July 31, 2009
By Shannon Montgomery (CP) – 10 hours ago
CALGARY — Alberta has tightened its guidelines on when police can use conducted energy weapons such as Tasers to when a suspect poses a threat to officers, themselves or people around them.
Previous guidelines said officers could fire the stun guns if someone tried to resist arrest, or even just threatened to do so.
"We believe that it's appropriate that the only time that particular instrument is used is if there's a threat to the safety of the public, the person who's not following direction or the police officer himself," Solicitor General Fred Lindsay said Friday.
"It makes it crystal clear to the officers when they can deploy the instrument, because these decisions are made in a split second."
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.
Dziekanski was repeatedly zapped by a Taser after a confrontation with four Mounties.
Alberta's new rules also say Tasers must be tested frequently, including annual tests and when any weapon is linked to a serious injury or fatality. Random tests must also be done on 10 per cent of a force's Tasers four times a year.
The government promised changes after tests completed in April showed that 12 per cent of the province's Tasers weren't working properly. Forty-two older guns and eight new ones were found to be faulty. Twenty-nine didn't deliver enough volts, nine emitted too much and the rest were inconsistent.
Previous Taser guidelines did not require the guns to be tested at all.
Alberta's new regulations meet most of the recommendations from the Braidwood inquiry, said government spokeswoman Michelle Davio, except recommendations that Tasers should fall under the Hazardous Products Act and that police who carry Tasers also have easy access to external defibrillators.
The government is still looking at those two ideas, she said.
"We believe that our new guidelines stand up very well with his recommendations," said Lindsay.
More than 25 Canadians, at least three from Alberta, have died after encounters in which Tasers were used.
Alberta Liberal justice critic Kent Hehr said the new restrictions are a big step forward.
"I still believe these are dangerous weapons and should be used as a last resort measure," Hehr said. "I'm happy and yet realize we have to (stay) vigilant on studying Tasers and their use by our criminal justice system."
The new Alberta regulations also tighten the rules on when police have to report using a Taser.
Officers will continue to have to write up a report and notify a supervisor every time they fire a weapon intentionally, but will now also have to report discharging the weapon accidentally or using a Taser to threaten a suspect without actually discharging it.
These reports will also go directly to the provincial government instead of being kept by individual police forces.
"It just puts us in a better position if something happens to do a thorough investigation of it," Lindsay said.
Calgary police are happy with the guidelines and clarifications in the language around when Tasers can be used, said acting Superintendent Ray Robitaille.
It's helpful for the public to have a clear idea of when a weapon can be used, he said.
"I think anything we can do around any use of force to clarify under what conditions that it's being used so that the public has that confidence and trust in the police is a good thing."
WELCOME to TRUTH ... not TASERS
Friday, July 31, 2009
July 31, 2009
Thursday, July 30, 2009
July 30, 2009
Globe and Mail
Everything known about tasers – everything the provinces and police forces think they know – should now be treated as junk. Canada has a state-of-the-art manual that says the taser can kill, and its use by police forces needs to be severely limited. But have the provinces noticed? The silence of most of them on last week's 556-page Braidwood report has been, well, stunning.
Among the most egregious and most influential pieces of junk is the “research” report of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police on the supposed safety of the taser, notwithstanding the 25 people who have died in this country, and 300 in the United States, after being tasered. That report can now be tossed in the garbage bin where it belongs. The chiefs, who were hardly impartial anyway, undermined any claim to independence by accepting roughly $100,000 in sponsorship money from the taser's manufacturer. The chiefs' report contributed to the prevailing view among police in this country that people don't die from tasers, they die from excited delirium: overheating.
Thomas Braidwood, a retired appeal court judge in British Columbia, after a public inquiry, has dismissed that as plain wrong. Mr. Braidwood looked at the best evidence, and heard from experts in a variety of fields: emergency medicine, cardiology, electrophysiology, pathology, epidemiology, psychology and psychiatry. Unlike the Canadian police chiefs, he had both eyes open when he reviewed the evidence. He was impartial.
Police guidelines in much of Canada allow for tasers to be used at very low levels of threat – even, in some jurisdictions, when people who are not dangerous are merely walking away from an officer (even a Vancouver transit officer). Mr. Braidwood would limit their use to truly dangerous, though not life-threatening situations. If the provinces follow B.C.'s lead and accept his ideas, they would develop uniform policies, rather than leaving matters in the hands of local forces. They would insist that, where mentally ill people are involved, the police try first, where possible, to de-escalate. Any officer with a taser would also have a defibrillator. Tasers should be used for only one five-second cycle, not several.
The Braidwood recommendations should also be embraced by the RCMP. The national police force appears to have accepted them for its B.C. detachments, but has yet to say whether it does for the rest of the country. RCMP Commissioner William Elliott, unlike the police chiefs, had already publicly conceded that tasers can kill, but Mr. Braidwood said his policy revisions did not go far enough.
It would be unconscionable if most provinces sat on their hands and pretended Mr. Braidwood's report is relevant only to B.C. The truths he uncovered apply everywhere, even if his jurisdiction was limited to B.C. If the taser can kill in B.C., it can kill in New Brunswick or Ontario. Its use should be drastically curtailed, everywhere.
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
July 29, 2009
Josh Wingrove, Globe and Mail
Days after British Columbia's Braidwood commission recommended tighter rules around the use of tasers, the American manufacturer of the devices rolled a new product off the line that it says will “fit in” to the province's new guidelines.
Taser International debuted its X3 model Monday, the first new conducted energy weapon the company has released since 2003. The X3's main selling feature is its ability to fire three pairs of electrified probes in quick succession without reloading – giving an officer with a taser the chance to simultaneously zap up to three suspects. Older models, which have only one pair of probes, must be reloaded after each shot.
The Braidwood recommendations, released last Thursday and adopted almost immediately by the province, said that a taser should be discharged once, and not for more than five seconds. A second discharge, it recommended, should only happen if it will be “effective in eliminating the risk of bodily harm.”
Taser International says its new X3 – four years in the making – has a more consistent pulse than its predecessor, the X26.
The new weapon also tracks, second by second, the amount of energy being discharged into a target's body, the company argues. Its earlier model only tracked the time and total duration of a discharge.
“The log just on its own would be phenomenal for courts and [in light of] some of the controversy in Canada,” Taser International spokesman Steve Tuttle told The Globe and Mail.
“The Taser X3 is the most sophisticated handheld weapon ever developed,” Rick Smith, the company's chief executive officer, added in a statement.
The X3's debut in Arizona came as Alberta announced Monday it would restrict the use of conducted energy weapons. The Alberta government is expected to release details of its new rules for police later this week. Three months ago, the province scrapped 50 tasers, or 12 per cent of its inventory, after tests showed they weren't working properly.
Taser International's promise of an improved “pulse calibration system” also comes on the heels of an award-winning CBC and Canadian Press investigation that found 10 per cent of tasers tested were either defective or behaved unexpectedly. Some gave out a higher charge than they were meant to.
The company has disputed the testing methodology of CP, the CBC, the province and the Braidwood commission, in which Mr. Tuttle believes “politics outweighs the science.”
Taser International argues its new model is safer than the previous “proven and widely accepted” device. Mr. Tuttle told The Globe that while the timing of the X3's release and both the B.C. and Alberta announcements was coincidental, the features of the X3 will be useful in adopting the Braidwood recommendations.
“In light of the Braidwood commission, this is only a benefit to have the X3 come out, in terms of timing,” he said. “This will be helpful … the byproduct of it [the timing of the X3's release] is that it does fit in to some of the [Braidwood] recommendations.”
He said the triple-fire capacity could be used to either target more than one suspect – firing the prongs into three people at once – or to fire a second pair of prongs at a lone suspect when the first miss.
An officer with an X3 can fire “in a semi-automatic fashion, hit two probes into one suspect, two shots in another, two shots in another,” Mr. Tuttle said. “Now you don't have to reload, which is hard to do under a dynamic scenario. You can take that second shot. You can take that third shot.”
The $1,799.95 (U.S.) X3 also includes improved resistance to the elements, including “short-term water submersion,” the company said. Police forces will be offered the chance to trade in their old models and upgrade to the X3, the company said.
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
July 28, 2009
By Darcy Henton, Edmonton Journal
Alberta's Solicitor General is expected to amend provincial Taser guidelines later this week, but an official says the changes are not in response to recommendations from British Columbia's inquiry into a controversial Taser related death involving RCMP.
Department spokeswoman Michelle Davio said Monday the rules governing when police in Alberta can deploy the devices and rules regarding training of officers and testing of the devices are being changed as a result of an internal review that began in December 2008.
"We have been reviewing our guidelines for a few months and we expect to have new ones coming out later this week," she said.
Davio said the department is also studying the 19 recommendations of the first phase of the B. C. inquiry--which came out last week--but doesn't expect to have to make major changes to address the issues raised by inquiry commissioner Thomas Braidwood.
"It would appear our guidelines meet or exceed what is in Braidwood," she said.
That comes as a surprise to city lawyer Tom Engel, who said the current Alberta regulations don't even appear to be legal.
He noted that Braidwood recommended restricting the use of Tasers to situations in which a suspect is causing someone bodily harm or about to cause someone bodily harm, which would conform to the Criminal Code of Canada. But Engel said the Alberta rules allow police to deploy the Taser on someone who is threatening to resist arrest or resisting arrest merely by hanging onto a stationary object or pulling away from a police officer.
