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Friday, December 31, 2010

Medvedev tightens stun gun sales

December 29, 2010
The Voice of Russia

65 people have died in Russia in the past 5 years as a result of stun gun use. In all, more than 2000 crimes involving the use of traumatic guns have been committed over the period.

The Deputy Chief of the Russian Interior Ministry Law Enforcement Department Leonid Vedenov has voiced hope that the situation will change for the better now that President Dmitry Medvedev has signed a law to toughen the rules of selling such guns.

The law, signed on Tuesday, December 28th, bans the carrying of traumatic guns during public, cultural-mass and sporting events, including at rallies and in processions. Besides, criminal and administrative responsibility has been tightened for selling such arms.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Winnipeg police lose FIFTH taser cartridge in 11 months

See also a September 2010 article: Winnipeg cops study ways to avoid losing Taser cartridges - After its officers lost four unused Taser cartridges in eight months, the Winnipeg Police Service is looking at ways to zap any further losses ...

December 29, 2010
Winnipeg Free Press

A Winnipeg police officer lost a Taser cartridge while on duty overnight Monday.

Police are warning the public not to pick up the cartridge, as it could accidentally discharge and deliver an electric shock to an unsuspecting victim.

Police hope to get the cartridge back.

The Taser itself was not lost, they say. The cartridge became dislodged and separated from a uniformed patrol officer's service belt while the officer was on duty downtown.

The cartridge was in a pouch and is a black plastic case with a design of lightning bolts on the top and side, moulded into the plastic.

The dimensions are about five centimetres long and about 2.5 centimetres thick. It is lightweight.

If the cartridge is picked up by an unsuspecting person and carried in a pocket, a buildup of static energy could activate the cartridge, causing the probes to be propelled, police said.

Anyone who spots the cartridge is asked to contact police at 986-3061.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

New Zealand: Tasers fired in mental health cases

December 16, 2010
Victoria Robinson, Stuff

A new study shows that police tasers are more than twice as likely to be used at mental health emergencies than criminal arrests.

The study was conducted by Anthony O'Brien, senior lecturer in nursing at the University of Auckland.

O'Brien said he was shocked to find that tasers had been used by police in laser pointing mode at mental health facilities.

The laser pointing mode is one step away from discharging the taser.

"I was shocked to find that tasers have been used at mental health inpatient units.

"I would be extremely alarmed if we were moving the way of the United States where hospital staff have been given tasers. That is completely contrary to New Zealand policy which is aimed at improving in-patient services," O'Brien says.

The study also found Maori and Pacific people are far more likely to be tasered than Europeans.

The study was published recently in the International Journal of Law and Psychiatry.

A spokesman for the New Zealand police says officers at an incident decide whether or not to use their tasers based on the level of threat to themselves and those around them.

"The officer wouldn't know whether someone is a mental health patient or not unless there is an indication that there are issues," he says.

"As far as mental health goes, we're aware of all the issues and we have been in constant contact and discussions with mental health authorities."

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Australia: Taser victim was not violent: police

December 15, 2010
Amanda O'Brien, The Australian

A POLICE officer has admitted Kevin Spratt was not being violent before he was tasered in the East Perth lock-up in 2008. And a stun gun was used because he wanted the Aboriginal man to hurry up.

Senior Constable Troy Tomlin told the Corruption and Crime Commission yesterday that Mr Spratt had only become violent after he was tasered, and all of his strikes were in stun-mode, which caused intense pain.

The commission is investigating whether any officers engaged in misconduct when Mr Spratt was tasered 14 times in a matter of minutes on August 31. The incident began when he refused to be strip-searched.

Video, which shows Mr Spratt surrounded by nine police while on the floor, caused international outrage when it was released in October.

The first four taser strikes were fired by Constable Tomlin.

The CCC yesterday produced evidence showing Mr Spratt was not the only person to be tasered at the East Perth lock-up, giving examples of two other men who also refused to be strip-searched.

One was tasered four times before police removed his clothes. Another was tasered once when he wouldn't drop his pants during a search. The police incident report said the taser "made him let go of his trousers". The names of the men were suppressed.

Constable Tomlin told the hearing he was "unprofessional" when he told Mr Spratt to "give me your hand or I'll f..king taser you". But he claimed Mr Spratt had threatened to kill him. This was not supported by CCTV.

He also said he was trying to protect Mr Spratt when he tasered him because he thought he had been struck by another officer and would "get another kick" if he did not co-operate.

Detective Sergeant Gary Thwaites, who was in charge of the lock-up at the time, said his officers behaved properly. "None of them are cowboys. They're not vindictively tasering Mr Spratt for no reason," he said.

In a heated exchange with counsel assisting the CCC, Peter Quinlan SC, he said Constable Tomlin had "every right to defend himself" and he was not swayed by the video not showing any overt threat.

He said Mr Spratt was affected by drugs and had a history of violence. "At the end of the day, Troy has got every right to look after himself. Does he have to wait until he's struck?" he said.

