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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Charges against cops in Taser death to be revisited

June 29, 2010
By: ctvbc.ca

A B.C. special prosecutor says that the decision not to charge the Mounties involved in Robert Dziekanski's death should be revisited.

Richard Peck made his recommendation after reviewing the Braidwood Commission's final report. The public inquiry found that four RCMP officers used too much force when they stunned the Polish national with a Taser at Vancouver International Airport in 2007.

Peck, who was appointed special prosecutor on June 18, will now review all materials used by the Criminal Justice Branch when it decided not to recommend charges against the officers.

If he decides that charges against any of the officers are warranted, Peck will act as prosecutor in the case.

The province appointed Peck in response to the blunt assessment of inquiry commissioner Thomas Braidwood that the four Mounties deliberately misled investigators about what happened during their confrontation with Dziekanski.

Braidwood said Dziekanski's death, which was captured on a now-infamous amateur video, "shocked and repulsed people around the world" and the four officers acted improperly at nearly every step of the brief and tragic encounter.

When Dziekanski picked up a stapler, one of them fired a Taser five times even though, Braidwood said, they could not have believed he posed a threat to them or anyone else.

And after his death, they offered inaccurate rationalizations to justify their actions, he said.

"This tragic case is, at its heart, a story of shameful conduct by a few officers," Braidwood, a retired B.C. Court of Appeal judge, said as he outlined his findings.

Braidwood made eight recommendations to the B.C. government, including setting up an independent civilian body to investigate police officers in serious cases and urging the federal government to make further changes to how passengers are processed at Vancouver's airport.

The B.C. government immediately said it would act on all the recommendations, and promised to set up the new civilian agency within the next 12 months.

RCMP Commissioner William Elliott said RCMP would hand over future investigations of its officers to B.C.'s new oversight body, as it has done in other provinces with similar agencies such as Alberta.

LAPD investigating use of taser on intoxicated man

This you have to see:

Charges dropped against autistic Georgia teen who was tasered

June 29, 2010


An autistic Georgia teenager who was Tasered by police in May will not face charges.

An officer claimed 18-year-old Clifford Grevemberg was drunk and disorderly outside a Tybee Island bar. Police said the officer used a Taser on the teen and threw him to the ground. Grevemberg suffered a broken tooth and scrapes to his face.

The officer has since resigned.

Authorities dropped criminal charges against Grevemberg when the Georgia Bureau of Investigation finished its investigation.

The teen's family said they plan to file a civil suit against the police department.

Ohio man in critical condition after being shocked with stun gun

June 29, 2010
By News-Herald staff

A Painesville man is still in the hospital after he lost consciousness when he was shocked with a stun gun by police officers.

Painesville police were called to a disturbance in the 200 block of South St. Clair Street early Saturday morning. Officers told David Nall, 37, about the complaint.

According to a news release from the Painesville police department, this is what happened next:

n Nall was verbally uncooperative, but said he understood that continued disturbances could lead to his arrest. As officers were leaving, they heard a woman inside the apartment scream in distress.

n Police returned to the apartment and confronted Nall. They attempted to arrest him for disorderly conduct, but he resisted.

n Officers stunned him once, then again, after he continued to resist. Then, police handcuffed Nall but found him to be unresponsive to their prompts.

n They called for Painesville Fire Department, which took him to TriPoint Medical Center in Concord Township, where he was treated. An initial news report from The News-Herald said that Nall had been “released.” While a spokeswoman from TriPoint said he had been released, she meant that he had been transferred to another hospital.

Nall was taken to Hillcrest Hospital where the most recent information indicates that he is still in critical condition.

Painesville Police Lt. Dan Waterman said the department has not been able to get any recent updates on his condition.

Canadians Back Moratorium on Taser Use

June 29, 2010

(Angus Reid Global Monitor) - Half of adults in Canada would like to see law enforcement agencies steer clear from using tasers, according to a poll by Angus Reid Public Opinion. 49 per cent of respondents support a moratorium on the use of stun-guns.

Tasers administer an electric shock, which temporarily stuns individuals and facilitates their submission. The weapons are described as non-lethal, and are not supposed to inflict any permanent damage.

In October 2007, Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski died at Vancouver International Airport after Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) officers used a taser on him.

Earlier this month, a judicial inquiry, headed by retired judge Thomas Braidwood, issued its final report on Dziekanski’s death. The report concludes that there was no justification for RCMP officers to use a taser, and that Dziekanski did not pose a threat to the officers.

RCMP commissioner Willam Elliott discussed the situation, saying, "It is clear that our policies and training in place at the time were deficient. We acknowledge that the actions of our members who dealt with Mr. Dziekanski also fell short. Our officers did not take enough time to try and de-escalate the situation and did not provide an appropriate level of care to Mr. Dziekanski."

Polling Data

From what you have seen, heard, or read, would you support or oppose issuing a moratorium on the use of tasers by Canada’s law enforcement agencies?

Jun. 2010
May 2008

Jun. 2010
May 2008

Not sure
Jun. 2010
May 2008

Source: Angus Reid Public Opinion
Methodology: Online interviews with 1,009 Canadian adults, conducted on Jun. 22 and Jun. 23, 2010. Margin of error is 3.1 per cent.

Independent police oversight

June 29, 2010
By Greg Klein, Vancouver Sun

Canadians strongly back Braidwood Inquiry findings, according to the headline on your June 26 article. But do the B.C. Liberals? They're waffling on a key Braidwood recommendation: that the new police oversight agency answer to the province's ombudsperson.

Retired justice Thomas Braidwood said the proposed independent investigation office "ought to be modelled on Ontario's Special Investigations Unit" and that "the provincial Ombudsman [should] have jurisdiction over the IIO." That last point is crucial because it took a lengthy investigation and a scathing report from Ontario's ombudsman to keep the unit from becoming an apologist for the police.

But in his June 18 media release, B.C. Attorney-General Mike de Jong said, "The province agrees that a legislative officer have oversight responsibilities for the IIO. We will consult to determine whether that is best achieved by the Ombudsperson or by the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner."

The OPCC is run by Stan Lowe, a former Crown lawyer who took part in the decision to exonerate the four Mounties involved in Robert Dziekanski's death. He stated emphatically that the five Taser shocks and other treatment inflicted on Dziekanski were "reasonable and necessary."

Lowe's staff consists mostly of ex-cops. Now de Jong is talking about giving them jurisdiction over the new IIO.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Taser, death prompt lawsuit

According to Taser International's website, "the use of a TASER device reduces the risk of injury not only to the officers involved, but the offender as well ... TASERs are among the safest use-of-force alternatives available." Undoubtedly, that is what these seven police officers had been trained to believe when they entered Mr. Brinson's hospital room as he waited in seclusion for his medication to take effect. I am sure they were as surprised as anyone when Mr. Brinson went into cardiac arrest (!!) after their use of a supposedly "safest" alternative.

June 27, 2010
Eileen Kelley, Cincinnati.com

The family of a 45-year-old psychiatric patient who died after being shocked with a Taser while restrained in the hospital filed a wrongful death lawsuit in federal court Monday, alleging University of Cincinnati police used excessive force on Kelly Brinson and University Hospital was negligent caring for him.

Brinson who suffered from paranoid schizophrenia, bi-polar disorder, delusions and other mental disorders, voluntarily submitted himself to the hospital's psychiatric unit Jan. 17.

Three days later, while still in the care of the hospital he became agitated when his cellphone, which also served as his radio, was taken from him, his family said.

Hospital staff injected a powerful drug, Haldol, to tranquilize him and placed him in a secluded room while waiting for it to take affect. Seven police, the lawsuit claims, entered the seclusion room where Brinson was positioned behind the bed and shocked him with a Taser, restrained him to the bed and shocked him again.
Brinson went into cardiac arrest and died three days later.

A state investigation into Brinson's death questioned the police response and whether it was too intense and then put the hospital on probation. That probation was lifted later this spring after the state approved the hospital's plan to correct the issues.

The seven officers, the chief of the university's police department, the hospital and its trustees are among the 16 people or institutions named in the suit.

Police failed to take the steps to calm Brinson, said Don Moore, the attorney handling the case for Brinson's family.

"Instead, they made shows of force, used escalating threats, including threatening to handcuff and (shock) him, and then further escalated the situation by rushing Brinson and using physical force," cites one of the 44 counts in the suit.

"Although Brinson had been given an injection that would soon cause him to be lethargic, (he) was heavily outnumbered, had officers restraining him and had no weapon."

For the next three days, Brinson was on a respirator. He was pronounced dead Jan. 23.

The suit claims that Brinson was first shocked in the hip area and then a second time in the upper abdomen.

Last winter, Gene Ferrara, the chief of police for the University of Cincinnati Police Department, emphatically denied that Brinson was shocked in the chest area, something Taser International suggested to police stop doing.

Ferrara said in January that officers made every possible attempt to calm Brinson before using the Taser. He said police went into the room to arrest Brinson on charges he assaulted a police officer because he had swung at a security guard. The guard was not injured.

Brinson's death led to an investigation into the hospital by the state.

On Feb. 5, the hospital's psychiatric unit was placed on probation by the Ohio Department of Mental Health.

"The department questions the intensity with which law enforcement persisted in their efforts to manage a further escalating situation despite the presence of clinical staff and the need for continued clinical intervention.

That probation status was lifted 3½ months later after a correction action plan was approved by the state agency. A copy of that plan was not readily available Monday.

Don Crouse, a hospital spokesman, said it is customary to not comment when a lawsuit is filed.

The Hamilton County Coroner's office determined Brinson died of excited delirium, a controversial diagnosis that has come under fire since the mid 1980s, and not the Taser.

Coroner O'dell Owens said excited delirium causes a person to have a higher state of agitation and strength. He said the body temperature increases as potassium levels drop drastically and people in this state usually die.

"Their body chemistry is out of whack," Owens said.

James Hardiman said what's out of whack is that the term is used at all.