"In my view, their policy is illegal," he said. "It's counselling officers to break the law. It's telling them they can use the Taser without any regard to whether serious pain will be caused if they don't use it. That's what British Columbia is saying: You can't use this Taser unless it is necessary to prevent serious harm."
The Edmonton police force Taser instructor Const. Joe Tassone said he teaches recruits to deploy the device only when it can be justified under Section 25 of the Criminal code, which allows police officers to employ reasonable force.
"The bottom line is when we use that weapon system we want to make sure it's within the parameters of the law," he said.
B. C. launched the inquiry into police Taser use in February 2008 following the death of Robert Dziekanski, a Polish immigrant who died within minutes of being shocked by RCMP in October 2007 at the Vancouver airport.
RCMP in Alberta have said they don't intend to make any immediate changes in their Taser practices as a result of Braidwood's recommendations.
Police psychologist Michael Webster, who testified at the inquiry, doesn't think all the recommendations will be implemented.
"I am quite certain they won't be implemented, and when they are not it will be yet another demonstration of how ineffective our model of policing is. We have this federal police force that answers to Ottawa and municipal police forces that answer to their own police commissions."
He said there should have been a moratorium on Taser use until studies determine whether in fact they do kill people. Without a moratorium, Webster is convinced Taser use will continue with few restrictions.
"The community will get complacent. They will go back to sleep and this research that's required won't take place. There won't be any urgency to get any good solid data."
He said the RCMP lost credibility as a result of the Taser incident at the Vancouver airport, and if the national police force was smart, it would take the lead on the issue and curtail the use of the devices on its own.
"This force, the RCMP, is at a crossroads in its relationship with the Canadian public," he said. "It needs to be reinvented to get the faith and trust of the Canadian public restored in it again. If they took the bull by the horns and said they are declaring a moratorium, they could do that, but it will never happen."
July 28, 2009
By RICKY LEONG, Calgary Sun
When a retired B.C. judge said last week Tasers could kill, he admonished his province for failing to establish standards for the use of the electrical stun guns.
Ironically, his report exposes a major flaw in Taser use across Canada, in that there are no national standards.
Thomas Braidwood's Taser inquiry was prompted by the death of Robert Dziekanski at Vancouver International Airport in 2007. The Polish man became agitated in the international arrivals area and was later subjected to a stun gun by B.C. Mounties who were called to the scene. Dziekanski died.
In his report, issued Thursday, Braidwood outlined recommendations to the B.C. government relating to the use of stun guns by police officers. B.C.'s solicitor general immediately endorsed Braidwood's findings. In short, energy weapons can be deployed by B.C. police officers only during the most serious cases requiring intervention. British Columbia RCMP have also adopted the recommendations.
Whether energy weapons can actually cause harm has been hotly contested over the years. Taser Corp., the major manufacturer of such weapons, has consistently pointed to research showing they are harmless. (But then, ordinarily harmless things have been known to kill people in extraordinary circumstances.) Reacting to the Braidwood inquiry recommendations through media reports, Taser Corp. said excessive restrictions on stun-gun use are a bad idea because the alternatives -- firearms, batons and hand-to-hand combat -- are far more dangerous for police officers and civilians alike.
Regardless, a new policy for Taser use is now in place in B.C. Sadly, this newfound clarity turns into fog the minute you cross the Continental Divide. National standards for RCMP have remained unchanged since the release of Braidwood's report, although officers have been instructed to use the Braidwood inquiry's findings as suggestions to complement existing RCMP policies.
This issue isn't foreign to Alberta, either. Two Alberta men have died so far this year after being stunned by energy weapons during police interventions. Mounties here have said they would not change their policies on Taser use until they get a green light from the province -- which looks to be coming in a few days. But in essence, right now, Tasers have been found to be deadly in B.C., but nowhere else in Canada.
It's like those inserts you find with something you bought at the store, which state the product "contains chemicals known to the State of California to cause cancer and birth defects or other reproductive harm."
There should be one set of rules across Canada for the deployment of energy weapons.
In no other realm is this type of inequality acceptable. We have one currency. One system for weights and measures. One set of standards for declaring a harmful level of bacteria in food and water. One set of standards for overdosing on common over-the-counter drugs. A universal number to call in case of an emergency.
In the end, it comes down to regulating the actions of police when they are faced with dangerous situations on the job, whatever the weapon the officer needs to use.
When de-escalation tactics have failed, use of force should always be the last resort. We need a clear national directive telling police officers and civilians where stun guns fit in.
The current hodge-podge of regulations surrounding the use of stun guns by police in Canada is intolerable.
When it comes to police use of weapons, whether it be batons, firearms, Tasers or bare hands, we deserve better than a patchwork of rules.
July 28, 2009
James Wood, The StarPhoenix
The Saskatchewan Police Commission wants a provincewide protocol on what situations Tasers can be used in by police officers, whether or not front-line officers end up equipped with the weapons at the end of an ongoing review.
The government-appointed independent commission is currently studying the Taser issue and issued a statement Monday saying that last week's Braidwood report -- which set much more stringent standards for use of the conducted energy devices by British Columbia police -- would be relevant but not decisive to its work.
Under police commission rules for Saskatchewan's municipal police services, Tasers currently can only be utilized by members of special weapons and tactical teams.
However, the three services with SWAT teams -- Saskatoon, Regina and Prince Albert -- set their own protocol for Taser use by SWAT team members.
Murray Sawatsky, executive director for the provincial police commission, said Monday that the commission wants to see provincewide standards for use of the devices by police.
"There is no specific policy right now. The individual police services have developed their own. And I think that's what the commission wants to do . . . make a policy that applies to all use of them, by tactical teams as well," he said in an interview.
RCMP in Saskatchewan are not regulated by the police commission and front-line officers do carry Tasers. The B.C. government and retired judge Thomas Braidwood want the RCMP to follow his report's recommendations but the force is non-committal at this point.
Among the recommendations of the first of two reports by Braidwood, who oversaw the inquiry into the 2007 death of Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski after he was Tasered by RCMP at the Vancouver airport, were changes to the protocol around Taser use.
Instead of being allowed to use them when a suspect shows "active resistance," there will have to be a threat of the suspect inflicting "bodily harm."
Chief Clive Weighill said that is in line with the Saskatoon Police Service's current protocol on using the devices and would continue to be so even if front-line officers are ultimately equipped with Tasers, as he advocates.
"Conducted energy devices (are) right under . . . the use of a firearm. That's how restricted we see the use of this weapon," he said in an interview Monday.
"Some police forces have put this weapon lower on their continuum (of force). So they've been using it at what I would say is a lower level. Maybe sometimes other tactics could be used."
Tasers can be used to both subdue suspects or to force compliance. But Weighill said police should never use the weapons for the latter purpose.
Weighill said he would support a province-wide protocol on Taser use for municipal police services, noting that policies between the services are already similar.
Regina deputy chief Bob Morin said he was reluctant to talk about the SWAT team policy on Taser use, but said Taser use must be approved ahead of time by a superior officer.
"I can probably say this much. . . . We believe (Tasers) to be a less-than-lethal device and that it may be applicable to control violent offenders without putting officers or the community at risk," he said.
Weighill said he also had no problem with any of the 19 recommendations in retired judge Thomas Braidwood's report and that they are broadly similar to existing policies in Saskatoon.
Among Braidwood's recommendations:
- That Tasers only be deployed to enforce federal criminal offences;
- That Taser use on the emotionally disturbed be used as a last resort; and
- That provincial standards be adopted for rigorous and regular training of officers, testing of devices and reporting on use.
Monday, July 27, 2009
July 27, 2009
Leading stun gun manufacturer Taser International Inc. unveiled on Monday a device that is capable of deploying three shocks without having to be recharged — a move that comes just days after a British Columbia inquiry urged stricter limits on the use of the weapons.
Typically, law enforcement officers using stun guns — also known as conducted energy weapons — have to reload after each deployment. Officers using the weapons no longer have to wait to deploy the weapons again, and now can deliver multiple shocks in quick succession.
This capacity could help officers who have missed a target or have more than one suspect to subdue.
Whether or not law enforcement officers should be given the ability to shock people multiple times has been a contentious issue in Canada. One of the recommendations of a report on stun gun use released Thursday by former B.C. Appeal Court justice Thomas Braidwood suggests such use is unwarranted and potentially deadly.
Braidwood recommended in his report that stun guns be used only in single five-second bursts in most cases, rather than multiple bursts. He cited increased medical risks associated with repeated shocks, and recommended that paramedic assistance be requested in every medically high-risk situation.
Though the report recommended a number of stricter limits on the use of the weapons, it stopped short of calling for an outright ban. The British Columbia government promptly adopted all of the recommendations outlined in the report.
The use of the weapons has sparked widespread controversy in Canada, particularly in the aftermath of the death of Polish man Robert Dziekanski at Vancouver International Airport in October 2007. His death, which came after he was stunned with Tasers multiple times by RCMP officers, prompted the Braidwood inquiry and the release of last week's report.
Braidwood will also specifically probe Dziekanski's death in a second report, which isn't expected for months.
Details coming next month
Arizona-based Taser was quick to dismiss Thursday's report. The company said after its release that it appears that "politics has trumped science."
The recommendations in the report are based largely on speculation and ignored key facts, Taser said.
