January 31, 2010
By NADIA MOHARIB, QMI Agency
CALGARY - Footage caught by a police dash-board camera offered a rare but crucial witness that helped clear five Mounties of any wrongdoing in an in-custody death.
The Brooks RCMP officers involved in the May 6, 2009 incident were cleared earlier this month by the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team that looked into their actions and the use of a Taser on a man resisting arrest.
After two jolts with a stun-gun, Grant Prentice died but ASIRT found it was due to cocaine use and not the weapon officers were forced to use.
ASIRT director Clifton Purvis said it is rare to have that sort of evidence but clearly it offers another independent vantage point to support or contradict versions of events from witnesses or police officers involved.
Calgary police Insp. Luch Berti with the investigative support section said the case speaks to the many advantages technology can offer to either exonerate police of any wrongdoing or hold up allegations of misconduct.
“I think it’s excellent,” he said.
“Obviously, it has to be put into context by humans but it’s a video recollection of what transpired.”
While 80% of RCMP cruisers in Alberta are equipped with in-car cameras, Calgary cops currently have just 15, and exclusively in traffic unit vehicles.
The aim behind all high-tech additions to the arsenal is to enhance officer safety, said Berti.
Dash-board cameras can, for instance, offer a deterrent to those who would act aggressively or inappropriately towards police during something as benign as a traffic stop.
“If they knew police had video on them maybe they would behave better or react differently,” Berti said.
It “works both ways,” he said, offering another vantage point should there be questions of police conduct.
The Police Association president, John Dooks, said another snapshot of a particular scenario is always an advantage.
“We are in full support of the in-car camera system and as demonstrated in recent incidents it will be a valuable tool in dealing with complaints and identifying any training issues,” he said.
“The recordings will provide an accurate picture of what happened and assist any investigation process.”
WELCOME to TRUTH ... not TASERS
Sunday, January 31, 2010
January 31, 2010
Saturday, January 30, 2010
Friday, January 29, 2010
Posted Jan 29, 2010 @ 02:50 PM
Last update Jan 29, 2010 @ 07:29 PM
Family members of a man who died after being shot with a Taser stun gun say they will be seeking their own autopsy.
Richard Burns, the brother of Patrick Burns, made the statement Friday after the family learned that an initial autopsy, conducted at the request of the coroner’s office, determined that the cause of death was inconclusive, pending toxicology and additional studies.
“Our family is having an independent autopsy done as well,” Richard Burns said. “It doesn’t surprise me that that was the conclusion today.”
Patrick Burns, 50, was detained by Sangamon County deputies a week ago today, after they were called to the scene of a residential break-in. When they arrived at the 1400 block of North Wesley Street in Grandview, they found Patrick Burns in the yard, dressed only in a shirt and underwear. He had sustained cuts from allegedly breaking into a house.
Deputies later learned that Burns lived nearby and reportedly had been involved in a domestic dispute.
After he allegedly refused deputies commands and resisted, deputies shot Patrick Burns with a Taser stun gun multiple times.
He was taken to Memorial Medical Center, where his condition deteriorated. Burns died at 5 p.m. Thursday.
The sheriff’s office called in Illinois State Police to review how the situation was handled.
Sheriff Neil Williamson has said he stands behind the deputies and use of the Taser stun gun.
Sangamon County Coroner Susan Boone said in a news release Friday the cause of Burns’ death “is inconclusive pending toxicology and additional studies.”
Boone said the “additional studies” could include things such as tissue exams and checks of blood sugar.
Richard Burns said he requested that Boone use a board-certified forensic pathologist to conduct the autopsy, but the request was denied.
Boone said the pathologist she uses is board certified in pathology, but doesn’t have to be certified in forensics. The pathologist, she said, has done more than 2,500 forensic autopsies.
Richard Burns said the autopsy requested by the family would be conducted by two certified forensic pathologists.
An obituary for Patrick Burns stated that he is survived by two daughters and numerous other family members.
Burns was an internal auditor for the Illinois Department of Central Management Services and formerly worked for the Illinois Department of Transportation.
John Reynolds can be reached at 788-1524.
Patrick Burns autopsy results: “Inconclusive pending toxicology and additional studies.”
Source – News release Friday by Sangamon County Coroner Susan Boone
Posted by Reality Chick at 23:00
January 29, 2010
Allen Garr, Vancouver Courier
Dr. John Butt was clearly annoyed. Butt is Alberta's former chief coroner and the former chief medical officer for Nova Scotia. At the moment of his annoyance, Butt was taking part in a panel discussion last week on deaths that have occurred while people were in police custody. The object of his annoyance was B.C. Solicitor General Kash Heed.
In an audience made up of senior members of the RCMP, the Office of Police Complaint Commissioner, aboriginal leaders and advocates on the issue of in-custody deaths, neither Heed nor anyone from his office, which is responsible for policing, turned up.
The sponsor of the panel discussion was the B.C. Civil Liberties Association. The location was the VanCity Theatre.
Butt was joined on stage by three other panelists: the chair of the panel Dr. David MacAlister with Simon Fraser University's department of criminology; expert in police accountability and in-custody deaths, lawyer Cameron Ward; and filmmaker Leonard Cunningham, an expert in aboriginal in-custody deaths.
Behind them was a floor-to-ceiling projection on the theatre's screen, a mosaic of now familiar faces, some of the more prominent members of that tragic fraternity who have died in police custody: Frank Paul, Robert Knipstrom, Kevin St. Arnault, Clayton Willy, Ian Bush and Robert Dziekanski.
Sitting in the front row and bearing witness were the mothers of St. Arnault and Bush.
In-custody deaths are no small matter. Over the past several years in B.C. we have averaged two per month.
For those of you who have followed this debate, you will know it always gets down to the same point. There can be no confidence in a system where police investigate themselves. The RCMP, more than any other police force, has been battered repeatedly in recent years over the incredulous conclusions their own investigations into these matters have produced.
Ward, who has represented a dozen families who have suffered in-custody deaths, told the audience that we can't trust police nor can we trust the crown prosecutors who regularly work with police.
"The solution is really simple," Ward pointed out. "We have to have a body of independent civilian investigators respond immediately."
This is happening in Ontario. Ward also wants independent lawyers deciding if charges should be laid.
One point of clarification: What Ward is proposing should not be confused with what Heed and the Liberals in B.C. are promoting in their new police act, a beefed-up version of "civilian oversight." They draw support for that position from a report they commissioned from former B.C. Court of Appeals Justice Josiah Wood. But it still means police investigate themselves, albeit with a civilian occasionally looking over their shoulders. Wood came to this recommendation even though he found at least one in five police investigations seriously flawed.
There has, in fact, been a seismic shift in RCMP thinking in the past few months thanks largely to the beating they've been taking from the public and the media. Assistant RCMP Commissioner Alastair MacIntyre confirmed that in comments he made before the panel discussion began. The Mounties will accept what ever the government decides, including independent civilian investigation.
If you are wondering why Heed and his government aren't leaping at this, particularly given that they are in the midst of re-negotiating the province's contract with the RCMP, MacAlister offered this opinion, one shared by his fellow panelists.
We are captives in this province of a "very powerful police lobby" which likes things the way they are. Ex-cop Kash Heed is aware of that just as his predecessor, ex-cop Rich Coleman, was.
While that persists, nothing will change the shameful incidents of in-custody deaths.
This is not a story related to tasers, but I have to say I'm pleased that Mr. Wu has retained our own lawyer, Cameron Ward, to take his case forward. Mr. Ward will see that Mr. Wu is compensated for the damages he suffered at the hands of Vancouver's finest, who ought to be sweating bullets. You GO, Mr. Wu.
January 29, 2010
Jane Armstrong, Globe and Mail
A Vancouver man beaten by undercover police in what was later described as a case of mistaken identity has hired a well-known civil-rights lawyer who has warned that his client will sue the city.
Yao Wei Wu, 44, was beaten by two plainclothes police officers who came to his home last week to investigate a report of domestic violence. But they got the wrong home.
Mr. Wu suffered fractures in the bones around an eye as well as bruises to his knees and back. His wife and children witnessed the attack.
A letter sent from lawyer Cameron Ward to the city clerk states that he has been retained by Mr. Wu. “Please be advised that Mr. Wu will be commencing a claim for damages for personal injury against the City of Vancouver and those responsible,” the letter says.
The missive also alleges that police repeatedly visited Mr. Wu’s home to “try discourage him” from hiring Mr. Ward.
“Please ensure that this inappropriate conduct ceases immediately,” the letter says.
Mr. Ward was not available to comment. The letter was released by a group of Chinese Canadians who have been assisting Mr. Wu.
Initially, police said Mr. Wu resisted arrest, but Chief Jim Chu later retracted the statement.
Mr. Wu, a married contractor with two children, speaks little English. In an interview with CTV news last week, Mr. Wu said through a translator that police rang his doorbell in the middle of the night. When he opened the door, the officers yanked him outside and beat him.
After the television interview aired, police said they had personally apologized to Mr. Wu, adding that a senior Cantonese-speaking police sergeant and an inspector visited the family and listened to Mr. Wu’s account of events.
An internal investigation was also launched and one of the officers who arrested Mr. Wu was reassigned to desk duties.
A Vancouver police spokeswoman said Thursday that police would not comment on the letter.