"There is no reputable medical organization, doctor or coroner that recognizes anything like excited delirium," said Hardiman, the legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio.

"That excited delirium concept was invented by certain law enforcement people for the sole purpose of protecting police officers from misconduct. They often times believe that if someone died they have to invent an excuse and seldom is the explanation that simply the police were wrong."

Police, Hardiman said, should be responsible for their conduct the same as anyone else.

The university's police chief was not available for comment.

The suit seeks an unspecified amount of money.

Moore, the attorney, said the ultimate goal of the family is to seek a change in policy. "We don't want to see any mental health patient (shocked) and handcuffed.

Brenda Brinson, the dead man's sister, was too shaken to attend the press briefing in Moore's Anderson Township law office Monday.

"She is still having nightmares," Moore said.

Expert: Mehserle made right call to use taser

June 27, 2010
Demian Bulwa, San Francisco Chronicle

A use-of-force expert hired to defend Johannes Mehserle at his murder trial testified today that the former BART officer was justified in using a Taser shock weapon to subdue train rider Oscar Grant because Grant was fighting Mehserle's efforts to handcuff him.

Mehserle, 28, said last week that he meant to deploy his Taser on Grant, but accidentally pulled out his pistol and fired a single shot into the 22-year-old Hayward resident's back at Fruitvale Station in Oakland on Jan. 1, 2009.

In calling retired Los Angeles police Capt. Greg Meyer to the stand, the defense sought to varnish Mehserle's testimony last Thursday and Friday.

But Meyer, who indicated he was paid at least $44,000, was also put through a bruising cross-examination by Alameda County prosecutor David Stein - a session that lasted longer than his direct examination by defense attorney Michael Rains.

Meyer, who often defends police officers over their use of force, said he had not reviewed some evidence that Stein considers vital, and that he did not have a mastery of some of the case's central facts.

Meyer also said he had been closely involved in the aftermath of the Rodney King case, and that he had concluded that the officers who beat King did not use excessive force. Rather, he said, the officers had acted in accordance with faulty training and policies.

At one point, Meyer referred to Grant as "the defendant in this case" before Stein corrected him.

Under questioning by Rains, Meyer said Grant was properly arrested by former BART Officer Anthony Pirone for resisting officers. It was Pirone who ordered Mehserle to handcuff Grant.

According to witnesses, Grant had been in a fight on a Dublin-Pleasanton train. His arrest, Meyer said, was justifiable because he tried to avoid Pirone - the first officer on the scene - by ducking back into the train, and because at one point he stood up after being told to sit down.

Pressed by Stein, though, Meyer said that if a person were arrested for standing after being told to sit, that would be a "cheap arrest."

Meyer said his review of video footage of the shooting convinced him that Grant resisted Mehserle's efforts to handcuff him by keeping his right hand underneath him as he lay on his chest and by using "evasive movements - twisting, turning."

A decision to use a Taser on Grant would have been a good one, Meyer said, because it would have caused lesser injuries than a gun or a baton, and it wouldn't have inflamed the emotions of onlookers.

Meyer also said the Taser training BART gave Mehserle a month before the shooting was deficient because officers were not put in role-playing situations that "got their adrenaline up" and were not asked to make split-second choices between different weapons.

Meyer said he had reviewed other cases in which officers have claimed they confused their gun and Taser, and that in each case the officers wore the Tasers in a way that necessitated a strong-hand - or gun-hand - draw from a holster. That's how Mehserle was wearing his Taser on the night of the shooting.

Meyer said police officers should only draw Tasers with their weak hands to avoid confusion. Stein asked Meyer, who has long given advice to the company that makes the Taser, whether he had said the same thing to the firm's officials.

Yes, Meyer said, "On Saturday."

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Taser torture victims

I urge you to visit a new website that has been recently developed by: "a Multi-Ethnic "One Accord Coalition" of National Religious and Civil Rights organizations along with Legal Counsel. We are dedicated to the elimination of the use of Torture, especially the use of Electrical Torture in, the USA and around the World."

Taser Torture Victims.

"This is a study to determine the Physiological, Psychological, Social and Economic after effects of being Electrocuted with a "Taser Torture Device."

Many Taser-Torture-Victims share common after-effects with accidental electrocution victims. Most Taser Victims have reported "Severe Pain" and "Terror of impending Death" from electrocution, while being Tased. This is exactly what is reported to be felt by severe accidental electrocution victims. It has been reported that over 100,000+ Victims have been Electrocuted and Tortured with 50,000 Volt Taser darts, embedded deep into their flesh, in various places on their bodies.

The purpose of this study is to discover relationships between where Taser darts were lodged in Victims bodies, how long they were tortured and the resulting after-effects on the Victims lives. Information from the Families of Victims who were killed or changed in some major way after being Tased is also welcomed.

This study will help in our fight to have Anti Electrical Torture laws passed and enforced in the USA, Canada and the UK. If you are among the 100,000+ Taser-Torture-Victims and you have a lingering problem after you were electrocuted with a Taser, this is an opportunity to share your experiences and help to change laws and bring about justice. We don't need to know why you were electrocuted. We only need to know the after effects on your life, that being electrocuted caused.

We study the information sent to us by Taser-Torture-Victims and enter it into our data base and break it down into a ongoing report published over the internet and sent to key members of State Legislatures and Congress."

Scotland: Lawyers take aim at police Tasers

June 27, 2010
Gareth Rose, The Scotsman

LAWYERS have warned ministers and senior police officers that introducing Taser stun guns to fight crime could expose police officers using them to prosecution.

Strathclyde Police are currently conducting a trial into the use of the electronic guns, which are mainly deployed to prevent assaults on officers.

But lawyers are now challenging assertions that police officers have official immunity from prosecution in cases where the use of the weapons is disputed. Human rights solicitor Tony Kelly, a partner with Taylor and Kelly in Lanarkshire, said he would "most definitely" consider taking a case on behalf of a Taser victim. He also cast doubt on claims that officers using Tasers would have "Crown immunity".

"There are questions over their lawful use and lawful possession because of the strange way this pilot was set up, with no specific authority by ministers.

And I have spoken to quite a few lawyers who have the same opinion as me on this."

Tasers were issued to 30 beat officers in Glasgow city centre, Rutherglen and Cambuslang – areas with a high number of police assaults – last month as part of the first trial of the weapon in Scotland. The weapons, which deliver a 50,000 volt shock, are likely to be deployed across the country if the trial is successful.

It emerged last week that Strathclyde Police Authority had received official opinion from the Scottish Government that the police in Scotland do not require ministerial approval to possess or use Tasers because of the effect of the principle of Crown immunity.

Amnesty International says it is not opposed to Tasers being used where necessary, but is critical of the way the pilot has been introduced without a vote in the Scottish Parliament.

It claims the three days' training given to Strathclyde police officers who took part in the pilot is insufficient.

John Watson, Scottish programme director for Amnesty International, said: "You don't have things like this happening without public engagement.

"But Strathclyde Police are unilaterally going ahead without it. We know lawyers are interested in the implications if someone is Tasered by an officer on this pilot scheme.

"There is a very strong case to take legal action, regardless of what they have done. I'm very clear this pilot is unlawful. I believe if someone was Tasered they would win." Watson said Amnesty has no objections to Tasers being used by trained firearms officers but not being "classed as defence equipment where everyone has one".

"We've done a lot of research in other countries where Tasers are part of the police's equipment, such as the US, Canada, and Australia, and it's shoot first, ask questions later."

Specially trained officers in England and Wales have been able to use Tasers since December 2008, following a 12-month trial in ten forces. They can only be used by officers in such danger that they need to use force to defend themselves.

The guns, which are designed to incapacitate, have been linked to nearly 300 deaths in Canada and America.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: "The Scottish Government has no role in either the authorisation or use of Tasers and as such cannot envisage any circumstances in which it would be liable for compensation."

American police accused of using a Taser on an 86-year-old, bed-ridden grandmother

June 27, 2010
By Mail Foreign Service

American police have been accused of tasering an 86-year-old bed-ridden grandmother.
Lonnie Tinsley called the emergency services to his home in El Reno, Oklahoma, when he became concerned that his grandma Lona Vernon had failed to take her medication.
But instead of a medical technician, he claims at least a dozen armed police officers answered his call.

Police in El Reno, Oklahoma, have been accused of tasering an 86-year-old grandmother
When Mrs Vernon ordered the police from her house, officer Thomas Duran allegedly decided she was being 'aggressive' and gave the order: 'Taser her.'

Her alarmed garndson, is then said to have replied: 'Don't taze my granny!'

According to a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court, Tinsley’s 'obstructive' behaviour prompted the police to threaten him with their tasers.

He was then was assaulted, removed from the room, thrown to the floor, handcuffed, and detained in a police car.

At this point, the heroes in blue turned their attention to Lona.

According to officer Duran’s official report, Mrs Vernon had taken an 'aggressive posture' in her hospital bed.

In order to ensure 'officer safety', one of his men 'stepped on her oxygen hose until she began to suffer oxygen deprivation'.

Another of the officers then shot her with a taser, but the connection wasn’t solid.
A second fired his taser, 'striking her to the left of the midline of her upper chest, and applied high voltage, causing burns to her chest, extreme pain', and unconsciousness.

Lona was then handcuffed with sufficient ruthlessness to tear the soft flesh of her forearms, causing her to bleed.

After her wounds were treated at a local hospital, Lona was confined for six days in the psychiatric ward at the insistence of the El Reno Police Department.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Tame the Taser

June 26, 2010
By: Marilyn Baker, Winnipeg Free Press

Taser International is now advising customers not to aim at the "chest area" when zapping people.

Apparently you are supposed to aim lower. Yikes.

Maybe they're worried that the fallout from the Braidwood inquiry into the death of Robert Dziekanski will slow their sales a little. Mr. Dziekanski was Tasered five times moments before he died at the Vancouver airport in 2007.