Calgary police officer's Taser trial adjourned to April

December 13, 2010
Daryl Slade, Calgary Herald

The trial for a six-year Calgary Police Service member, charged with assault causing bodily harm and assault with a weapon after allegedly using his Taser to zap a 73-year-old man after a traffic stop, has been adjourned.

Daryn Swanson, 30, who was charged last January, was scheduled to face a trial starting on Monday but it was rescheduled to begin on April 28 and last for three days.

Lawyer Willie deWit, who appeared on Swanson's behalf, said the new date was required to book an out-of-Calgary judge to hear the case.

Florida man dies after he is tasered

November 13, 2010: Linel Lormeus, 26, Naples, Florida

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Tasered and hog-tied correlates with death in custody: RCMP watchdog

December 12, 2010
Jim Bronskill, The Canadian Press

OTTAWA—The watchdog over the RCMP is urging the police force to clearly tell officers not to hog-tie people after finding the generally forbidden technique was used in 40 per cent of cases in which someone died after being hit with a Taser stun gun.

A new report by the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP also reveals “a number of instances” among the 10 deaths where members who fired the Taser were not certified to use the powerful weapon.

The hog-tie involves binding both the hands and feet behind a person, then linking them with rope or other such restraint.

The report recommends the Mounties better train officers on identifying, dealing with, and using force on the mentally ill and those with drug and alcohol problems.

“Many of the individuals had pre-existing medical conditions and a significant number of individuals were confirmed to have had a history of mental health problems,” says the report by complaints commission chairman Ian McPhail.

It also advocates detailing all deaths in police custody in a national database, which could improve understanding of risk factors and prevent future fatalities.

The Canadian Press obtained a copy of the commission’s interim report, completed in late July, under the Access to Information Act. A final report will be issued following feedback from RCMP Commissioner William Elliott.

Tasers can be fired from a distance, felling suspects with high-voltage bursts through sharp probes that dig into the skin, overriding the central nervous system. They can also be used up close in touch-stun mode, likened to leaning on a hot stove.

In an effort to see common threads, the commission looked at the 10 cases, spanning 2003 to 2008, in which someone died in RCMP custody after a Taser had been used. Six of the deaths occurred in British Columbia, with one each in Alberta, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Yukon.

The commission examined 50,000 pages of material related to the cases to come up with “a very general overview” of the people who died, namely:

A male who was initially unarmed;

A suspected or known user of a drug, most often cocaine;

Highly agitated; and

With pre-existing medical conditions, most likely cardiovascular in nature.

The use of the Taser most likely involved a police response to a disturbance call, was fired in both touch stun and probe modes, and involved three to four members.

The complaints commission generally found that relevant Taser policy was followed. But it noted the hog-tie was “still being readily used” to restrain people after stun gun firings despite being prohibited by the RCMP in 2002 with only specific exceptions.

The report says given that a number of autopsy reports listed body position as a preceding circumstance or contributing cause of death, the RCMP “ought to ensure that members understand the potential impact of using prohibited restraint mechanisms.”

It recommends the RCMP “develop and communicate to members clear protocols on the use of restraints and the prohibition of the hog-tie, modified hog-tie and choke-holds.”

The commission also found the RCMP’s “In-Custody Death” form — intended to capture information about the circumstances of a fatality — was not completed in eight of the 10 cases.

A separate Mountie Taser use form was filled out in seven cases, but many were completed “a significant time after the incident.

In addition, the information on file was often too limited to determine what officers did to try to de-escalate confrontations.

Continued employment of the hog-tie and the fact a number of officers weren’t qualified to use a Taser are reasons for concern, said Hilary Homes of Amnesty International Canada.

“I think this is a good example of why you need to have strong minimum standards.”

David Eby, executive director of the British Columbia Civll Liberties Association, wondered why it took an Access to Information request to dislodge the report. “This is important information that should be available widely.”

The RCMP said it would be inappropriate to comment on the interim report before the commissioner’s formal response is sent to the complaints body.

In May, the Mounties introduced a new Taser policy, saying they would fire stun guns at people only when they’re hurting someone or clearly about to do so.

The directive mirrored a recommendation from former judge Thomas Braidwood, head of a B.C. public inquiry on Taser use prompted by the 2007 death of air passenger Robert Dziekanski at the Vancouver airport.

Las Vegas, Nevada man dies after police taser him

December 10, 2010
Las Vegas Review/Journal

December 10, 2010: Anthony Jones, 44, Las Vegas, Nevada

Friday, December 10, 2010

(Ontario) Police rarely use stun guns

December 10, 2010

Special Investigations Unit director Ian Scott's view that a stun gun killed a Collingwood man may cause officers to think twice about using them, one local police chief said.

But Saugeen Shores Police Chief Dan Rivett said Thursday in an interview that doesn't mean police should stop using conducted energy weapons when called for.

The stun gun death of an agitated, schizophrenic man by a Collingwood police officer is the latest incident in which concerns about police use of these devices have been raised.

This time though, it was the SIU director who said he thinks the stun gun caused Aron Firman's death.

Firman, 27, died after being Tasered by Collingwood OPP June 24 outside a group home in Collingwood.

