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Friday, April 30, 2010

Machine tests Tasers' zapping strength

A new machine will allow police to test the strength of their Tasers, but that doesn't necessarily mean B.C. law enforcement will put it to use.

Datrends Systems, a Richmond, B.C., medical instrument manufacturing company, has created Verus One, a machine that will provide the exact measurement of the electrical output of Tasers.

"If you're over-producing, there may be a problem with the person that you've shot – in damage to them," Ron Evans of Datrends told CTV News. "If it is under-producing, it may not have the effect that the officer expects, putting him in danger."

It's taken Datrends six months to create the machine, which is the first to measure Taser power.

"A test will tell you if it meets the specification as Taser put them out originally," Evans said.

After the death of Robert Dziekanski, the Braidwood inquiry recommended police find a way to test their weapons regularly as each Taser performs differently.

But the Taser specifications pre-programmed into the machines have yet to be verified independently.

"We need someone independent of Taser to look at that protocol and say, yes, this is actually something that will ensure the device performs as expected, that it will not unexpectedly kill people," executive director of the BC Civil Liberties Association David Eby said.

Despite the Braidwood recommendation, the B.C. solicitor general's office will only say it's interested in learning more about the machine.

Datrends will be holding a demonstration at the international policing conference this weekend to showcase the item.

With a report from CTV British Columbia's Peter Grainger

50% of people tasered in Arlington, Virginia die

A few moments ago, I attempted to follow the google news link you see above. And in case the above is difficult to read, it translates exactly as follows (except for the colour red which I added myself for emphasis):

Man dies after police use stun gun to subdue him
WTOP - ‎2 hours ago‎
It is the second death this year in which Arlington police used a Taser. The force as a whole has only used Tasers four times since January. ...

Unfortunately, when I clicked on the link (and you can go ahead and try it yourself), the page was full of errors and the contents of the news article had vanished.

I wonder if the Arlington County police got wind of it (thank goodness I can show it here for all the world to see). I can see how they might have been a little uncomfortable with something the article said about how "the force as a whole has "only used Tasers four times since January".

Today's death following police use of a taser on a 32-year-old man named Adil Jouamai, who was in apparent psychiatric distress, is the SECOND taser-related death in Arlington, Virginia this year (aka since January). Now, arithmetic is not my strong suit, but it would seem to me that if the taser has been used FOUR times in Arlington, Virginia since January and TWO men have died after they were tasered in Arlington, Virginia since January, then in Arlington, Virginia, people who are tasered die 50% of the time.

Those are some pretty grim odds, if you ask me.

Citizens protest the use of a taser on a 10-year-old

Virginia man in apparent psychiatric distress dies after tasering

April 30, 2010 - Adil Jouamai, 32, Arlington, Virginia

... A few minutes after an officer deployed a Taser device to try and bring the man under control, Griffith said, police saw that the man did not appear to be breathing.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Taser performance testing instrument unveiled at international police show

April 29, 2010
Richmond BC Company Makes Testing of TASER® Weapons Easy and Affordable With New Device
Attention: Health/Medical Editor, News Editor, Tech/Telecomm Editor, World News Editor, Government/Political Affairs Editor

RICHMOND, BRITISH COLUMBIA, MEDIA ADVISORY--(Marketwire - April 29, 2010) - Datrend Systems Inc., a Richmond BC company, has developed a new device which will enable police services to test and confirm the electrical performance of its TASER® arsenal on a routine basis. Designed for use by police officers rather than laboratory specialists, the tabletop device automatically performs the electrical tests recommended in the Report of the Braidwood Inquiry(1) in addition to tests specified by the weapon manufacturer. Test records produced and maintained by the device provide objective, documented evidence of weapon conformance. Cost-effective and flexible, the device may be set to pass or fail a weapon based on acceptability criteria defined by the manufacturer, law enforcement agency, or government.

"As a leading supplier of biomedical test instruments to hospitals around the world, our testers are used every day to assure the safety and effectiveness of medical devices that apply electricity in treatment or diagnosis" says Ron Evans, President of Datrend Systems Inc. "We've adapted years of experience and know-how in testing of electromedical devices to the needs of the public and the police for greater, ongoing assurance of TASER® electrical output."

The test device, Verus One, is relevant to any jurisdiction worldwide in which TASERS may be deployed, including the Department of Defense, Corrections Facilities and others. Verus One will be demonstrated at the 2010 International Conference for Police and Law Enforcement Executives in Toronto Canada on May 2. The product is expected to be available in the third quarter of 2010.

(1) Restoring Public Confidence: Restricting the Use of Conducted Energy Weapons in British Columbia, (http://www.braidwoodinquiry.ca/)

District Attorney charges deputy with child abuse for using taser on high schoolers at career fair

April 29, 2010
By Yesenia Robles, Denver Post

District Attorney Mark Hurlbert has charged a former Lake County sheriff's deputy after a Taser was demonstrated on 34 Leadville High School students at a career fair April 8.

Deputy John Ortega resigned last week after he returned from a week on unpaid suspension.

Ortega is charged with 11 misdemeanor counts of child abuse causing injury, one count of child abuse causing no injury and nine counts of reckless endangerment. In total, Ortega could face up to 27 1/2 years in jail. All the time would be served in county jail.

"We take this very seriously. He's an adult, and he should not be Tasering kids," Hurlbert said Wednesday.

Lake County Sheriff Ed Holte said students asked Ortega to use the Taser on them, but he declined.

When the students told Ortega they were willing to sign release forms, Ortega "foolishly agreed," Holte said.

Each count is related to one of the students who was shocked by the Taser. Some of the students decided not to press charges, Hurlbert said.

Ortega, who joined the Lake County Sheriff's Office in 2008, used the Taser — a weapon that delivers an electric shock — on the students' legs using the "drive-stun technique."

Tasers normally fire two small darts attached to thin wires anchored to the gun. As the darts penetrate the skin, a powerful electric shock is emitted. Holte said the drive-stun technique eliminates the wires and projectiles, allowing the gun to operate like a stun gun. When the gun touches a person's skin, a painful shock is felt.

Hurlbert said some of the students who were shocked had heart problems that Ortega was not aware of. Hurlbert said no one was seriously injured.

The day the Taser incidents occurred, school administrators sent a note home with each student, asking parents to report whether their child had been shocked, and to seek treatment if necessary.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Taser a necessary evil?

April 28, 2010
JAN RAVENSBERGEN, Montreal Gazette

So many issues dog the use of Tasers that "the burden of proof should be put on police" to demonstrate that their stun guns need to be retained for Montreal Island's law-enforcement arsenal, city councillor Marvin Rotrand said yesterday.

Rotrand argued that local police should be ordered to follow in the footsteps of authorities in several major U.S. cities who have banned outright any use of stun guns by their officers.

Boston, Detroit, Washington and San Francisco are among major U.S. cities to have either dropped Tasers as a law-enforcement tool or refused to adopt them when proposed,

Rotrand told the island-wide public security committee.

He and others spoke at a hearing to examine Taser use as part of a coalition - which includes Ligue des droits et libertés - favouring a permanent ban on police taserings.

"The tide is starting to turn," with the stun gun also banned by many European forces, added Patrick Bolland, a member of the coalition.

Montreal police assistant director Marc Parent, the first to appear at the hearings, took the opposite tack.

He offered a defence of Tasers as a necessary police tool. They are needed in some instances as "an intermediate weapon" before officers pull out firearms, he said.

In other cases, they are the best option to bring incidents involving heavily disturbed individuals to a quick conclusion - even when police use of a firearm is not necessarily the sole alternative, Parent told Hampstead Mayor William Steinberg, a committee member.

There are 17 Tasers - all the M-26 model from Taser International - in Montreal police hands, Parent said, with about 100 officers trained in their use.

Montreal police discharged Tasers during a total of 11 incidents in 2009, Parent said, and also pulled them out without using them another seven times.

Police statistics show they were fired 11 times and used as a threat a further three times in 2008; fired 23 times and used as a threat 10 times in 2007; and fired 17 times and used as a threat 11 times in 2006.

During the three years following their introduction in 2001, Montreal police statistics show officers pulled out the stun gun a total of 14 times.

The Taser uses two barbed darts to deliver a jolt of up to 50,000 volts, intended to incapacitate the recipient. Its use jumped to 21 incidents in 2004 and dipped to 17 in 2005. Figures covering the initial five years of deployment don't differentiate between actual discharge and use of a Taser as a threat.

"If a new medicine caused as many deaths as Tasers, it would have been withdrawn very quickly," said Gaetan Laurendeau, another coalition member.

A November 2008 report by Amnesty International concluded that 334 deaths in the United States and 25 deaths in Canada have followed police use of a Taser.

Among the fatalities was Montrealer Quilem Registre. He died in hospital, age 38, four days after he received six Taser hits from local police in October 2007.

"The Taser leaves no biomedical marker that can be identified as mortal," coalition member Bolland said.

While cocaine and alcohol in Registre's system might have contributed, a report by coroner Catherine Rudel-Tessier concluded it was "difficult to believe (the taserings) played no role in his death."

"We are still waiting for justice," Augustin François Registre, 71, the dead man's father, said in a brief interview after a Black Coalition of Quebec presentation endorsing a full Montreal law-enforcement ban of the weapon.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Hearings examine use of Tasers by Montreal police

April 28, 2010

Police across Montreal Island should follow the footsteps of authorities in several major American cities who have banned outright the use of stun guns by their police officers, the island-wide public security committee was told this afternoon by city councillor Marvin Rotrand.

Rotrand, speaking on behalf of a coalition favouring a ban that includes the Ligue des Droits et Libertés, was among the first to appear at committee hearings examining Taser-gun use in local law enforcement.

The hearings, held at the request of Montreal city council, began just after 1 p.m. and ran until 4 p.m. They are scheduled to continue during an evening session at Montreal city hall, to begin at 7 p.m.