More likely they're worried that one of these days a lawsuit from a bereaved relative will finally stick, and, somewhere on this continent, some judge will finally decide that, yes, Tasers kill. I won't hold my breath though. The company reportedly spends more on litigation than it makes in profit, and last year boasted that it had won its 100th dismissal of a liability lawsuit.

Someone should tell their lawyers that they still offer an item called Practice Target in the Accessories section of their website which shows the chest as the bull's-eye (US$6.95).

Speaking of their website, it's the very model of a modern Internet shopping site. There are choices for women (picture of young mother with adorable daughter) and law enforcement people, shopping carts to fill, twitters, blogs, even testimonials!

Their marketing is very good, as is demand for their products. In fact, according to their latest investor relations information, share prices have increased.

So, why the sudden reluctance for customers to aim at the chest? Until this recent acknowledgment that tasers can be dangerous, Taser International has been anything but squeamish about using this weapon.

They insist that when "used properly" (they provide a free training DVD), their weapons are low risk.

Amnesty International disagrees. They claim that 334 people have died in the United States following a tTaser zap (2001-2008). In Canada, a CBC report lists, by name, the 26 people who have died proximal to taser use since 2003.

But Taser International insists that a case can be made that without tasers more citizen deaths at the hands of the police might have occurred.

I would like to see evidence to support this proposition. But we may never know. According to former RCMP complaints commissioner Paul Kennedy, the RCMP have engaged in "systemic under-reporting" of taser use.

I am concerned that our police are using Tasers more often and multiple times on the same victim. They were to be used where the only alternative was deadly force, but are now being used on people who are "non-compliant."

Kevin Bogg, assistant deputy minister to the solicitor general ministry for B.C., has stated that "I am very concerned about 'slippage' in taser use, where it is being increasingly used in lower risk situations."

Also, Tasers cause intense pain. Whether death ensues or not, the victim experiences extreme agony. The United Nations has labelled the use of Tasers as torture.

Phase I of the Braidwood inquiry concluded that Tasers can kill. It contains several recommendations, including that Tasers be used only the most dangerous of assaultive Criminal Code behaviours, and that victims of a Tasering get immediate medical attention.

The Phase II report, released June 18, deals specifically with Robert Dziekanski's death and concludes that the RCMP use of the Taser was "shameful" and not justified.

Within an hour of the release of the Phase II report, the RCMP issued an unconditional apology to Mr. Dziekanski's mother for their role in the death of her son.

But Taser International also played a role. Unfortunately, the company does not accept that their stun gun can cause cardiac arrest. According to Rick Guilbault, Taser's VP of Training and Education, the carefully crafted message about avoiding the chest area, "where practical," is "risk mitigation, pure and simple."

I hope that Taser International will face the reality that their weapons do real harm and will revise its corporate and marketing culture.

I doubt it though. I wouldn't be surprised to see a backlash from them on the latest Braidwood report. They have a history of aggressive legal action in defending their products from liability.

This is a very complex issue. Tasers may well be an important part of the arsenal needed to fight crime. But our police need far more restraints, support, guidance and training than are presently given.

Commissioner Braidwood said, "I can't help but think that if the Taser was not there, they perhaps would have reverted to their former skills." Such skills include de-escalating situations and calming people down, not harming them.

I hope that the Braidwood recommendations are implemented by all police forces. Then perhaps Robert Dziekanski will not have died in vain.

Obituary for Aron Firman

Aron Firman - 1983-2010

Aron Firman passed away suddenly on Thursday, June 24, 2010 at his home in Collingwood in his 28th year. Much loved son of Doreen Firman and Marcus (Christine Cowley) Firman. Loving brother of Sam Firman (Darryl Foster) and Gemma Firman. Proud uncle of Taylor, Carter and Zack. Cherished grandson of Ray & Mary Firman. Friends will be received at Fawcett Funeral Home – Collingwood Chapel on Tuesday, June 29, 2010 from 5 p.m. until the time of service at 7 p.m. In lieu of flowers donations to the Schizophrenia Society of Ontario would be appreciated.

Condolences can be left at the Fawcett Funeral Homes website.

Friday, June 25, 2010

More than 150 visitors arrived here today from around the world. Most arrived from Canada - from the east coast to the west - searching for news of the tragic death of Aron Firman, of Collingwood, Ontario, a man who was tasered to death by the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP).

They googled along the lines of "man+dies+Collingwood+taser". I hope they left knowing a hell of a lot more than they did when they got here.

Aron Firman will not have died in vain, if we have anything to do with it.

The Braidwood Inquiry into the 2007 death of Robert Dziekanski at the Vancouver Airport concluded that tasers can cause death. The RCMP has come to the same conclusion.

Julian Fantino and his Ontario Provincial Police haven't done their homework.

We're doing it for them.

Patti Gillman (owner of this blog) and http://www.excited-delirium.com/

"Why couldn't they use a TASER?"

Just over a year ago, on June 23, 2009 (five years to the day after my brother was tasered to death in Vancouver, BC), Peter Holran, VP Government and Public Affairs, Taser International, "tweeted" on TWITTER, under his Twitter-name : TASERPeter - as follows:

RT @m2lowe I'm all for tasers if they prevent this: "Police shoot mentally disabled man"
10:27 AM Jun 23rd, 2009 via web
Reply Retweet

When I read Peter Holran's "tweet", I responded on this blog: taser executive tweets on tasering canadians with intellectual disabilities

Pete was referring to the tragic case of a Canadian fellow named Doug Minty, a man in Barrie, Ontario, with intellectual disabilities who had become agitated as the result of a visit from a door-to-door salesman. The Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) were called to his home. Mr. Minty was SHOT FIVE TIMES by the OPP and he died on June 22, 2009.

The OPP were exonerated in Mr. Minty's death.

"Why couldn't they use a Taser?" asked his neighbour.

YESTERDAY, the Ontario Provincial Police USED A TASER on Aron Firman, a 27 year old man with mental illness. Within moments, Mr. Firman "became unresponsive" and he died. Like Doug Minty, Aron Firman was unarmed and posed no credible threat to trained police officers.

To Peter Holran, VP Government and Public Affairs, Taser International, and Julian Fantino, Commissioner of the Ontario Provincial Police (aka Mr. "I am absolutely convinced that tasers save lives and injuries for both citizens and police officers", aka Mr. "Do your own homework"), I repeat: In Canada, we DO NOT shoot NOR do we taser our most vulnerable citizens. This man had mental illness, for god's sake. He did not deserve this.

This hurts.

I work for a wonderful Community Living organization in southeastern Ontario that supports people with intellectual disabilities. Our staff are trained in CPI, an international training process that specializes in the safe management of disruptive and assaultive behavior. It is seldom required but works beautifully.

A commenter this evening said: You fail to mention that FOUR (4) Ontario Provincial Police officers were involved at the Collingwood Ontario group home when Aron Firman, a 27-year-old resident when "Officers used a conductive energy weapon, a Taser, to subdue" him! FOUR COPS! Ontario Provincial Police sent FOUR cops to subdue one 27-year-old? What's wrong with this picture?

(There were THIRTEEN Vancouver police officers present when my brother, Robert Bagnell, died on June 23, 2004.)


There`s more to this story than meets the eye:

In May 2010, an Ontario Judge was asked to find OPP’s Julian Fantino violated Police Services Act in a landmark court case that will decide whether police officers in Ontario routinely break the law during SIU investigations. Doug Minty's case was highlighted: “In that time, the OPP received statements from the most significant eyewitnesses, had their media officer attend and had (the union involved),” according to court documents. The officers’ lawyers conferred with them at the scene before the SIU arrived on the scene almost four hours later. The officer would later say he saw Minty advancing with a knife. Also in May 2010, Ontario's Ministry of the Attorney-General's Chris Bentley stopped government lawyers from working for the SIU in the high-profile case. Four lawyers, including one of the ministry’s most senior counsel, had been representing SIU director Ian Scott in the proceedings. But, just hours before the hearing was scheduled to begin, the SIU – an arm’s length branch of the ministry – was told to find its own representation. For more information, GOOGLE Doug Minty+Julian Fantino.

Collingwood man dies after being tasered by police

June 25, 2010
Jeff Gray, Globe & Mail

An autopsy is scheduled for Saturday morning on the body of a 27-year-old man who died after Ontario Provincial Police used a Taser to subdue him at a Collingwood, Ont., group home.

The province’s Special Investigations Unit is probing the death, which occurred after OPP were called to intervene after a man assaulted a elderly woman at the home.

At least four OPP officers confronted the man, whom the SIU identified as Aron Firman, around 5:30 p.m. on Thursday. The OPP say he became “combative” and assaulted an officer before police used a Taser to subdue him.

The SIU, which probes incidents involving police that result in death or serious injury, is looking into the death, said the man then became “unresponsive.” The OPP says its officers performed first aid. The man was then taken to hospital and pronounced dead. The assaulted officer was also taken to hospital with minor injuries, OPP said.

OPP Constable Mark Kinney said he could reveal little more about the case, because it was now under investigation by the SIU. He said the group home housed people of varying ages with “a range of disabilities.”

SIU spokeswoman Monica Hudon said the agency had identifed one “subject officer” for investigation and designated the three other officers on the scene as witnesses.

The incident comes just a week after the release of a final report on the 2007 death of Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski at Vancouver International Airport. He was zapped with a Taser five times after brandishing a stapler at RCMP.

A Toronto Police report from earlier this year said the force had used, or threatened to use tasers 307 times in 2009.

SIU Investigates Custody Death in Collingwood

June 25, 2010

MISSISSAUGA, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - June 25, 2010) - Ontario's Special Investigations Unit (SIU) is probing the circumstances surrounding the custody death of a 27-year-old man in Collingwood. The Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) reported the following information to the SIU:

On June 24, at approximately 5:30 p.m., OPP officers responded to a location on St. Marie Street.

There was an interaction between the man and officers, and a Conducted Energy Weapon was used.

