen's Taser death

August 4, 2009
By Steve Lyttle, Charlotte Observer


The City of Charlotte settled with the family of a 17-year-old who died in March 2008after being shot by a Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officer with a Taser, according to an attorney representing the family.

The out-of-court agreement was announced Tuesday by attorney Ken Harris, who represented the family of Darryl Turner in a suit against the city.

Harris said he expects other litigation in the case, however.

Turner died March 20, 2008, after a confrontation with police at a north Charlotte grocery store where Turner had worked.

The officer who fired the Taser was not charged, but he was disciplined by police.

Police later determined that Officer Jerry Dawson Jr. violated department policy with the way he shocked Turner with the Taser gun. An autopsy showed the teenager's heart was pumping so fast and chaotically from the stress of the confrontation and the Taser shot that it stopped pumping blood properly.

Dawson was suspended for five days without pay in July 2008.

In a statement issued Tuesday morning, Harris did not disclose the amount of the settlement but described it as “very substantial.”

City legal officials could not be reached.

While saying the settlement closes the case against the city, Harris said the matter probably is not closed.

“This is a tragedy that Darryl's relatives hope will never be visited upon another family,” he said. “In light of that perspective, I must note that there will likely be litigation in this matter concerning other parties.”

Harris did not specify who else might be a subject of litigation by Turner's family.

The Taser is a weapon that typically uses compressed nitrogen to shoot two tethered needle-like probes that penetrate skin and deliver an electric shock. It is designed to subdue a person temporarily.

The incident which led to Turner's death happened at a Food Lion store on Properity Church Road. According to court documents, police were called after the store manager asked Turner to leave and he refused. Store surveillance video showed Turner at the customer service desk, knocking over a display and throwing an umbrella. He then moved closer to a store manager and employee, at one point raising his arm and pointing at the manager.

The video then showed Dawson walking through the front door, carrying what appears to be his Taser. Dawson approached Turner with the Taser pointed at him. Turner took a step toward the officer, then continued to walk past him.

It was unclear from the video when Turner was shocked, but police said it happened as Turner stepped toward the officer.

In an investigation which followed the incident, police determined that Dawson held the trigger of the Taser for 37 seconds, until Turner fell. The officer later shocked Turner a second time, for five seconds. According to the CMPD report on the incident, a review board “determined that rthe initial decision to discharge the Taser was within our procedures, but the prlonged use of the Taser was not.”

In addition to the suspension, Dawson also was given additional training on proper use of the Taser.

In the statement announcing the settlement, Harris praised city officials for “their thorough investigation of this matter” and for the city's “openness throughout the process.”