Boston, Detroit, Washington and San Francisco are among the U.S. cities that have either withdrawn stun guns as a law-enforcement tool or refused to adopt them when proposed, Rotrand said.

Assistant Director Marc Parent of Montreal police opened the hearings with a defence of Tasers as a police tool, saying they are needed in some instances as a last resort – “an intermediate weapon” – before officers pull out firearms. In other instances, they are used to bring an incident to a conclusion quickly, he added, without police use of a firearm as the sole remaining alternative.

There are 17 Tasers in the arsenal of the Montreal police force, he said, with about 100 officers trained in their use. Montreal police discharged an M-26 stun gun from Taser International against suspects in a total of 11 incidents during 2009, Parent said. The stun guns were pulled out and their use threatened – although they were not discharged – a further seven times last year, he added.

Police statistics show they were used 11 times and threatened a further three times in 2008; used 23 times and threatened 10 times in 2007; and used 17 times and threatened 11 times in 2006.

Police statistics from their 2001 introduction show that in their first three years of availability, Montreal officers pulled out a stun gun a total of 14 times. Those figures also don't differentiate between actual discharge or use as a threat.

Use of Tasers jumped to 21 in 2004 and dipped to 17 in 2005, again without a differentiation provided. Montreal police handle about 1.2 million 911 calls every year, a figure that has remained stable since 2001.

“If a new medicine caused as many deaths as Tasers, it would have been withdrawn very quickly,” Gaetan Laurendeau, another coalition member, told the committee from a public microphone.

A November 2008 report by Amnesty International concluded that 334 deaths in the United States and 25 deaths in Canada have followed police use of a Taser, said Patrick Bolland, another coalition member.

Among them was the death of Montrealer Quilem Registre, who died in hospital after he received six distinct Taser hits from local police in 2007.

"The Taser leaves no biomedical marker that can be identified as mortal," Bolland said.

A coroner's report, by Catherine Rudel-Tessier in October 2007, on Registre's death concluded that Taser use by officers could not be ruled out as a causal factor in his death.

Montreal: Public consultations on taser use by police

April 28, 2010

Montreal's Public Safety Commission is holding two sessions Tuesday to hear from the citizens what they think about police and tasers.

The Commission was ordered last year to hold the hearings, and to look into the pros and cons of the supposedly non-lethal weapons, following a number of taser-related deaths across Canada.

In Montreal, 38-year-old Quillem Registrie died in October 2007 after he was tasered six times in less than 57 seconds.

Registre was intoxicated at the time, but the coroner's reported said the stun gun was partially responsible.

Snowdon councillor Marvin Rotrand has many questions about tasers, and whether the 16 tasers owned by Montreal police can actually be used safely.

"It's true the Montreal police don't have a lot of tasers, and because of concerns at city hall the use of tasers has been very constrained," said Rotrand.

"There have been questions raised about basically whether it leads to lazy policing."

The first round of hearings at Montreal city hall begins Tuesday afternoon at 2 p.m., with a second session starting at 7 o'clock.

A dozen people have signed up to speak, but there is room for more people to offer their opinion.

Would-be speakers will have to sign up in order to be heard.

Colorado deputy who tasered 30 students resigns

April 28, 2010
ABC News

LAKE COUNTY, Colo. -- A Lake County sheriff's deputy has resigned after he used a stun gun at a career fair on 30 high school students who said they wanted to know what it felt like.

Sheriff Ed Holte said Deputy John Ortega submitted a simple resignation letter April 12 -- four days after the incident at Lake County High School. The sheriff has already hired a replacement.

The district attorney, who is reviewing the Taser incident, has not decided whether Ortega will face charges, Holte said.

Ortega had removed the Taser's twin prongs and only shocked the students with the less-powerful stun mode, sheriff's spokeswoman Betty Benson said after the incident.

Yet officials said some students suffered burns of varying degrees when Ortega applied the Taser to their legs. At least one student was treated at a hospital.

Ortega had been a deputy for 20 months.

Monday, April 26, 2010

New Brunswick Police divided on use of Taser cams

Tasers with cameras attached to them to record what happens when the weapons are deployed have made their way to New Brunswick.

But there is no uniform policy on the use of Taser cams - or stun guns - in the province.

The Telegraph-Journal has learned that at least one of the province's municipal police forces - Edmundston - has shelved the controversial weapons, while others have no plans to purchase them as a result of the public debate over their safety.

The Saint John and Fredericton police forces have been using the Taser cams for more than two years.

But a poll of the other municipal and regional police forces in New Brunswick found a different story in each community.

The Rothesay police detachment uses the stun guns but without the camera attachment. Grand Falls and Bathurst don't use Tasers at all.

A Bathurst police spokeswoman indicated the force is apprehensive about purchasing Tasers until a uniform policy on their use comes into place.

The unwillingness to use the devices stems directly from the death of air passenger Robert Dziekanski, according to Edmundston Deputy Police Chief Percy Picard.

"We do have the Taser with the camera attached, we have three, but they are not in use right now," Picard said. "We took them off the patrol division once everything with the Dziekanski case happened.

"We are waiting for the province and the New Brunswick police chiefs to come out with a policy and approach to their use."

Dziekanski, en route to British Columbia from Poland to join his mother, Zofia Cisowski, died in October 2007 after being subdued by a Mountie's Taser at the Vancouver airport.

A video of the confrontation, filmed by a fellow passenger, showed an agitated and disoriented Dziekanski zapped five times. It was seen by millions of people and triggered public outrage and widespread re-examination of stun gun use.

The RCMP recently apologized to Cisowski and agreed to a financial settlement.

Picard said there is a sense of uneasiness by police officers around the use of stun guns.

"We are also currently in search for more training," Picard said. "It's another big issue."

The Woodstock Police Force has no plans to purchase Tasers, but would do so only if a camera is attached.

"We're not looking at (acquiring Tasers for use by the police force) in the near future," said Woodstock Police Chief Dana Collicott. "If at some point down the road we do look at outfitting our officers, we would go with the ones with the cameras.

"They record what is taking place at the time the Taser is used and would have some added evidentiary value for sure."

A RCMP complaints commission report on the Dziekanski case found there would have been "a clear benefit" to video footage capturing the events from the officers' perspectives.

A report recently released by Liberal senators also recommended that RCMP officers be equipped with miniature cameras to enhance transparency for both officers and citizens, protecting both sides from accusations of improper behaviour.

In New Brunswick, there is nothing mandating the use of Taser cams.

"At this point, there has been no move to make anything a requirement," said Barry MacKnight, president of the New Brunswick Association of Chiefs of Police.

"It's left to the individual agencies."

MacKnight said the association's use of force policy - rules for all of the province's police forces - was rewritten in 2007 to include specifics on the use of Tasers. But there have been no policy discussions on mandating cameras.

A spokesman for Taser International, the manufacturer of the Taser cam, said the camera device was created to provide heightened accountability.

"Certainly we are no stranger to controversy in Canada, but I think what the Taser cam does is it adds merit to the seriousness of what law enforcement thinks about the deployment of Tasers," said Taser International spokesman Steve Tuttle in a phone interview from the company's Scottsdale, Arizona offices.

"And that is that they do require accountability."

Taser cams have been in use since May 2003, mostly in the United States. Roughly 40,000 Taser cams are used by nearly 2,000 police agencies in 44 countries worldwide.

"People tend to behave better when they are on video tape, and it works both ways because the officers perform better as well," Tuttle said. "The Taser cam provides another layer of comfort for law enforcement agencies, but it is also a comfort to the public."

Codiac RCMP in Moncton are currently part of a national pilot project, along with the RCMP in Kelowna, B.C., testing the Taser cam and a second type of camera that attaches to an officer's belt radio.

Both options record audio and video. The Taser cam also includes a computer chip that records the time, date and duration of each Taser deployment.

"The RCMP continually reviews its policies and procedures to ensure best practices are being utilized by RCMP members," said Const. Chantal Farrah, media relations officer for both the Codiac RCMP and New Brunswick's J Division.

"This includes research of new technology, which is sometimes extended to pilot testing, if it is deemed to be a potential benefit to RCMP members in providing security to the Canadian public."

The cameras will be used in the field by Codiac RCMP by the end of June with analysis of the recordings and feedback from the members, according to Farrah.

Ontario Community Safety Minister Rick Bartolucci said last week he is considering making cameras mandatory with Tasers.

The Police Association of Ontario has voiced its concern with the move, its president saying he sees little use for the cameras currently on the market because they provide a limited view of an incident.

Both federal and provincial governments have been working on national standards for stun gun use, but Ontario moved ahead with its own plan earlier this month.

Ontario has promised tighter rules around the use of stun guns by police, mainly against pregnant women and children, and promised to amend provincial guidelines to include rules about deployment of the guns as well as standardized training.

The New Brunswick Department of Public Safety declined to take a position on whether cameras are needed to record Taser use. The province maintains it is a decision to be made by the New Brunswick Association of Chiefs of Police.

MacKnight, who is also the Fredericton police chief, would not speculate on future discussions to make the cameras mandatory.

"We have not dealt with this issue from a policy perspective; we have only dealt with the general use of force policy on the use of conductive energy devices," he said.

"As far as the Fredericton Police Force is concerned, we have always had Taser cams as soon as we were operational with Tasers on the street.

"We see it as a very positive way to capture evidence of very critical incidents - when officers are resorting to the use of force in order to carry out their duties."

Sunday, April 25, 2010

EDITORIAL: Talk, not action

April 23, 2010
Salt Lake Tribune

Standing along State Route 59, dealing with a delirious man who ignored his every order, Hurricane police officer Ken Thompson relied on his training. Trouble was, he didn't have the right training. And within minutes, 32-year-old Brian Cardall, a promising research scientist who was suffering a mental health episode, lay dead.

