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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Letter to the Editor - When taser used, police transparency a must

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.

Patti Gillman

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

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