Meanwhile, a Vancouver Chinese social agency, SUCCESS, will hold a joint news conference Friday with Chief Chu and Stan Lowe, the B.C. police complaint commissioner. SUCCESS spokeswoman Eileen Lao said the social services agency’s goal is to provide the Chinese community with information on how to complain about potential police misconduct.
Ms. Lao also rejected accusations from some members of the Chinese community that the agency has sided with police in the Wu case.
A group of Chinese Canadians, led by Gabriel Yiu, rallied to Mr. Wu’s defence after the attack.
Mr. Yiu said SUCCESS should be concerned with assisting Mr. Wu, providing him with translation and helping him find a lawyer – not holding news conferences with the police.
Mr. Yiu said Mr. Wu has psychological wounds from the attack. He also said Mr. Wu told him that police invited him to Friday’s news conference.
“It’s totally inappropriate,” Mr. Yiu said.
January 29, 2010
By JOHN REYNOLDS (firstname.lastname@example.org)
THE STATE JOURNAL-REGISTER
A 50-year-old man who was shot by Sangamon County deputies with a Taser stun gun Saturday died Thursday at Memorial Medical Center.
Patrick Burns of Grandview died at the hospital about 5 p.m.
No information was immediately available on the cause of Burns’ death. An autopsy is scheduled for today, said Sangamon County Coroner Susan Boone.
Richard Burns, Patrick’s brother, said the family doesn’t know why Burns would have wanted to break into someone’s home. “Pat was always willing to lend someone a helping hand,” said Richard Burns during a phone interview from his home in Florida. “I just want to get to the bottom of what happened to my brother.”
Patrick Burns was detained at 6:15 a.m. Saturday, after deputies were called to a suspected residential break-in. When deputies arrived, they found Burns, who was reportedly was wearing only a shirt and underwear.
Sheriff Neil Williamson said Thursday that deputies later learned Burns lived around the corner and that he had been involved in a domestic dispute before the reported break-in.
Deputies said they tried to detain Burns, but he resisted. He was shot several times with a Taser and then subdued. Burns suffered cuts in the alleged break-in and was taken to Memorial for treatment. Once at the hospital, his condition deteriorated.
The Sangamon County Sheriff’s Office called in Illinois State Police last week to review the incident.
Richard Burns said the family is not on a witch hunt, but they do want to know more about how the situation was handled and what caused Patrick’s death. “The state police investigation should uncover what happened from A to B to C,” Richard Burns said. “I have a lot of confidence they are going to do the job fairly and independently. When they review the facts of the case, we will know what happened.”
Williamson said the investigation is ongoing.
“We stand by our deputies, and we stand by the use of the Taser,” Williamson said. “We will await the exact cause of death. We are confident the Taser was not a contributing factor.”
Richard Burns added that he is not happy with the way Boone is handling the case. He said he has friends who are doctors, and they suggested that due to the circumstances of Patrick’s death, a certified forensic pathologist should perform the autopsy.
“Forensics is going to be the key to determining Patrick’s death,” Richard Burns said.
He forwarded the request to Boone’s office, and said she called him back and took an “aggressive” tone and told him that she was going to use another pathologist. Boone said her pathologist has been doing forensic autopsies for 12 years. “She does not have to be board-certified in forensics. She is board-certified in pathology, and has done over 2500 forensic autopsies,” Boone said. “… I explained to him that if he wanted an independent autopsy when I was finished, he was welcome to do that.”
Burns also questioned whether Boone could conduct an unbiased review of the conduct of the sheriff’s office. Boone said her office is “absolutely independent.”
“The coroner’s office is the balance between the medical profession and the legal profession,” she said. “We are the unbiased, neutral person in the middle. I do my own investigation. I don’t have anything to do with Springfield police or the sheriff’s department or state police.”
John Reynolds can be reached at 788-1524.
Patrick Burns, 50
*Allegedly involved in domestic dispute and suspected break-in early Saturday
*Tasered and subdued by Sangamon County sheriff’s deputies
*Taken to Memorial Medical Center for treatment of cuts, but condition deteriorated
*Died about 5 p.m. Thursday at Memorial Medical Center
Posted by Reality Chick at 06:52
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
Letter to the Editor
Published in today's edition of my local paper - The Belleville Intelligencer
I believe The Intelligencer was right to publish Mr. O'Sullivan's account of his November ordeal with the Belleville Police Service. With the nationwide escalation of interest in the use of Tasers by police in recent years, Canadians are demanding more -- not less -- transparency from police.
And when the Belleville Police Service is unwilling to provide even the basic facts in an open and timely manner, instead delaying disclosure for an inconceivable seven weeks, we in the court of public opinion are left to ponder what they had to hide.
It should be noted that, in 2004, the Vancouver Police Department was roundly criticized for waiting a mere four weeks before disclosing that a Taser was used on my brother, Robert Bagnell, the night he died.
That serious error in judgement prompted the British Columbia Police Complaints Commissioner to order an external investigation into the matter, due in part to "concerns regarding delays in disclosure to the family, media and public which created an adverse perception of the ability of the VPD to conduct an impartial investigation."
In the end, the VPD was forced to change its disclosure policy.
Regardless of how events unfolded on the night in question, Mr. O'Sullivan is extremely fortunate to have lived to tell his side of the story.
Twenty-seven Canadian men have died in Canada due to Taser use (at least 467 in North America). We -- the Belleville Police Service's "partners in the community" -- can only hope that we will eventually be subjected to the truth about what happened during this incident.
And it will be interesting to see whether the facts really are so different from Mr. O'Sullivan's account. If we are to rely on recent Canadian history, though, police have been considerably less than forthcoming when Tasers have been used and have even gone so far as to fabricate the truth to suit themselves (who can forget the RCMP testimony re: Robert Dziekanski?).
This cynic looks forward to knowing what prompted the BPS to resort to Taser use in the first place and why they waited so long to publicize it.
See also Story should be told say Intelligencer readers
See also Editorial: Police political two step
See also Police bash the Intel
See also Former Olympic Boxer says he was beaten - BELLEVILLE POLICE: Have much different version of Shawn O'Sullivan's story
January 27, 2010
GARY MASON, Globe and Mail
Give Ian McPhail marks for honesty anyway.
When the newly appointed watchdog of the RCMP was asked by The Globe and Mail's Colin Freeze what he knew about the federal civilian oversight body he was taking over, he said our reporter likely knew more about the agency's background than he did.
The Prime Minister's Office must have loved reading that.
Mr. McPhail's new job as chair of the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP is one of the most cynical and discouraging appointments this government has made in the past four years. The only qualification that the man seems to have for the job is the past work that he has done for the Conservative Party.
One of the most critical positions in the country has become a mean-nothing patronage appointment.
As Mr. McPhail acknowledged, he's been active in Conservative politics since the 1970s. His support was recognized by the Ontario Conservative government of Mike Harris in the 1990s, which asked Mr. McPhail to head up a few different boards and commissions. Otherwise, most of his career has been spent as a lawyer specializing in wills and estates.
Mr. McPhail is replacing Paul Kennedy, who assumed the chairman's job in 2006 after a long and distinguished career as a civil servant in various justice and law-enforcement-related portfolios. But Mr. Kennedy did two things the federal Conservatives didn't much care for - deliver very public speeches that called on Ottawa to give his toothless agency the powers it needed to be a truly effective oversight agency, and, secondly, issue reports into RCMP conduct that did not cast our national police force in a positive light.
So after four years, the Tories gave Mr. Kennedy the heave-ho.
At least Mr. McPhail's appointment does one thing: remove any doubt about just how low a priority keeping our national police force honest and accountable is for this government. This at a time when support for the Mounties among the Canadian public is at an all-time low; and when an increasing number of provinces are bringing in the type of tough civilian oversight of their municipal and provincial police forces that the RCMP should be subjected to nationally.
(For a disturbing look at just how flawed and organizationally inept the RCMP have become, I recommend a new documentary by Bountiful Films and filmmaker Helen Slinger entitled Mounties Under Fire. It will be rebroadcast on CBC this summer, but you can also see it online at: http://www.cbc.ca/documentaries/doczone).
Mr. McPhail has been given a minimum one-year term as chair. This is about how long it will take before he begins grasping the complexities of the position. In my opinion, it took Paul Kennedy two years before he began hitting his stride as complaints chair - and knowledge-wise he had an enormous head start over the man succeeding him.
I figure the RCMP have at least a year to run wild.
The CPC had been operating on a base budget of about $5-million a year. However, the last couple of years, Mr. Kennedy managed to persuade the government to give him an extra $3-million-plus so he could launch more in-depth investigations into allegations of RCMP misconduct as well as conduct broader analysis of contentious issues such as taser use.
That extra funding is now at risk.
Without it, some of the best work the CPC does will disappear and staff will have to be laid off. Also, the CPC will have to rely almost exclusively on RCMP officers to investigate complaints against the Mounties instead of using its own investigators.
Yes, you read that correctly.
Is Mr. McPhail going to be in any kind of position to argue for that extra money before budgets are set in the next couple of weeks for the coming fiscal year? He'll still be trying to figure out where the washrooms are.
It sounds like Mr. McPhail plans to run a much different operation than his predecessor anyway. He told The Globe he believes that the CPC chair does not have to be an expert in criminal law or civilian oversight in general. He said his responsibility is to understand how "an administrative agency should operate." Mr. Kennedy felt his job was to ensure that Canada's national police force was held accountable for its actions.