Crisis Intervention Team training is considered the national standard for teaching law enforcement officers to deal effectively with the mentally ill. The program emphasizes an empathetic approach, scenario-based training, site visits to mental health facilities, interaction with mental health patients and instruction from mental health professionals. Officers are taught to identify characteristics of mental disorders and utilize de-escalation tactics and techniques to provide a safer intervention. In Utah, the week-long training program is conducted by the Salt Lake City Police Department, and graduates are certified by the Utah Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health.

Despite the proven effectiveness of the program -- injuries and deaths are reduced, clients are less likely to repeat offenses and more likely to see the inside of a treatment clinic than a jail cell -- only 11 percent of Utah law enforcement officers are certified. Hurricane officers have now taken the course, belatedly. And the Cardall incident has become the poster case for acquiring this essential training.

It was clear, by his behavior as well as information provided to police by his wife, that Cardall, who was bipolar, was experiencing a mental health episode. He was naked. He had been attempting to direct traffic on the road. And he refused Thompson's loud and repeated orders to "get down on the ground."

Then, just 42 seconds after arriving on the scene, Thompson shocked the unarmed Cardall with a Taser, twice. An autopsy determined that the stun gun caused or contributed to the death. But investigators found that Thompson adhered to both his department's use-of-force policy and Utah law, and no charges were filed.

Still, it's clear to all involved that this situation, and similar situations, call for a lot more talk and a lot less action. And now there's evidence to back up that contention.

Researchers writing for Schizophrenia Bulletin , a medical journal, have unveiled a study that proves what CIT advocates already knew. The training works. Officers who are CIT-certified are less likely to use counterproductive force when dealing with individuals with mental health issues.

For police chiefs and municipal governments, the course should be clear. A CIT training course and biennial refresher courses should be mandated for all of their officers.

EDITORIAL: Our Opinion: Judgment called into question

April 25, 2010

The duties of the county coroner, as expressed in the Illinois Coroners and Medical Examiners Association’s creed, are straightforward:

“The ancient office of Coroner, or the modern office of Medical Examiner, along with the state-licensed physician is legally charged with significant duties in answering the pertinent questions relating to death: Who, Where, When, What, How, Why. Only when these questions have been answered correctly, can all the proper legal issues arising at death be effectively handled for the proper administration of justice.”

Less poetically stated, the coroner’s job is to establish the official record for deaths in a county and record accurate information on them.

Yet over the years Sangamon County Coroner Susan Boone’s office has exercised questionable judgment that has seemed to contradict that mission.


* March 2010: Patrick Burns, 50, had died in January after struggling with four sheriff’s deputies. He had broken into a neighbor’s home, beat a woman inside and was subdued only after officers used Taser stun guns 21 times on him. Cocaine, marijuana, Wellbutrin and Prozac were in his system at the time, and he was hog-tied while transported to the hospital. During the inquest, Boone lectured the Burns family on the dangers of cocaine use.

“I can’t stress this enough: One time using cocaine will kill you,” said Boone, who advocated that the jury cite excited delirium from cocaine as the official cause of death. The jury ruled the cause was undetermined.

* April 2010: Boone said that she sometimes removes statements from official transcripts of inquests. In the Burns case, she removed her own statements to the inquest jury in which she praised Bowman — who had been criticized by members of the Burns family. She said she sometimes removes statements that “could be hurtful to the family” of the deceased. She claimed transcripts from proceedings in courts of law were similarly edited. In fact, anything said to a jury in a court proceeding is on the record and becomes part of the official transcript.

Use of 'nonlethal' force may be a factor in many deaths

April 25, 2010
By Meg Laughlin, St. Petersburg Times

On a balmy fall night, two police officers in a squad car in east Bradenton spotted a man on a bicycle without a headlight.

Derrick Humbert, 38, rode a bike around town because seizures from a head injury prevented him from driving. He worked odd jobs as a short-order cook and gardener. He took care of his three kids, 2, 8 and 11, while their mother worked the evening shift at a 7-Eleven.

On this Monday in late September, he was riding home from a convenience store just after midnight when police told him to stop.

Instead, he pedaled around a corner past three houses, jumped off the bike and ran into a yard, the two officers chasing him on foot.

It is not clear why Humbert fled. Police later said that they wanted to stop him because it was a high-crime area, though Humbert was not wanted in connection with any crime. Only later would they learn that he had a misdemeanor conviction for marijuana possession, with unpaid fines.

Officer Del Shiflett yelled that he was firing his Taser. Humbert, who was hard of hearing, scrambled over a 4-foot chain-link fence and made it into a second yard. One probe hit Humbert's left shoulder, the other went in his lower back. Hit with 50,000 volts of electricity, he fell facedown in the dirt. Twenty-eight minutes later, he was in a deep coma in an ambulance on the way to a hospital where he was pronounced dead.

Derrick Humbert was the 55th person to die in Florida after being shot by a Taser in the past decade. His death tied Florida with California for the most Taser-associated deaths in the nation. (Now, Florida stands alone in first place, with 57 deaths.) Humbert's death put the case at the center of a national Taser debate, which pits the increasing popularity of the weapon against mounting evidence of its risks.

But as the Humbert case shows, police depend on the Taser so much that in some cases they may overlook evidence that it may be doing harm.

• • •

The Taser, invented by a NASA scientist in 1974, got its name from a science fiction book called Tom Swift and his Electric Rifle. When fired, the X-26 Taser, the model used by Bradenton police, propels two small darts connected to copper wires over 20 feet. The darts embed in the skin and shock with 50,000 volts of electricity, causing the recipient severe muscle contractions and temporary paralysis. Police officers in training exercises describe it as "excruciatingly painful."

By 2000, Taser International, based in Scottsdale, Ariz., was filling large orders for Tasers, which the company described as "the first nonlethal weapon capable of stopping aggressive, focused or drug-impaired persons." Not only did it stop people who were a danger to the public, police and themselves, it cut down on deaths of suspects and injuries to police officers. The conventional wisdom, repeated in Taser International training exercises, was "Taser early, Taser often."

At a 2004 Taser conference in Las Vegas for police officers, Mike Brave, a lawyer for Taser International, told the group: "We have to get across in people's minds that the Taser is incredibly effective, but does not cause injury."

His conclusion: "Taser saves lives, careers and money."

Last year, Taser International took in $104 million in revenue, with more than 15,000 public safety agencies in 40 countries using the Taser, its company website says.

But there is a downside.

In 2005, the U.S. Department of Defense looked at Taser effects and said more research was needed on "those with underlying heart conditions and drug users." That same year, Amnesty International looked at 61 deaths after Taser use and said that "many of those who died had underlying heart problems."

The ACLU of Northern California said in a Taser report in 2005: "Certainly the failure of many in law enforcement to ask tough questions about Taser is partly to blame. But Taser International is also responsible because its questionable marketing practices and exaggerated safety claims provide the basis for local police policy."

At a national conference of police officers in June 2008, the National Institute of Justice, which is part of the U.S. Department of Justice, published an interim report on Tasers that reflected both sides of the controversy: "Studies undertaken by law enforcement agencies indicate reduced injuries to officers and suspects. … However, a significant number of individuals have died after exposure (to a Taser). Some were normal healthy adults; others were chemically dependent or had heart disease."

In October 2009, the Arizona Republic said the Taser was a cause, a factor, or could not be ruled out, in 30 deaths.

Which takes us back to Derrick Humbert: Did the Taser play a role in his death? And did the department, which tends to be pro-Taser like most U.S. law enforcement agencies, look objectively at information to answer this question?

Bradenton Police Department spokesman Jeffrey Lewis declined to answer questions. Look at the internal investigation, he said.

"The work speaks for itself."

• • •

The investigation began a few hours after Humbert's death. Lt. Warren Merriman, head of the department's Office of Professional Standards, interviewed nine officers on video. But first the watch commander that night, Sgt. Charles McCrea, told some of them what he thought.

As he spoke in the hallway, a recorder in the interview room picked up his words:

"He (Humbert) is a doper. I'm putting it on the dope. I was on the verge of having a cardiac event and my heart wasn't that high. That kills me about the Taser thing because I don't see the Taser being involved. Without it, none of us would be here. I pop him with 10,000 volts or something with an aneurysm. Why's your heart going to go bappa, bappa, bappa, bap if it's not full of dope? You follow me?

"It (the Taser) is not deadly, but you know there's a controversy nationally."

That same day, Deputy Chief William Tokajer talked to the Humbert family about Humbert's death. Humbert's sister, Christina Humbert Sutton, an elementary school athletic coach, put him on speaker phone so that Humbert's three other sisters, his aunt and brother-in-law could also hear.

According to the six, Tokajer told them that Humbert was in such good shape after being shot with the Taser that he walked to the ambulance. They say Tokajer told them their brother was still up and talking at 12:45 a.m., which was 26 minutes after being hit with the Taser.

A few weeks later, police Chief Mike Radzilowski supported Tokajer in a conversation with the St. Petersburg Times.

"Derrick Humbert was fine after the Taser," said the chief. "EMS took him to the hospital to make sure there weren't any medical problems."

Witnesses, none of whom were interviewed by police, told the Times a different story.

"I heard the Taser. Then I heard the guy gasping and groaning. He sounded bad from the time he was tased till they picked him up and put him on a stretcher and put him in the ambulance," said Dequan Siplin, 11, an honor roll student at Bradenton River Middle School. His open bedroom window was about 20 feet from where Humbert was shot with the Taser.

" 'My chest is hurting. I'm dying. I can't breathe.' That's what Humbert told police," said Horatio Papillon, 40, whose yard Humbert ran through. "He wasn't walking around, talking like everything was okay. He was gasping for air when he said it."

Melinda Corona, 23, watched from a window across the street as Humbert dumped the bike, ran through a gate and into two yards, a total of about 50 to 60 feet. After Humbert was struck with the Taser, Corona walked out of the house to see and hear better.

According to Corona, the officer who fired the Taser asked Humbert: "Why are you breathing so hard when you didn't run any farther than I did?"

"Humbert was wheezing and begging for help," said Corona. "I have asthma and he sounded like me when I have an asthma attack."