SIU director Ian Scott concluded this week the use of the Taser "was not excessive, notwithstanding the fact that it caused Mr. Firman's demise."

No charges were justified against the officer, Scott found, because the officer's training shouldn't have led him to expect the device would kill.

Ontario's chief forensic pathologist, Michael Pollanen, attributed Firman's death to "cardiac arrhythmia precipitated by electronic control device deployment in an agitated man." He had underlying health issues which may have predisposed him to arrhythmia, Pollanen found.

The victim's father has called for Tasers to be re-classified as "potentially lethal weapons."

Sgt. Pierre Chamberland, an OPP corporate spokesman in Orillia, said the SIU finding will prompt a review of all policies related to deploying a Taser, as required under the Police Services Act. But they're still being used now. He wouldn't say how often the OPP use their Tasers, saying it's an "operational matter, we don't release that." He also said whether using handcuffs or guns, "we are trained with the fact that with any use of force there is an inherent risk of serious injury or death."

No Saugeen Shores officers have ever fired their conducted energy weapons since they were issued them in 2007. But Rivett says they still have their place. "Sure, does it make you give pause and think twice? Absolutely it does. But that in turn could put you in jeopardy or a member of the public," he said. He hopes the Collingwood death of a man won't cause his officers to hesitate when they shouldn't, he said. "That's a real concern. So there's a very delicate balance there that police officers are put into every day."

Training and guidelines set out when a Taser may be used, one step short of employing deadly force with a firearm, he said.

Owen Sound police sergeants continue to use Tasers, under escalating use-of-force guidelines too. "We haven't changed our policy and they're still in use in Owen Sound," Deputy-Chief Bill Sornberger said Wednesday in an interview. So far this year, Tasers have been drawn eight times and fired twice in the city, he said.

He declined to comment on any possible implications of the SIU conclusion that a stun gun shock killed Firman. Sornberger said he wanted to read more about the circumstances and information from the SIU before commenting further.

Grey County OPP officers who are qualified to use stun guns do so "extremely infrequently," said Bob Mahlberg, the detachment commander in Chatsworth. He didn't have the statistics available to say how often and said a freedom of information request could be filed. The devices, which cause muscles to involuntarily contract, are used to gain immediate control of someone, where other options were ineffective or precluded, he said. "From what I have heard so far, there is no change in policy. We are aware of the (SIU) decision. We are aware of the comments made by the director of the SIU," Mahlberg said.

Grey County OPP Const. Steve Starr said conducted energy weapons are not used frequently but they can be used successfully. He cited a man at a group home recently who struck another man with a fire poker in the presence of police who was taken into custody without incident after being stunned.

Mahlberg said a police officer is always responsible for the amount of force used on an individual, whether he or she employs physical force or use-of-force equipment. "It's required under the criminal code and we are only allowed to use as much force as is reasonably necessary to do our job."

Victim’s family wants Taser reclassified as lethal

“It’s a fact now — it’s lethal.”

December 10, 2010
Morgan Ian Adams, QMI Agency/Toronto Sun

COLLINGWOOD, Ont. - The father of a man killed earlier this year by a jolt from a Taser says the police weapon should be reclassified as lethal.

On Monday, the Ontario's Special Investigations Unit cleared a provincial police officer who administered the lethal shock to Aron Firman, 27, and blamed the weapon itself – only the second time in Canada that an official link been drawn.

“If the officer knew it would be lethal, I would hope (the officer) would have considered other options when dealing with an unarmed man,” said Marcus Firman, the father of the schizophrenic man.

On June 24, two officers who responded to a call of an altercation found Firman sitting on a chair in the backyard of the group home, according to the SIU report.

Police said Firman grew increasingly agitated as he was questioned and, according to the report, elbowed one of the officers in the face.

When an officer discharged his Taser, Firman reportedly fell to the ground, unconscious. He was later pronounced dead at hospital.

A post-mortem report indicated Firman died from “cardiac arrhythmia” precipitated by the use of the Taser.

Marcus says his son had a slightly-enlarged heart, and a “genetic marker” that occurs in roughly 20% of the population, in which the heart receives an excessive level of calcium, which could have been factors in his death.

“Recognizing that the Taser is, in fact, potentially lethal, we are urging Taser International and the police to do the right thing and reclassify the weapon as a weapon of last resort, next to the use of a firearm,” he said. “It’s a fact now — it’s lethal.”

A coroners inquest continues into his death.

Hyde report will inform N.S. mental health strategy

December 10, 2010
The Canadian Press/CTV

HALIFAX — Nova Scotia's health minister says she will direct her department's mental health policy working group to look at recommendations from a fatality inquiry into the jail cell death of Howard Hyde.

Maureen MacDonald says provincial court Judge Anne Derrick used some very specific language regarding mental health issues in her report on Howard Hyde's death.

Hyde, a 45-year-old musician diagnosed with schizophrenia, died while in custody in a Halifax jail in November 2007 after he was restrained by guards.

MacDonald says she will review the directions she has already given department officials to make sure the parameters outlined by Derrick are covered.

She says a direct response to the concerns raised by Hyde's death will follow shortly.