I'm sure the Mounties can't believe their luck. Looks like they finally got their man.
Tuesday, January 26, 2010
Kelly Brinson, 45, Cincinnati, Ohio
January 26, 2010
By Eileen Kelley, Cincinnati.com
A 45-year-old man who was in the psychiatric ward of University Hospital has died apparently after being shocked with a Taser stun gun, his family said Tuesday.
Family members of Kelly Brinson said he never regained consciousness after being shocked at least three times on Jan. 20.
Brinson was pronounced dead on Saturday.
Brenda Brinson said her brother went to the hospital on Jan. 18 and was admitted to the psychiatric ward early in the morning on Jan. 19.
Kelly Brinson was a paranoid schizophrenic, his sister said.
“He went in there for help,” she said.
Eugene Ferrara, Director of Public Safety and Police Chief for the University of Cincinnati Police Department said Tuesday that Kelly Brinson was shot with a Taser once in the hip.
A Taser is an electroshock weapon that uses an electrical current to disrupt voluntary control of muscles.
He said the officer Mark Zacharias, who Tased Brinson, has been placed on administrative leave until the coroner’s report on the death is released.
Brenda Brinson said she was told that her brother had become agitated and lunged at either a security guard or a University of Cincinnati Police officer.
She said that she was told that five other officers were called to the psychiatric ward and that her brother was shocked at least twice in the chest and once in the hip.
Zacharias tried to deploy his Taser three times, but computer results show that the unit only deployed one, Ferrara said.
The marks on Kelly Brinson's chest may have been a result of medical action taken after the incident to resuscitate him, Ferrara said.
Monday, January 25, 2010
Ottawa names interim RCMP watchdog - Lack of experience with Mounties raises skepticism of estate lawyer with ties to Tories
January 25, 2010
Colin Freeze, Globe and Mail
The new man in charge of holding the Mounties to account is a Toronto estate lawyer who describes himself as “collegial.” But his predecessors question whether a “neophyte” with that mindset is up to the job.
Ian McPhail, who has spent most of his career focusing on wills and real estate, acknowledges he has much to learn about the RCMP. While he has worked as a Conservative organizer and chaired Ontario government bodies, he has never before tried to police the police.
“Look, you probably know more about the background there than I do,” Mr. McPhail said in an interview last week. “I'm going up Monday, it will be my first day on the job.”
The federal government appointed him last week as “interim chair” of the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP. He is to hold the job for at least a year.
This appointment raised eyebrows, given that Mr. McPhail has no background in policing, criminal law or in federal oversight agencies. Past chairs – even ones with long histories in security and oversight – have left the job in abject frustration. They've complained that Parliament's laws render them toothless watchdogs, allowing the Mounties to remain a stubborn culture unto themselves.
The RCMP Complaints Commission consists of a group of 90 civil servants who try to keep tabs on a sprawling police service with some 30,000 members across Canada. The office has lately hammered home some chronic issues – including the RCMP's use of tasers.
Mr. McPhail, who started his Toronto estate-law firm 37 years ago, said no one need be unduly concerned about his lack of background in police issues. “There's perhaps a misunderstanding in the role of the chairman, which is not to be expert in those fields,” he said. “But rather to understand how an administrative agency should operate.”
His predecessors wish him well, but question his description of the job and his credentials Criminal law “isn't something you pick up on the fly,” Paul Kennedy, whose term finished in December, said in an interview. “If you don't know the law, I don't know what value you can bring to the job.”
Mr. Kennedy spent 35 years inside the federal security agencies before becoming the Mounties' watchdog in 2005. He issued some scathing reports until the Conservatives opted to not renew him last fall.
Mr. Kennedy is to appear on Parliament Hill tomorrow as part of a forum organized by the Liberal party. He'll be joined by other federal watchdogs whose terms have not been renewed.
Shirley Heafey, the RCMP Complaints Commissioner from 1997 to 2005, spent two years inside the agency as a vice-chair before taking the helm. Prior to that, she worked for the Security Intelligence Review Committee, the oversight body of CSIS, Canada's spy agency.
Asked about Mr. McPhail's appointment, she said the Mounties “are going to love to have him there.”
“He's just a caretaker. There's no power to do anything unless you really push the envelope,” she said. “He's coming in cold. There's no way he can do anything in a year … he's a complete neophyte.”
The two previous complaints commissioners had been appointed to the job by Liberals. While Ms. Heafey said she had once dabbled in Liberal politics, Mr. Kennedy described himself as non-partisan.
“And that's the way it should be,” he said.
Mr. McPhail said he has been active in Conservative riding associations in Toronto since the 1970s. The provincial government of premier Mike Harris appointed him chair of TVO for one year in the 1990s. He was later put in charge of the province's environmental-review board and its alcohol and gaming commission.
Past RCMP watchdogs have publicly agitated for change, complaining the Mounties ignore recommendations otherwise.
But Mr. McPhail said he isn't greatly concerned by that. “I don't know a lot about their style,” he said. “I just know about my style. My style tends to be collegial.”
Sunday, January 24, 2010
January 24, 2010
Janice Tibbetts, Canwest News Service
OTTAWA -- Liberals and Conservative senators are locked in a dispute about the pending release of a report that is deeply critical of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and calls for at least 5,000 new officers to help boost the national force.
The Liberal majority on the Senate national security committee, which is dissolved while Parliament is prorogued, is planning to make their report public early next month.
Liberal Senator Colin Kenny, the longtime committee chairman, said the findings will be based on a draft committee report that was still in the works when the committee recessed in December.
Mr. Kenny is expected to be replaced by a Conservative chairman in the next Parliament, after Prime Minister Stephen Harper appoints more Conservative senators to end the Liberal domination on committees.
Conservative Senator Pamela Wallin said it is "shocking" that the Liberals on the committee would publicize the contents of an unfinished report while Parliament is prorogued.
"That is a completely irresponsible and unprecedented thing to do," Ms. Wallin said. "These reports are confidential until everybody has signed off on them and we are in the middle of that."
Mr. Kenny countered that he and his colleagues are not releasing the committee's actual draft report, but a recrafted "position paper" of their own.
The Liberal report is expected to contain numerous recommendations, including a call for about 5,000 more officers over seven years and increased civilian oversight of the force -- an element of several other reports on the RCMP.
The position paper also touches on Taser use and another "big time" component deals with the force's often-criticized management structure, Mr. Kenny said.
"There are a lot of problems within the RCMP and our report comments on whether the right problems are being addressed," he said.
Ms. Wallin questioned the value of another report on the RCMP, which she said already has been studied to death. She said that the report to be released by Kenny and his colleagues is nothing more than a "Liberal press release."
The committee's last meeting in December, in which they discussed whether to approve a draft report they had worked on for three months, was an acrimonious gathering in which Conservative senators accused the Liberals of going out of their way to disparage the RCMP.
Ms. Wallin chastised the "offensive language" of the draft report, which she said amounted a "drive-by" smear of the Mounties.
"We did not like the tone, which assumed that every member of the RCMP engaged in the misuse of Tasers or engaged in some illegal behaviour," she said at the meeting.
"We did not want the RCMP to be side-swiped by concerns about problem members or issues that years ago were a problem and that the RCMP have been working on actively."
Conservative Senator Daniel Lang said that adding 5,000 RCMP officers would increase the existing complement by 25% and would cost taxpayers "in the neighbourhood" of $500 million.
"I am not saying there should not be increases, but I am also saying that I do not think we heard anything to that extent that should be done," said Mr. Lang, who asserted the report went "well beyond" what was discussed at committee hearings.
There have been several reports on the RCMP in recent years, including two reports in 2007 when the Conservative government commissioned special investigator David Brown to examine the force following revelations of a pension scandal. Mr. Brown made numerous recommendations on how to rebuild the force's "horribly broken" management and governance structure.
The Liberals in the Senate are not the only Grits planning to do business while Parliament is shut down -- Liberal MPs say they are also reporting to work Monday in protest, even though the doors do not officially open until March.
Saturday, January 23, 2010
Friday, January 22, 2010
*CALLOUT: Seeking Testimonials of Police Murders*
The Forum Against Police Violence and Impunity is a grassroots initiative focusing on the police violence and impunity that affects the lives of many communities in Montreal, including poor and racialized communities, sex-workers, those living on the street, youth and indigenous communities. Taking place in the working-class multi-racial neighborhood of Park Extension from January 29-31, 2010, it will provide a space to learn from each other and strategize collectively to build a future without police violence, as well as to remember those injustices which have been committed against our communities.
One of the themes we are focusing on is keeping alive the memories of those whose lives have been taken by the police, in a society which tries to silence and forget this reality. On this topic, we have a panel entitled: "Never again! Families speak out against police killings and impunity”, featuring the families of some of those who have been killed by the police and the injustices they have continued to face in their attempts to find answers, while seeking accountability & justice: See Forum contre la violence policière et l'impunité
Though we are only able to provide a limited platform on this panel for families to speak to the reality of police murders in the province of Quebec, with a focus on Montreal, we recognize that there are countless other cases of police killings across the country.
In the name of remembering those whose lives have been taken by the police, the Forum Against Police Violence and Impunity is doing a Canada-wide call-out for photos and written testimonials about victims of police murders, by those who knew them. These testimonials will be formatted and printed, and displayed on-location during the Forum.