Two police officers helped Humbert to a squad car. When two others tried to help him out of the car, Humbert fell on the pavement, said Corona.

"He couldn't stand. He was bad. They lifted him onto a stretcher and put him in an ambulance," she said.

The reports from Emergency Medical Services support what the neighbors say.

They show Humbert in crisis. His pulse was over 200 beats per minute — alarmingly high. It decreased over the next 20 minutes until he died. His breathing in the ambulance was so labored he needed oxygen and a pump-bag to breathe.

Capt. Larry Leinhauser of the Manatee County Public Safety Department, which oversees Bradenton EMS: "We rarely have serious implications from Tasers. But you look at the record here and have to believe the Taser could be a contributing factor, for sure."

The videotaped interviews of the officers also confirm what the EMS time line and the witnesses said.

Four police officers give versions like Corona's: Humbert ran 50 to 60 feet, not multiple blocks. The officers give a more detailed picture of his physical distress than the report summary.

"Was he having trouble with balance?" the interviewer asked Del Shiflett, who shot the Taser.

"Yes," said Shiflett.

From Officer Chris Roden's video interview: "I handcuffed him lying on the ground. He was conscious, talking, saying, 'I can't breathe.' "

From Officer Timothy Gunst's video interview: "The suspect said he gets seizures. I called EMS. We walked him out to the street. He was really sweaty. He kept saying, 'It's hard for me to breathe.' "

From Officer Leonel Marines' video interview: "He says, 'I'm hurtin' really bad.' He says, 'I can't breathe. It feels like I'm dying.' "

But the report from police, which the medical examiner read before determining the cause of death, excluded these details from the rescue workers and the police.

Manatee County Deputy Medical Examiner William Broussard, Jr. issued his findings about the cause of death in mid December. His report does not mention that Humbert was having problems breathing, complaining of pain in his chest or saying he was dying. Instead, the autopsy report described Humbert as "alert and oriented following the (Taser) deployment."

"We didn't see the video interviews. We read summaries provided by the Bradenton Police Department, which is the usual procedure," said Manatee County Chief Medical Examiner Russell Vega.

The autopsy report noted that Humbert had underlying heart disease exacerbated by "running multiple blocks." And, he had 57 nanograms of cocaine in his system.

The deputy medical examiner concluded that because of Humbert's "apparent recovery after the deployment of the electronic control device" that there was "no evidence that the electronic control device (Taser) played any role in causing the death."

The cause of death, according to the autopsy report: "Acute cocaine toxicity and hypertensive and atherosclerotic heart disease."

Experts asked by the Times to review this report expressed varying levels of skepticism about its conclusions.

Dr. Joseph Saady, chief toxicologist for the state of Virginia until 2009, agreed to talk about the case. Saady said he found the cause of death "odd" because the cocaine level was so low.

"To have acute cocaine toxicity, which means an overdose, you expect to see in excess of 1,000 nanograms of cocaine. Fifty-seven nanograms is not consistent with acute cocaine toxicity."

Vega conceded that the cocaine level was "relatively low," but said that along with the heart disease and exertion it probably had an effect.

Tampa cardiologist Joel Strom looked at the EMS records, information from the video interviews of police and the autopsy report and offered an opinion:

"There are so many ingredients here — underlying heart disease, a small amount of cocaine. He didn't run far but the adrenaline was probably pumping because he was running from police. Add to all of this the Taser, which probably triggered the cardiac event that led to his death. It's far-fetched to exclude the Taser from playing any role at all."

Tampa cardiac electro­physiologist Bengt Herweg, who runs the Florida Heart Rhythm Institute: "Excluding the Taser entirely as a contributor to Humbert's death raises questions about objectivity."

Vega offered this: "I wish we knew more about Tasers. I can't say the Taser could not have played a role. Might Humbert have survived without the Taser? It's possible."

But would the autopsy report change?

"It's unlikely," Vega said.

• • •

Earlier this year, a federal appeals court in California ruled in favor of a man who had been shot with a Taser and injured. When the man was stopped by police for not wearing a seat belt, he got out of the car, stood about 20 feet away and hit his own thighs because he was angry at himself. The officer fired his Taser.

The appellate panel said that the use of the Taser was excessive because the man wasn't "an immediate threat to the officer or others." The level of the offense should also be considered when weighing whether someone is a danger, the court said.

In Humbert's situation, no light on his bike wasn't a reason to arrest him, but ignoring a lawful order to stop was. In his video interview, Shiflett, who fired the Taser, said he tried to stop Humbert because sometimes such stops "deter drug crimes or burglary in a high-crime area."

The problem with using the Taser when Humbert fled was that Shiflett had no way of knowing he had an underlying heart problem and cocaine in his system, which made him especially vulnerable to a Taser.

Because it's impossible to spot these vulnerabilities, the Department of Justice with the Police Executive Research Forum published a report a few years ago with this recommendation: "That a subject is fleeing should not be the sole justification for police use of (a Taser). Severity of offense and other circumstances should be considered before officers' use (of a Taser) on the fleeing subject."

Steve Tuttle, communications director for Taser International, says the company has no opinion on these recommendations: "We don't get involved with the guidelines that individual agencies adopt," he said.

The Bradenton Police Department, like most police agencies across the country, has yet to incorporate these recommendations into its policy.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Edmonton police taser use down by 58 per cent last year

April 23, 2010
CBC News

Taser stun gun use by Edmonton Police was down dramatically in 2009 compared to the previous year, the Edmonton Police Commission was told Thursday.

"In the stun mode … there was a decrease in use of 58 per cent," Training Insp. Bob Hassel said in his presentation to commissioners at their monthly meeting.

The stun gun figures are contained in the 2009 report into the department's use of force, which also outlines the number of times officers used guns, pepper spray and batons.

New rules governing the use of Tasers introduced last year may be the reason for the decrease, Hassel said.

However, while Taser use is down, the use of batons is up by 46 per cent, although Hassel said the number of incidents is relatively small.

"Although the increase looks quite high, there were 41 deployments in 2008, compared to 60 deployments in 2009."

The number of times police pointed guns at people increased last year: from 351 in 2008 to 389 in 2009, an increase of 11 per cent.

Edmonton police also increased the size of their force by 9.8 percent over the same time period.

"There's a greater likelihood that we're going to have more interactions with people, a greater likelihood we're going to be on scene a lot quicker, therefore, a greater likelihood of physical control techniques being utilized," Hassel said.

Edmonton police commissioner Brian Gibson says he is pleased with the overall trend in the report but adds the commission will do a follow-up.

"We will ask the service on any areas we have a concern with. We will be questioning the service about those," he said.

Gibson believes the overall drop in incidents shows training is working.

More Tasers, less bullets means higher cost and legal change

April 22, 2010
Henry Stancu, Toronto Star

Chief Bill Blair would like to see all front line Toronto police officers equipped with conductive energy weapons (CEW) to avoid resorting to deadly firearms in violent situations when ever possible.

The chief’s annual report for 2009 CEW use — which he described as “the most comprehensive report of public accountability on the use of energy conducted weapons in any police service to our knowledge — shows Tasers were drawn 307 times in 273 incidents.

Taser use by Toronto police resulted in only two minor injuries, a scraped knee and a bump on the head, but no serious harm or death. There were 18 cases of unintentional discharge and the devices were used on animals in nine calls.

“By providing our people with the best equipment possible, the best training possible, I think we can actually save lives and save money by using our equipment and training appropriately,” Blair said during the Toronto police services board meeting Thursday.

His wish won’t be granted any time soon given the cost of Tasers in climate of civic fiscal restraint.

“It is a significant expense and given the financial situation with the city, the service and the province I think it unlikely there will be a very substantial investment in these in the near future,” said Blair.

It would also require current provincial guidelines for the use of Tasers to be amended.

In some cases merely unholstering, pointing, activating the laser sight or engaging the Taser’s warning electrical spark was found to be enough of a deterrent to cool a volatile situation.

This demonstrated force presence was effective in 45.4 per cent of the cases Toronto in which police used Tasers last year.

Taser use involving full deployment, in which the weapon was fired at a distance and the electrically-charged probes struck the subject, occurred in 41 per cent of the cases, while drive stun mode, where the device is pressed against a body and the current applied, was used in 13.6 per cent of the incidents.

About 40 per cent of those brought under control with Tasers were believed to be emotionally disturbed and/or under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

In many cases police used the weapons on people threatening to harm themselves or others.

“We’ve had quite a number of cases where people have been stabbing themselves. The police officer is certainly not going to discharge a firearm at such an individual. It’s an incredibly dangerous thing for an officer to wrestle the knife away,” said Blair.

While some prisoner and mental health advocacy groups criticize the use of Tasers as cruel, many more are supportive of the less lethal weapon in cases where an emotionally disturbed person is a danger to themselves and others.

“When we’ve had consultation on this, not only did mental health groups say ‘please look at Tasers as an option to guns’, but also numerous inquest juries have said that when dealing with people who are emotionally disturbed the Taser is the way to go,” said Mark Pugash,” director of the Toronto police public information unit.

“It’s impossible for the police officer to diagnose that mental illness. We can only respond to the action that we encounter . . . the police have to stop the situation and render it safe . . . disarm them and get them to treatment and hopefully save their lives,” the chief added.

In 2009 Tasers were also used in situations where suspects resisted arrest or were combative in investigations into gun calls, assaults, robbery, break-ins, domestic disturbances, search warrant details and various threatening situations.

Last year a total of 593 Taser X-26 models were issued to emergency task force officers, front line supervisors and team leaders in units such as holdup, intelligence, drugs, organized crime and fugitive squads.

Tasers record the time, date and number of discharges. They can even be equipped with cameras.

The X-26 model with laser sighting is listed at a base price of about $1,000 (U.S.). Then there are the added costs associated with accessories such as holsters, camera, the weapon’s service and maintenance requirements and training for officers in the use of the devices.

Blair acknowledges that outfitting all “first responders”, or front line Toronto officers with Tasers will require both a significant financial commitment and changes in legislation.