MacDonald expects to deliver government's new mental health strategy next year.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Families Gain Voice At Coroner Inquests

Police Say They Won't Testify If Cross-Examined

December 9, 2010
Fox 5 News

LAS VEGAS -- Police officers who fatally shoot someone while on duty in Clark County will now have to face cross-examination by an ombudsman during coroner's inquests.

Clark County Commissioners voted in favor of changing the coroner's inquest process, which had for decades only allowed for questioning by the district attorney and didn't allow for cross-examination by the families of those killed.

The changes were spearheaded by the family of Erik Scott, who was shot and killed by three officers outside a Costco in Summerlin. At the time of Scott's inquest, which ultimately found the officers justified in killing Scott, the family described the process as a "circus."

The police union said officers won't testify if they are going to be questioned by the ombudsman and said they will plead the Fifth to avoid incriminating themselves.

The vote to change the coroner's inquest process was not unanimous. Commissioners Steve Sisolak and Larry Brown voted against the changes. Commissioner Tom Collins was absent.

Culture shift needed in society, system

December 9, 2010

In the end, who failed Howard Hyde?

Perhaps, to some degree, we all did.

There is really no way to dress up the realities of mental illness. It is not pretty, and it can be a very tough challenge to support people in crisis. The people who live closest to those who suffer from mental illnesses are victims of the illnesses, too.

There is also no way to disguise or excuse how our society has continued to respond to people who experience mental illnesses. The stigmas are clear and well understood, even by young children in our schools. The branding begins early.

Hyde is the Dartmouth man who died in custody in 2007. He suffered from schizophrenia. The police were told of his mental illness when he was taken into custody over allegations of domestic abuse. He later died after an intense struggle with prison guards.

Provincial court Judge Anne Derrick released the fatal inquiry report into Hyde’s death on Wednesday. She firmly rejected a previous finding by a pathologist that he had died due to a condition termed "excited delirium."

Derrick dismissed that finding as a "red herring" that did not exist in Hyde’s case.

She also found that while the repeated use of a Taser on Hyde during his time in police custody "worsened the situation," it was not the cause of his death. She did, however, remind justice officials that so-called stun guns are to be used as an alternative to lethal force rather than as a front-line option to subdue suspects who are emotionally disturbed.

His death was accidental, Derrick found, but it came as a direct result of his struggle with prison guards.

In the comprehensive list of 80 recommendations, Derrick tossed the ball firmly into the hands of the provincial government.

She begins by calling for the establishment of a long-promised, but still absent, mental health strategy. It is clearly not by accident that this basic framework is at the top of the list as a necessary building block from which other improvements would naturally evolve.

The judge also calls on the province to increase funding for mental health, but not to do it by reallocating funds from within the existing envelope of health-care funding. This reflects the fact that mental health issues have for too long languished on the list of health-care priorities.

We are left with a fractured, often inaccessible mental health system where vanishing waiting lists are proudly waved around by government as proof of treatment for patients. Improvements are being made, and Derrick’s report makes note of policy changes that have already occurred in the justice system in the wake of Hyde’s death.

But it is hard to comprehend that none of the guards involved in the struggle with Hyde minutes before he died had any training to help them deal with prisoners who suffer from mental illness.

One seemingly innocuous recommendation, No. 49 on Derrick’s list, speaks volumes. Directed at justice system staff and other front-line officials who are in contact with prisoners who suffer from mental illness, it is brief and to the point:

"Training should have, as its overarching purpose, the development of a culture of respect and empathy for persons with mental illness in the justice system."

This is a statement that reaches beyond the justice system and into our society as a whole. While mountains have been moved in reducing the acceptance of stereotypes linked to mental illnesses, many of the most basic government services — justice and health among them — are still handcuffed by systemic ignorance.

The judge called for alternatives for people with mental illness who come in conflict with the law, and says the responsibility reaches well beyond the justice system.

"As the evidence before the inquiry has vividly illustrated, grasping this nettle is not just the responsibility of the justice system; creativity and commitment to change are required of the health system and the community, too."

The principles of respect and empathy provide a good place from which to start.

Second Spratt Taser video is chilling: MP

The release of a "chilling" second video of the tasering of Kevin Spratt will trash Western Australia's reputation for treatment of Aboriginal prisoners, a state MP has declared.

The state's corruption watchdog is inquiring into whether any members of Western Australia Police or the Department of Corrective Services engaged in misconduct during Mr Spratt's repeated tasering while in custody.

The tasering of Mr Spratt at Perth Watch House on August 31, 2008 first came to light with the release of a report by the Corruption and Crime Commission into the use of Taser stun guns in WA.

CCTV footage showed the unarmed and subdued man being tasered 14 times while nine officers surrounded him.

Corruption and Crime Commission commissioner Len Roberts-Smith said the inquiry was triggered by the widespread media exposure, serious public concerns and revelations Mr Spratt had been repeatedly tasered again a week later by corrective services personnel.

The footage of that incident, which occurred on September 6, 2008, was shown for the first time on Thursday after the government had previously refused to make it public.