The man became unresponsive, and was transported to hospital where he was pronounced dead.

Four investigators and two forensic investigators from the SIU are investigating this incident. Anyone who may have information regarding this case is asked to contact the Unit at 416-622-0748 or 1-800-787-8529.

The SIU is an arm's length agency that investigates reports involving police where there has been death, serious injury or allegations of sexual assault. Under the Police Services Act, the Director of the SIU must consider whether an officer has committed a criminal offence in connection with the incident under investigation depending on the evidence, lay a criminal charge against the officer if appropriate or close the file without any charges being laid report the results of any investigations to the Attorney General.

Ontario man dies after being stunned with taser

June 25, 2010
Morgan Ian Adams, QMI Agency (Toronto Sun)

COLLINGWOOD, Ont. - Ontario's Special Investigations Unit is investigating after a man died after he was tasered by police at a group home Thursday afternoon.

The backyard of the St. Marie St. home remains cordoned off by yellow police tape Friday morning.

According to the OPP, officers were called to the group home after a report that a man had assaulted an elderly female resident. The SIU said the call came at about 5:30 p.m.

Upon their arrival, OPP members say the man became combative with the officers and assaulted one of them.

Officers deployed a conductive energy weapon - known as a taser - to subdue the man.

That's when the man became "unresponsive," the SIU said.

OPP administered first aid on the man and he was transported to Collingwood General and Marine Hospital where he was pronounced dead.

An officer was also transported to hospital with minor injuries, the OPP said.

Four investigators and two forensic investigators from the SIU are looking into the death. Anyone with information about the case is asked to contact the SIU at 416-622-0748, or 1-800-787-8529.

Ontario (Canada) man tasered by OPP dies

One man is dead after being tasered by police in Collingwood late Thursday afteroon. OPP in Collingwood were called to a group home on Saint Marie Street, where the man had allegedly assaulted an elderly female resident.

Upon their arrival, OPP members say the man became combative with the officers, assaulting one of them. Officers deployed a conductive energy weapon -- known as a taser -- to subdue the man. OPP administered first aid on the male and he was transported to Collingwood General and Marine Hospital where he was pronounced dead.

An officer was also transported to hospital with minor injuries. The province's Special Investigations Unit has been called in to investigate

RCMP Taser use drops, but mentally ill remain more-frequent targets

June 25, 2010
By Philip Ling, Canwest News Service

Use of the Taser by RCMP members in B.C. dropped by nearly half last year, but officers there are slightly more likely to use the weapon against young people than those elsewhere in the country, according to a new report by the force's independent watchdog.

According to the report, released Thursday by the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP, B.C. Mounties deployed their Tasers 109 times in 2009, down from 208 in 2008, a drop of 91 per cent.

The drop in Taser use was even greater nationwide, with deployments decreasing by more than half from 563 in 2008 to 276 in 2009.

Similar, though less dramatic, drops were seen in the number of times officers simply took the weapon out of their holster without firing it.

The commission expressed concern about reports of conducted energy weapon usage against youths aged 13 to 17, although the deployment for the age group essentially remained unchanged from 2008 at around five per cent.

The watchdog says Taser use involving youths was "proportionately more likely" in B.C., though such cases are still rare.

Youth cases where conducted-energy weapons were discharged were less likely to involve substance use, but much more likely to involve weapons.

The report notes that officers are Tasering those with mental-health problems "significantly" more than non-mental-health cases for the fourth straight year -- a statistic that is "worrisome" to the RCMP watchdog.

The commission's interim chairman, Ian McPhail, reported Thursday that officers deployed Tasers and other conducted energy weapons 49.6 per cent of the time after drawing them on mental health incidents, compared to 39.2 per cent for non-mental-health cases.

Mental-health cases represented almost one quarter of all deployments -- more than any other type of incident, such as assault, break-and-enter or domestic dispute.

But the report said there is no evidence to suggest that mental health cases were more risky for police than other incident types.

"The concern, therefore, is that ... there was nothing obvious that distinguished the circumstances of mental health incidents, except for the subjects themselves," the report wrote.

It added: "Of equal concern is the fact that the percentage of [conducted energy weapon] reports of deployment that are mental health-related has shown an increase for four straight years."

Overall, the number of times RCMP officers pulled their stun guns out last year totalled 694 -- 38 per cent less often in 2009 compared with the previous year. That figure includes each time the stun gun was simply taken out of a police holster -- whether the weapon was fired or not.

That's down from an all-time high in 2007 of 1,583 incidents. The RCMP introduced the conducted energy weapon into their arsenal in 2002.

Regionally, every RCMP division except Yukon saw Taser use -- the threatened or actual deployment of the weapon -- decrease.

The rate of actual deployment of the weapon also dropped in each division except for Prince Edward Island.

The report also shows that in 2009, for the first time ever, Mounties fired their Tasers less than 50 per cent of the times they drew them.

This suggests that "Tasers have increasingly been used as a means of deterrence and a tool for compliance," the commission wrote.

RCMP national spokeswoman Sgt. Julie Gagnon said the decrease is related to the new policy put into place following recommendations made by retired Appeal Court judge Thomas Braidwood, who led a public inquiry into the Tasering and death of Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski at the Vancouver International Airport.

Since Dziekanski's death, the RCMP has made a number of changes to its Taser policies, including restricting the weapon's use to incidents of officer or public safety, introducing annual recertification for trained users and enhancing reporting on all use-of-force incidents by RCMP officers.

The most recent change was in May when it was determined Tasers should only be fired when a suspect is causing "bodily harm" or is about to do so.

The RCMP also changed its rules in June 2009 so that police could no longer use the weapon on suspects who did not cooperate.

The revised policy dictated that there must be a threat to the public or the police.

Gagnon did not comment on Taser use on subjects exhibiting mental health problems.

She said the RCMP was still reviewing the report Thursday afternoon.

- - -

Taser deployment 2008/09 by RCMP division

N.L. 20/7

Man. 49/15

B.C. 208/109

Sask. 68/26

N.W.T. 15/3

N.S. 24/4

N.B. 30/28

Alta. 123/66

P.E.I. 2/3

Yukon 6/6

Nunavut 18/9

Total 563/276

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Dziekanski death sparked RCMP image 'crisis'

June 23, 2010
The Canadian Press

Internal documents released by the RCMP reveal the "public relations crisis" the Mounties faced following the death of Robert Dziekanski at Vancouver airport.

The documents, released by the force Wednesday after an access to information request, highlight negative reaction from media and members of the public following a report by former RCMP complaints commissioner Paul Kennedy last December.

In that report, Kennedy said the actions of the four officers involved in Dziekanski's death were "inappropriate" and their subsequent explanations not credible.

Following Kennedy's report, RCMP Insp. Tim Shields authored an internal document that said the force's lack of response and criticism of the complaints commissioner for releasing the report at all did not sit well with the public.

"The RCMP response to the media has resulted in a further magnification of the public relations crisis the RCMP currently faces in relation to the incident," Shields wrote.

"This was demonstrated not only by scathing headlines but also by emails sent from the public to the [RCMP] E Division website account, as well as comments from the public posted on media websites and talk radio."

The six-page internal document features an email from one member of the public who says while they are "normally a supporter of the RCMP," the force's conduct has left them "ashamed" and "embarrassed."

"I am sorry to say that the RCMP have lost my loyalty and support and now need to do a lot more to regain it," the email reads.

The internal document also features a number of media accounts that are critical of the force's response, or lack thereof, to Kennedy's report and to the Dziekanski case in general.

The RCMP also released photocopies Wednesday of a media communications workshop held for members of the force.

Admit mistakes

Among the slides is one titled: "Public image of police. Should we care?" The slide examines policing by consent and solving crimes with help from the public.

Another slide says RCMP media relations officers must admit mistakes. That line is the only one in the presentation capped with an exclamation point.

RCMP spokesmen handling the Dziekanski case admitted at a public inquiry into his death that they made mistakes when issuing information to members of the media and didn't immediately correct them.

A report from that public inquiry was released last week and found the four RCMP officers who confronted Dziekanski used too much force when they stunned him several times with a Taser and then lied about what happened.

RCMP Commissioner William Elliott held a lengthy news conference to discuss the matter hours after the report was released.

He said there have been many changes since Dziekanski's death, including policy shifts to ensure officers are warned there is a risk of death with conducted energy weapons such as Tasers and an emphasis on using the least amount of force necessary.

The report by former B.C. judge Thomas Braidwood prompted the B.C. government to appoint a special prosecutor to reconsider criminal charges against the four Mounties.

The province's Criminal Justice Branch said in December 2008 that the officers acted reasonably in the circumstances and wouldn't be charged.

Dziekanski's mother filed a wrongful death lawsuit last year against the RCMP and others, but settled the case in April after receiving a public apology from the force and an undisclosed financial settlement.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Sound cannons too scary

June 23, 2010

Trust us, the police insist. These controversial sound cannons we want to blast at G20 protesters won’t hurt a bit.

Of course, that’s what they once said about tasers as well.

Chastened widely for their use of the stun gun, the wary RCMP has deemed the LRADS, or long range acoustic devices, as too dangerous to use for crowd control.

Yet lawyers for the Toronto Police and OPP insist there is nothing to fear from their use this weekend as they argued against an injunction sought by the Canadian Civil Liberties Association and the Canadian Labour Congress.

“It is only being used as a communication tool. Full stop,” Toronto Police lawyer Darryl Smith told Justice David Brown.

“It is not a taser. It is really fear mongering to use that analogy,” he argued.

“It’s not being used and it’s not designed to be used in an aggressive way.”

But lawyer Paul Cavalluzzo, representing the CCLA and CLC, warned the newly purchased sound guns are weapons that can cause serious hearing damage and are being rushed into use without having been properly tested in a downtown setting and with officers receiving minimal training in how to safely use them.