Taser unveiled its new device on Monday to hundreds of law enforcement officers and distributors at its annual conference. It costs $1,799 US, compared with $799 US for the older model, though Taser spokesman Steve Tuttle said there will be "very generous" trade-in programs for law enforcement agencies.
Like the older models, the new stun gun shoots two barbed wires that deliver electrical current for several seconds, temporarily immobilizing people from a distance.
Details on when the new device will be made available will likely come next month, said Tuttle.
Sunday, July 26, 2009
July 26, 2009
By Susan Lazaruk, Canwest News Service
VANCOUVER - Tougher restrictions on the use of Tasers will cause more deaths and injuries, said the devices' manufacturer as it defended the weapons as safe and effective, in the wake of a report calling for "significant changes" of its use by police in British Columbia.
(note from Reality Chick: Don`t miss www.excited-delirium.com`s observations - click on this link: `deathsandinjuries`- all one word)
``Overly restrictive policies on Taser device usage will force police officers to migrate to other, more dangerous force options, such as batons, physical force and even firearms, resulting in more, not fewer, deaths and injuries in police confrontations,'' Steve Tuttle, vice-president of communications for Taser International, said in an e-mailed statement from the company's Arizona headquarters.
Thomas Braidwood on Thursday released his report on the use of Tasers in B.C. , which called for "the threshold for use" of the weapons to be "significantly revised from 'active resistance' to the much higher standard of 'causing bodily harm.' " This prompted the province to order all of its police, sheriffs and corrections officers to "severely restrict the use" of the weapons immediately.
Tuttle in the statement accused Braidwood of twisting medical evidence, basing its recommendations on speculation and ignoring key facts.
``It appears that politics has trumped science in the commission,'' Tuttle said. ``Medical pathologists in the Robert Dziekanski case found no evidence that the Taser device was related to the death, which was caused by underlying medical factors.''
He said the report's findings aren't supported by medical research on conducted energy weapons, citing a new report by Dr. William Bozeman, who found Tasers did not affect heart rate. ``This research has consistently demonstrated that Taser devices are safe and effective when used properly,'' he said in his statement.
Tuttle declined an interview request.
Tuttle declined an interview request.
Tuttle declined an interview request.
Tuttle did acknowledge in his release that ``Commissioner Braidwood recognizes the value of our life-saving technology and (he) states, `On balance, I concluded that our society is better off with these weapons in use than without them.''
But that endorsement was contingent on police implementing Braidwood's recommendations - including officers only use a Taser when a suspect is physically harming someone while committing a criminal act and a lesser force wouldn't be adequate.
His report also emphasized crisis management and de-escalation in confrontations.
All 19 of Braidwood's recommendations were accepted by B.C.'s Solicitor General Kash Heed, who said he expected all police forces, including the RCMP, to follow them.
The federal RCMP said it largely supported the recommendations but was reviewing them to see if recently revamped RCMP policy needed adjustments, the force's deputy commissioner Gary Bass said in a written statement Friday.
The RCMP released a bulletin to its officers, advising them to treat Braidwood's recommendations as ``complementary'' to existing policy.
July 26, 2009
By Richard Warnica, Edmonton Journal
RCMP in Alberta have no immediate plans to adopt strict new Taser-use guidelines being imposed on police in British Columbia.
A public commission in B. C. this week recommended significant changes to the rules governing police use of the controversial conductive energy weapons.
But a spokesman for the RCMP in this province said any changes here would only come after consultation with the provincial solicitor general.
"We're always open to discussion," said Cpl. Wayne Oakes. The B. C. recommendations relate to that province alone, he said.
Oakes said RCMP Taser use in Alberta is governed by national guidelines set by the RCMP and provincial guidelines set by the solicitor general.
Officers are required to follow "whichever has the most onerous guidelines," he said.
The Alberta NDP has called for an outright ban on Taser use among officers. But leader Brian Mason said Saturday that implementing the B. C. recommendations here would go a long way toward cutting down on what Mason calls "inappropriate" Taser use, namely the deployment of Tasers when there is no obvious threat to public safety or the safety of an officer.
"The other problem is there are multiple deployments of Tasers, which is very dangerous," Mason said. "If the RCMP don't adopt these recommendations, then I think that (Solicitor General) Fred Lindsay should insist that they follow them in Alberta."
Tom Engel, who chairs the Criminal Trial Lawyers policing committee, said police rules regarding Taser use in Alberta are generally unclear about when deployment is legal. An officer legally can only cause serious pain, injury or death to a suspect if that suspect's actions could result in harm to others, he said. "We all know that the Taser will at least cause serious pain."
Engel argues that many officers believe a Taser can be deployed when a suspect is resisting physical control, an act that could be as slight as pulling away. Explicitly stating that the Taser only be used when there is a threat to public safety or the safety of an officer would likely lead to a reduction in Taser deployments in Alberta, Engel said.
For now it is unclear what impact the B. C. report will have on the national RCMP standards.
British Columbia's solicitor general ordered all municipal police forces to adopt the new, stricter guidelines and he has said he expects the RCMP to do the same. But the organization has yet to commit to doing so.
RCMP in B. C. said Friday they welcomed the report and would be reviewing and analyzing its recommendations.
In a directive issued from RCMP's B. C. headquarters, officers were advised that "current RCMP standards continue to apply."
Members were asked to "note the direction of the B. C. Solicitor General and to treat this direction as being complementary to existing policy."
B. C. launched an inquiry into police Taser use in February 2008 in the aftermath of the death of Robert Dziekanski, a Polish immigrant who died minutes after being Tasered in the Vancouver airport in October 2007.
The inquiry's commissioner, Thomas Braidwood, released his first of two reports Thursday. Among his 19 recommendations were: - That Tasers only be deployed to enforce federal criminal offences. - That officers be prohibited from deploying Tasers unless the subject is causing bodily harm or the officer is satisfied the subject's behaviour will imminently cause bodily harm. - That Taser use on the emotionally disturbed be used as a last resort. - That provincial standards be adopted for rigorous and regular train-ing of officers, testing of devices and reporting on use.
In the last 12 months, investigations have been launched into two deaths involving Tasers in Alberta.
In May, Grant William Prentice, 40, was Tasered by police in Brooks and later died in hospital.
The incident is still under investigation by the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team, the provincial body that investigates use of force by police.
ASIRT also continues to investigate the circumstances that led to the death of Trevor Grimolfson, 38, after he was Tasered by Edmonton Police while allegedly running amok on Stony Plain Road last October.
RCMP are also facing a $2.5-million lawsuit filed by an Exshaw man claiming physical and mental injury after he was allegedly Tasered five times by RCMP in Banff in July 2007.
July 26, 2009
Pete Curtis - 660 News
It doesn't appear Alberta will be following the lead of British Columbia in adopting stricter guidelines for taser use by the RCMP. B.C.'s solicitor general says, he expects the RCMP, to implement the recommendations made in the recent report from the Braidwood inquiry, which investigated the tasering death of a Polish man at the Vancouver International Airport. But the mounties in B.C. have yet to indicate if they'll comply.
Here in Alberta, an RCMP spokesman says taser use in the province is based on two standards: Alberta's guidelines and the national standards set by the RCMP. Corporal Wayne Oakes tells the Herald they're always open to discussion, but indicates the recommendations made in B.C. aren't applicable to our province.
The Braidwood inquiry made 19 recommendations in its report.
On a national level, the mounties say they welcome the report and will be reviewing and analysing the recommendations.
July 26, 2009
The Chronicle Herald
IT ISN’T the first report on Taser use and abuse, and it won’t be the last. But retired B.C. judge Thomas Braidwood’s 546-page tome on the subject deserves to be adopted as the gold standard for law enforcement and policy makers nationwide.
Mr. Braidwood has become a fixture in the national news firmament as he presides over the inquiry into Canada’s most infamous Tasering fiasco — the videotaped confrontation that led to the death of Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski at Vancouver airport in 2007. Part 1 of his analysis, Restoring Public Confidence: Restricting the Use of Conducted Energy Weapons, was released last week. The second phase of the inquiry, focusing on the circumstances of Mr. Dziekanski’s demise, has been adjourned until late September.
In his report, Mr. Braidwood finds no shortage of actors to upbraid. In a stinging rebuke to Taser International Inc., he asserts that Tasers can indeed kill — a reasonable conclusion, given the stun gun’s track record, that is still firmly rejected by the weapon’s manufacturer.
Mr. Braidwood also finds fault with the B.C. government for adopting Tasers without independently testing them first and for the lack of uniform standards governing their use. But, significantly, he does not advocate shelving them. We agree with this view: Overall, Tasers can do more good than harm if they are deployed with restraint.
On that score, Mr. Braidwood sets an eminently sensible threshold that the stun gun use should be confined to violations of criminal law, not provincial or municipal statutes. Furthermore, offering “active resistance" to a police officer — running away or mouthing off — should not be considered a Taserable offence. But if a subject is inflicting or threatening bodily harm, then Tasering is justified. Uniform standards and clear rules of engagement should help eliminate the use of the Taser as an easy compliance tool and prevent outrageous acts such as the Amherst police subduing an obstreperous diabetic last year over the objections of paramedics who had called for assistance.
Also of particular relevance to Nova Scotians following the inquiry into the death of schizophrenic Howard Hyde in Halifax police custody, was the warning that Tasering “an emotionally disturbed person is, in most cases, the worst possible response."