We encourage you to send us your testimonials to us by email at email@example.com as soon as possible (by January 25, 2010). Please write "testimonial" in the subject header, and attach a photo, if possible. If regular post is easier, you can also mail us at the following address:
Organizing Committee of The Forum Against Police Violence and Impunity
Organizing Committee of The Forum Against Police Violence and Impunity
January 22, 2010
JASON MILLER, THE INTELLIGENCER
The Intelligencer's decision to publish Shawn O'Sullivan's story does not cast the city police force in a bad light, readers told the paper during an informal poll Thursday.
Belleville resident Christine Gilbey said the story did not taint her view of the force.
"I don't look at the group as a whole," she said. "It's an individual incident and you don't pass judgement until all the facts are out on the table."
The poll stemmed from Belleville police Chief Cory McMullan and members of the police services board blasting The Intell for what they called a one-sided story -- a story in which Olympic medallist Shawn O'Sullivan alleged he was beaten and Tasered while being arrested last November.
The story also included a statement received via e-mail from city police and a brief comment from Deputy Chief Paul Vandegraaf.
During Wednesday's police service board meeting, the chief said while O'Sullivan is free to give his account of the incident, the force is restricted in what it can say because the matter is before the courts.
On Thursday, The Intell asked residents for their opinions on the issue.
Gilbey said if someone in the community informs the media they were unjustly treated, the media should be allowed to inform the public.
"They're perfectly welcome to banter back too," she said, referring to the police.
Carla Robinson said the newspaper shouldn't feel pressured into killing a story solely because the police couldn't provide sufficient information to clarify what happened.
"As long as you made an attempt to get a response -- If they choose not to respond, then it's the police's fault," she said.
"This is his (O'Sullivan's) story," she added. "He had the right to tell it and you had a right to report it."
Gerry Bongard agreed, saying when news happens, the paper shouldn't have to wait for clearance from the police to inform its readers.
"If you have news and bring it to the forefront, then it will hasten the true story," he said.
He pointed out the story had already aired on Global TV Sunday, two days before the Intell's story was published.
"It's an old story that you were printing," he said. "Technically, I don't know why you have to wait. I don't think the paper actually slandered anything about the police."
He said although the story was "one-sided," it didn't have any malicious intent to attack the police.
He added it is the chief's job to fire back at the paper in the defence of her officers.
"She's doing her job," he said. "She's protecting her officers."
Anil Vadhera agreed, saying it is natural the chief would speak out against the story.
But, he said, the public deserves to know what is happening behind the scenes to avoid coverups.
"People should know what's going on, so neither the cops can take advantage nor the public," he said. "Everything should be fair.
"It was right to put it in front of the public."
He said as the case unfolds in front of the court, more information will be unearthed.
One man, who wouldn't give his name, said the decision to release the story appeared to be a spur of the moment editorial decision.
He said The Intell could have held the story until the paper had all the facts. He said such editorial decisions stem from the shortage of staff plaguing the paper.
Thursday, January 21, 2010
January 21, 2010
Belleville Police Chief Cory McMullan seems to be mastering the political two-step of blaming the media quite adeptly.
Her most recent performance took place Wednesday at the police services board meeting in response to The Intelligencer's Tuesday story documenting Olympic medallist Shawn O'Sullivan's claims he had been beaten and Tasered by Belleville police officers.
In her report to the board, McMullan started by saying "Freedom of Information legislation and the fact that this case is currently before the courts really restricts the Police Service from releasing further information."
That, however, didn't stop her from continuing to comment.
"The Belleville Intelligencer printed their story without the benefit of following the Justice process where they would have been provided the benefit of hearing this case, the details of the investigation with testimony under oath. Covering the case in court would have allowed the Belleville Intelligencer access to all accounts of the incident.
"The impact of this story, in the manner which it was covered, has had on the victim, the Justice system (including admissibility of statements), the Police Service and the community at large is unknown."
She later says, "I guess my concern with the coverage issue is you can walk in to the Belleville Intelligencer and you can provide a story without receiving information -- whether it's due to restrictions or not further investigation being completed -- you're presenting one side of the story. There's individuals who are going to read the front page of The Intelligencer and take that as fact as to what happened."
Of course, what the chief neglects to mention is that it took her force seven weeks to let the public know that O'Sullivan had been arrested. Why? It is inconceivable they didn't know who he was. So why no release about his arrest? To protect his privacy? Seems ludicrous to us but who knows.
Further, in light of numerous national and local stories about use of Tasers, why did the police not see fit to let the public know their officers had used them?
The fact is the force, instead of taking the initiative to inform the public what was going on, chose to play duck and cover, then slammed the media for finding their hiding place.
And the chief -- who has been down this road at least twice already in the short time she has been in charge here -- appears to be taking the approach of trying to hide anything that might make her department look bad, then fire at the media when we find out.
Maybe the chief should spend more time looking behind her own Big Blue Wall and less time Tasering the messenger.
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
December 20, 2010
W. BRICE MCVICAR, THE INTELLIGENCER
The Intelligencer has cast the city force in a bad light by reporting only one side of a story, says Belleville's police chief and police services board members.
A number of board members took time during Wednesday's police services board meeting to question an article in Tuesday's Intell in which Olympic medallist Shawn O'Sullivan alleged he was beaten and Tasered by officers while being arrested last November.
The story included O'Sullivan's version of his arrest, a statement received via e-mail from city police and a brief comment from Deputy Chief Paul Vandegraaf.
McMullan said because the matter is before the courts, the force is restricted in what it can say. O'Sullivan does not have the same restrictions, she added.
"I can and will say that the victim's and police version of the events is substantially different from Mr. O'Sullivan's," the chief said.
Reading from a report, McMullan added, "The Belleville Intelligencer printed their story without the benefit of following the justice process where they would have been provided the benefit of hearing this case, the details of the investigation with testimony under oath. Covering the case in court would have allowed the Belleville Intelligencer access to all accounts of the incident.
"The impact of this story, in the manner which it was covered, has had on the victim, the justice system -- including admissibility of statements -- the police service and the community at large is unknown."
Marg Wagner, vice-chairwoman of the board, said she has complete confidence in the city's police service and its officers.
"Unfortunately, I believe that this has had a detrimental impact," she said of the story.
Board member Allan Vanclief also criticized the newspaper, saying The Intelligencer should have waited before reporting the story.
"Let's get the facts right before we put information in the paper," he said.
Frank Chapman said it is disappointing to see the police service "challenged" in the media. He described the story as a disservice to the community.
"The fundamental concern is, when we challenge a service to the community like the police service, what we are, in fact, doing is undermining our own community," Chapman said. "I worry that this is not going to be an isolated incident but it will become another front page response by somebody for purposes other than the welfare of the community."
McMullan said she too believes the story could be detrimental to the community.
"I guess my concern with the coverage issue is you can walk in to the Belleville Intelligencer and you can provide a story without receiving information -- whether it's due to restrictions or not further investigation being completed -- you're presenting one side of the story," the chief said. "There's individuals who are going to read the front page of The Intelligencer and take that as fact as to what happened."
Mayor Neil Ellis, however, pointed out it was the Global Television program 16:9 that first aired a segment with O'Sullivan making the claim.
"I think if you read between the lines it's up for the educated person to decide," Ellis added.
January 20, 2010
Government of Alberta
Criminal charges will not be laid against two RCMP constables in the death of Grant William Prentice in Brooks last spring. The decision follows an investigation by the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT).
On May 6, two RCMP officers responded to a call about a man behaving erratically and attempting to force his way into a home. On arrival, police tried to handcuff Prentice and used a taser in push-stun mode on him twice. Neither taser deployment appeared to have any effect on the man. Three more RCMP officers arrived and all five officers struggled with Prentice and eventually placed him in handcuffs. While being taken to an RCMP vehicle, Prentice appeared to be in medical distress. Emergency medical services were on scene and immediately provided treatment. Prentice was taken to hospital where he was pronounced dead.
The medical examiner found Prentice’s death was caused by acute cocaine toxicity. The autopsy revealed he had more than double the amount of cocaine in his body than is normally considered life-threatening. The medical examiner also concluded the taser did not play a role in the death of Prentice.
The taser involved was independently tested and was found to be operating properly.
The executive director of ASIRT has reviewed the file and has concluded the actions of the police officers were justified in the circumstances.
ASIRT is a provincially funded unit lead by a civilian director. It is mandated to effectively, independently and objectively investigate incidents involving Alberta’s police that have resulted in serious injury or death to any person as well as sensitive allegations of police misconduct.
Media inquiries may be directed to:
Alberta Serious Incident Response Team
To call toll free within Alberta dial 310-0000.
January 20, 2010
Two RCMP officers will not be charged in the death of an Alberta man who was Tasered prior to his arrest last year.
Grant William Prentice was arrested in Brooks, Alta., on May 6 after he was found acting erratically and trying to force his way into a home. RCMP officers were trying to handcuff Prentice when he resisted, police said. Officers used the Taser twice.
Brooks is about 185 kilometres southeast of Calgary.
The Taser didn't appear to affect the man at the time, but Prentice showed signs of "medical distress" when he was finally arrested, police said. He was pronounced dead at hospital.
Investigators from the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team said Wednesday the Taser did not play a role in the death. The autopsy report showed the man died of a cocaine overdose, the team said.