A two-year provincial review issued last month called Tasers “an effective, less lethal weapon” for law enforcement and set a guideline for their use in Ontario.

The review followed the death of Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski in 2007 after he was hit by Tasers during a confrontation with RCMP at Vancouver International Airport.

Rick Bartolucci, minister of community safety and correctional services, said he had no plans to expand the use of the devices as they are only authorized for use in tactical or hostage rescue situations, for perimeter control and by front line supervisors.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Commissioner outlines use of Tasers in Bermuda

BERMUDA - The newest lambs of the Church of taser.

April 21, 2010

Press statement by Commissioner of Police Michael DeSilva

The Bermuda Police Service (BPS) is announcing the introduction of TASER as a less-lethal use of force option in the list of approved defensive weapons being carried by police officers.

"TASER" is the manufacturer's name for an Electronic Control Device (ECD) that is widely used by law enforcement agencies across the world as a less-lethal option of defensive force. The TASER works by firing two small, dart-like electrodes at its target using nitrogen charges when the trigger is pulled. The electrodes are pointed to penetrate clothing and barbed to prevent removal once they are in place, and they remain attached to the main unit by conductive wire. The TASER releases a 5 second burst of electric charge at about 2,000 volts. The charge causes Neuromuscular Incapacitation by stimulating the sensory and motor nerves to the point where they are temporarily paralysed.

In simpler terms, the subject is unable to control major muscle movement and cannot move whenever the electric charge is being applied. TASER is not dependent on pain and is effective on subjects with a high level of pain tolerance. This makes the device safer and more effective than the use of Captor incapacitant spray or a strike from the ASP baton, both of which require the subject to comply with the sensation of pain.

The device has built-in accountability measures to determine when and by whom it was deployed, and it is fitted with a camera that records the entire incident from the moment the device is drawn by the officer.

The most recent US report on Use of Force, available on the company's website, paints a very clear picture on the effectiveness of the device, compared to other Use of Force options:

* Discharge of firearms: 500 deaths & 500 serious injuries per 1000

* Baton strikes: 780 serious injuries per 1000

* Use of TASER: 2 serious injuries per 1000

In nearly every police agency that has introduced the device significant reductions have been reported in the number of injuries sustained by police officers, as well as by persons being arrested. In a 2009 study in the UK, TASER devices were drawn over 600 times, but only fired 93 times: meaning that 85% of the time the mere presentation of the weapon was enough to gain compliance from the subject.

We have examined significant research conducted in the US, Canada and the UK before taking the decision to introduce TASER. The BPS is satisfied, based on all the research, that the TASER device is safe. I believe we are introducing it at the appropriate time, and that it is proportionate to the risks that exist on the street. The overriding principle of police operations is the protection of life - and that even includes violent subjects that would try to attack us. TASER puts another tool on the police officer's belt and gives him or her another option to consider before having to use a firearm against a threat.

Given the increase in armed operations that we are conducting, I am ensuring that we take all steps possible to make the use of police firearms a last resort, and only when it is absolutely necessary. I believe the introduction of the TASER device could potentially save the life of a person who might otherwise force a firearms confrontation with an armed police officer.

The purchase and training of the device has been delivered at a cost of about $150K. The funds were made available from the 2009/10 budget after approval to purchase was granted by Minister Burch, and approval to carry the device was granted by His Excellency the Governor following requests from the BPS last year.

The TASER will be out on patrol this week, and will be carried by all firearms officers. Additional officers will be issued with the device depending on the nature of their duties, starting with the Police Support Unit. That translates to about 1 officer in 3 on patrol will be armed with TASER. We will be monitoring the use and effectiveness of the device regularly to determine whether wider distribution is required.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Linda Bush drops lawsuit against RCMP in B.C.

April 21, 2010
Gary Mason, Globe and Mail

Linda Bush is abandoning the civil lawsuit she filed against the RCMP after her son, Ian, was shot in the back of the head by an officer at a detachment in Houston, B.C., in October 2005.

Ms. Bush announced her decision in downtown Vancouver Wednesday morning, releasing a press statement.

RCMP Chief Superintendent Craig Callens also released a statement to the press.

Ms. Bush said in an interview that while making the decision “makes her sad” she believes more can be accomplished by “working co-operatively with the RCMP than fighting them in court.”

She also said that the decision was made easier by the fact that the federal government and other provincial jurisdictions are moving to various models of civilian oversight – something that she has been calling for since her son’s death.

“The RCMP aren’t the ones fighting civilian oversight,” Ms. Bush said. “They’re quite happy to have it. In B.C., at least, it’s the provincial government that is dragging its feet in this area. We want true civilian oversight in this province and not the Alberta model that is civilian led but still uses police officers investigating themselves.

“We want to see the Ontario model here. It seems to be working well there now.”

Many felt Ms. Bush faced long odds of winning her civil suit. And then there were the ever-growing legal costs that went along with it. For the past several years, Ms. Bush has been drawing an income as a part-time bookkeeper in Houston.

Her lawyer, Howard Rubin, said today that it is difficult to “get much money out of these kinds of lawsuits and the courts are very conservative when it comes to lawsuits against the police.”

Many point to the death of Ian Bush as the event that provoked a nationwide outcry over the RCMP’s conduct in Canada, and in particular in B.C. In the years that followed, the force was deluged with criticism for its handling of any number of events and cases, culminating in the airport tasering of Robert Dziekanski.

After Mr. Dziekanski’s death, the federal government and provincial governments could no longer ignore the growing demand for civilian oversight of our national police force.

But before the Dziekanski case there was the troubling death of Mr. Bush, who had been picked up outside an arena in Houston on Oct. 29, 2005 for being in possession of an open beer. In the back of a police cruiser, Mr. Bush was asked his name and jokingly gave the officer that of his friend’s instead. He was taken to the local detachment by RCMP Const. Paul Koester.

Twenty minutes later Ian Bush was dead from a single gunshot wound to the back of the head.

The officer was not charged but a coroner’s inquest into the death raised many troubling questions about the event.

The officer’s description of what happened in the final seconds leading up to the shot, seemed anatomically impossible. The police officer said he was lying face down on a sofa with the 190-pound Mr. Bush on top of him and yet somehow he reached around with one of his hands and shot the young logger directly in the back of the head.

Const. Koester refused to demonstrate how that was possible.

An independent blood spatter expert called in by a lawyer for the Bush family said blood evidence at the scene suggested it was Const. Koester who was on top of the victim, not the other way around.

It was also revealed at the inquest that the constable destroyed his notes from the evening in the immediate days after the incident. When he was interviewed by investigators three months later, they supplied him with their questions in advance.

And those were just some of the more disturbing bits of evidence that came out at the inquest.

Ms. Bush acknowledged that there will be many people, especially in Houston, who will be upset and disappointed with her decision to drop the lawsuit.

“I know that,” she said. “I do wish things had gone differently with Ian’s story. But I don’t think we were going to get anything out of this lawsuit. So it makes me a little sad. But I still think the case did draw attention to many of the most important issues around the RCMP and civilian oversight so to that extent it was worthwhile.”

Ms. Bush’s decision to abandon her lawsuit would seem to bring this troubling case to a close.


Statement by Mrs. Linda Bush
2010-04-21 10:00 PDT

On April 21st 2010 a joint news conference was held with Mrs. Linda Bush and Chief Superintendent Craig Callens – Deputy Criminal Operations Officer. Below is Mrs. Linda Bush's statement. Click here to view Chief Superintendent Callens' statement.

I have decided, in consultation with our lawyer, Howard Rubin, not to proceed with the civil court case which we filed when faced with Ian’s death. I know that many people, including some who are very close to me, will be very disappointed with this decision. I do, however, need to make the decision after considering what makes the most sense.

Do the benefits outweigh the costs?

I will start with the benefits;

Nothing we can do will give Ian’s life back to him, so the only thing we truly want is not within our reach.

Proceeding with the civil court case would give us, and Ian, our day in court. The inquest was an exercise in frustration for the family and court would hear more evidence. Individuals who were testifying would be required to answer questions regarding the investigation and be able to support their statements under oath. The civil case was meant to expose the flaws in the current system and I think that has been done.

By now, with all that has taken place over the past four years, we feel that people are aware of our stand on the flaws in the system when police investigate police. There is now a movement towards completely independent investigation of police in cases where there is loss of life or serious harm has been done. There is much discussion about whether civilians can be trained for investigation, whether former police officers are civilian, and what exactly constitutes “serious harm”. Those issues can be settled.

The RCMP has now made a decision to use whatever outside investigation is available. In Alberta it will be ASIRT, which is a team of civilians and seconded police officers led by a civilian investigator. In Ontario, they have the SIU, which is a completely civilian investigative team. I have been told by people involved with the civilian investigative team in Ontario that it does work. In British Columbia we do not yet have any such process. It will be up to legislators to create the necessary laws and investigative body; they need to hear from us, the people, that we want civilian investigators.

Now, the costs;

Under Canadian law there is not a great monetary value placed on a human life. Ian did not have a wife and children, so no one was dependent on him, which is how the awards in such a case are determined after a death. Someone who was injured would receive an award which would consider family needs and the needs of the individual who had been harmed. We have been aware from the very beginning that the costs of proceeding in court could greatly exceed whatever we could hope to gain monetarily.

Because of his interest in seeing greater police accountability and changes made to the law, Howard Rubin has worked pro bono on this case, but going to court would still be tremendously expensive.

Aside from the financial costs, there is the enormous toll going to court would place on all of the individuals in our family, including the children. You have seen how an inquest affects the families. We would be reliving the despair, anger, hopelessness and frustration. While I have made it my life’s mission to do whatever is necessary to make the changes to the law I am no longer sure I can justify putting my family through the ordeal of a court case. As well, I do believe that change is underway, and we can accomplish what we need to do without proceeding in civil court. The RCMP is now demonstrating the will to make the changes which are necessary to bring accountability and transparency to the force, so working co-operatively will accomplish more than taking an adversarial position. I will leave it to Chief Superintendent Callens to explain the changes which have been made.