For police officers who have been issued a Taser, it does makes sense to have a defibrillator handy too, although this could be an expensive proposition. In all, there are 19 recommendations in the report, which B.C. has pledged to immediately adopt. The findings should also be embraced by every other jurisdiction and the RCMP, which, in fairness has tightened its Taser-use protocols.
Certainly, Nova Scotia need look no further than the Braidwood report for inspiration to establish its own provincewide guidelines.
July 26, 2009
By ANDREW HANON, Edmonton Sun
Taser International is going to have to reassess its marketing strategy, thanks to the Braidwood Commission.
Thomas Braidwood is heading two commissions: the first probing the use of stun guns by B.C. law enforcement, and the second examining the death of Robert Dziekanksi moments after being zapped five times by Mounties at the Vancouver International Airport in 2007.
In his final report on the general use of Tasers, Braidwood concluded that the weapons can, indeed, kill.
That flies in the face of Taser's official line that the weapons provide cops with a non-lethal alternative to firearms -- a claim the company vociferously defends against all critics.
Taser International has long argued that in every case where someone has died after being zapped with a Taser, the cause of death has been attributed to something else, such as a drug overdose or a rare condition called "excited delirium."
But Braidwood writes that the weapons "have the capacity (even in healthy adult subjects) to cause heart arrhythmia, which can lead to ventricular tachycardia and/or fibrillation, which if not treated immediately, can cause death."
He also says, "although there is often a lack of physical evidence on autopsy to determine whether arrhythmia was the cause of death, if a person dies suddenly and from no obvious cause after being subjected to a conducted energy weapon, death is almost certainly due to an arrhythmia."
Despite all this, Braidwood endorses the weapons -- provided they're used properly.
"On balance, I concluded that our society is better off with these weapons in use than without them," he wrote. "However, my support for their use is conditional on significant changes being made in when, and the way in which, the weapon is deployed."
Braidwood called for the B.C. government to develop standard procedures to be used by all law enforcement agencies in the province. He said that the threshold for use should be significantly revised from "active resistance" to the much higher standard of "causing bodily harm."
Tasers are highly effective weapons that are, without question, less lethal than firearms. But it must be acknowledged that using them carries significant risk.
They must be treated as potentially deadly weapons and used only by those qualified to handle them.
The B.C. government says it's already ordered all police forces in the province to adopt all of Braidwood's recommendations.
Let's hope that other provincial governments follow suit.
Saturday, July 25, 2009
July 25, 2009
IAN BAILEY, Globe and Mail
Robert Dziekanski's mother says she is pleased the RCMP in B.C. have accepted a directive from the provincial government to adopt the Braidwood inquiry's reforms to police use of tasers.
"If they accept them, I am happy," Zofia Cisowski said from the family apartment in the Polish city of Gliwice, where her son was living before he left Poland in October, 2007, to begin a new life in Canada.
Ms. Cisowski said she has been in Poland for about two weeks, and without Internet access, so is trying to catch up both on the Braidwood recommendations and the response to them.
"It's good news," she said of RCMP support for the recommendations, adding she was hopeful for long-term change on how police use stun guns.
She saluted the work of Thomas Braidwood, a retired justice of the B.C. appeal court, for his recommendations. "I am very grateful. I am comforted by Commissioner Braidwood's statement that tasers can be harmful to people."
"My son is dead from the use of tasers. I am interested in anything good for the future," she told The Globe and Mail.
The RCMP in British Columbia yesterday announced it has issued a directive to officers that says the direction of the solicitor-general is "complementary" to existing policy for the Mounties.
"In addition to current policy, we have additional directions from the solicitor-general that we will follow," Sergeant Tim Shields, a spokesman for the RCMP in B.C., said yesterday, explaining the RCMP's action.
Mr. Braidwood is in the midst of a two-phase inquiry on the police use of tasers and the death of Robert Dziekanski, who suffered a fatal heart attack on Oct. 14, 2007 after a confrontation with Mounties at Vancouver airport.
Mr. Braidwood yesterday tabled a first-phase report that acknowledges the policing value of tasers, but, among 19 recommendations, calls for higher thresholds for their use. Other recommendations include that officers be prohibited from discharging the device for longer than five seconds in most cases and that the province set standards on taser use.
B.C. Solicitor-General Kash Heed accepted Mr. Braidwood's recommendations, and issued a directive to police officers, sheriffs and corrections officers on taser use.
It is with great pleasure that I post the following message I received today from Dr. Mike Webster. His observations mirror my own thoughts on THE BRAIDWOOD REPORT. I watched last week`s news conference on the release of the report on television last week with avid interest and devoured every word. But, I have had ZERO time to sit down and put my thoughts on this report into words. Mike Webster and I are of one mind and I cannot tell you how glad I am to be able to share this message with my readers. Thank you, Mike, for putting it into pretty much the same words that have been stuck inside my head since Thursday.
A Response to the Braidwood Report
It's been two days since the Commissioner released his first report. This one dealing with the Taser itself. I note through observing the media coverage that I appear to be one of the few Taser critics that is not entirely satified with it's recommendations. I have mixed feelings.
I would like to begin this brief response by complimenting the Commissioner. I have the greatest respect for him and find him to be a very thoughtful and considerate man.
To honour my promise of brevity,I will note in sum the positive aspects of the Report and deal more at length with those aspects that cause me concern. I applaud the Commissioner's recommendations in those areas that include: subject self harm; paramedic assistance; AED's; provincial regulations; training; certification; testing; reporting; research; review; and RCMP compliance.
I am disappointed that a moratorium on neuromuscular incapacitation devices ( i.e. the Taser among others ) was not declared. The Commissioner's recommendations largely address the use of the weapon and not the significant questions that still exist with regard to the weapon itself. A Human Effects Center of Excellence study ( 2006 ) told us:
" The peer reviewed and open literature ( on Tasers ) contains very limited objective scientific research data on the mechanism of action, efficacy, safety, and acute and long term effects of these devices."
These questions remain unanswered. My fear is that without a moratorium,and only the Commissioner's recommendation for further research,the community will become complacent,fall back to sleep,and it won't happen.
Short of a moratorium the threshold for deployment should be " the threat of death". That is,the weapon should only be used in those situations that would otherwise require a firearm. The Commissioner has recommended the threshold be moved up to the potential for " bodily harm'. This recommendation impacts upon and weakens his other recommendations involving emotionally disturbed persons and multiple cycling of the weapon.
Setting the threshold at the potential for " bodily harm " leaves too much room for police perception. I believe it's much easier to reach concensus on what is life threatening than what may constitute " bodily harm ". The four RCMP members involved in the death of Robert Dziekanski have already told us that they perceived him and/or the stapler as having a potential for " bodily harm". Moreover,we have heard several use of force experts go on at length about how police perception is the most critical factor in the use of force. It seems to me that if the Commissioner's recommendations had been in place on October 14 2007 Robert Dziekanski would still be dead.
In closing,I would like to thank the Commissioner for assisting the community in getting it's foot in the door in our attempt to regain confidence and trust in Canadian policing.
July 25, 2009
By Peter McKnight, Vancouver Sun
Two problems have dogged police use of Tasers in British Columbia for nearly a decade: One concerns Victoria's failure to set province-wide standards for municipal police forces to follow, and the other concerns the inability of the province to set standards for the RCMP, given that the Mounties are federally regulated.
Former B.C. Court of Appeal justice Thomas Braidwood's comprehensive report, released on Thursday, contains a wealth of recommendations to solve both problems. And judging by Solicitor-General Kash Heed's unequivocal acceptance of the recommendations, the province appears fully committed to solving the first problem.
However, to solve the second one, the province will need the support of the RCMP, and the Mounties have, unfortunately, so far failed to offer a similar statement of unequivocal support for the recommendations.
To take the first problem first: Braidwood minced no words in condemning the province's "abdication of its responsibility" to set province-wide standards for Taser use, a failure that has resulted in little consistency in training programs and use of Tasers among the province's 11 municipal police forces.
Braidwood was similarly blunt in his conclusion that Tasers can cause serious injury or death. While lamenting the state of medical research in this area, Braidwood wrote that Tasers "do have the capacity (even in healthy adult subjects) to cause heart arrhythmia, which can lead to ventricular tachycardia and/or fibrillation, which if not treated immediately, can cause death."
Nevertheless, Braidwood concluded that on balance, society is better off with Tasers than without them, provided significant changes are made with regard to their deployment.
Those changes include deploying the weapon only when the subject is causing bodily harm or will imminently cause bodily harm.
Even then, Braidwood advised that the Taser not be deployed if de-escalation or crisis intervention could be effective, especially when dealing with someone in psychiatric crisis.
This is a significant step up from the current threshold -- "active resistance" -- which allows police to Taser an individual who is merely walking or running away. In fact, police in B.C. have used Tasers more than 160 times on people who were cooperative or passively resistant.
Braidwood made further important recommendations concerning the officer training, safety and the testing of the weapons.
Heed confirmed that the province has already begun implementing the recommendations. To that end, he issued a directive to police on Thursday, and said, "I am confident that every police officer in the province will follow my directive regardless of the colour of their uniform."
By "colour of their uniform," Heed obviously meant to include the RCMP, and that leads us to the second problem. Although 70 per cent of British Columbians live in areas policed by the RCMP, and although RCMP officers have deployed Tasers in B.C. more times than all municipal police forces combined, the province has little constitutional authority over the federal force.