Seven heavily protected prison officers wearing helmets and carrying batons are shown entering Mr Spratt's prison cell and yelling at Mr Spratt to turn around and lie down.

"If you don't lay down, I'm going to taser you. Turn around and lay down. That's it, I'm not going to ask you again. If I have to ask you again I'm going to taser you," one officers shouts.

After an unarmed Mr Spratt apparently refuses, a prison officer tasers Mr Spratt twice and he is then pinned face down on the floor.

The officers then demand Mr Spratt extend his arms straight out while an officer drives a Taser into the small of his bare back and uses it nine times.

During the ordeal Mr Spratt can be heard talking in native tongue and praying to God.

As the footage was played, Mr Spratt's fiancee, Tayunna Schatkowski, was unable to watch and broke down in tears.

In his opening address, counsel assisting, Peter Quinlan, said on the day after the tasering by the prison officers, Mr Spratt was treated at Royal Perth Hospital.

"Mr Spratt was diagnosed as suffering from at least one, and possibly other fractures of the ribs, a collapse of his lung, his right shoulder was dislocated with a comminuted fracture of the humerus," he said.

"In addition Mr Spratt had multiple superficial cuts and abrasions including several puncture wounds consistent with the use of a Taser in probe mode."

Shadow attorney-general John Quigley said the conduct was disgraceful and would damage WA's reputation.

"The violence was absolutely chilling. Tonight WA's reputation in the way we treat Aboriginal prisoners will be trashed internationally," he told reporters outside the hearing.

"This video depicts disgraceful violence against an Aboriginal prisoner in police custody."

CCTV footage released previously of the first incident in which Mr Spratt was tasered showed him refusing a strip search by sitting on a bench and locking his arms onto the armrests.

"Senior Constable Troy Tomlin said 'Give us your hand or you're going to get f***** tasered, do you understand? Now!' and within seconds deployed a Taser in drive stun mode against Mr Spratt," Mr Quinlan said, describing the footage to the hearing.

"Without warning Senior Constable Tomlin again deployed a Taser in drive stun mode. Sgt Aaron Strahan and Constable Geoffrey Toogood each grabbed one of Mr Spratt's legs."

The hearing will continue on Monday.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Serious allegations against Winnipeg Police Service

"they threaten they said they would taser me in the back"

December 8, 2010
Global Winnipeg

A Winnipeg man has come forward with some disturbing allegations against Winnipeg police.

Evan Maud says officers picked him up off the street, drove him to the outskirts of town, and left him there in freezing weather. At least, he thinks it was cops, and police say they've yet to get a formal complain from him.

"I was crying so hard, I was like why are you guys doing that to me," said Evan Maud.

The 20-year old high school student claims he was threatened with a taser and verbally assaulted by two Winnipeg police officers.

"They told me not to look at their face so I couldn't look at their face, cause I was too scared," said Maud.

Around 4:00 a.m. Friday morning, Evan says he was walking home from his brother’s place after having a few drinks. It was on Burrows Avenue where he said an unmarked black car stopped him and the two men inside began questioning him. "He's like typing on the computer, he said something about me having a record with the law and I never had a record, I'm clean and going to school," he said. That when he claims they forced him into the car, took his jacket and sweater and drove to the South Perimeter. "When they were making me run, they threaten they said they would taser me in the back," he said, claiming the men gave him a different sweater to wear.

He managed to walk back into city limits and got on a bus, until he was kicked off for not paying a fare. He then managed to walk to a café where someone gave him money for a bus ride home.

The allegations bear a disturbing resemblance to the so-called "starlight tours" that rocked Saskatoon in 1990 and sparked a public inquiry. Police were accused of leaving native men on the outskirts of town to die in freezing weather. No charges were ever laid.

"These are very serious allegations that this individual is making," said Winnipeg Police Spokesperson, Constable Natalie.

Winnipeg police say they only learned about the accusation after reading about it in media reports Wednesday.

"The Winnipeg police service stands behind its officers," Aitken said. "At this time this is an allegation made by one individual that has not come forward to the police to report it."

Evan says he's too afraid to go to the police, and is making a complaint to the Law Enforcement Review Agency. But he admits, it may not even have been cops who picked him up.

"It could be someone dressed up as a cop too," Evan says.

Winnipeg Police say they'll be reaching out to Evan to speak about the alleged incident.

All police vehicles have GPS, a technology that can be used to find out where the car has been.

Father of fatal Taser victim speaks out

"Recognizing that the Taser is, in fact, potentially lethal, we are urging Taser International and the police to do the right thing and reclassify the weapon as a weapon of last resort, next to the use of a firearm," he [Marcus Firman] said. "It's a fact now — it's lethal."

December 8, 2010
Barrie Examiner
By Morgan Ian Adams

COLLINGWOOD — The father of a man killed by police earlier this year says conductive energy weapons such as Tasers should be reclassified as lethal weapons.

On Monday, the province's Special Investigations Unit cleared the Collingwood OPP officer who administered the lethal shock to Aron Firman of any criminal wrongdoing. However, SIU director Ian Scott did pinpoint the Taser as the cause of the 27-year-old Collingwood man's death.