The team reviews serious injuries or deaths that may have resulted from the actions of police officers.
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
Boxer says he was beaten - BELLEVILLE POLICE: Have much different version of Shawn O'Sullivan's story
January 19, 2010
LUKE HENDRY THE INTELLIGENCER
Retired boxing champion Shawn O'Sullivan says Belleville Police beat and Tasered him before charging him for assault and mischief.
"This is totally wrong. This is totally unjustified. It's obscene what they did," Sullivan, 47, told The Intelligencer Monday.
Police, however, said the former boxer was drunk, combative and resisted arrest.
The allegations of both O'Sullivan and police stem from a Nov. 28, 2009 incident behind a Coleman Street address.
The former Olympic medallist has made several public appeals for the return of 10 or more rings, including his two world championship rings, stolen during a May 12, 2007 break-in to his home.
O'Sullivan said Monday he'd been following a lead on the rings' location last November. While on the way home from a bar, he said, he spotted a man with whom he had earlier been talking about his rings.
The former boxer said the man's house was on the next street from where the boxer stood, so he walked into the backyard.
"It's dark now," he recalled thinking. "I didn't want to scare him. I said, 'Yo, bro!' just to get his attention."
But as soon as the man rose, O'Sullivan said, the man's body language seemed to indicate he was angry.
"Next thing I see him ... running at me," he said. "I thought, 'Aw, no. He's going to punch me.' Sure shootin' -- he punches me on the right eye." O'Sullivan said he returned the punch and the man ran inside to phone police. Two police officers soon arrived.
"I had my hands up, more or less (saying), 'Hey boys, how's your night?' at which they don't respond," said O'Sullivan. Instead, he said, the officers twisted his arms behind his back, holding his wrists above his shoulder blades and threw him to the ground. "They held me down and start stomping on the backs of my thighs and my calves," he said, adding one officer then grabbed the hair at the back of his head, then slammed his forehead onto a wooden post.
He said the officers by that point had yet to speak to him, and though he hadn't resisted, O'Sullivan said he was eventually told to "stop resisting." O'Sullivan said one officer held him upright while another stepped in front of him while holding a Taser-like device. "I said, 'Why are you doing this? What's going on here?'" he said. The weapon appeared to misfire on the first try. O'Sullivan said its prongs lodged in his shirt but no real shock followed. The officer collected the prongs, stepped back, reloaded and fired again, according to O'Sullivan.
As the weapon shocked him, O'Sullivan said, he thought of Robert Dziekanski, who in 2007 died after being shocked repeatedly with a similar device wielded by Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers in Vancouver.
"The Taser was sending electric shocks through me. You saw Dziekanski. I didn't want to give these little bastards the benefit of seeing me like that," he said. "This Taser was not going to beat me. I was standing upright, tight as a board."
After being shocked he was placed in a headlock by a cop who "flips me over his back, and then they start stomping me again," O'Sullivan said.
He claimed his head was again hit against an object.
He said he still suffers from knee and joint pain as a result of the incident, though his facial injuries have healed.
The official police version of the encounter differs substantially from O'Sullivan's account. A police press release said officers responded to a disturbance reported at 8:06 p.m. "The victim reported he had been punched in the face by the suspect and the rear door had been damaged as a result of the suspect forcing his way into the residence," said the release, identifying the suspect as O'Sullivan and placing him at the rear of the home.
"Mr. O'Sullivan showed signs of intoxication and was in an agitated state," said the release. "When approached by police he refused to comply with their verbal commands and took a combative stance with police. "After further attempts to communicate with Mr. O'Sullivan the conducted-energy device was deployed," it said, adding that "throughout the arrest he was physically resistant."
Taser is a brand name for one conducted-energy device.
The release said the boxer was taken to the police station, where he was examined by Hastings- Quinte Emergency Medical Services staff, who told police no further medical treatment was required.
O'Sullivan was charged with assault and mischief and released pending a Feb. 11 court appearance.
Belleville Police Deputy Chief Paul VandeGraaf declined to discuss specifics of the case Monday. "There's a criminal investigation and it's before the courts, so we're really limited as to what we can talk about on that one," he said. "So any facts we release to you may jeopardize the court case."
"I can tell you that Shawn O'Sullivan's not put in an official complaint with us, but that's about all we can talk about," VandeGraaf added.
O'Sullivan said he will "of course" file an official complaint, but doesn't know the process. He said the report of his allegedly damaging the door and entering someone's home is "pure bunk."
He has said publicly that he suffers from brain damage caused by his boxing career; the injury results in slurred speech, memory problems and more.
O'Sullivan was also quick to note he had been drinking alcohol before the incident but wasn't out of control. "Was I drunk? Honest to God, I may have -- if there was a Breathalyzer -- blown over (the legal limit) to drive. But was I out of my mind inebriated? Never. I'm never going to wanna be seen outside in a drunken state. Because people will talk, and who the hell wants to hear stories of a drunken ex-fighter? I've got children -- I don't want to disgrace them."
O'Sullivan added he knew if he resisted police he'd only end up in deeper trouble.
He acknowledged he had dealt with police in the past but said he does not have a criminal record.
Asked why he didn't discuss the case until a Global News television interview Sunday, O'Sullivan said he didn't have an answer except that he was being asked questions and it seemed an appropriate time to mention the case.
But he again maintained his innocence.
"I don't want to fight with anyone anymore. I've had a lifetime of that."
Monday, January 18, 2010
CBC-TV’s Doc Zone Presents The World Broadcast Premiere of Mounties Under Fire on Thursday, January 21 at 9:00 pm (9:30 NT)
Given unprecedented access to the RCMP during its darkest days, filmmaker Helen Slinger and Bountiful Films reveal a flawed force in the throes of painful self-examination.
Mounties Under Fire, premiering on CBC Television’s Doc Zone on Thursday, January 21 at 9 pm (9:30 NT), is a gripping journey into the heart of the RCMP during a period of profound crisis. Notorious for closing ranks, the Mounties open up to documentary cameras, revealing a painfully flawed organization fighting for its life.
It’s been a most difficult decade for Canada’s national police force. Faith in the RCMP has been shaken – by Maher Arar’s betrayal, the pension scandal, harassment cases, and too many deaths on duty. And especially by the captured-on-video taser death of Robert Dziekanski at Vancouver International Airport, and the Braidwood Inquiry into that death. A 2009 Canadian Press Harris-Decima poll found over 60 per cent of Canadians don’t buy the RCMP version of the events at Vancouver airport that lead to Mr. Dziekanski’s death. That number jumps to 71 per cent in BC, where it happened.
Woven into the big picture - and sometimes colliding with it – are the very human stories of young recruits still willing to step into a force under heavy fire. During some of the RCMP’s darkest days last winter, documentary filmmaker Helen Slinger and Bountiful Films were granted unprecedented access to Depot, the fabled RCMP training academy in Regina. There, Slinger followed a troop of idealistic new recruits during their six months of basic training. Mounties Under Fire profiles: Alex Rouhani, from Gatineau, Quebec, by way of Paris and Tehran; Emily Schmidt, from Cranbrook, British Columbia; and Steffan Manuel, from Grand Bank, Newfoundland. Will these three recruits survive the challenges, and the culture of Depot, to become Mounties?
The camera’s remarkable access doesn’t end at Depot. From top brass to beat cop, Bountiful Films captures a force in the throes of painful self-examination, struggling to get back to its core values.
Filmmaker Slinger was struck by the frankness with which senior RCMP responded to the film. “When commenting on the intimate view of the force that resulted from the open access we were able to negotiate, one senior Mountie said it all: ‘Riveting, but it hurts.’”
Bountiful Films was formed in 2001 by Helen Slinger and Maureen Palmer, to produce Leaving Bountiful, the story of one woman’s courageous flight from the fundamentalist Mormon polygamous colony of Bountiful, British Columbia. Since then, Bountiful Films has specialized in documentaries which capture compelling characters as they confront contemporary challenges. Recent titles include How to Divorce & Not Wreck the Kids for CBC’s Doc Zone, the Bully’s Mark, Polygamy’s Lost Boys and Alexandra’s Echo, for Global Television. In 2010 Bountiful will deliver two new films. With rare and exclusive access to hours of videotaped therapy sessions, When the Devil Knocks for CBC's The Passionate Eye promises to be a spellbinding journey into one of psychiatry's most intriguing conditions, Dissociative Identity Disorder, formerly known as Multiple Personality Disorder. Cat Craze for Doc Zone explores our fascination for cats, and the crisis created by that obsession.
Mounties Under Fire is written and directed by Helen Slinger, and produced by Slinger, Maureen Palmer and Sue Ridout. Narrator is Ann-Marie MacDonald. Director of Photography is Steve Rendall; Editor is Tim Wanlin; Music by Michael Friedman and Edward Henderson; Sound Design by Larry Baker and Location Sound by Ed Seneshen. For CBC’s Independent Documentary Unit: Linda Laughlin, Senior Producer; Michael Claydon, Area Executive Producer. Mark Starowicz is Executive Director, Documentary Programming.
Mounties Under Fire is produced by Bountiful Films in association with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, with the participation of the Canadian Television Fund created by the Government of Canada and the Canadian cable industry, the Province of British Columbia Film Incentive BC, and the Canadian Film or Video Production Tax Credit Program.