Consequently, the province can't force the RCMP to comply with its directives; the RCMP must voluntarily agree to be bound. And unfortunately, the Mounties have yet to signal their willingness to follow provincial policy.
Instead, they issued a press release stating that they will "review and assess" Braidwood's recommendations.
The release also states that the Mounties already employ a high threshold for Taser use -- a threshold that was, incidentally, explicitly rejected by Braidwood.
It's not clear, then, if the RCMP will accept Braidwood's recommendations. But if they don't, Braidwood recommended that as a precondition to B.C. renewing its contract with the RCMP in 2012, the province should require that the RCMP contractually agree to comply with the province's policies on Tasers.
In other words, either the Mounties accept B.C. policies or B.C. doesn't accept the Mounties. This might sound harsh, but it's in the RCMP's -- and British Columbia's -- best interests, since Braidwood's recommendations can help police to continue saving lives, rather than putting police at risk of taking them.
July 25, 2009
Former justice Thomas Braidwood found an excellent balance in his recommendations restricting the use of Tasers by B.C. police officers. The weapons have a role in police arsenals, but their potential deadliness means higher standards for their use are needed.
Braidwood's report bridges that divide in a very reasonable manner.
The province's response to the recommendations, however, shows a decidedly two-faced approach. It made no acknowledgment of Braidwood's pointed criticism that the government has until now been "abdicating its responsibility to establish province-wide standards for the use of Tasers."
And Solicitor General Kash Heed's blanket pronouncement that "every police officer in the province" will follow his directive to adopt the recommendations ignores the reality that, as a federal force, the RCMP is under no obligation to do so.
Braidwood's report is part of an inquiry into the high-profile death of Robert Dziekanski, a Polish immigrant who died after being shocked with a Taser at Vancouver International Airport in October 2007.
In his recommendations, Braidwood called for "the threshold for use" for Tasers to be "significantly revised." Active resistance -- which could include running from an officer -- should not trigger Taser use. There must be an imminent risk of bodily harm.
"In my view, it is the province's responsibility to set the rules about conducted energy weapon use and officer training," Braidwood said, noting that individual police departments have developed a "patchwork quilt of inconsistent policies." Braidwood also found significant evidence of police under-reporting of Taser use in B.C.
Heed said he accepted the recommendations. But his response to questions on whether the RCMP will also adopt the recommendations was facile and ignored the province's inability to compel the federal force to do so.
"I am confident they will follow it," he told reporters. "I expect them to follow it."
But senior RCMP officers have said only that they will consider the recommendations. And since 70 per cent of British Columbians live in areas policed by the RCMP, and the Mounties have deployed Tasers in the province more times than every municipal force combined, this is no small concern.
Braidwood's recommendations anticipate possible RCMP reluctance. If the force refuses to accept the provincial standard for Taser use, he said, then the government should make compliance a condition for renewing the RCMP's policing contract, which expires in 2012.
Creating a provincial police force would be difficult. But if the RCMP is not willing to accept the principles of accountability and oversight by elected representatives, especially on something like the use of potentially deadly force, it is a step B.C. must be prepared to take.
July 25, 2009
The Canadian Press
Vancouver's transit cops are welcoming new guidelines for police on Taser use and will immediately comply with the province's demand that their use be restricted.
The force's Sgt. Tom Seaman says a public inquiry commissioner's conclusion that B.C. should enact standard rules for forces across the province will make things much clearer.
Former justice Thomas Braidwood released his report into Taser use in British Columbia on Thursday and slammed the government for "abdicating" its responsibility to provide guidelines on the weapons' use.
Seaman says his force must work across several municipalities and having consistent rules is important.
Seaman says transit police have only used a Taser once so far this year.
Seaman's force came under scrutiny in 2008 when documents were released showing Tasers had been used five times against riders who allegedly were trying to evade paying fares, but the force says the victims were part of a criminal investigation.
July 25, 2009
Pete Curtis, 660 News
An Exshaw man has filed a $2.5 million, lawsuit against the Mounties and two constables, the result of a tasering incident in Banff in July 2007.
Police allege on the night of the incident, 26 year old Adam Dormer was intoxicated, swearing and yelling, when he was told numerous times to settle down, or he'd be tasered.
One constable claims, when Dormer ignored the warnings he was tasered twice.
But photographic evidence at a subsequent trial showed evidence of as many as, five taserings.
Dormer was acquitted of charges, of obstructing a peace officer in provincial court in January.
A provincial court judge ruled police had no right to arrest Dormer and excessive force was used when he tasered while he was in handcuffs.
Dormer, who is 6"9, says he suffered painful injuries, mental anguish and lost income during the course of the incident and subsequent trials.
A statement of defence has yet to be filed and none of the allegations have been proven in court.
July 25, 2009
By JEFFREY SIMPSON, Chronicle Herald
Recommendations for restricting the use of Tasers that came out of a public inquiry in British Columbia this week should be followed in Nova Scotia, says a lawyer representing the sister of a mentally ill man who died 30 hours after Halifax police fired one of the stun guns at him.
"They seem to make sense to me," Kevin MacDonald said Friday.
"I do think that they should be adopted."
Mr. MacDonald said he agreed with former judge Thomas Braidwood’s report ordering all police, sheriffs and corrections officers in that province to use Tasers only when someone is causing — or about to cause — bodily harm.
The judge stopped short of calling for a ban on the weapons because he determined they’re a useful tool that can be better than guns.
"If it comes down to a choice between using (lethal) force — shooting someone — or using a Taser, then I think that the Taser has a place," Mr. MacDonald said.
"My concern though is that the Taser is being used as a compliance tool. It’s not appropriate to use it in that way."
Mr. Braidwood found that 25 Canadians have died after being Tasered. He criticized the introduction of the weapons to police forces without any government safety testing.
Mr. Hyde was arrested by police for hitting his wife with a telephone at their Dartmouth apartment shortly after midnight on Nov. 21, 2007.
Video from a surveillance camera and testimony at the inquiry into his death have shown that he was co-operative until officers tried to cut the drawstring out of his shorts while booking him at police headquarters.
After struggling for a few seconds to get away from three officers — all of whom stood over six feet tall and weighed more than 200 pounds — the short and stocky Mr. Hyde was Tasered.
Mr. MacDonald said police decided were too hasty in deciding to use such force.
"I do think that was too quick," Mr. MacDonald said. "As the evidence showed, it was just a matter of seconds. In fact, it may have been before that. My theory (for when police decided to use the Taser) is that it was formulated in that fingerprint room. I think it was pre-struggle."
An audio recording from the surveillance camera picks up a voice while two officers are off screen with Mr. Hyde in the fingerprinting room, where they were trying to cut the drawstring.
"You’re going to be doing the f---ing dance next," a voice can be heard saying. Mr. MacDonald has alleged the voice belongs to one of the officers there, who both deny saying such a thing.
Mr. Braidwood said in his report that using a Taser on an emotionally disturbed person is the "worst possible response" and urged crisis intervention training for all officers.
"I do agree that people with a mental illness, they should not be Tased unless there are extenuating circumstances, unless they’re an immediate harm to themselves . . . or to cause someone else death or serious injury," Mr. MacDonald said.
Mr. MacDonald was also critical of Halifax police guidelines for using the stun guns, advising against firing the weapons at people such as the elderly or disabled.
"The preamble to that section says, ‘Use good judgment before you use the Taser on these people,’ " Mr. MacDonald said. "It doesn’t say you cannot use it on these people. It doesn’t say in relation to everyone else that you have to use good judgment."
Mr. MacDonald said government should issue guidelines for Taser use, instead of police forces relying on the manufacturer.
Justice Minister Ross Landry said Friday night that his department will review the report and bring it to Nova Scotia police administrators and other stakeholders before any decisions are made about whether to incorporate its recommendations.
"To react to the report would be premature at this time," he said.
Friday, July 24, 2009
July 24, 2009
The Canadian Press/CBC News
A senior Halifax police officer has denied pressuring hospital staff to release a mentally ill man who had been shocked with a Taser at least twice while in police custody and died the next morning while struggling with jail guards.
Staff Sgt. Sean Auld, testifying Friday at an inquiry into the November 2007 death of Howard Hyde, was on the scene minutes after Hyde collapsed and stopped breathing after he was hit with the stun gun while trying to escape the Halifax police station.
Hyde, a 45-year-old musician with a long history of mental illness and conflict with police, was revived by an officer using CPR and taken to hospital for treatment.
Kevin MacDonald, a lawyer for two members of Hyde's family, asked Auld why he subsequently placed a call to an unnamed nurse at the hospital.
Auld said he wanted to find out how Hyde was doing and whether he would be returning to the station for further processing and a court appearance to deal with charges stemming from his violent struggle with three officers.
MacDonald suggested Auld pressured medical staff to release Hyde to ensure the case against him moved forward.
Auld bristled at the inference. "I'm offended by that, actually," he told the hearing. "I, in no way, put any pressure on that staff member."
The inquiry has heard that a doctor declared Hyde medically stable about seven hours after the jolt with a Taser and released him into the custody of police so that he could be brought before a judge.
But Dr. Janet MacIntyre included written instructions on a health transfer form that made it clear police were required to bring Hyde back to the hospital unless he was given a psychiatric assessment — something the doctor was arranging when she agreed to discharge him.