"The reality of it is, Aron didn't have to die," said Marcus Firman, who met with SIU officials on Monday to be briefed on Scott's report. "This is a tragedy on so many levels.

"If the officer knew it would be lethal, I would hope (the officer) would have considered other options when dealing with an unarmed man."

On June 24, two officers responded to the group home where Firman lived, to a call of an altercation. When officers arrived, they found Firman sitting on a chair in the backyard of the group home; according to the SIU, the officers attempted to question Firman, who grew increasingly agitated.

According to the SIU, Firman got out of his chair and "moved aggressively" toward the subject officer, a male. The other officer on the call, a female, attempted to intervene, but was struck in the face by Firman's elbow.

Firman advanced on the subject officer, who then discharged his Taser at Firman. He fell to the ground, unconscious, and when paramedics arrived on the scene, vital signs were absent. Firman was later pronounced dead at the General & Marine Hospital.

Marcus Firman says he was informed by the SIU that, based on witness statements, group home staff offered to perform CPR when they realized his son was in medical distress, but were refused by officers at the scene.

A post-mortem report indicated Firman died from "cardiac arrhythmia" precipitated by the Taser.

"The Taser is characterized as a less lethal or intermediate weapon both in the OPP operator recertification material and the use of force model," said Scott in a news release issued Monday afternoon. "However, in this incident, the Taser's deployment in my view caused Mr. Firman's death. Obviously, in this case, there is a dissonance between the post-mortem findings and the aforementioned classification of the Taser."

Scott said the officer could have reasonably thought the Taser would not be lethal based upon his training.

The pathologist report by Dr. Michael Pollanen, Ontario's Chief Forensic Pathologist, also determined Firman has underlying health conditions which "could" have predisposed him to arrhythmia; Marcus Firman says his son had a slightly-enlarged heart, and a "genetic marker" that occurs in roughly 20% of the population.

Firman says based on the report of the pathologist and Scott's comments, Tasers should be reclassified as "potentially lethal weapons.

In Firman's opinion, the officers could have relied on pepper spray, a baton, or hand-to-hand, in order to subdue his son. Aron Firman was diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic, but was not regarded as a violent individual.

Firman also says the officers did not appear to be trained to "de-escalate a situation" involving an individual with a mental illness; he says officers would have been aware they were responding to a group home environment where there were residents with a variety of mental illnesses.

"Recognizing that the Taser is, in fact, potentially lethal, we are urging Taser International and the police to do the right thing and reclassify the weapon as a weapon of last resort, next to the use of a firearm," he said. "It's a fact now — it's lethal."

Firman said he has spoken to the regional coroner's office, and has been informed there will be an inquest into his son's death. Under the Ontario Coroner's Act, an inquest is mandatory if the death occurs while an individual is in custody, or is being detained by a police officer.

Major recommendations from inquiry report into death of Howard Hyde

December 8, 2010
Charlottetown Guardian

HALIFAX - Major recommendations contained in the Nova Scotia fatality inquiry report into the death of Howard Hyde:

Stun guns should not be applied to people in a state of agitation due to an emotional or psychological disturbance except as a last resort once it has been determined that crisis intervention and de-escalation techniques have not worked.

The province's Justice Department should overhaul the manual it uses for stun gun training to significantly reduce, if not eliminate, the reliance on Taser International resource materials.

Crisis intervention training should be provided to all correctional officers at the Central Nova Scotia Correctional Facility.

Video surveillance cameras should be installed in health care segregation cells to ensure that correctional officers are able to more readily identify that a prisoner is in crisis.

Training should improve for front-line police officers, correctional officers and physicians on a variety of fronts, from note-taking to the preparation of health information transfer forms.

The province's justice minister should conduct an annual review on the implementation of these recommendations.

Taser-inquiry judge rejects excited delirium as cause of Nova Scotia man’s death

December 8, 2010
Globe and Mail

A Nova Scotia judge probing the death of a paranoid schizophrenic man who was tasered during violent struggles in custody rejected an official finding of excited delirium, calling the diagnosis “riddled with issues.”

Provincial Court Justice Anne Derrick noted in a massive report into the death of Howard Hyde that excited delirium is not recognized in the psychiatric lexicon and can be a convenient way to explain otherwise mysterious fatalities.

“The use of excited delirium to explain sudden deaths with no anatomic findings implies that the person had something wrong with them that caused their inexplicable death,” she wrote. “Manner of death may then be classified as ‘natural’ rather than ‘accidental.’ I ... do not accept that this would have been appropriate in Mr. Hyde’s case or in similar cases.”

Her finding contradicts that of the province’s chief medical officer, who determined that Mr. Hyde’s death in November of 2007 was due to “excited delirium due to paranoid schizophrenia.”

Judge Derrick concluded that Mr. Hyde’s death was accidental, resulting from the struggles to restrain him.

Mr. Hyde, a 45-year-old musician who was off his medication, was arrested for allegedly assaulting his wife. His booking spiralled out of control and he was tasered repeatedly and physically restrained as he tried to flee police headquarters.