“Surely the citizens of Toronto are not going to be used as guinea pigs to see the impact of these sonic cannons in an urban environment,” Cavalluzzo said. “We need independent studies.”

G20 protesters will have to wait until Friday morning to find out if the judge will allow the police to use their new sonic toys. The contentious sound guns were initially developed as a maritime weapon for the U.S. military to warn small boats to stay away from naval ships after al-Qaeda bombed USS Cole in Yemen in 2000. Used in Iraq and Afghanistan for crowd control, their first North American use came at the G20 summit in Pittsburgh last year to disperse protesters.

Toronto Police have bought four of the cannons and the OPP have purchased three. They can be used in two different ways with the switch of a button: the first is the “communication” function — which turns it into a powerful loudspeaker that blasts pre-recorded messages. The more contentious second use is “alert” — which directs a high-pitched ear-piercing sound at a target.

Toronto Police insist they’ll be used be used mainly as a new and better way of communicating with large crowds and at levels that will pose no more threat to hearing than leaf blowers and weed whackers.

Yet according to an internal review by the RCMP — the senior partner in Toronto’s summit security — the Mounties took a pass on using the sonic guns in urban settings out of concern they will possibly “cause hearing damage to those targeted or in close proximity.”

The RCMP also noted that the Boston Police Department stopped using their sonic cannons for crowd control “out of a concern for public safety and fear of civil litigation issues”.

The only independent test done on the device was hastily conducted for the OPP just last week at an empty Huntsville airstrip, Cavalluzzo told the court, which doesn’t mimic an urban setting where the sound beams will be ricocheting off tall office buildings, with the potential of harming bystanders.

As for training, he said 22 Toronto Police officers were given two hours of instruction and then given a quiz so challenging that they all scored 100%.

“The training was absolutely absurd,” Cavalluzzo charged.

According to Toronto Police guidelines, the ear-piercing alert blast can only be used at full volume for a maximum of three to five seconds and aimed at a crowd more than 75 metres away.

The concern, said the civil liberties lawyer, is “technology creep.”

If G20 protests turn into mass chaos, barely-trained officers caught in an intense situation might throw those procedures to the wind. “There is a real reasonable fear that will happen,” he argued.

It all sounds too scary to me. Let’s just hit the mute button and be done with them.

Trainer: Mehserle was warned of Taser blunders

June 23, 2010
Demian Bulwa, San Francisco Chronicle

A month before he shot and killed Oscar Grant, former BART police Officer Johannes Mehserle was given Taser training that stressed the importance of not confusing the shock weapon with a gun - and was even told of cases in which police had reported shooting people by making such a mistake.

That was the testimony today of Stewart Lehman, a BART police officer who helped train Mehserle to use Tasers on Dec. 3, 2008.

Lehman was called as a defense witness for Mehserle, who is charged with murdering Grant while trying to arrest him Jan. 1, 2009, at Fruitvale Station in Oakland.

Defense attorney Michael Rains is trying to show that Mehserle intended to shock Grant with a Taser while handcuffing him after a fight on a train. Prosecutor David Stein says the Taser story is a fabrication and that Mehserle intentionally shot Grant in the back after losing control of his emotions.

In his questioning of Lehman, Rains suggested that the Taser training given to Mehserle and other BART officers had been inadequate because officers were allowed to fire the stun gun just once over the course of six hours. Lehman said the training met standards set by a state oversight agency.

Once they were armed with the stun guns, officers were allowed to choose where to carry them. However, Lehman said, a right-handed officer such as Mehserle was not allowed to position the Taser next to the gun on the right hip unless he aimed the weapon's handle in the opposite direction, making only a left-handed draw possible.

"The intent of that was to avoid the weapons confusion issue," Lehman said.

The jury also learned that officers in Madera, Sacramento and Rochester, N.Y., had reported shooting people by mixing up a Taser and a gun.

Stein, in his cross-examination, had Lehman demonstrate the difference between pulling a Taser and a gun from a holster. He gave Lehman the duty belt that Mehserle had used, then had him stand up and draw Mehserle's yellow Taser X26.

The night he killed Grant, Mehserle wore his Taser just to the left of his belt buckle, with the holster configured for a right-handed draw.

To pull the Taser in the courtroom demonstration, Lehman had to unsnap a button with his right thumb. Then, with the same thumb, he rolled forward a plastic hood over the Taser before pulling the weapon.

Earlier, Stein showed jurors how Mehserle would have had to pull his Sig Sauer P226 pistol. The gun holster requires an officer to roll forward a hood with the thumb of his gun hand, then use the same thumb to push back a lever that frees up the firearm.

Relatives of men killed by police lose court fight over officers' note taking

June 23, 2010
Colin Perkel, The Canadian Press

TORONTO - Families of two men shot dead by police in Ontario had no right to ask the courts to intervene in how officers involved in such incidents prepare their notes, a judge ruled Wednesday.

In dismissing the case, Ontario Superior Court Justice Wailan Low said the families had not shown any legal standing to press their case.

Rather, Low ruled, the issues in dispute were a matter of government policy, not law.

"It is not the proper function of this court to act as the policy maker of last resort," Low wrote in her decision.

"The court's function is to adjudicate issues which are both justiciable and within its jurisdiction."

Julian Falconer, who acted for the families, had no immediate comment on the decision, saying he was still consulting his clients.

The families had asked the court for a declaration that the officers involved in killing their relatives had violated the law around how police co-operate with the province's Special Investigations Unit, which probes such cases.

They asserted, among other things, that allowing the officer who pulled the trigger and officers who witnessed the incident to consult the same lawyer effectively amounted to collusion.

They also said the officers first provided notes to their lawyer, before turning them over to the civilian investigators.

Police groups argued the officers were simply exercising the same rights as any other citizen — the right to consult a lawyer of their choosing.

Low agreed.

"No duty is owed by the officer to any particular citizen in relation to the exercise of his right to counsel," the judge wrote.

In dismissing the application heard in May, Low said the families of Doug Minty, 59, and Levi Schaeffer, 30, had shown neither a private nor a public interest in the matter and hence could not turn to the courts.

Ontario Provincial Police officers shot Minty and Schaeffer dead in separate incidents a year ago. The SIU cleared the officers, saying it could not determine what had happened because the police notes turned over to investigators were unreliable.

In launching the application, family members had said they were looking to find out exactly what happened to their loved ones.

Minty, of Elmvale, Ont., who was mentally challenged, was shot five times outside his home, apparently after threatening the officer with a small utility knife.

Two days later, Schaeffer, of Peterborough, Ont., who had mental-health issues, was shot dead at a remote lake in northern Ontario following an altercation with two officers.

California man dies after being tasered

June 22, 2010: Daniel Sylvester, age unknown, Crescent City, California

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Hubris, vast ignorance, low safety margin revealed by Taser test

Dinner is served over at www.excited-delirium.com (don't forget the dash), AKA "excited delirium MY ASS"

EDITORIAL: Braidwood discerned truth amid lies and misdirection

June 22, 2010
The Province

As a close follower of the Dziekanski tragedy, I was relieved with Thomas Braidwood's final report, even if his investigation can't lay criminal charges against these four "shameful" men.

Almost three years later, the truth is finally emerging out of the veil of lies and misdirection. I can't stop wondering how the outcome could have been different had one of the officers extended a handshake instead of a Taser when they approached Robert Dziekanski that fateful day.

These four officers did not do a risk assessment when they arrived, which can only mean they already knew how they wanted to handle the situation.

Dziekanski did not wield a weapon and did not bring this upon himself. These were four armed officers in bulletproof vests dealing with a confused immigrant who spoke no English and had never been in an airport. Surely these officers didn't think anyone was in immediate danger.

For those who say the event has been sensationalized, what does Braidwood gain by wasting three years of his life on a 470-page report that does anything but expose the truth?

I know I was embarrassed to be a Canadian that day. I just want to hear for once the words from the RCMP: "we made a mistake, we really screwed up."

Job well done Mr. Braidwood. Because someone had to say it.

Monday, June 21, 2010

BCCLA celebrates the end of police self investigation

June 21, 2010
by British Columbia Civil Liberties Association

The BCCLA celebrated Friday’s announcement by B.C. Provincial Solicitor General Mike De Jong that the Province would end the practice of police investigating themselves by establishing a new civilian investigation body. The announcement came in response to Commissioner Braidwood’s recommendations at the inquiry into the death of Robert Dziekanski.

The BCCLA was the only agency at the Braidwood Taser Inquiry that argued for the end of the police investigating police system, and has advocated for the creation of such an agency for at least the past fifteen years.

“We simply cannot improve on Commissioner Braidwood’s recommendations and we are thrilled that the province will move to implement them in the next year,” said Robert Holmes, President of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association. “We offer our congratulations to the province for taking this historic step, as well as our support and assistance in ensuring that the new body is as robust and independent as Commissioner Braidwood clearly hopes it will be.”

The Braidwood Commission’s recommendation of the establishment of an Independent Investigation Office follows on the Frank Paul Inquiry’s Commissioner William Davies’ recommendation of the same policy reform, the call of the Police Chiefs of British Columbia for this reform and new federal legislation introduced this week that mandates the RCMP to pass investigations of serious matters and police involved deaths to civilian investigation bodies where such bodies exist.

“There is no way to articulate how important this reform is to enhancing public confidence in our police,” said Holmes. “The implementation of Commissioner Braidwood’s recommendations will make B.C. a national leader in police accountability. B.C. residents have demanded it, and our province is delivering.” The BCCLA has sent a letter to the Province congratulating the Solicitor General for this initiative.

For immediate release

British Columbia Civil Liberties Association
June 21, 2010

Robert Holmes, President, 604-681-1310
David Eby, Executive Director, 778-865-7997

EDITORIAL: A taser, a stapler, and the death of Robert Dziekanski

June 19, 2010
Globe and Mail

With a 50,000-volt taser at the ready, the Mounties forgot the power of moral authority and persuasion, in the death of the Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski in British Columbia. They forgot their history and their pride. They forgot their uniform.