I assure you that though the direction of our work has shifted, our goals remain the same—to improve transparency of police operations and ensure accountability for police in our province and our country. Dropping the civil suit does not mean we will discontinue that work.

There are many things which I still want to see changed, including some aspects of RCMP cadet training, enhanced and on-going training in “people” skills, and a firmer definition of RCMP policy in regard to procedures to prevent serious incidents and behavior of the officers present when something catastrophic does happen. I believe that independent, civilian investigation will lead to all of these things because there will be greater transparency and accountability for police actions. People will be able to trust and have confidence in the investigations involving police officers. No officer will be put into the intolerable position of being required to investigate another officer.

The most essential need right now is the legislation to create civilian investigation. Bill C472 has been introduced to Parliament by Nathan Cullen, the MP for Skeena-Bulkley Valley. If passed, this bill would provide for civilian investigation for the RCMP anywhere in Canada. I would like to see a national standard, at the least, for investigating the RCMP. There are many difficulties with the RCMP Act itself, as it has not been revised for many years. In 2006 Paul Kennedy submitted proposed legislation to the federal government to strengthen the Commission for Complaints Against the RCMP. This has not been enacted, so complaints are still investigated as they were in 2006 when Ian’s case was before them.

The provincial government has improved the police act in British Columbia, but as yet it does not cover the RCMP. I want to see British Columbia adopt civilian investigation as it is in Ontario. This team may necessarily include police officers in the beginning, until civilian investigators can be fully trained. I realize that there is an overlap in the federal and provincial requests we have made, and that there may be jurisdictional conflicts. The important thing is for the problem to be solved in the best interest of all Canadians, and ultimately all police officers.


Statement by Chief Superintendent Craig Callens, Deputy Criminal Operations Officer, E Division
2010-04-21 10:00 PDT

On April 21st 2010 a joint news conference was held with Mrs. Linda Bush and Chief Superintendent Craig Callens. Below is Chief Superintendent Callens' statement. Click here to view Mrs. Linda Bush's statement.

Thank you, Mrs. Bush. I appreciate this opportunity to be here with you today.

Your input to the ongoing refinement of RCMP policy and procedures has been significant. Your efforts have contributed to the improvements that have been made at the Houston Detachment since your son’s death as well as in other areas of the RCMP.

On behalf of the RCMP, I would like to thank you for the time and energy you have dedicated to seeing this process through. I can only imagine how emotionally difficult this has been for you and your family.

We have met and discussed some of the changes that have resulted from your direct involvement and from both the Coroner’s Inquest and the final report from the Commission for Public Complaints against the RCMP. The RCMP has made changes which include external investigation, review and oversight of serious incidents involving RCMP members and employees; and, the installation of video recording equipment in RCMP buildings. We both agree that these changes are needed in order to enhance the transparency of police operations and to provide a means for greater accountability to the public. The goal is to maintain and enhance public trust and confidence in the RCMP which is critical to our operations.

The first significant change to directly result from the in-custody death of Ian Bush involved independent oversight (or observation) of investigations conducted by the RCMP in British Columbia involving high-profile and serious incidents such as in-custody deaths. This independent oversight began in BC in 2006 with the establishment of the Commission for Public Complaints Independent Observer Program as a three year pilot project. At the request of the RCMP, the CPC was given contemporaneous (simultaneous) access to observe and assess the impartiality of officer involved investigations conducted by the RCMP in “E" Division. The program was formalized in September 2008.

The need for civilian oversight was taken a step further in September 2009 by the British Columbia Association of Chiefs of Police with a resolution that called for the establishment of an independent, civilian-led investigation agency to investigate serious incidents involving the police.

While work is underway to achieve this goal, the RCMP took the interim measure to implement a new national policy to address this important issue of external investigations and reviews earlier this year. The intent of the policy is to ensure fair, effective, thorough and impartial investigations of RCMP employees through a combination of independent external investigation, observation and review.

The policy will be used for investigations where there is a serious injury or death of an individual involving an RCMP employee or it appears an employee may have been involved in a matter that is of a serious or sensitive nature. The RCMP will refer all matters that meet these criteria to an external law enforcement agency or other duly authorized investigative agency to conduct the investigation and ensure impartiality and thoroughness.

If an independent external investigation is not feasible, due for example to the lack of available resources, the policy outlines other requirements to follow. This includes requesting a different division from where the incident occurred to conduct the investigation.

It is our hope, and we are confident, that BC will soon establish its own regime responsible for these independent investigations, oversight and review of police actions.

The second important change that resulted from the BC Coroner’s Inquest and the Commission for Public Complaint’s recommendations in 2007 is that video recording equipment be installed and used in all police buildings across the province. Since then, the BC Provincial Police Services Division (government) has been working on a set of standards for all police agencies and, in November 2009, the BC Solicitor General shared those standards and forthcoming regulations with the RCMP.

Upon receiving those new proposed standards, the RCMP in British Columbia immediately appointed a project manager to oversee the process of assessing detachments, evaluating the costs and devising an action plan and time line for implementing video recording equipment in all of our detachments.

Since January 2010 we have worked to establish province-wide internal policy and procedures for Closed Circuit Video Equipment (CCVE) installation and use and we have started the installation of CCVE and cell upgrades in some Provincial RCMP detachments across BC.

It should be recognized that many of the 120 provincial and municipal detachments the RCMP works within already have some form of CCVE equipment, however they may not comply with the new standards set by the provincial government. In some cases, meeting the standards will mean adding a camera to an area within the detachment where there isn’t one now such as a finger print room or a breathalyzer test room, while others may require more extensive upgrades.

The provincial government has laid out a three year timeframe for compliance with the proposed standards and it is the RCMP’s intention to meet the requirements of the pending regulation by fall 2012 in our detachments here in BC.

The bottom line is that we welcome the installation of CCVE cameras in our detachments to further enhance the transparency of our operations and interactions between our members, employees and the public.

It should be noted that Houston is one of the first detachments to have a major renovation to its cells which began in December 2009. Houston Detachment already had four cameras, and an additional four cameras have been installed to further enhance transparency while the detachment undergoes final renovations and CCVE installation. The entire project for Houston Detachment is on schedule for completion in June 2010.

These are some of the more significant changes that have come about since this tragic incident.

I would again like to thank Mrs. Bush for her time and commitment. We value your cooperation and partnership as we move forward to achieve these improvements in policing.

C.J. Callens, Chief Superintendent
Deputy Criminal Operations Officer (Contract)
"E" Division

Charge stands in Zehm case

April 21, 2010
Thomas Clouse, The Spokesman Review

Spokane police Officer Karl F. Thompson Jr., accused of lying to investigators over the fatal confrontation with Otto Zehm, unsuccessfully sought to get the charge dismissed Tuesday, arguing that he never “swore to tell the truth” during his interview with detectives.

Although his defense lawyer, Carl Oreskovich, later insisted that Thompson told the truth during the interview, the distinction was drawn during a hearing in U.S. District Court as part of an effort to get the lying charge thrown out on a legal technicality.

Oreskovich said the charge should be dismissed because Thompson didn’t swear to tell the truth in the recorded interview, and that it was someone else who prepared a transcript of the conversation with detectives.

U.S. District Court Judge Fred Van Sickle, however, didn’t buy it.

“This is part of an investigation that was conducted. It was recorded clearly at the consent of Officer Thompson,” Van Sickle said. “To state this is somehow created by a third party strikes me as putting form over substance.”

The swift rejection Tuesday means Thompson will stand trial June 2 on charges of lying to investigators and using excessive force during the March 18, 2006, encounter with Zehm, a mentally ill janitor beaten and hogtied by police after being mistakenly accused of stealing money.

The argument drew spirited debate.

Thompson “doesn’t say ‘I certify the accuracy of the document,’ ” Oreskovich said in court. “There is no affirmation … that suggests the transcript was in any way affirmed or adopted by him.”

However, Oreskovich acknowledged that Thompson consented to allow Spokane police Detective Terry Ferguson to record an interview on March 22, 2006, following an off-the-record interview that was not recorded. Five days later, Thompson signed a copy of the transcript of that taped interview under the heading “reviewed by.”

Federal prosecutors contend that Thompson’s statement embellished the threat posed by Zehm and contradicted the statements of eyewitnesses and video from surveillance cameras that captured the confrontation with Zehm. Thompson beat Zehm with a baton and jolted him with a Taser after two young women erroneously reported that Zehm stole their money out of an ATM.

Oreskovich asked for the dismissal under the premise that Thompson did not create a false record or alter an existing record.

“Our position is he did not create a record. It was created by a third party,” Oreskovich said. “He consented to the interview. But when we get to the … transcription, there is no evidence that he did anything other than review it.”

But Victor Boutros, a U.S. Department of Justice trial attorney from Washington, D.C., said Oreskovich can’t avoid the law by arguing that Thompson didn’t actively record or transcribe his interview.

“Who made the false statement?” Boutros asked. “Because it was a taped interview does not mean it doesn’t fall under the law.”

Boutros said that under Oreskovich’s argument, any officer “who made a false statement can avoid it by simply dictating their false statements and have them transcribed … by someone else.”

Van Sickle said it is not disputed that Thompson signed a transcript of his statement.

Asked after the hearing whether his client told the truth during the interview with Ferguson, Oreskovich replied: “Absolutely. It just wasn’t a sworn statement.”

During the hearing, Oreskovich made mention of the ongoing grand jury investigation seeking to determine whether other Spokane police officers obstructed the Zehm investigation.

Last week, Assistant U.S. Attorney Tim Durkin filed court documents indicating that Ferguson and Detective Mark Burbridge either omitted statements or used only those statements that appeared more favorable to Thompson. Ferguson also acknowledged that her report was “inaccurate” when she wrote Spokane County prosecutors that she didn’t find any evidence of excessive force by Thompson.