He was revived by police and kept until morning in hospital, where he was given anti-psychotic medication. A psychiatric assessment was recommended but police said he had to be brought before a judge. The day after his arrest Mr. Hyde was transferred to a local jail. The assessment had not been done and he had no medication.

Mr. Hyde collapsed and died the next day after struggles with guards at the jail.

Judge Derrick concluded that both police and jail guards used reasonable and proportionate force. She found that the taser did not cause the Dartmouth man’s death and ruled out a ban on the weapons. But she determined that its deployment in this case, although within existing police guidelines, was “ill-advised.”

“In Mr. Hyde’s case it subjected an acutely anxious man to excruciating pain,” she wrote. “I have found on the evidence that the use of the [conducted-energy weapon] on Mr. Hyde worsened the situation.”

She concluded that Mr. Hyde did not assault any of the police officers and that physical contact he made with them was related to his “terrified attempts to get away .. or ward off the CEW.”

Judge Derrick recommended that police use these weapons on agitated people only as a last resort and that the Department of Justice should “reduce if not eliminate” reliance on resource materials from Taser International.

Lawyers and family members involved with the inquiry received their copies of the report at the same time as it was made public Wednesday and are not expected to comment until later in the day.

Judge Derrick began the fatality inquiry 11 months ago; it is the longest in the province’s history.

Surveillance video viewed during the inquiry showed part of the lead-up to the fracas at police headquarters. Other parts happened off camera but were audible.

The audio recording from the surveillance video indicated that tension escalated quickly in the fingerprint room, an area just off the booking room. Police testified that Mr. Hyde looked “scared” and tried to back away as police went to cut the knotted drawstring on his shorts.

Audio from the surveillance recording includes a passage that sounds like “we're just going to cut one of those balls off.” This, police said, was a reference to the drawstring.

Judge Derrick called the choice of words “unfortunate” but added that the officer couldn’t have known the effect they would have on Mr. Hyde.

Voices were raised and then someone – the three officers present testified under oath that it was not them – is heard making an expletive-laden statement resembling “you're going to be doing the dance next.”

Judge Derrick accepted that the officers had not said this. She wrote that the words had likely come from Mr. Hyde, “reflecting his perception” that police were going to harm him.

Seconds later, Mr. Hyde apparently tried to make a run for it. He was tackled behind the booking counter of police headquarters and tasered. He broke free, leapt over the counter and was tasered again in a nearby hallway. He stopped breathing there and had to be revived.

From there, Mr. Hyde was brought to hospital and then jail. He was convinced there were “demons” in the jail and struggled with guards. He collapsed and died in jail, 30 hours after his arrest.

“Mr. Hyde died because of physiological changes in his body brought on by an intense struggle involving restraint,” Judge Derrick concluded. “The manner of Mr. Hyde’s death was accidental.”

Hyde report to be released today

December 8, 2010
Michael MacDonald, The Canadian Press

Three years after Howard Hyde died in a Halifax-area jail cell, a provincial court judge will release an inquiry report today that is expected to recommend far-reaching changes to the way police, corrections and health authorities deal with the mentally ill.

The 11-month probe, led by Judge Anne Derrick, was the longest fatality inquiry in Nova Scotia’s history.

"I’m looking forward to her recommendations," said Dan MacRury, the inquiry’s lead council. "I’m very hopeful they will be a catalyst for positive change in the system . . . There is change coming."

During the hearings, which wrapped up last June, Derrick learned Hyde was a 45-year-old musician from Dartmouth who had long taken medications to cope with schizophrenia.

But on the night of Nov. 21, 2007, something went terribly wrong.

Hyde’s common-law wife, Karen Ellet, called a crisis hotline to complain he had assaulted her while in a psychotic state.

Police were dispatched and Hyde was arrested, but not before Ellet told them her husband had not been taking his medication and required psychiatric help.

Despite her plea, Hyde was never given the help he needed. The inquiry heard from multiple witnesses who testified that a psychiatric assessment would have helped the man, but a series of snafus, misunderstandings and overlapping jurisdictions got in the way.

In his final submission to the inquiry, MacRury said: "The system has to ensure that if someone like Mr. Hyde comes into contact with the justice system and the health system in need of psychiatric care, they receive it in a timely manner."

Police officers testified they had to bring Hyde before a judge because he was facing allegations of domestic abuse. But the booking process quickly spiralled out of control inside the Halifax police station.

A surveillance camera captured the moment when an officer told Hyde a utility knife would be used to remove a knot from the drawstring in Hyde’s shorts, saying: "I just have to cut off one of those balls there."

At that point, Hyde sprinted toward the booking counter, where he was tackled and Tasered.

The officers involved in the scuffle testified that Hyde displayed incredible strength as he fought them off, eventually vaulting over the counter and running toward a hallway, where he was again Tasered as officers struggle to control him.

Police testified that Hyde went limp and his heart had stopped after the Tasering. But paramedics revived the man and took him to hospital, where he received anti-psychotic medication and a recommendation for a psychiatric assessment.