William R. Bumbrey III, 36
January 18, 2010
ARLINGTON, VA. — Arlington County Police say a man has died after a struggle with officers, who used a stun gun in an attempt to subdue him. Officers went to the Pentagon City Metro on Sunday evening looking for a larceny suspect. Police say an officer found the suspect on the platform at the station and he was combative and uncooperative. The man refused the officer's commands and police say he assaulted the officer. That's when police say the officer used a stun gun on the man, but it did not incapacitate the man and he continued to struggle. A second officer arrived and helped handcuff the man. Police called medics who took the man to an area hospital where he was pronounced dead. Police say they will release the man's name once his next of kin are notified.
Posted by Reality Chick at 08:16
Saturday, January 16, 2010
Originally posted on June 30, 2007
Posted on "How Things Work" website
"First, there are no signs of excited delirium that show up on an autopsy -- it's basically the crib death of the police-custody world; and second, the vast majority of people who die from excited delirium do so after they're beaten by police."
Imagine a person in the middle of the street, yelling nonsense and stumbling about, unable to keep his balance, obviously not in his right mind. He is waving a knife at bystanders and at the police who have been called to the scene. The police try to convince the man to put the knife down, but he clearly has no idea they're even talking to him. So the police take action: They draw their guns and move toward him. The man responds violently, hysterically, jabbing the knife at police. With six officers working together, they're finally able to restrain him and get him on the ground, but he's still thrashing around with what seems like superhuman strength. They start hitting him with their night sticks, and they keep hitting him until he calms down. But then they realize he's not just calm. He's dead.
In this theoretical incident, if the medical examiner can rule out the police beating as the cause of death and can find no clear indication of a fatal, biological occurrence, he or she may determine that the official cause is excited delirium. If ever there were a controversial diagnosis, "excited delirium" is it. It's not recognized by the American Medical Association as a medical condition, and you won't find it in the American Psychiatric Association's handbook of mental disorders, but it's the official cause in hundreds of "in-custody deaths" every year. While the majority of these deaths happen in police custody, there are a few each year that occur in residential psychiatric treatment programs, as well.
The condition has shown up in medical literature as far back as the 1960s -- some people who overdosed on antipsychotic drugs became violent and paranoid and then suddenly died after being restrained. "Excited delirium" first started appearing on death certificates in the 1980s, often attributed to the effects of long-term cocaine use. Believers in the syndrome typically attribute it to the extended use and or misuse of psychiatric or illicit drugs, and some researchers believe there may be a genetic defect in the brain that causes certain drugs to trigger this type of reaction. The controversy surrounding "excited delirium" is related to two primary issues: First, there are no signs of excited delirium that show up on an autopsy -- it's basically the crib death of the police-custody world; and second, the vast majority of people who die from excited delirium do so after they're beaten by police.
Most police officers will tell you that the type of hectic, crazy situation described above does occur, and that it's very difficult to manage. It can take eight officers to restrain a person in this condition. Most psychiatrists explain that the theoretical knife-wielding lunatic is probably in an altered mental state and is exhibiting "acute behavioral disturbance." This can be brought on by a wide array of factors, including illicit drug use (specifically cocaine and methamphetamine), a brain tumor, heat stroke, or an bad reaction to legal psychiatric drugs, especially stimulants and antipsychotics.
Dr. Mary Paquette, in the journal Perspectives in Psychiatric Care, describes the condition known as "excited delirium" as an extreme state of behavioral disturbance characterized by "agitation, excitability, paranoia, aggression, great strength, and numbness to pain." (Think Tony Montana by the end of "Scarface.") Regardless of what causes the episode -- drug abuse, psychiatric drug interactions or something like head trauma, the person is most likely suffering from symptoms like increased body temperature and heart rate and a disoriented mental state -- he or she may have no real awareness of reality and may even be hallucinating. Medical professionals theorize that when someone in this state ends up surrounded and then rushed by police officers, things get markedly worse. The person may become terrified, increasingly violent, furious and confrontational.
These types of acute behavioral disturbances are well-documented in the psychiatric literature. Where things get uncertain is when this condition leads to sudden death, because increased body temperature and a rapid heart rate are not necessarily fatal. In the case we've described, if the medical examiner was able to rule out beating as the cause of death, then what happened?
No one really knows. Excited delirium is not a phenomenon that scientists can study in a controlled environment. There are those who say the man died from excited delirium, and there are those who say there is no such thing. The latter group believes the man died from bad police tactics.
Proponents of excited delirium explain that the person's altered mental state and the corresponding biological symptoms are the cause of death. Depending on which expert you ask, the person essentially dies of an adrenaline overdose, heart failure and/or a rapid increase in body temperature that leads to complete organ failure, usually resulting from acute, long-term drug abuse. Those who say excited delirium is real are divided on the role of the police officers in the death: Either the police actions have nothing to do with the death -- the person would have died whether or not the police had intervened; or it is the subject's resistance to restraint, not the police's restraint methods themselves, that cause a fatal reaction.
Skeptics claim the reality is actually the reverse. It is the police actions that are the cause of death, and the person's mental state is either caused or exacerbated by the use of improper restraint methods and excessive force. At its most extreme, the skeptical position says "excited delirium" is a nonexistent condition that police have invented to cover up instances of excessive force that turn deadly.
Which brings us to another, related problem with the excited delirium diagnosis: It's often associated with the use of stun guns. And in recent years, Taser International, the maker of most police-issued stun guns, has used the defense of "excited delirium" in numerous lawsuits. People are suing the company for deaths they say are directly caused by the use of stun guns in the police restraint process. The fact that the company's consistent defense is "excited delirium" doesn't help build legitimacy for the diagnosis, considering how much money is at stake in those lawsuits.
Proof of legitimacy aside, many experts in the psychiatric field place "death by excited delirium" under the umbrella of "restraint-related deaths," and that understanding of the syndrome would seem to imply that police actions do play some role in the fatal outcome. Dr. Michael G. Conner, in "Excited Delirium, Restraint Asphyxia, Positional Asphyxia and 'In-Custody Death' Syndromes," notes that "exhaustion, exertion and restraint combined are associated with a high rate of sudden death." And there are emergency room doctors who have treated people with acute behavioral disturbance who say that sedatives can calm them down, and that they're still alive when the episode is over.
But even if the police restraining process is the fatal addition to the equation, there are those who ask what might happen if police do not forcefully restrain a man who is disoriented, aggressive and waving a knife around in the middle of the street. In the end, whether police actions are justified or not is always open for debate. But in the face of terrible press and lawsuits, police departments around the country are instituting training procedures to educate officers on the signs of acute behavioral disturbance and methods of handling it without attempting restraint. Such methods include avoiding direct confrontation, using the person's name and speaking in a calm tone of voice, and setting up "containment" barriers to restrict the person's movement instead of restraining the person by force. The idea seems to be that if the restraint process can be eliminated or at least altered, deaths from "excited delirium" involving police action will start to decline.
Thursday, January 14, 2010
January 14, 2010
URBANA, Ill. — Two federal lawsuits each seek more than $10 million on behalf of two 12-year-old boys who allege a Kankakee police officer shocked them with a stun gun during an in-school demonstration.
The lawsuits were filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Urbana. Police officials in Kankakee placed the officer on administrative leave after he allegedly used a stun gun on students Tuesday as part of an unauthorized demonstration of the device at Kankakee Junior High School.
The lawsuits name the police officer, the city of Kankakee, Kankakee School District 111 and two teachers. Officials with the city and the school district haven’t returned calls seeking comment.
The boys’ attorney, James Meeks, says they also want the officer fired and criminal charges filed in the case.
The following was posted on January 13, 2010
This story would be unfrickin'believable if events like this weren't happening with such disturbing frequency.
Who can forget "TASER Our Sons and Daughters at Work Day" - Florida-Style
See also: 3 fired, 2 resign after Florida prisons shock kids
And: A Recipe for Disaster: School Cops Are Being Armed with 50,000-Volt Tasers.
January 13, 2010
ABC News, CHICAGO, Illinois
Police respond after students Tasered
Kankakee police responded Wednesday after students at a junior high were Tasered during a demonstration.
"This Taser demonstration was not authorized by the Kankakee Police Department nor was it authorized by Kankakee School District 111," a statement said. "Misuse or abuse of the Taser by any police officer is strictly prohibited by the rules and regulations of the Kankakee Police Department And is subject to discipline. The officer in question was immediately placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of an internal investigation."
School officials are investigating. And one mother is talking about how her son was Tasered.
The mother wanted to stress that her son and the other students in the classroom were not being reprimanded for misbehaving but that the officer was just goofing off. She understands school is a place for an education, but she says this is one lesson her son won't soon forget.
"A cop came in and then he pulled out his Taser, and was like, 'I'm giving out free runs for the Taser to try it out.' And then everybody was like, 'I want to try it.' And I said, 'I'll try it in my finger.' And he was like, 'Let me get you in your thigh,'" said Miles Maiden.
Miles, 12, says the off-duty Kankakee police officer entered the classroom at Kankakee Junior High School and shouted, "Who wants a Taser?"
Miles says the officer then went around the room and Tasered at least three boys, one in the buttocks.
Miles says the officer is friends with the teacher, and last week the same officer came to the classroom and Tasered some of the students in their fingers.
"I'm upset, and at the same time, I'm puzzled 'cause you have this type of grown adult around children and that's not a game that you play with children. That's dangerous. I'm blessed it didn't turn out another way, but at the same time, I'm also upset because it should never happen," said Alta Young.