Assistant Chief Jim Nicks, who for months claimed Zehm provoked the confrontation when he lunged or attacked Thompson, is now prepared to testify that Thompson’s statement to Ferguson was “materially inaccurate” when compared with the surveillance tape.

Mayor Mary Verner said Friday that she has not been contacted by federal authorities and has no reason to question the actions of Nicks or city attorneys handling the case.

“All I know is what I read in the newspaper,” she said. “In this instance, I am pretty much a citizen and it’s inappropriate for a citizen to try to insert oneself into a federal determination or an indictment or a grand jury proceeding.”

“I think that when all of that is done and there are rulings that come out of the courts, that would be a basis for me to make decisions,” she said.

Scottish police hit the beat with Tasers for the first time

April 21, 2010
By Paul O'Hare, The Daily Record

POLICE hit the beat armed with 50,000 volt Taser stun guns for the first time yesterday.

The controversial weapons are designed to help defuse volatile situations and protect officers from attack.

And from yesterday, they were issued to hand-picked Strathclyde beat officers in Glasgow city centre, Rutherglen and Cambuslang.

The areas were chosen as they have a high number of police assaults. Last year, more than 4000 officers were attacked in Scotland.

Human rights campaigners claim Tasers have caused hundreds of deaths in the US.

But Chief Constable Steve House blasted "hype and hysteria" and insisted the weapon was a safer alternative to batons and CS spray.

Previously, only firearms officers were authorised to use the guns, which have been deployed by Strathclyde cops 29 times since 2005.

On another 12 occasions, the mere shining of the red laser target dot on the offender has defused the situation.

Amnesty International claim Tasers have killed more than 300 people since 2001.

Tasers often used on mentally ill, police disclose

April 20, 2010
Kelly Grant ,Globe and Mail

Toronto police zapped or threatened with stun guns at least 50 people with mental-health problems last year, according to a new report that provides the most detailed information yet on how local officers use the controversial weapon.

The 50 suspects escorted to a psychiatric facilities after tasering incidents in 2009 are part of a broader category of 80 “emotional disturbed” subjects who make up about one-third of those tasered by Toronto Police.

They narrowly edged out drunks and drug users as the most frequent targets of conducted energy weapons, but most of the at least 246 citizens who wound up on the wrong end of a taser last year had some combination of substance abuse, mental illness or emotional trouble.

Hilary Homes, a security campaigner for Amnesty International Canada, called the report a rare instance of hard numbers on tasers and the mentally ill that confirms the group’s suspicions.

“Even though we’re at a point where there definitely has been advances in the testing and understanding of the device, there’s still a recognition they’re more likely to be used on vulnerable groups,” she said.

The new mental-health statistics are part of a police annual report on stun guns, which concluded officers deployed the weapons less often last year than the year before.

In 2009, tasers were used 307 times in 273 incidents, down from 367 times in 329 incidents in 2008. Of the 273 incidents last year, 18 involved officers accidentally firing the machine’s electronic probes during tests and nine involved animals, mostly dogs. That brings the number of people either threatened, stunned or shot with a taser down to at least 246. More than one person was involved in some of the incidents.

In 45 per cent of the 2009 cases, officers simply threatened people with a lit-up taser; in the rest they either jolted subjects directly or shot the device’s electronic probe from a short distance away. Of the 50 Mental Health Act taser incidents, only 26 involved police actually using the taser.

“The fact that [some suspects] may be taken to a hospital under the Mental Health Act simply means that after the situation was made safe, the officer believed the best place for this individual was in a psychiatric facility,” said Staff Superintendent Mike Federico, manger of Toronto Police’s conducted energy weapon program. “It’s not the condition that prompts the officer’s response, it’s the behaviour. That’s what they’re trained to do.”

Staff Supt. Federico said he couldn’t explain the overall decline. The force hasn’t formally studied why officers are using less frequently a weapon that has been the subject of intense public scrutiny since the death of Robert Dziekanski, a Polish immigrant who died after being shocked repeatedly at the Vancouver airport in 2007.

“It’s no doubt officers’ good judgment being exercised, but it could just as easily be the result of fewer incidents where police are called,” he said. “It’s certainly not due to any change in policy, practice or training.”

There has been a change, however, in the level of detail Toronto police provide in their yearly taser disclosure. Last year the Toronto Police Services Board, which will review this latest report at its meeting Thursday, ordered senior brass to add the mental-health data as well as data about how many taser subjects are “believed to be armed” or actually armed. The report determined police believed the suspect had a weapon in 64 per cent of the cases, but Staff Supt. Federico said the force didn’t have up-to-date numbers on how often weapons were confirmed.

The report also reveals that Toronto police used stun guns most often in 14 Division on the west side of downtown and that the device was used on two 15-year-olds, three men older than 60, 15 women, one deer and one especially feisty raccoon.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

2 officers in child taser incident back on job

April 20, 2010
ABC News

MARTINSVILLE, Ind. -- Two central Indiana police officers suspended after allegedly slapping and shocking an unruly 10-year-old boy with a Taser gun are back on the job.

Martinsville police Capt. William Jennings and patrolman Darrel Johnson were reinstated with limited desk duties Monday by a city disciplinary panel, pending the results of a Morgan County Sheriff's Department investigation.

City attorney Roger Coffin said that while state law allows an unpaid suspension for five days, it would not be prudent to suspend the officers without pay without due process.

The officers were called March 30 to a day care center where the boy hit, kicked and spit on a caretaker. Police say the officers slapped and shocked the child after he kicked one officer as they tried to restrain him.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Hundreds of faulty RCMP Tasers destroyed or pulled

April 18, 2010
The Canadian Press

OTTAWA — The RCMP has destroyed or retired hundreds of Tasers after laboratory tests found some Mountie stun guns were not performing properly.

Internal RCMP notes obtained by The Canadian Press say 15 per cent of the older M26 model Tasers and one per cent of the newer X26 models did not test within technical tolerances.

Draft statistics provided by the force say that as of December, 149 M26s and 60 X26s from across the country had not performed within specifications.

The Tasers that did not meet tolerances "were destroyed and replaced by divisions," says a December briefing note to RCMP Commissioner William Elliott, released under the Access to Information Act.

In addition, the draft figures indicate several RCMP divisions had either replaced or planned to retire more than 200 other M26 stun guns.

The RCMP declined to provide additional updates, saying the force would publish the final test results this spring.

It's "inherently problematic" that the RCMP, which has been using Tasers for more than eight years, didn't test the devices before putting them in the field, said Rob Holmes, president of the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association.

"It should have been done from the get-go."

Serious questions of stun gun reliability first arose in December 2008 when a scientific review commissioned by the CBC and French-language Radio-Canada concluded that four out of 41 guns tested actually discharged more electrical current than Taser International says is possible.

In some of the test firings the police weapons delivered 50 per cent more current.

Last June, Elliott ordered all Tasers in the RCMP inventory be tested. A short time earlier, he directed all divisions to pull their M26s from service until testing could confirm they were operating within specifications.

The RCMP's testing protocol was developed in January 2009 by MPB Technologies, an independent electronics lab, with input from the government-run Canadian Police Research Centre, Carleton University scientists and stun gun manufacturer Taser International.

The RCMP has long maintained the Taser contributes to officer and public safety when properly used in appropriate situations by well-trained officers.

Critics say police use the powerful devices to make unco-operative people comply with orders even when they don't pose a threat to officers or bystanders.

The force is working on an overhaul of its Taser policy following recommendations from inquiries prompted by the death of air passenger Robert Dziekanski.

Dziekanski, en route to British Columbia from Poland to join his mother, Zofia Cisowski, died in October 2007 after being hit with a Mountie Taser at the Vancouver airport.

A video of the confrontation filmed by a fellow passenger, in which an agitated and disoriented Dziekanski is zapped repeatedly, was seen by millions of people -- stirring public outrage and widespread re-examination of stun gun use.

The RCMP recently apologized to Cisowski and agreed to a financial settlement.

The RCMP's Taser destruction and retirement program represents a shift towards the newer-model stun gun, seen as more technically reliable than the older version.

As of mid-March there were 1,114 M26 Tasers in use by the RCMP, down from 1,623 when testing began, and 2,262 X26 Tasers in the Mountie inventory, up from 1,561.

Former judge Thomas Braidwood, who led a B.C. public inquiry on Taser use, said while the guns can kill or gravely injure people, they can also be a valuable option for officers.

In an initial report, Braidwood said police should use a Taser only when someone is causing harm to another or there's a possibility they will imminently do so. He also recommended that stun guns be tested periodically.

Alberta has declared that Tasers used in the province be tested annually and that any new ones be scrutinized before being put into service.

"As a result of the guidelines issued by B.C. and Alberta, a long-term strategy will have to be developed for ongoing testing," says the RCMP briefing note.

Taser International did not respond to a request for comment on the RCMP-commissioned lab tests.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Cops getting caught on camera increases scrutiny

April 17, 2010

CHICAGO — Minutes after a suburban Chicago police officer was charged with striking a motorist with his baton, prosecutors handed out copies of a video showing the beating — taken by a dashboard camera on the officer's own squad car.

In California, after a transit cop and an unruly train passenger slammed against a wall during a struggle and shattered a station window last fall, video from a bystander's cell phone was all over the Internet before the window was fixed.

The same cell phones, surveillance cameras and other video equipment often used to assist police are also catching officers on tape, changing the nature of police work — for better and worse.

Some say cameras are exposing behavior that police have gotten away with for years. But others contend the videos, which often show a snippet of an incident, turn officers into villains simply for doing their jobs, making them targets of lawsuits and discipline from bosses buckling to public pressure.

"We tell our officers all the time you've got to assume that everything you do is going to be videotaped," said Chicago Police Superintendent Jody Weis. "Everyone has a cell phone and almost every cell phone has a camera."

Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez said the video her office gave to the media on Tuesday shows police officer James Mandarino, from the Chicago suburb of Streamwood, hitting motorist Ronald Bell 15 times after a traffic stop last month.