Hyde never received the assessment, mainly because police and sheriffs at the court in Dartmouth felt they did not have the authority to follow through on the doctor's instructions.
MacIntyre has yet to testify at the inquiry.
It's not clear why the judge who saw Hyde that day did not order an assessment, but the inquiry has heard that the practice at the time was not to give the health transfer form to the Crown attorney handling the case — a practice that has since changed.
In the end, Hyde was transferred to a jail in Dartmouth, where he died in a scuffle with correctional officers. The cause of death was listed as excited delirium resulting from paranoid schizophrenia.
In earlier testimony, Auld admitted he was wrong when he told the inquiry that the officer who used the Taser on Hyde had used improper procedure.
Auld had said Special Const. Greg McCormick should have issued a verbal warning before he used the high-voltage stun gun on Hyde, who had been arrested after his common-law wife accused him of assault.
However, Auld was shown slides from a 2007 training session that suggest officers were taught to maintain a "surprise factor" when firing the weapon at non-compliant persons.
Elizabeth Buckle, a lawyer representing Halifax Regional Police, also pointed to another slide that suggested officers refrain from issuing warnings unless there is another officer present with a stun gun.
On Thursday, Auld testified that none of the police department's training or policies called for employing the element of surprise when using the so-called intermediate weapon.
"I was wrong," the 20-year veteran of the force said Friday.
Auld confirmed that the last time he received training on the weapon was 2004.
MacDonald said the slides offer no context in terms of what officers were actually trained to do.
"All it says is, 'tight clothing and surprise factor,'" MacDonald said outside the hearing room. "It doesn't explain what is meant by that."
Amnesty International welcomes Braidwood Inquiry report call for restricted use of Conducted Energy Weapons (CEWs) – Public Statement
24 July 2009
In an extensive report released yesterday, Commissioner Thomas R. Braidwood made an urgent and compelling call for a new approach to the use of conducted energy weapons by police in British Columbia.
Amnesty International has been concerned for many years about the expanding use of CEWs in the absence of adequate research, guidelines or accountability. While it is vital for police to have a range of force options available to them, increasingly CEWs appeared to be deployed too often and too soon. Electro-shock weapons, which have a high physical impact and cause extreme pain, should never be used as a general force tool. The case of Robert Dziekanski was a tragic illustration of the inappropriate use of this technology.
In his findings, Commissioner Braidwood upheld Amnesty International’s long-standing contention that CEWs carry with them the potential for serious injury and death, and that this risk as well as the potential for abuse must inform all issues related to their deployment. The organization welcomed unequivocal calls for both highly restricted use and the development of province-wide standards for equipment approval and maintenance, training, and mandatory reporting.
In recommending that use of CEWs be restricted to situations where the subject is causing (or will imminently cause) bodily harm, Commissioner Braidwood significantly noted that lesser force options and de-escalation and/or crisis intervention techniques must nonetheless still be considered prior to the ultimate decision to use CEWs. A general prohibition on multiple stuns, with re-evaluation of the threat level prior to a further discharge of a CEW, was also recommended. This strongly echoes the UN Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials, which stress the need for restraint and use of non-violent means of intervention wherever possible.
The identification of situations which are medically high-risk also represents an important finding. While welcoming the call for paramedic assistance at incidents involving emotionally disturbed persons, the elderly, and other medical conditions such as heart disease, the organization remains concerned, however, that other vulnerable individuals, including those who are intoxicated or under the influence of drugs, merit similar consideration. It is hoped that such individuals will be considered as a priority in the context of the further research recommended by Commissioner Braidwood.
As the appendices to the Braidwood Commission report amply illustrate, individual jurisdictions in Canada have brought their own particular approach to the approval and use of CEWs resulting in tremendous inconsistencies – sometimes within the same city – in standards and practices. BC Solicitor General Kash Heed has reportedly announced that the provincial government accepts all 19 recommendations of the Braidwood Commission. In commending the provincial authorities for their swift commitment to reforms, Amnesty International believes that the impact of Commissioner Braidwood’s work should not end at the provincial border.
Amnesty International encourages federal, provincial and territorial authorities to work together to review the Inquiry’s findings and recommendations, and collectively implement a minimum national standard for the use of CEWs as soon as possible.
For further information, please contact:
John Tackaberry, Media Relations
613-744-7667, ext. 236
July 24, 2009
By Michael MacDonald, THE CANADIAN PRESS
HALIFAX — A senior police officer admitted Friday he was wrong when he told a fatality inquiry that an officer who Tasered a mentally ill man inside the Halifax police station used improper procedure.
Staff Sgt. Sean Auld had said Special Const. Greg McCormick should have issued a verbal warning before he used the high-voltage stun gun on Howard Hyde as he was trying to escape custody on Nov. 21, 2007.
However, Auld was shown slides from a 2007 training session that suggest officers were taught to maintain a “surprise factor” when firing the weapon at non-compliant persons.
Elizabeth Buckle, a lawyer representing Halifax Regional Police, also pointed to another slide that suggested officers refrain from issuing warnings unless there is another officer present with a stun gun.
On Thursday, Auld testified that none of the police department’s training or policies called for employing the element of surprise when using the so-called intermediate weapon.
“I was wrong,” he said Friday.
Auld confirmed that the last time he received training on the weapon was 2004.
Kevin MacDonald, a lawyer for two members of Hyde’s family, said the slides offer no context in terms of what officers were actually trained to do.
“All it says is, ‘tight clothing and surprise factor,”’ MacDonald said outside the hearing room. “It doesn’t explain what is meant by that.”
Hyde, a 45-year-old musician with a long history of mental illness and conflict with police, was Tasered twice, stopped breathing and was quickly revived and taken to hospital.
MacDonald asked Auld several questions about a call he placed to an unnamed nurse at the hospital when Hyde was still receiving treatment there.
Auld said he wanted to find out how Hyde was doing and whether he would be returning to the station for further processing and a court appearance.
MacDonald suggested Auld may have pressured medical staff to release Hyde to ensure the case against him moved forward.
Auld bristled at MacDonald’s suggestion.
“I’m offended by that, actually,” he told the hearing. “I, in no way, put any pressure on that staff member.”
The inquiry has heard that a doctor declared Hyde medically stable about seven hours after the Tasering and later released him into the custody of police so that he could be brought before a judge to face charges.
But Dr. Janet MacIntyre included written instructions on a health transfer form that made it clear police were required to bring Hyde back to the hospital if he was not granted a psychiatric assessment — something the doctor was arranging when she agreed to discharge him.
But Hyde never received the assessment, mainly because police and sheriffs at the court in Dartmouth felt they did not have the authority to follow through on the doctors instructions.
It’s not clear why the judge who saw Hyde that day did not order an assessment, but the inquiry has heard that the practice at the time was not to give the health transfer form to the Crown attorney handling the case — a practice that has since change.
In the end, Hyde was transferred to a jail in Dartmouth, where he died after a struggle with guards.
July 24, 2009
B.C.'s RCMP gave some qualified support to the Braidwood Inquiry's recommendations on Taser use Friday afternoon.
In a statement released on its website, RCMP applauded the Commission and defended its own changing policies.
It also raised concerns about the recommendation for paramedics to be present when a Conducted energy weapon is used, saying it's not viable to provide immediate medical help in some rural communities.
The statement below:
B.C. - RCMP Statement on Braidwood Commission Report on Conducted Energy Weapon Use in British Columbia
2009-07-24 15:45 PDT
The RCMP welcomes the Braidwood Commission’s report on the use of Conducted Energy Weapons (CEWs) in the Province of British Columbia. We are pleased to note that Commissioner Braidwood recognizes the CEW as a useful law enforcement tool and supports its continued use, although he does indicate that this support is conditional on appropriate policies and safeguards being in place.
The report provides helpful recommendations and in a number of areas those recommendations mirror or compliment changes already incorporated in the RCMP’s revised CEW policy.
While the language of Justice Braidwood’s recommendations differs somewhat from that contained in current RCMP policy, the overall intent appears similar. That includes limiting the use of CEWs to situations where there is a real threat to officer or public safety, identifying risks associated with the deployment of CEWs and ensuring accountability for CEW use.
In June 2008 the RCMP made a number of improvements to its CEW policies, training, practices and reporting requirements, including:
• restricting the use of CEWs to incidents involving threats to officer or public safety;
• establishing annual CEW re-certification requirements,
• enhancing “use of force” reporting policies and procedures including producing quarterly and annual reports on CEW usage.
Our revised policy underscores risks associated with the deployment of CEWs, emphasizes that those risks include the risk of death, particularly for acutely agitated individuals, as well as the hazards of mutiple deployments. In December 2008, the RCMP initiated independent testing of its national inventory of Conducted Energy Weapons.
Such testing will now be a requirement of other police forces operating in British Columbia. The RCMP is in the process of implementing “Subject Behaviour Officer Response” reporting which has now been recommended by Commissioner Braidwood. This will support greater accountability and help police officers report in greater detail the circumstances of serious incidents.
We believe the terminology used by Commissioner Braidwood to set out the threshold of threat that must be present before a CEW can be deployed, namely, “a clear and imminent threat of bodily harm” is a clearer articulation of the appropriate threshold and we will accordingly develop further amendments to the applicable RCMP policy. Some recommendations in the report raise questions that will need to be addressed. This is particularly the case for the RCMP which delivers policing services in a wide variety of environments across British Columbia and in a total of more than 780 communities across Canada.