Young says her son, who suffers from a heart murmur and asthma, began to complain of the pain in his leg, so she took him to the emergency room where he was treated and released.
Colleen Legge, superintendent for Kankakee School District 111, released a statement that says in part, "We are conducting a full investigation of the alleged incident and reviewing protocol regarding police in our schools."
In the meantime, Young is hoping the officer doesn't return to the school.
"At the end of the day, I don't want that man around my child. I don't want anyone of that stature that's doing things like that around my child," said Young.
Young says she is going to follow up with the family's personal physician to make sure the Taser didn't affect her son's heartbeat.
January 14, 2010
Associated Press/Courier Journal
A federal judge has ruled there was jury misconduct in a civil case brought against Louisville [Kentucky] police by the estate of a man who died after being shocked with a Taser.
U.S. District Judge John G. Heyburn II ruled Thursday that jurors researching information about Tasers on the Internet could have affected the panel's inability to reach a verdict on whether Officer Michael Campbell should have any liability in the death of Larry Noles.
Heyburn upheld the verdict clearing Officer Matthew Metzler of liability in the death, saying he did not fire his Taser at Noles during the 2006 arrest.
Noles' estate sued police after his death, claiming officers deprived Noles of his civil rights by using excessive force to take him into custody.
Heyburn set Campbell's retrial for February.
Wednesday, January 13, 2010
January 13, 2010
Three Calgary police officers are facing assault charges following altercations during traffic stops, with one incident involving a driver getting stunned by a Taser.
The Edmonton Crown lawyer's office recommended laying the charges after reviewing the two unrelated incidents, Calgary police announced Wednesday.
The first happened on Dec. 14, 2008, at 2:15 a.m. when two officers in a marked police car stopped a driver in southeast Calgary.
"During the traffic stop, the officers had a physical altercation with the driver, which led to the driver lodging a formal complaint," police wrote in a release.
Two officers, each with four years of experience with the Calgary Police Service, have been charged with assault.
Officer stunned driver
The second incident happened on April 17, 2009. An officer in an unmarked police vehicle pulled over a driver in northeast Calgary at about 2:15 p.m.
The officer and the driver had a "physical altercation" and the officer used a stun gun on the driver, police said. The driver later lodged a formal complaint.
An officer with six years of experience on the force has been charged with assault with a weapon and assault causing bodily harm, police said.
Police wouldn't release any other details and didn't name the officers charged, but did say all three have been put on administrative duties until the criminal proceedings conclude.
"Both cases involved on-duty incidents, and the allegations were laid as a result of the members' execution of their duties. Therefore, the identity of these members will not be released at this time," police said in the release.
Sunday, January 10, 2010
January 10, 2010
Last week, Public Safety Minister Peter Van Loan promised to develop a set of national rules for police Taser use -- but as Ottawa works to restore Canada's confidence in Tasers, one critic claims the real problem lies in electrical testing.
Emile Therien, past president of the Canada Safety Council and current board member, says the government is leaving itself open to huge liabilities because electrical safety standards for Conducted Energy Weapons are being ignored.
"We need physical standards for these," Therien said. "Product certification is absolutely critical because we're talking about an electrical product, and the minister doesn't seem to be moving in that direction."
Therien believes police are endangering the public, because as an electrical device the Taser has never been tested or certified by either the Canadian Standards Association or the Underwriters Lab to ensure the weapon is as safe as advertised.
CTV News went further by contacting every government agency which might have tested tasers for adverse health effects or electrical safety. Neither Health Canada, Public Safety Canada, The Canadian Police Research Centre or the RCMP have ever independently verified the manufacturer’s safety claims. In an email to CTV News from Ottawa Headquarters, Sgt. Greg Cox confirmed, “The RCMP is not aware of any Canadian agency that has undertaken testing of the health affects of CEW use.”
"I don't think the manufacturer wants standards”, says Therien. We're talking product integrity, consumer confidence, officer safety, public safety -- a lot of issues. It’s absolutely baffling."
While the electrical safety of stun-guns still needs to be determined by third-party testing, Therien says people are continuing to die. Since the weapons were adopted a decade ago, there are over 460 Taser-related deaths in North America—26 in Canada.
Though both a U-S technology firm and another in Richmond, BC are developing Taser-testers for police, there is still no way of regularly measuring electrical output of CEWs in any Canadian police detachment. Therien wonders how public safety can be ensured if regular testing of electrical output of Tasers is not done, like police do for breathalyzers and radar guns.
Therien is confident the Federal and Provincial governments will conform, adding, “There are agreements that can be struck to make sure these standards are in place and that they are actually imposed and respected.”
In the meantime, the Mounties and the manufacturer refuse on-camera interviews with CTV News to discuss the lack of electrical safety standards for Tasers.
With a report from CTV British Columbia's Peter Grainger.
January 10, 2010
By Andrew Wolfson
A federal jury verdict exonerating a Metro Louisville police officer in a Taser-related death has come under attack after the foreman was accused of researching the case on the manufacturer’s Web site and using the information to sway other jurors.
The case is one of a rising number nationally in which jurors have used iPhones, BlackBerrys and home computers to gather and send information about cases, undermining judges and jury trials.
Attorneys for the estate of Larry Noles, who died in 2006 after officers shocked him with a Taser, want a judge to set aside the Dec. 4 verdict in which the jury cleared one officer and was unable to reach a verdict on another.
Lawyer Garry Adams said in a motion that one day after the jury finished its deliberations a juror called him to say that at least two jurors, including the foreman, whom she described as “the principal advocate for police,” consulted Taser International’s Web site and used information from the site to try to persuade other jurors.
The juror who called Adams, identified only as T.B., later testified under oath, telling U.S. District Judge John B. Heyburn II that both jurors mentioned that the company’s Web site claims that Tasers are “non-lethal” and cannot cause fatal injuries.
“It really, really bothered me that they were using that ... instead of what was really said in the courtroom,” T.B. said.
Heyburn said at the hearing that he saw no need to punish the jury foreman, but he added: “It’s a teaching lesson for all of us that we need to be more careful about our indoctrination of jurors.”
The county attorney’s office has until Jan. 14 to respond to the motion to set aside the verdict. None of the other jurors were named.
It wasn’t clear if the jurors did their alleged research at home or from the courthouse, Adams said.
Jurors are routinely instructed not to read or listen to news stories about cases or research them on the Internet. But with the rise of cell phones and other hand-held devices with Internet connections, an increasing number are tempted to do so, according to press reports and jury experts.
In March 2009, an eight-week federal drug trial in Florida was derailed when reports surfaced that a juror had done outside research on the Internet.
When the judge questioned the rest of the jury, eight others acknowledged they had done the same thing, according to The Jury Expert, a journal published by the American Society of Trial Consultants.
In July 2009, a Bronx, N.Y., juror “friended” a witness on Facebook while the jury was deliberating, and in November 2008, a juror in England conducted a Facebook poll to help figure out how to decide a child sex-abuse case, according to an article in the publication’s November issue.
The authors suggest new rules might be needed, requiring jurors to surrender their mobile phones at the courthouse and to sign oaths to stay off the Web.
Leigh Ann Hiatt, a spokeswoman for the Kentucky Administrative Office of the Courts, and Chief Jefferson Circuit Judge Barry Willett said they weren’t aware of any mistrials in state courts caused by jurors conducting computer-assisted research.
But Willett said he requires jurors in his court to surrender phones and PDA’s before they deliberate.
The Internet allegations in the Noles case came after a three-day trial and jury deliberations that spanned two days.
Noles’ estate claimed that Metro officers Michael Campbell and Matthew Metzler deprived Noles of his civil rights by using excessive force to take him into custody when they found him naked at Seventh Street and Algonquin Parkway, although he posed no threat to them or to the public.
Assistant County Attorney Frank Radmacher, who represented the officers, told the jury that Noles’ death was a tragedy but that the officers followed department policies in trying to take him into custody so he could be brought to a hospital for treatment.
Noles, who was 52 and a Marine veteran, suffered from bipolar disorder.
Metzler was cleared, but the jury couldn’t reach a verdict on Campbell.
At the Dec. 10 hearing on the alleged jury misconduct, Radmacher said the extracurricular research was irrelevant in the case against Metzler because the jurors concluded that he never used his Taser. The Heyburn also said the jury’s deliberations on Metzler’s role “had nothing to do with any research on Taser International.”
As for the allegations against Campbell, Radmacher noted that those are already set for a Feb. 23 retrial because the jury couldn’t reach a verdict.
But Adams argued that the verdict clearing Metzler should be set aside even if there is no proof that it was tainted by Internet research.
He cites cases in which the Kentucky Supreme Court has said even the “appearance of evil” is enough to invalidate a verdict so that litigants and the public can be assured that trials are fair and free from contamination.
Adams said the alleged breach was particularly egregious because the jurors reportedly sought information from the manufacturer’s Web site, rather than a neutral source.
And reinstatement of the case against Metzler could increase the settlement value of the case, he said, since it would involve two officers.
And, he said, the alleged use of improper information by jurors shows the case wasn’t as strong for the county as the results of the trial may have indicated.