And afterward, they told fibs about what happened. He was violently resisting, they said. (Ridiculous, as anyone can see on the videotape.) There were just two taser blasts. (No, five.)

And for more than a year, they chose not to correct those fibs.

The killing of Mr. Dziekanski is thus an archetypal lesson, not only for the RCMP but for all police forces in Canada, in the dangers of high-tech weaponry.

Thomas Braidwood, who chaired an inquiry into Mr. Dziekanski's death, is a wise man. Police forces around Canada would do well to mark his words down where all can see them. “I can't help but think if the taser was not there they perhaps would have reverted to their former skills,” the retired B.C. appeal-court judge said on Friday, of the four officers whose shameful and needless reliance on brute force ended Mr. Dziekanski's life at the Vancouver International Airport on Oct. 14, 2007. “When the conducted energy weapon [the taser] was not available, you had one RCMP officer police a whole community without any problem, using the skills they had been taught.”

The national police force has a mythic dimension precisely because of those skills, as exemplified by the courage and authority of an unarmed Major James Walsh of the North-West Mounted Police, the forerunner of the RCMP, striding up to meet with Sitting Bull and his warriors in 1876, fresh from their bloody victory over George Custer at the Battle of Little Bighorn. Major Walsh had no taser. Then again, Sitting Bull had no office stapler.

Mr. Braidwood definitively rejected the claim by the Mounties who killed Mr. Dziekanski that he was out of control. In fact, he was “calm and co-operative” when the officers approached. It was they, he said, who treated the event as if it were a barroom brawl, even when it became apparent that he was a distraught traveller. Their stories were “patently unbelievable.” They did not “honestly perceive” a threat from Mr. Dziekanski, who held a stapler but never brandished it.

The truth came out because a bystander's videotape caught it all. Here was the supposedly risk-free taser being wielded by Mounties on a harmless man who had spent 10 hours looking for his mother. “I've always said the most important weapon in the arsenal of the police force is public support,” Mr. Braidwood said. “They are peace officers. That's the essence of their mandate.” When police forget what it is that gives them moral authority, and how to use it, they are at risk of losing that most important weapon of all, public support.

Cops who tasered 10-year-old boy cleared

June 21, 2010

MARTINSVILLE, Ind. (AP) -- - A special prosecutor says he'll recommend no criminal charges against two central Indiana police officers who subdued an unruly 10-year-old boy by using a stun gun on him and slapping him.

Special Prosecutor Dave Powell made the announcement Monday, clearing Martinsville police Capt. William Jennings and Officer Darrel Johnson for their actions March 30.

The officers were called 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.

Both officers were placed on administrative leave after the incident. Powell is a former Greene County prosecutor and was appointed in April to handle the case.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Power and authority of RCMP being drastically diluted

June 18, 2010
Gary Mason, Globe and Mail

The landscape of policing in Canada is undergoing a radical transformation. And the once unchallenged power and authority of the RCMP is being drastically diluted in the process.

It’s difficult to imagine a 48-hour period in the force’s history that has been as damaging and wrought with implications for the future as the one the Mounties have just endured.

On Thursday, the conduct of the RCMP was condemned in a report into the greatest mass-murder in Canadian history – the Air India bombing. And a day later, the behaviour of four Mounties in B.C. was denounced in the harshest terms possible by the commission investigating the tasering death of Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski.

Behind the findings and the fundamental changes the RCMP is facing lies the power of a Canadian public whose growing disenchantment and distrust of Canada’s iconic police brigade could no longer be ignored by our political leaders and even the force itself.

That cynicism and suspicion is what really has driven the rather urgent policy changes now being rolled out. Public trust is the cornerstone of policing. Without it, officers have little credibility, which ultimately undermines their effectiveness and threatens the stability of a crucial pillar upon which a just society is built.

This is why the RCMP recently made internal changes in the way its members are investigated and disciplined. This is why the federal government recently gave the RCMP watchdog sweeping new powers to obtain documents during his investigations and also compel officers to testify. This is why Ottawa is expected to adopt the recommendations of John Major, head of the Air India Commission, that a new national-security czar be established that will severely crimp the RCMP’s investigative authority.

And this is why the B.C. government waited less than an hour after commissioner Thomas Braidwood released his exhaustive report Friday on the Dziekanski affair to announce it was adopting all of its recommendations, including the establishment of an Ontario-like Special Investigative Unit to carry out all probes of the police in the province – municipal or RCMP.

In fact, the investigative squad will have a mandate that far exceeds the SIU’s in Ontario. The B.C. group will not just investigate deaths involving an officer, but cases where serious harm has occurred, where a provision of the Criminal Code has been violated or where there has been a possible contravention of any federal or provincial statute. As significantly, the unit will be entirely civilian – no member of it will be allowed to have served anywhere in Canada as a police officer. (Although Mr. Braidwood allows for a five-year transition period during which former officers would be able to participate subject to certain conditions).

And B.C. Attorney General Mike de Jong made it clear that the RCMP will soon come under the authority of the provincial police-complaints commissioner as well.

The result is that B.C. will effectively have a provincial police force. And the RCMP, which polices 70 per cent of the province, isn’t saying a word about it because it understands it doesn’t have the moral authority to protest.

The Mounties’ new attitude stands in dramatic contrast to the one that was expressed only four years ago by the force’s top media-relations spokesman in B.C. When it was suggested the public had the right to know about how the force was handling the investigation into the in-custody death of mill worker Ian Bush in Houston, B.C., Staff Sergeant John Ward replied: “The public doesn’t have the right to know anything.”

The comment reverberated throughout the country.

Sadly, it often takes tragedy to forge change.

And in Canada it took the death of Ian Bush, hundreds of poor souls aboard Air India and Robert Dziekanski – among many, many others – to inflame the public mood to the point it ignited the changes we’re now witnessing.

If there was a case that tipped the balance it was the death of Mr. Dziekanski. Captured on an amateur video, it was the one that mortified this country, made us feel embarrassed of our national police. It would be the graphic, irrefutable bit of evidence Canadians would need before collectively exclaiming: Enough.

Walter Kosteckyj, the lawyer who so ably represented the interests of Mr. Dziekanski’s mother, Zofia Cisowski, at the Braidwood commission, was asked Friday how long it would take for the RCMP to regain the public’s trust.

“They didn’t lose it in one day,” he said. “It’s going to take a while. I guess we’ll see just how serious they are about repairing the damage. Ultimately it’s up to them.”

And they certainly deserve that chance.

RCMP must fire officers involved in YVR death - How can Canadians' trust in the force be restored if these four Mounties are still on the job?

June 19, 2010
By Ian Mulgrew, Vancouver Sun

The bottom line is you and I still are paying the salaries of the four RCMP officers whose shameful conduct led to the death of Robert Dziekanski.

It's an outrage.

In his damning 470-page report, former justice Thomas Braidwood swept aside nearly three years of official Mountie obfuscation and outright lies by these individuals.

Braidwood said the Mounties had no justification for Tasering Dziekanski at Vancouver airport on Oct. 14, 2007.

The 40-year-old Polish immigrant was compliant and did not resist -- the officers completely over-reacted to the situation and were the authors of this tragedy.

Yet RCMP Commissioner William Elliott still refuses to do the right thing and axe them.

"Mr. Dziekanski in no way brought this on himself," Braidwood emphasized at his media conference, his voice rising with emotion. "He did not advance on any of the officers."

That's why they got together afterwards, discussed events and tried to deliberately mislead Braidwood during his public hearings. No wonder he called for a special prosecutor to be immediately appointed to consider laying criminal charges against the four men.

Braidwood couldn't talk about why provincial prosecutors swallowed an RCMP investigation that was obviously flawed or why their spokesman at the time, now police complaints commissioner Stan Lowe, all but blamed Dziekanski for causing his own death.

"My mandate didn't allow me to do that -- I couldn't do that," Braidwood said.

For the same reason, he also couldn't say what should happen to the officers.

When he spoke with reporters a few hours later, the RCMP commissioner couldn't say either.

Elliott said the force would review Braidwood's findings with the four disgraced officers but they may not face any discipline.

"We will certainly need to look at that," was the best he offered.

The mantra throughout Friday's many media conferences was that public confidence must be restored in the RCMP and the process for handling police-involved incidents.

Attorney-General Mike de Jong responded perfectly by immediately announcing the province would have an Ontario-style civilian investigation agency and follow up on all Braidwood's recommendations.

(Former solicitor-general Kash Heed must be kicking himself -- the ex-cop could have brought in this long-needed reform and reaped the kudos that go deservedly to de Jong.)

In response to concerns over the Crown's December 2008 decision not to prosecute, the AG said that was based on the best information available but the inquiry had brought much new information to light.

"There was misconduct here ... and that reflects badly, and that's why Mr. Braidwood used the language that he did," said de Jong, who has named Vancouver lawyer Richard Peck as special prosecutor.

Elliott's initial response, too, was hopeful -- "we've long acknowledged ... the RCMP messed up."

The iconic force, he explained, has substantially reformed its training and promotional policies and dramatically altered its rules for the use of conducted energy weapons. It has made many changes since this regrettable event that are laudable.

Elliott welcomed the new provincial investigative agency.

But when it came to discipline and dealing with the four ...

"We will review the report and determine and take appropriate action," was the best Elliott offered.

What a ridiculous response! Was he unaware of their performance at the inquiry?

Until Braidwood unveiled his conclusions, I could understand if not support the force standing behind the men even if they were spinning a "patently unbelievable" tale. But in the wake of these staggering findings and their deceit, they should be thrown under the bus.

How can Canadians restore their trust in the force if these four are still on the job, still carrying firearms and still able to exercise the powers of a police officer after being branded no better than lying thugs?

Braidwood said it loud and clear -- these officers committed such outrageous misconduct it must be weighed against a criminal standard by a special prosecutor.