For example, the recommendations dealing with paramedic assistance pose a significant challenge in remote locations in British Columbia policed by the RCMP and in many communities in other jurisdiction where such assistance is not readily available. We are committed however to working with our provincial partners with the goal of operating within or exceeding provincial policing standards and to ensure consistency in our policies and practices across the country. Yesterday afternoon following the release of the Commission’s report the RCMP issued an Operational Bulletin to each of our 6500 officers in British Columbia.
July 23, 2009
By Neal Hall, Vancouver Sun
The B.C. government accepts all of retired judge Thomas Braidwood's recommendations on Taser use and will immediately start implementing them, Solicitor-General Kash Heed said Thursday.
The most important recommendation in Braidwood's inquiry report into Taser use was that the threshold for police using a Taser should be raised. Instead of being allowed to use them when a suspect shows "active resistance," there will have to be a threat of the suspect inflicting "bodily harm."
"Action will begin immediately implementing commissioner Braidwood's recommendations," Heed told a news conference.
Asked if he expected the RCMP to comply, he said: "I am confident that every police officer in the province will follow my directive, regardless of the colour of their uniform."
Heed said his directive was delivered to the head of the RCMP. "I expect it to be followed," he said.
Minutes later, the RCMP said it welcomed Braidwood's report, but had no immediate response to its recommendations and said it would review them.
"At this point, it's too early to respond yes or no," RCMP spokesman Sgt. Tim Shields said.
"We need to review the recommendations in detail."
Two federal politicians, NDP public safety critic Don Davies and Liberal MP Ujjal Dosanjh, called on the RCMP to implement the recommendations immediately.
"The federal government has been missing in action on this issue and they need to provide national standards" on Taser use, Dosanjh said.
Don Rosenbloom, the lawyer representing Poland at the Braidwood inquiry, said Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski, who died after he was Tasered at Vancouver International Airport by RCMP officers, would be alive today if Braidwood's recommendations had been in place.
Braidwood's 546-page report, titled Restoring Public Confidence: Restricting the Use of Conducted Energy Weapons in British Columbia, made 19 recommendations.
He recommended municipal police should use the weapon only when faced with an imminent threat of bodily harm or when someone is committing an offence under the Criminal Code of Canada.
He said a person should not be zapped with the stun gun if the are breaking municipal bylaws or provincial offences such as transit fare evasion.
"In my view, that was much too low a threshold," Braidwood told reporters.
"It would embarrass me as a Canadian to watch a police officer deploy this weapon against a subject, even one under investigation for a criminal offence, for merely walking or running away from an officer."
He said a conducted-energy weapon — a Taser gun — must not be deployed unless an officer is satisfied that de-escalation and crisis intervention techniques won't work.
"All police recruits and all current officers should receive crisis intervention training," Braidwood recommended.
He said police officers must use de-escalation and crisis intervention techniques when dealing with an emotionally disturbed person.
He said his terms of reference prevented him from making any recommendations regarding the RCMP, because they are a federally regulated force.
But he said he found that ironic, since the impetus for the inquiry was the death of Dziekanski, who died in October 2007 after he was Taser five times, restrained and handcuffed by four Mounties.
Braidwood told reporters it would be incongruous if his recommendations were not applied across B.C., considering that 70 per cent of B.C. communities are policed by the RCMP.
For that reason, he said the B.C. government should make RCMP compliance with his recommendations a condition of renewing the province's RCMP policing contracts in 2012.
Braidwood said he didn't believe a moratorium on the use of the weapons was necessary, and that he was convinced Tasers are less lethal than firearms.
"The police have a very difficult task out there on the street," Braidwood said.
He said one of his inquiry's most troubling discoveries was that there were no province-wide standards on Taser use and training, leaving it to each police department to set policies.
He bluntly criticized the provincial government for "abdicating its responsibility to establish province-wide standards for the use of Tasers."
He pointed out B.C had approved the use of Tasers without any independent testing, instead relying on the manufacturer's assurances that the weapon was safe.
B.C. was the first province to approve the use of Tasers in 1999. By 2007, there about 230 weapons in use that had been deployed 1,400 times, although Braidwood said he found significant under-reporting and actual usage could have been twice as high.
There have been about eight Taser-related deaths in B.C., 20 across Canada and 300 in the U.S., Braidwood said.
"There has been much controversy about whether the weapon caused or contributed to those deaths," he said.
Braidwood also recommended that officers be prohibited from deploying a Taser beyond the initial five-second cycle, unless a subject is still posing a risk of causing bodily harm.
The report on the second phase of his inquiry, probing the in-custody death of Dziekanski, is still to be written. That part of the inquiry resumes Sept. 22.
Braidwood pointed out that police do a lot of good work and "the most important weapon in the arsenal of any police department is public support."
Taser International, the manufacturer of the stun gun, issued a statement that said: "It appears that politics has trumped science in the commission." The U.S. company said medical research "has consistently demonstrated that Taser devices are safe and effective when used properly."
July 24, 2009
Nineteen recommendations have been released by the Braidwood inquiry into the use of Tasers. These recommendations are, in a word,
magnificent. Even more magnificent is the fact that B.C. Solicitor General Kash Heed announced Thursday the government accepts all recommendations made by retired judge Thomas Braidwood.
The key recommendation made by Braidwood called for "the threshold for use" of the weapons to be significantly revised from "active resistance" to the much higher standard of "causing bodily harm."
Certainly, had "causing bodily harm" been the standard for Taser use on that fateful day in 2007 when Robert Dziekanski died, there is no doubt the newly-arrived Polish immigrant would have eventually reunited with his mother at Vancouver airport.
Prior to Braidwood's report, the RCMP position was that the force would adopt the recommendations nationwide -- this despite testimony from a number of officers maintaining that Tasers save lives.
While many members of our national police force may feel undermined by the acceptance of Braidwood's recommendations, the fact is that if public confidence in the Mounties is to be restored, dramatically restricting the use of Tasers had to be the first step.
"While today's report deals with conducted energy weapons, I am firmly of the view that the most effective weapon the police have in their arsenal is public support," Braidwood said.
What a wise and judicious man,
July 24, 2009
by Robert Anglen
The Arizona Republic
A government investigation released Thursday in Canada concluded that Taser stun guns can cause death, spurring British Columbia to put severe new restrictions on how and when police there can use the weapons.
Retired Judge Thomas Braidwood, who was tasked by the Canadian province with leading the 18-month public inquiry into the stun gun, said police departments failed to properly research the weapon before putting it on the streets.
In a 556-page report, Braidwood said that police have used the stun gun in situations that do not warrant its use and recommended that Tasers be used only in criminal cases where there is an imminent threat of bodily harm. He also said any officer equipped with a Taser should also be equipped with a defibrillator.
The head of public safety in British Columbia adopted Braidwood's 19 recommendations. The public-safety office will implement restrictions on Taser use by all police departments and corrections officers, including national police agencies operating in the province.
British Columbia was the country's first province to adopt the use of Tasers.
Officials with Scottsdale-based Taser International challenged the commission's findings, calling them political and uninformed.
"It appears that politics has trumped science in the commission," Taser Vice President Steve Tuttle said in an e-mail.
"While emphasizing dramatic statements related to risk, the commission . . . based its recommendations largely on speculation and ignored key facts."
Tuttle said the new policies could hinder police rather than help them.
"Overly restrictive policies on Taser-device usage will force police officers to migrate to other, more dangerous force options such as batons, physical force and even firearms, resulting in more, not fewer, deaths and injuries in police confrontations," he said.
This is the latest blow for Taser in Canada. In December, police agencies across the country began pulling old Tasers off the streets after a study commissioned by the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. found that some Tasers gave off more power than the manufacturer's specifications.
An accompanying medical analysis concluded that the higher jolts pose as much as a 50 percent risk of inducing cardiac arrest in some people.
The Braidwood Inquiry was initiated after 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.
Taser officials, who testified at length during the public hearings, have long maintained that the stun guns cannot cause heart attacks and have never been directly responsible for causing a death.
Braidwood acknowledged the benefits of Taser and its lifesaving potential. But he also said medical evidence shows the gun can cause death, particularly heart attacks, and should be limited.
He said the commission examined medical research, testimony from doctors and test studies from Taser supporters and detractors.
He said the evidence shows that risk of ventricular fibrillation, a chaotic heart rhythm characteristic of a heart attack, increases in people with heart disease, high blood pressure and thin people with unusually thin chest-skin-to-heart distance. He also said discharges of the Taser into someone's upper torso can "impair the subject's ability to breath."
"I am satisfied from the evidence before me that the conducted-energy weapons (stun guns) cause intense pain, incapacitate the subject and have the capacity to cause the subject's death," Braidwood said. "Surely, there must be some . . . threshold below which the use of a (Taser) cannot be justified."
Tasers are handheld devices that fire darts connected to the gun by wires, allowing officers to stun targets from a distance.
In the United States, Tasers are used by more than 12,000 police agencies, including every major law-enforcement agency in the Valley. Many authorities credit the weapon with preventing deaths and injuries to officers and suspects.
But since 2001, there have been more than 400 deaths following police Taser strikes in the United States and 26 in Canada. Medical examiners have ruled that a Taser was a cause, contributing factor or could not be ruled out in more than 30 of those deaths.