In the video, Mandarino is seen firing a Taser at a passenger in the car and then striking Bell, who is on his knees with his hands on his head. Bell suffered a concussion and cuts that required seven stitches.

"It's a wonderful tool," Alvarez said of the video, which she says suggests that both men posed no threat to the officer.

Though police-behaving-badly videos have become popular staples of cable news shows and the Internet, Weis said he doesn't believe his officers are overly cautious out of fears they'll be videotaped — and their superiors are not advising them to be.

Quietly, though, some officers say the prospect of being videotaped makes them hesitate even if they know they should act.

"I've heard from officers who are sent to break up a fight in the street and see a group of people leaning out windows with handheld video cameras ... they go slower and are less aggressive," said Tom Needham, a Chicago attorney who has represented several police officers.

But University of Chicago law professor Craig Futterman, who has studied police brutality, said videos are helping hold police accountable.

"My own view is that YouTube has done more to expose the reality of police abuse than all the blue-ribbon commissions combined," said Futterman.

A Chicago police officer who was arrested three years ago in the videotaped beating of a female bartender never would have been charged much less convicted if not for the video, Futterman said. Anthony Abbate initially was charged with a misdemeanor until the video played across the world.

Ronald Bell's brother, Stacey Bell, said he doubts the Streamwood officer would have been charged with felony aggravated battery and official misconduct without the video and his brother still would have faced charges of drunken driving and resisting an officer, which were dropped.

"I believe it would have been six witnesses against an officer and it would have been a different story," said Stacey Bell, who witnessed the alleged beating. The officer's attorney declined to comment.

But some caution that incidents caught on tape can misrepresent police work.

"The work of a police officer, even when done properly is ... not pleasant to watch," said Al O'Leary, spokesman for the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association in New York City. "We've had situations, circumstances where an officer doing his job by the book is caught on video is tagged as brutal. Sometimes the work is brutal but necessary."

In California when the Bay Area Rapid Transit officer slammed into a window with a suspect during a violent arrest, the cell phone video — viewed more than 160,000 times on one clip posted on YouTube — ended up exonerating the officer whose actions brought claims of excessive force, a union official said.

"It wasn't the suspect's head that caused the glass to break," said Jesse Sekhon, BART police officers union president. "When you freeze the video and enhance it you see it was the suspect punching it with his hand."

What's more, video viewers rarely hear the frantic 911 call for help, rocks hurled at an approaching squad car or the countless times police have been called to the same house.

In New York City in 2008, a man died after falling from a building ledge when police jolted him with a Taser. Video of the last few moments, including Iman Morales' fall, was posted on newspaper Web sites and played over and over again on local TV.

But before the cameras were running, "this guy was stark naked, running up and down the fire escape, he tried to get into a woman's apartment by tearing out the air conditioner, terrifying the woman," and swung a fluorescent light bulb at police before Lt. Michael Pigott ordered him shot him with the stun gun, said Tom Sullivan, president of the NYPD's Lieutenants Benevolent Association.

Eight days later, Pigott — stripped of his gun and badge and demoted — committed suicide, leaving a note saying he was trying to protect his men. His widow, who is suing the police department, said the discipline humiliated her husband. The department declined to comment.

There is little chance that the videotaped scrutiny of police will slow. In fact, groups with video cameras follow police in cities all over the country, including Orlando, Fla., where George Crossley launched Orlando CopWatch in 2006.

"If we come up on law enforcement, the whole shift knows immediately," said Crossley. "They get on the radio (and say) 'Watch out for CopWatch.'"

Friday, April 16, 2010

Letter to the President of the United States

To: President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave.
Washington, DC, USA 20500

Subject 21st Century Electronic Lynching

Mr. President,

This letter was written to express the protests of concerned Individuals, Civil Rights Organizations and activists who complain that our civil rights have been so eroded that it is now acceptable Police policy to use cruel and unusual punishment on a Citizen without due process of law. We the undersigned Citizens, Citizen Groups and Civil Rights Organizations, protest that the 4th, 8th, and 14th amendments of the constitution are being systematically violated by Police Officers using electronic torture devices on Citizens and non-Citizens.

Representatives of the company that manufacturers electronic torture devices lied to Police Officials when they told them that the devices had been tested and were found to be non-lethal. They bragged instead about the excruciating agony and terror caused by their use. It is impossible for the manufacturer to have tested these electronic torture devices with electrodes shot at different depths under a victims skin, and in all possible places on the human body, and for the extended times experienced in the field, also they could not have tested the devices on victims with various medical, physical and mental conditions. Had this happened there would have been many deaths of the test subjects. Instead, the company in effect used Police Officers as lab assistants and the public as lab rats for their tests, then they harvest Para-Medic and Medical Examiners Reports all for free. They scammed an all too willing law enforcement community with half truths and outright lies. The best estimate that we can find to date indicates that thousands of victims have suffered cruel and unusual punishment and 476 victims were tortured and died after being electrocuted with an electronic torture device in the US and Canada. Medical records prove many victims suffer neurological damages after being electrocuted with an electronic torture device by a Police Officer.

Michael Patrick Jacobs Jr., a bipolar 24-year-old black youth, who needed medical attention was tortured for 54 seconds with 50,000 volt electrodes shot into his neck and chest. He was not a criminal. His 21st Century Electronic Lynching was declared a homicide by the Tarrant County, Tx. Medical Examiner. After his taser torture death the taser manufacturer sent bulletins to all Police departments to direct Officers not to shoot a victim in the chest area to avoid causing cardiac arrest. This was after 12 years of vehemently denying that tasers could be lethal and after 424 prior taser related torture deaths. The inaccuracy of the devices gives Police Officers little control over where they will be shot into the flesh of a victim so each use is playing Russian Roulette with a victims life.

Mr. President, there is no more cruel and unusual punishment than being slowly electrocuted with 50,000 volts of electricity delivered under the skin. Please take the time to count down 54 seconds to understand just how long Michael Jacobs and thousands of others have suffered the agony of electrocution. The Nebraska Supreme Court ruled in 2009 that the 4 seconds of agony suffered by a convicted felon, before death occurred in the electric chair, was cruel and unusual punishment, and unconstitutional. Electrocution has been abandoned as a means of execution. Michael Jacobs who was convicted of nothing, cruelly and senselessly suffered the agony of being electrocuted with over 20 times the voltage (and pain) used in the electric chair, with a 50,000 volt barb shot into his neck and chest, for 13.5 times longer than a convicted criminal had to suffer in the chair before death happened. He suffered 54 seconds of agony before his young healthy heart was caused to fail. He is survived by two Fatherless Children and a grieving Mother and Father who blame themselves for calling for help to medicate their son and got him tased, tortured to death instead. Michael Patrick Jacobs Sr. wishes the Police had shot his son in the leg instead of torturing to him death. He said "at least he would still be alive." Google his name for the full story.

The complete Michael Patrick Jacobs Junior test is readily available to anyone who doubts that being tased for 54 seconds is cruel and unusual punishment and torture. Ft Worth, Texas has a Police Officer that is expert in administering it.

The 9th District Court made the ruling this past September that a taser could only be used when an Officer's life or the life of someone else was in danger. Police Officers train and by instinct do not use a taser in a life threatening situation, they use a lethal weapon just as they trained for and always have. This is backed by FBI records and we agree that a Police Officer is justified in using lethal force in defense of his life or to prevent harm of an innocent life. That said, any time a Government Official intentionally takes a citizen's life that act must be investigated and evaluated as to it's constitutional validity. In the 9th District Court ruling, the Judge declared that the use of electronic torture devices (tasers) causes severe pain and terror. By the very definition, severe pain and terror constitutes cruel and unusual punishment. The United Nations declared that the use of a taser against a victim is "a potentially lethal form of torture".

After the famous case of the Polish immigrant who was tortured to death in a Vancouver, British Columbia airport for failing to comply with police orders, the Canadian government made the ruling that tasers could only be used in life threatening situations. Again Police Officers do not use tasers in life threatening situations. On the news this evening a Police Officer shot a Pit Bull that was attacking him. He didn't use his taser.

The use of water boarding on terrorists was condemned by you, and high ranking members of The Democratic Party, as torture while it was being done on George Bush's watch and water-boarding produces no physical pain and is mild compared to electrocution with 50,000 volts of electricity under the skin. Our troops are sacrificing their lives every day for the avowed purpose of eliminating the use of torture and terror by our enemies while torture and terror is being inflicted on our own Citizens daily by Police Officers, without due process of law. No one is fighting for these tortured, terrorized Citizens. 41 percent of the torture deaths resulting from taser use in 2009 were black men and boys.

Mr. President, an 84 year old Grandmother and 10 year old children have been tortured with a taser by Police. One little 10 year old child was taser tortured in her home by an Arkansas Police officer because she refused to take a shower before bed time. Tear down this wall and end this terrible atrocity. 84 year old Grandmothers should not be made to live in fear and cringe each time they see a Police Officer. Be the President that is remembered in history as the President that ended barbaric torture and terror in the USA. Set the standard for all the world and issue an executive order outlawing the use of torture of any kind and especially electrical torture. Outlaw the possession, manufacture, sale, and/or use of electrical torture devices in the USA by anyone, including Police Officers, our Military and the CIA here and abroad. Return the dignity and respect to this Nation that we once had.

Kyev Tatum SCLC President
Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) Texas

Hector Carrillo LULAC District Director
League of United Latin American Citizens

Deryl Muhammad--Representative
Nation of Islam

Drew X
Chairman New Black Panther Party

Tom Franklin
Pastor New Mt. Calvary Baptist Church
The Taser-Torture-Death Memorial Site

Marcus Hardin SCLC Texas
Strategist, Researcher, Historian

Friendship Rock Missionary Baptist
A. Scott Harper

Eddie Griffin (BASG)

Julie Walker
Prevent Dangerous Harm Inc.