Dziekanski's mum Zofia Cisowski shook her head after hearing the Mounties continued to be employed: "They still have no consequences."

That these four officers are still drawing public pay is an absolute disgrace.

The question Braidwood used as the title of his report remains -- why?

EDITORIAL: Braidwood sets RCMP's course

June 19, 2010
Times Colonist

The RCMP`s future is now at stake.

The report on Robert Dziekanski's death has brought into question the force's ability to continue to function effectively. The response to the Braidwood inquiry report, from RCMP management and governments, will determine it can survive as an effective police force.

It's not just the questions about the competence, training and judgment of the four officers who responded to a call at Vancouver airport two years ago. Those are serious, but things go badly -- tragically -- wrong in any large organization.

The more profound problem is the Braidwood inquiry's findings about what happened afterward.

We ask police to take on a hugely difficult task. Many officers face personal danger. Some are killed or kill on our behalf on the job. We give them great powers so they can do the required work effectively.

But we recognize the risk that those powers can be abused. We demand accountability and honesty from police forces and a commitment to the public interest, not their own. We believe that what police say -- in court or in public statements -- can be trusted.

Inquiry commissioner Thomas Braidwood's report found that was not true in this case.

The officers' actions were not justified, he found. They caused Dziekanski's death. The report on the Taser use "consistently and deliberately misrepresented and overstated" Dziekanski's actions and chose self-serving language to justify the officers' reaction.

The account of the incidents to investigators by all four officers were "deliberate misrepresentations, made for the purpose of justifying their actions."

Braidwood rejected their evidence at the hearings and concludes they lied to justify their actions.

The inquiry also considered RCMP media statements on the death. Braidwood found the initial statements were not deliberately misleading. But "the factual inaccuracies, consistently self-serving, painted Mr. Dziekanski in an unfairly negative, and the officers in an unfairly positive, light." The decision not to correct the inaccuracies was an "error in judgment," he concludes, not an attempt to mislead.

But the inaccurate statements, coming from the police as they investigated themselves, naturally eroded public confidence in the impartiality of the investigation.

The solution, Braidwood found, was to end the practice of police investigating themselves in cases involving death, serious bodily harm or any offence that could involve the appearance of bias. The Davies commission of inquiry into the death of Frank Paul after he was left in an alley by Vancouver police called for the creation of an independent investigation unit, staffed by civilians without connections to police.

Braidwood repeated the recommendation. "The perception that investigators will allow loyalty to fellow officers to interfere with the impartial investigative process, even if not justified in a given case, can lead to public distrust and undermining of public confidence in the police," he noted.

The province acted quickly. Soon after Braidwood delivered his report, Attorney General and Solicitor General Mike de Jong announced that the province will create a civilian investigations unit that will conduct criminal investigations into police-related incidents.

That is a crucial first step toward restoring confidence. The province has also promised to appoint a special prosecutor to re-open the investigation into Dziekanski's death and its aftermath. That is another welcome step.

We value, highly, the work of police officers. Braidwood notes the actions of these officers should not reflect unfairly on the thousands of RCMP officers who have earned a well-deserved good reputation while protecting communities.

But the Dziekanski case has, he says, galvanized public antipathy for the force and its members.

That damage could have been avoided with a thorough independent investigation, as well as honesty from the officers involved.

This case, along with several others in recent years, has damaged the force's most important assets -- public support and trust. Braidwood has set the RCMP on a course that could restore its ability to do its job.

The sooner de Jong follows through on yesterday's commitments, the better for everyone.

MEDIA RELEASE: June 18, 2010

The Canadian Civil Rights Movement (CCRM) praises Justice Braidwood for his courageous and direct pursuit of the truth in the death of Robert Dziekanski at YVR. He has performed an honourable service to the public in exposing the shameful conduct and cover-up by RCMP officers and the incompetence of the British Columbia Criminal Justice Branch.

The Attorney General’s immediate announcement of the appointment of a Special Prosecutor reflects the damning findings made by Justice Braidwood, including the statement that the “public can draw its own conclusions about misconduct.” Justice Braidwood’s conclusion reflects the longstanding and widely held public sentiment and view that a Special Prosecutor ought to be appointed. This was illustrated by the CCRM which advocated and circulated a petition signed by thousands of members of the public, demanding such an appointment, and which was submitted to the Criminal Justice Branch (“CJM”) of the Attorney General’s Ministry.

Justice Braidwood has confirmed that, which was publicly known because of the Paul Pritchard video. The decision of the CJB was then and remains indefensible. It raises serious doubt about the impartiality and competence of the CJB decision to not recommend charges in 2008. Its decision was totally unjustified and incredible.

This all caused unacceptable delay and compounded the suffering to Zofia Cisowski. It also cost millions of dollars of taxpayers money – the Inquiry while it has performed an important public function – only confirms what we (the public) already knew. Therefore, we call on the B.C. Legislature to examine and review the conduct and operation of the Criminal Justice Branch in the Dziekanski case. Public confidence and accountability in the administration of justice requires this as well.

We would like also to praise Justice Braidwood for recommending the creation of an independent civilian oversight body to deal with police misconduct.

We believe Zofia Cisowski may have been unnecessarily pressured by the RCMP for out of court settlement of the civil lawsuit and urged to not publicly seek criminal charges, prior to the release of the Braidwood Report.

The RCMP resistance and interference in the matter of potential criminal charges has backfired in view of the final Inquiry Report and the imminent appointment of a Special Prosecutor. In addition, as we learned today, the Polish Ambassador to Canada confirmed the Polish Authorities continue to maintain an open file and interest in criminal proceedings in Poland. Zofia Cisowski is represented in Poland by lawyers, Piotr Banasik and B. William Sundhu. The CCRM will continue to monitor firsthand the developments in Poland and inform the public through media.

The Inquiry report is a powerful indictment of the shameful conduct of officers and which “shocked and repulsed people all over the world.” The RCMP engaged in a cover up – all of which has tarnished Canada’s international image. Regretfully, the only non-governmental organization which supported the RCMP and expressed its willingness to assist the RCMP in restoring its image in Canada and around the world was the Canadian Polish Congress. This shameful act took place in Ottawa on July 29, 2009 at a meeting between Władysław Lizoń, the President of the Canadian Polish Congress and RCMP Commissioner William Elliot.

The CCRM feels the position it has consistently taken and advocated has been vindicated by the findings of the Inquiry Report and the appointment of a special prosecutor.

Sadly, no passage of time can diminish the true nature of this tragedy.

Zygmunt Riddle, Tel. 604-868-7070, zriddle@shaw.ca
Bill Sundhu (Spokesperson for CCRM)
Tel: (O) 778-471-5777 (C) 250-574-2124
Email: bill@bwilliamsundhu.com
Web: http://bwilliamsundhu.com/index.html

Friday, June 18, 2010

B.C. to review charges against officers involved in Dziekanski death

June 18, 2010
By: The Canadian Press

The B.C. government will immediately appoint a special prosecutor to review the possibility of charges against four RCMP officers involved in Robert Dziekanski's death, in light of a scathing public inquiry report.

Prosecutors had already ruled out charges against the four officers, saying their actions were justified under the circumstances.

But B.C. Attorney General Mike de Jong said the matter should be reviewed following the inquiry report released Friday that concluded that the officers were not justified in using their Taser, and that their explanations of the events that unfolded the night Dziekanski died were "patently unbelievable."

Contrary to their testimony at the inquiry, commissioner Thomas Braidwood said the officers could not have reasonably perceived Dziekanski was a threat when he picked up a stapler during the confrontation at Vancouver's airport in October 2007.

The report by the former B.C. judge is riddled with terms like "untrue," misleading," "misrepresented," and "overstated," to describe the testimony of the four RCMP officers involved.

"Mr. Dziekanski's death appears to have galvanized public antipathy for the (RCMP) and its members," Braidwood said in his report. "That is regrettable, because the most important weapon in the arsenal of the police is public support.

"This tragic case is, at its heart, a story of shameful conduct by a few officers."

De Jong said a special prosecutor will be appointed immediately.

"In the immediate aftermath of the release of the Braidwood commission report, and some of the information and material that presented itself during that report, it is in my view not just warranted but essential that a reconsideration of that decision take place," de Jong told reporters.

The attorney general said the commissioner had shared with him his concerns about the officers' testimony. A copy of the inquiry report has been sent to the Criminal Justice Branch.

"The special prosecutor will assess whether there is any additional evidence or grounds upon which to reconsider the earlier decision around criminal prosecution," de Jong said.

He said the province accepts all the recommendations in the report, and will create within the next 12 months a new civilian agency to investigate serious incidents involving police in B.C.

The inquiry report was also critical of border officials and airport authorities, but stopped short of concluding that Dziekanski's death was caused by the stun gun. Braidwood noted there is no consensus on the exact cause of death.

"We will never know, with absolute certainty, what caused Mr. Dziekanski's death," says the report.

But the death and a witness video of his final moments, "shocked and repulsed people around the world," says the report.

Braidwood addressed Dziekanski's mother, Zofia Cisowski, directly.

"I can only say to you that I hope these findings and recommendations will give some feeling of satisfaction at least in a small way, arising out of these things, particularly in light of the ordeal you have suffered," he said.

Cisowski thanked the commissioner, saying the report did give her some relief.

"I just cannot even talk today," she told reporters.

The inquiry report makes eight recommendations, including an independent body to investigate police in B.C.

The report follows an exhaustive public inquiry that spent much of last year hearing from more than 90 witnesses about what happened the night Dziekanski died.

Dziekanski, who didn't speak English, arrived in Vancouver after a long flight from Poland and spent 10 hours in the airport before he eventually cleared customs.

Unable to find his mother or communicate with anyone around him, Dziekanski began throwing furniture in the airport's international terminal. Several onlookers called 911 and one witness started filming the scene on his video camera.

The four RCMP officers were told by a 911 operator to expect a drunk man throwing furniture. Within seconds of approaching Dziekanski, one of them fired the Taser, pulling the trigger five times in total, mostly after Dziekanski had fallen to the ground.