Thursday, July 23, 2009
July 23, 2009
The B.C. government will restrict the use of stun guns by police, following the release of a report by the Braidwood Commission in Vancouver on Thursday.
Effective immediately, all police, sheriffs and corrections officers in B.C. have been directed to severely restrict the use of conducted energy weapons, in accordance with recommendations from the inquiry, Solicitor General Kash Heed said.
The B.C. government also will immediately raise the threshold for use of the electric stun guns to match former judge Thomas Braidwood's recommendations.
That means Tasers should only be deployed when all of the following criteria are met:
The officer is enforcing a federal criminal law.
The subject is causing bodily harm or will imminently cause bodily harm.
No lesser-force option has been or will be effective in eliminating the risk of bodily harm.
De-escalation and/or crisis intervention techniques have not been or will not be effective in eliminating the risk of bodily harm.
In addition, the government will move to ensure all police using stun guns have access to defibrillators, said Heed.
Conducted energy weapons will now undergo regular testing and police will be required to report all use of the weapons to the province, said the statement.
In addition, B.C. will work with the federal government during contract negotiations to incorporate Braidwood's recommendations into future contracts with the RCMP for policing in the province.
Report based on speculation, says Taser manufacturer
Meanwhile, both the provincial RCMP and the Taser manufacturer issued written statements in response.
Taser International Inc. of Scottsdale Ariz., said it appears that "politics has trumped science."
It said the recommendations in the report are based largely on speculation and ignored key facts.
It is the opinion of Taser International, the statement said, that the inquiry's recommendations do not "meet the realities of modern day law enforcement."
The RCMP, however, said it welcomed the report from the first phase of the Braidwood Inquiry. The force said it would "review and assess the findings, conclusions and recommendations" in the report. The statement said the RCMP believes that Tasers, when used appropriately by officers who are well trained, can be a useful tool that contributes to officer and public safety.
Braidwood made a total of 19 recommendations to the B.C. government.
The commission inquiry was called after the death of Robert Dziekanski, a Polish immigrant who was stunned by RCMP officers at Vancouver International Airport on Oct. 13, 2007. The commission finished its first phase of testimony in May.
July 23, 2009
A retired justice who has been conducting an inquiry into the police use of Tasers is expected to call on police to severely restrict their use of the energy-conducted weapons.
Justice Thomas Braidwood's inquiry is looking into the circumstances of the October, 2007 death of Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski. The man, who spoke no English, died of cardiac arrest after being shocked five times by RCMP officers at Vancouver International Airport.
Braidwood's report, to be delivered Thursday afternoon (1 p.m. PT), will cover Phase One of the inquiry, which concerns the use of Tasers by police forces in B.C. The report will also be posted online at that time.
The news conference was unexpected, and announced only late Wednesday.
Sources tell CTV News Braidwood's recommendations will include severe restrictions on the use of Tasers by police in B.C.
The RCMP has stated previously that it would adopt Braidwood's recommendations nationwide.
Last year Paul Kennedy, head of the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP, released a number of recommended restrictions on Taser use. Mounties say they adopted them, but critics say the force hasn't lived up to Kennedy's key recommendations.
Earlier this year, the RCMP cautioned officers to use Tasers only in situations that pose a safety risk, and not for purposes of restraining suspects.
Kennedy's report also called for annual training of officers using Tasers.
Dziekanski family lawyer Walter Kosteckyj is hoping for a moratorium on the use of the weapons until restrictions are in place.
"We've had the benefit of hearing about internal investigations from the RCMP, we've heard about the calibration problems," Kosteckyj told CTV News Wednesday night. "There's so much more evidence than there was even two years ago, that I hope and expect that these will be far-reaching recommendations that will actually get people to sit up and listen."
British Columbia's new Solicitor General Kash Heed will hold a news conference right after Braidwood's announcement.
July 23, 2009
Globe and Mail
Former justice Thomas Braidwood is expected Thursday to release the highly anticipated first set of findings from his commission's inquiry into the death of Robert Dziekanski following his tasering at the Vancouver International Airport two years ago.
Commission officials would only say the announcement would deal with “the use of conducted energy weapons (tasers) by law enforcement agencies in B.C.,” but CTV news reported that it will include “severe restrictions” on the use of the devices.
The announcement of Mr. Braidwood's press conference – and one by Solicitor General Kash Heed immediately afterwards to respond to Mr. Braidwood's report – was something of a surprise.
Among those taken aback were Mr. Dziekanski's mother, Zofia Cisowski, who is currently in Poland. Her lawyer Walter Kosteckyj said his client wasn't informed that Mr. Braidwood would release details of the report, and that he had no preview of its contents.
“We didn't know about it. She left last week,” he said. “I think it's going to be very interesting to see what the recommendations are. I certainly hope that they are significant, and I hope they include a moratorium until the testing of the taser [is complete].”
The RCMP have said they would respect Mr. Braidwood's recommendations and adopt them nation-wide.
The retired Supreme Court justice will speak with reporters at 1 p.m. in Vancouver. Mr. Heed will speak at 2 p.m.
Phase two of the inquiry, which deals with Mr. Dziekanski's case specifically, isn't complete.
“This [Thursday's announcement] is only going to deal with the issue of the use of tasers itself,” Mr. Kosteckyj said.
July 23, 2009
Winnipeg Free Press
By: Gabrielle Giroday
In death, his name made national headlines.
However, one year later, Michael Langan's mother Sharon Shymko said she's made no progress in finding out what happened to her teenage son after he was Tasered by police and died.
Shymko is awaiting the results of an autopsy into Langan's death.
The report hasn't been completed yet by the province's Chief Medical Examiner's office, but Shymko is eager to review the report that she hopes will explain how her son died.
Shymko also hopes the results will lead to stun guns being banned in Canada, where only police are allowed to carry the weapons.
"I wish they would ban those Tasers completely," she said.
Wednesday, Shymko and her family gathered around a small plot at Brookside Cemetery to poke small plastic flowers around a black granite grave recently installed there. The crowd included Michael's father, Brian Minchin, who contributed about $600 towards the gravestone that he saved up from disability cheques while doing time in jail last fall and this spring.
Minchin called his life after Langan's death a "mess," but said he's proud his son's grave finally has a marker, which bears his parents' names.
Shymko said: "I feel lonely. I wish he was here. I could understand if he had cancer, or sickness and he died," she said. But he didn't. On July 22, 2008, trouble began for Langan after he allegedly smashed a car window and tried to steal an item from inside the vehicle parked at 1147 Notre Dame Ave. Friends said he often scrounged for cigarette butts in the core area.
Police said he then brandished a knife towards two officers who encountered him in the back lane of 871 William Ave.
After officers told Langan repeatedly to drop the weapon, police said they stunned him because he was a threat to officer and public safety.
Shymko said Langan had no known medical ailment. He was rushed to hospital in critical condition and was declared dead.
Police did not say how many times they shocked Langan. Shymko said she has not been in contact with police since shortly after her son died.
Manitoba Métis Federation president David Chartrand called the death an incident of racial profiling last year.
"I believe (police) overreacted so quickly," Shymko said. "When I go bed and when I wake up, I'm just thinking about him every day."
She said she found out about the death from the news but initially dismissed the possibility that it was her son.
"Then when (the police) came over... all they had to mention was Taser, and I just started crying... Right away I knew it was Michael, the one that was Tasered that I heard on the news," Shymko said.
The Winnipeg Police Service confirms that an internal investigation into the death is continuing, but declined an interview.
There will be a mandatory inquest into Langan's death because it is an officer-involved fatality.
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
July 22, 2009
LAS VEGAS, July 22 (UPI) -- The new Taser X3 stun gun is being marketed to U.S. young adults through the social networking offerings Facebook and Twitter, a company spokesman says.
Taser spokesman Steve Tuttle said his company is using the social networking service Twitter to offer a personality to the new Taser model that may appeal to young customers, the Las Vegas Sun reported Wednesday.
"Never thought I'd get so excited about the feel of a safety switch," the model's imaginary X3 personality said via Twitter. "But wait until you feel it -- smooooooth."
Media consultant Dan Zarella said humanizing a Taser product can be risky given the dangerous nature of the stun gun.
"There's some risk involved," Zarella told the Sun, "that somebody is going to take them to task for making light of such a serious thing, but no good social media is without risk."
Tuttle maintains any marketing risks are worth the potential of attracting younger consumers.
"We want to get that generation. This keeps Taser from being a dinosaur," he said.
July 22, 2009
The Canadian Press/Globe and Mail
Two Halifax police officers have told an inquiry into the death of a mentally ill man that they assumed Howard Hyde would receive a required psychiatric assessment once he was released into the custody of court sheriffs or correctional officers.
The 45-year-old musician, who never received the assessment, died in a Dartmouth jail 30 hours after he was tasered at the Halifax police station on Nov. 21, 2007.
Const. John Haislip says he understood the instructions that a doctor included on a so-called Health Information Transfer form, which required police to ensure Hyde received a psychiatric assessment or be returned to hospital.
But he and a booking officer, Special Const. Dan Fraser, both said they assumed that either court sheriffs or correctional officers would make sure that happened once they took custody of Mr. Hyde after he was charged with assaulting several officers.
At one point, Const. Haislip testified he didn't “have a clue,” when asked if he was aware that the court could order a forensic psychiatric evaluation.
The inquiry has heard that the transfer form is typically not included with the package of information given to the Crown when a prisoner appears in court.