January 10, 2010
New America Media, Commentary, Raj Jayadev and Aram James
In what is being heralded as a landmark decision, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit recently declared that police officers could be held liable for using a Taser without proper cause. And in making their determination, the court also set new legal parameters on how law enforcement is to use Tasers, stating, "The objective facts must indicate that the suspect poses an immediate threat to the officer or a member of the public." The federal finding substantially changes the landscape of Taser usage, and may signal the end of Tasers for law enforcement agencies who are now more vulnerable to civil and criminal action then ever before.
The decision, which has already caused law enforcement agencies to re-evaluate their Taser policies, stems from a case involving a Coronado police officer, Brian McPherson, who tased unarmed 21-year-old Carl Bryan during a traffic stop for a seatbelt infraction in Southern California. After being pulled over, Bryan was standing outside of his vehicle, wearing only boxer shorts and tennis shoes. He was 20 to 25 feet from the officer, and when tased, fell face first to the ground, fractured four teeth, and had to get the Taser prongs removed with a scalpel. Bryan went on to sue the Coronado Police Department, and the federal appellate court was making a determination if McPherson had immunity to the lawsuit as an officer. The court ruled in favor of Bryan.
And while any regulation on Taser use is a move forward from the status quo, which repeatedly has left civilians tased for innocuous circumstances, and the decision acknowledges some of the inherent dangers of the weapon, it falls short in a most critical way. The instruction is based on a false premise that Tasers “fall into the category of non-lethal force” as stated in Judge Wardlaw’s written opinion. By denying the lethality of Tasers, the court mistakenly treats Tasers as an intermediary weapon, like a baton, when it should be treated as a deadly weapon, like a firearm.
According to Amnesty International, there have been more than 350 deaths due to Tasers. In San Jose, which was the first city to arm every one of its officers with the weapon in 2004, there have been six Taser-involved deaths, more than a death a year since its inception. Currently, the city is facing a $20 million lawsuit from the family of one of the more recent victims, Steve Salinas. The unarmed Salinas was tased to death in his motel room in 2007. Like Bryan, Salinas’s ultimate tasing originated from a minor starting point: police were called to the scene due to allegedly loud noises emanating from the room. Salinas, who was naked at the time, died in the room shortly after the police arrived.
The growing body count attributed to Tasers refutes the commonly accepted advertisement from its leading manufacturer, Taser International, that Tasers are a non-lethal option for officers. Furthermore, the unreliability of the weapon to bring down its target makes it dangerous even for officers who may be in a situation requiring deadly force. According to a San Jose Mercury News study of the San Jose Police Department use of Tasers in 2007, Tasers in dart mode are only effective 70 percent of the time in bringing down their target, and in stun mode only 60 percent of the time.
The Taser consequently is left in a state of limbo. Its capacity to unintentionally kill leaves it too dangerous to use in non-lethal circumstances, say when an officer would use an intermediate weapon, such as pepper-spray or a control hold. Yet, due to its unpredictability to subdue a target, using a Taser would not be a gamble an officer would want to bet on if his or her life were in jeopardy.
The Bryan case, where the subject is unarmed and charged with a minor infraction or misdemeanor, is more the rule then the exception according to recent studies. In a Houston Chronicle study of Taser use by the Houston Police Department in a two-year span, officers deployed the weapon more than 1,000 times, but in 95 percent of those cases the subject was unarmed. The study also found that more than 50 percent of the Taser incidents escalated from relatively common police calls, such as traffic stops, disturbance and nuisance complaints. In more than a third of the incidents, no crime was charged or prosecuted.
In October 2009, in a tacit admission of the inherent dangers of Tasers, Taser International began telling police agencies to avoid firing the devices at suspects' chests. In a revision of their usage manual, they write, "Should sudden cardiac arrest occur in a scenario involving a Taser discharge to the chest area, it would place the law enforcement agency, the officer, and Taser International in the difficult situation of trying to ascertain what role, if any, (the device) could have played.”
It was a tactic reminiscent of the tobacco industry putting warning labels on cigarette packs. The action does not change the harm of the product, but rather is intended to create a layer of insulation from civil action.
In June 2008, a jury in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California ordered Taser International to pay $6.2 million in damages to the family of Robert C. Heston. Heston, of Salinas, Calif., had died after being hit by Tasers by Salinas police officers. Shortly after the decision, Taser International stocks plummeted, hitting its lowest numbers in a year. The jury, however, did not fault the police department, finding that Taser International did not instruct the officers properly on how to use the weapon. Having lost a major civil action, and knowing that other lawsuits would follow, Taser International scrambled to fend off civil action by deploying a revised usage policy.
But it is impossible to create a safe policy for an inherently unsafe weapon, just as it is impossible for the tobacco industry to create a safe way to smoke cigarettes.
And criticism has even come from the law enforcement community itself. Ray Samuels, former Newark police chief, turned down the offer to bring Tasers into his city in 2005. In explaining his position, which he has gone on to share with other city administrations that are considering the weapon, he wrote, "What scared me about the weapon is that you can deploy it absolutely within the manufacturer's recommendations and there is still the possibility of an unintended reaction. I can't imagine a worse circumstance than to have a death attributed to a Taser in a situation that didn't justify lethal force."
The decision of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals should send a clear message to the police and the cities that they work for that civil action is now a reality every time the Taser is drawn.
Raj Jayadev is director of Silicon Valley Debug. Aram James is a retired Santa Clara County public defender and a co-founder of San Jose’s De-Bug Legal Advocacy Clinic.
Thursday, January 07, 2010
Tuesday, January 05, 2010
Geez Messrs. Vertlieb and Braidwood, I would meticulously proofread and edit your report in about a WEEK - for FREE - just to see it released before spring! I do hope you're not waiting for the March 3rd return of our prorogued government before releasing this report, because I`ll be honest with you, gentlemen: they're just not that into it.
January 5, 2010
Canwest News Service
VANCOUVER — The Braidwood inquiry report dealing with the fatal police incident involving a Polish immigrant at Vancouver's airport two years ago won't be sent to the attorney general until April or May, officials confirmed Tuesday.
Art Vertlieb, the lawyer for the Braidwood inquiry, said Commissioner Thomas Braidwood expects to finish writing his report at the end of January but it will take another three months to proofread and edit before it is sent to the printers.
The B.C. Court of Appeal ruled last month that Braidwood, a retired appeal court judge, has the authority to find misconduct against the four RCMP officers involved in the death of Robert Dziekanski, 40, who died on the floor at Vancouver International Airport after 1:30 a.m. on Oct. 14, 2007. The officers used their Tasers to subdue him.
January 5, 2009
By Janice Tibbetts, Canwest News Service
OTTAWA — The federal government and provincial governments are planning to create national standards to determine when police can zap suspects with Tasers, in an attempt to reduce a patchwork of practices among police forces and restore public confidence in the controversial weapons.
Deputy public safety ministers will begin work this month on the national blueprint, federal Public Safety Minister Peter Van Loan told Canwest News Service.
"There's no doubt there has been a lot of controversy surrounding the use of Tasers," Van Loan said. "I think there would be greater public confidence if there was a single consistent national standard or guidelines."
Van Loan said he will leave it to the deputy solicitors general and law enforcement experts to devise the standards, but that he personally would support guidelines similar to those adopted by the RCMP, which dictate that Tasers can only be used when there is a threat of harm to police or the public.
He did not say whether the new standards, which he said he hopes each province will enforce as part of their jurisdiction over policing, will stipulate which officers should be authorized to use the stun guns.
The number of municipal and provincial officers who are armed with and trained to use Tasers varies from force to force, with some banning them among frontline officers and restricting usage to supervisors or tactical team members.
Van Loan said it makes sense to craft national standards in part because RCMP are contracted out to local forces across the country, so the rules they follow vary depending on where they work.
"It's a little bit odd to have different rules for something like that that's fairly technical," he said.
Van Loan said the time has come for national standards because police are now experienced enough in the use of Tasers to share what they've learned.
"If we can share the best practices and come up with a consistent approach, I'm sure it will be one that we would expect would be better able to stand the test of time," he said.
While the Canada Safety Council has called on the federal government to regulate Taser use through its Criminal Code power, Van Loan said he expects that making improper use illegal would be too harsh.
"That might be too severe of a way of enforcing your standards or guidelines, that everything on one side of the line is perfectly OK, and once a police officer makes a mistake or crosses the line a little bit they suddenly become a criminal," he said.
"I'd be interested in people's thoughts on that, but off the top of my head it seems like that would be too much of a challenge to do."
Emile Therien, past president of the Canada Safety Council, said national standards are long overdue.
There should be operational rules, training rules, and even standards regulating the safety of the devices themselves, he said.
"It should be a very high standard because there is a very high credibility issue here," he said.
"Unless you have standards for use, and physical standards for product reliability and integrity, you have a problem," said Therien.
"They don't even have maintenance schedules for these things — how often you use it before you throw it out. There's not one other product that a police department uses that doesn't comply to a national standard, like a bulletproof vest or the helmets they use."
The move to create national standards follows an agreement among federal, provincial, and territorial solicitors general at their annual meeting in October.
The Canadian Police Association and the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police issued guidelines last February on Taser use, which called for all police officers nationwide to be authorized to use the weapon.
The joint position also asserted that Tasers are intended for use "in situations where there is an imminent need for control and other options have been precluded because they were ineffective or would be inappropriate given the totality of circumstances in the situation."
The two groups also said individual police agencies have the responsibility to implement polices and procedures regarding the use of force.