Last December, the RCMP complaints commissioner released his own report that found the officers' use of the Taser was "inappropriate" and their explanations to justify their actions weren't credible.

Dziekanski's mother filed a wrongful death lawsuit last year against the RCMP and others, but settled the case this past April after receiving a public apology from the force and an undisclosed financial settlement.

Braidwood Inquiry

Read the final report of the Braidwood Inquiry, released today, by clicking on the following link:

The Robert Dziekanski Tragedy
May 20, 2010

The report`s concluding comment:

Concluding comment
This part of the report has been, of necessity, a detailed forensic examination of the medical conditions and/or mechanisms that most likely caused Mr. Dziekanski’s untimely and unnecessary death. While ascertaining the medical cause of Mr. Dziekanski’s death may satisfy the intellect, there is a human dimension to this story that ought not to be ignored.

It is a story of high hopes, new beginnings, dashed dreams, and tragic loss. What did Mr. Dziekanski think and feel during the last minutes of his life? His last recorded words, “Have you lost your minds?” or “Have you gone insane? Why?” spoken as
Cst. Millington was deploying what looked like a pistol against him, convey a sense of incredulity, fear, and panic at the prospect of being shot.

When the details of Mr. Dziekanski’s last minutes first came to light, many people asked, “Why did this have to happen?” Although we now know much more about what happened and about the medical mechanism leading to his death, that haunting pivotal question still remains, “Why?”

RCMP wrong to use Taser on Dziekanski: report

June 18, 2010
CBC News

The final inquiry report on the death of Robert Dziekanski has concluded the RCMP were not justified in using a Taser against the Polish immigrant.

The long-awaited report, by retired B.C. Court of Appeal justice Thomas Braidwood, was released Friday in Vancouver.

Braidwood was commissioned by the B.C. government to determine whether there was misconduct on the part of the four RCMP officers who confronted and subdued Dziekanski on Oct. 14, 2007, at Vancouver International Airport.

Braidwood said the four officers involved initially acted appropriately, but the senior officer intervened in an inappropriately aggressive manner.

Braidwood concluded Dziekanski was being compliant with the officers, and neither Const. Kwesi Millington, who fired the Taser, nor the senior corporal in charge, honestly perceived an attack was coming.

Braidwood concluded the officers later deliberately misrepresented what happened at the airport to justify their actions, and he called on the B.C. government to establish a civilian-led body to investigate police incidents in the future.

"From this review I drew two final conclusions," he said. "Despite their training, the officers approached the incident as though responding to a barroom brawl and failed to shift gears when they realized that they were dealing with an obviously distraught traveller.

"This tragic case is at its heart a story of shameful conduct by a few officers. It ought not to reflect unfairly on the many thousands of RCMP and other police officers who have, through years of public service, protected our communities and earned a well-deserved reputation for doing so."

But Braidwood stopped short of saying the officers had committed misconduct in the incident, saying he would leave that question for the Crown to decide.

Confronted in arrivals lounge

Dziekanski died after being stunned multiple times by RCMP officers using a Taser. The 40-year-old Polish immigrant, who spoke no English, had been wandering in the international arrival area for several hours, unable to communicate with anyone, while he waited for his mother to drive from the B.C. Interior to meet him.

He became distraught and angry, prompting airport staff to call police. Within 30 seconds of arriving at the lounge, the four RCMP officers surrounded him and knocked him to the ground with one Taser stun, then pulled the trigger four more times.

By the time medical help arrived, Dziekanski was dead.

Initially, police said Dziekanski had attacked the officers, but a cellphone video taken by a bystander raised questions about the RCMP account and became the key piece of evidence in the inquiry.

No officers were ever charged in the death and the RCMP defended the handling of the incident, saying Dziekanski was advancing at the officers when he was stunned with the Taser.

Before the report was released, Dziekanski's mother, Zofia Cisowski, said she believes there was no doubt about the role the Mounties played in her son's death.

"That was torture. That was execution, because nobody help him. He shouldn't died on the floor, but I see that," Cisowski told CBC News Thursday.

Braidwood also released a previous report last July that was critical of police guidelines on their use of Tasers and other conducted energy weapons.

No objections yet to proposed police taser use

June 18, 2010
By James Wood, Saskatchewan News Network

No objections have been raised so far by groups consulted on the potential arming of front-line police with Tasers, says the chair of the Saskatchewan Police Commission.

In February 2009 the police commission began a new review of whether to authorize the general use of conducted energy devices (CEDs) by members of the province's 14 municipal and First Nation police services.

Commission chair Paul Korpan said this week that consultations with community groups and stakeholders have been mostly completed.

"Those that have responded have indicated support for the use of (CEDs) quite high in the use of force continuum," the Regina lawyer said in an interview.

While the police commission -- an independent provincial body that oversees rules and standards for municipal police -- did not solicit input directly from the public, it did go to police, civil liberties, mental health and aboriginal organizations and government bodies such as the children's advocate for feedback, said Korpan.

A decision was at one point expected by early 2010 and Korpan said that once consultations are complete "I think we're ready to proceed and finalize a decision."

However, there is no timeline for when that will happen.

Among the groups the commission still wants to consult is the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations.

"I've had direct conversations with that organization and I'm working with that organization to conclude a more fulsome dialogue on that issue. We haven't had much dialogue so that's something we think is important, that's something that we intend to explore and flesh out if you will before coming to any conclusion," said Korpan.

The FSIN declined to comment Thursday.

Under current police commission rules for Saskatchewan's municipal police services, Tasers currently can only be utilized by members of special weapons and tactical teams.

Allowing their use at a high level on the continuum of force means restricting their deployment to certain situations, such as when a suspect is threatening to cause bodily harm. Chief Clive Weighill has indicated in the past that is consistent with existing Saskatoon police protocol and that Tasers would rank second only to firearms in the restrictions on their use.

However, while police services have been strongly advocating for their officers to be equipped with Tasers the devices have been extremely controversial.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Federal government upset with Dziekanski 'apology'

June 17, 2010
By Chad Skelton and Neal Hall, Vancouver Sun

One day before RCMP Deputy Commissioner Gary Bass publicly apologized to Robert Dziekanski's mother for the Mounties' role in her son's death after being Tasered, Bass e-mailed an RCMP member assuring him the apology did not mean the force was sorry for anything specific its officers did.

"Even though the word 'apology' worries some, we are not apologizing for the actions of specific members or saying anything about specific actions," Bass wrote in a March 31 e-mail to RCMP staff relations representative Brian Roach. "I am apologizing for the loss of her son and where the [RCMP commissioner] says we could have done better, from my perspective, that relates to the fact we had to revise our policy and training."

A spokesman for Prime Minister Stephen Harper's office said the government is troubled by Bass's e-mail.

"We're disappointed," said Sara MacIntyre, who contacted The Sun after a story about the e-mail appeared on vancouversun.com."The apology was obviously very important to his family and his mother. And we find the e-mail troubling."

Asked if Harper would be taking any direct steps with the RCMP to follow up on the e-mail, MacIntyre said: "We'll be looking at that."

Bass closes his e-mail to Roach with: "Let me know if I can explain any further as it is important the membership gets the right message as to what we are trying to do [here]."

The day after the e-mail was written, Bass appeared at a news conference to announce the RCMP had reached an out-of-court settlement with Dziekanski's mother, Zofia Cisowski of Kamloops.

"Your son's death is a tragedy and for the role the force played in this tragedy, we offer our sincere apology," Bass read from his prepared statement.

"There are no words to express how sorry the RCMP is about your son's death and the pain this has brought."

RCMP spokesman Insp. Tim Shields said Wednesday that Bass's apology at the news conference was genuine.

"The apology from ... Bass was heartfelt and sincere and reflected his sentiments as the commanding officer for all RCMP members in B.C.," Shields wrote in an e-mail. "To suggest the apology was not heartfelt is wrong. Period."

Bass's internal e-mail was released by the RCMP on Wednesday in response to an Access to Information Act request.

Another e-mail released Wednesday, from Assistant Commissioner Al MacIntyre to Bass, encouraged him to give his apology in front of Dziekanski's mother.

"I think hearing you say it in front of her will demonstrate the compassion/ caring/acceptance of responsibility and to seal it with a handshake/ respectful embrace would be appropriate," he wrote.

Meanwhile, the Braidwood commission of inquiry's final report on the death of Dziekanski will be publicly released on Friday at 10 a.m.

The report was completed last month and submitted to the attorney-general.

Copies have been printed and will be released during a news conference at the Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue in Vancouver.

The first report was released last year and examined the use of Tasers -- known as conducted energy weapons -- by police, sheriffs and corrections staff in B.C.

The second phase of the inquiry focused on the events surrounding the tragic death of Dziekanski, 40, at Vancouver International Airport on Oct. 14, 2007.

Dziekanski, who spoke no English and had never been on a plane before, was unable to find his mother after arriving at the airport. He remained in a secure customs area for about 10 hours and then, appearing dazed and delirious, began throwing around furniture, prompting a 911 call reporting a violent drunk (no drugs or alcohol were found in his system).

Seconds after four RCMP officers arrived on the scene, Dziekanski was jolted five times with a Taser.

He died minutes after he was restrained and handcuffed face-down on the airport floor.

The incident was captured on amateur video, which resulted in an international public outcry.

Since his death, the RCMP has made a number of changes to its Taser policies, including restricting the weapon's use to incidents threatening officer or public safety, annual recertification for trained users and enhanced reporting on all use-of-force incidents by RCMP officers.

The most recent change was in May when it was determined Tasers should only be fired when a suspect is causing "bodily harm" or is about to do so.

The RCMP also changed their rules in June 2009 so that police could no longer use the weapon on suspects merely for their failure to cooperate. Their revised policy -- dictating that there must be a threat to the public or the police -- was widely criticized as being too vague.