But there was confusion over who would handle the assessment, given that police were saying Hyde had to be brought before a judge.

Hyde was released from hospital in the morning with a doctor’s note scrawled on a health information transfer form, saying he should be returned to the emergency department if the court failed to provide him with an assessment.

Again, there was confusion as to how those instructions would be carried out.

Police testified they didn’t have the jurisdiction to detain Hyde, and the sheriff’s deputies at the court said they weren’t allowed to disclose health documents to the Crown and defence lawyers.

In the end, Hyde was transferred from the court to the province’s largest jail — without medications and without an assessment.

The inquiry heard that early on Nov. 22, 2007, Hyde tried to escape from a correctional worker because he believed there were "demons" at the end of a long, windowless hallway. Two struggles ensued. Hyde died in a holding cell amid a tangle of guards.

A medical examiner concluded the cause of death was excited delirium with three contributing factors: the restraint technique used by guards and Hyde’s obesity and heart disease.

Excited delirium is a condition characterized by increased strength, paranoia and suddenly violent behaviour marked by profuse sweating and an elevated heart rate.

Kevin MacDonald, a lawyer representing Hyde’s sister, Joanna, told Derrick that the cause of death was likely a guard’s restraint method, which he said left Hyde on his stomach, struggling to breathe.

MacDonald recommended Derrick call for a ban on the use of Tasers and an overhaul of police restraint techniques.

"We want to hear from the judge as to her views on what happened to Mr. Hyde," MacDonald said. "That is part of her mandate: determining cause of death and the circumstances leading to his death."

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

FRANCE: African immigrant's death by Taser sparks debate

(GIN)—The killing of an African immigrant last week by French police armed with Taser electric stun guns has revived a debate over use of the deadly weapon.

The immigrant, from Mali, whose name has not been released, died after Parisian police shot him twice with a Taser, tear-gassed and struck him with a night stick. Police said the 38-year-old man had attacked officers with a hammer after being asked for identity papers.

French prosecutors have ordered an inquiry to determine the exact cause of death.

The use of the Taser which fires darts carrying a 50,000 volt shock, has caused controversy around the world. A five-year study in Australia published in October found that police there had used Taser guns against people with mental illness in a disproportionately high number of cases.

In June, a Canadian inquiry ruled that officers were not justified in using a Taser gun five times on a Polish immigrant at Vancouver airport in 2007.

“A Taser has never killed anyone,” the director of the Taser’s French subsidiary, Antoine di Zazzo, told the news agency AFP.

Opposition to Tasers is mounting, lead by the French group RAIDH (Intervention Network for Human Rights) and in the U.N. where the Committee against Torture has expressed concern that “the use of these weapons can cause acute pain, constituting a form of torture, and in some cases it can even cause death.”

Amnesty International has also documented more than 351 individual deaths by police Tasering in the U.S. alone since June 2001. Most of the victims were not carrying a weapon.

Taser caused schizophrenic’s death, investigation concludes

December 7, 2010
Curtis Rush, Toronto Star

For the first time in this country, public officials have drawn a clear link between a police officer’s use of the Taser and the death of its target, according to a Toronto lawyer.

Julian Falconer was responding to the release of the findings by the Special Investigations Unit into the death of a mentally ill man this past June.

Ian Scott, director of the SIU, reported that “in this incident, the Taser’s deployment in my view caused [Aron] Firman’s death.”

Firman, a 27-year-old schizophrenic who was living in a home for mentally ill patients, was Tasered on June 24 in Collingwood after Ontario Provincial Police officers responded to an assault complaint.

The SIU report and the coroner’s findings, Falconer says, prove that the Taser should be reclassified as a lethal weapon.

The SIU did not find the OPP officer at fault, declaring that police had the legal authority to arrest Firman. And even though he believes the Taser caused Firman’s death, Scott wrote that this use of force was not excessive.

Scott’s report follows a medical examiner’s findings indicating that Firman died from “cardiac arrhythmia precipitated by electronic control device deployment in an agitated man.”

In the SIU report, Scott admitted that his findings and those of the medical examiner contradict the classification of the Taser as a “less lethal or intermediate weapon” in the OPP’s arsenal.

“Aron Firman did not have to die,” Falconer said. “This is the first case in this country in which public officials have taken the lead and declared conclusively the connection between Taser and death.”

Falconer is calling on Taser International to properly reclassify Tasers as lethal weapons and urged police officers to acknowledge that there is a risk of death in using the Taser.

“The fact that this is classified as a non-lethal weapon is fiction,” the lawyer said. “This is an important opportunity for Taser International to come forward and tell the truth about the Taser and tell the truth about its risks of fatality and to work with police to get this weapon classified accurately.”

Falconer said also that the OPP officers who responded to the victim’s residence did not have the proper level of sophistication to deal with somebody dealing with a medical crisis.

“Please keep in mind that was an unarmed man,” Falconer told the Star.

He said the victim’s family is committed to seeing a province-wide implementation of the kinds of mobile crisis teams available in Toronto.

In the SIU report, Scott calls attention to the possible training lapses of the OPP in this case. “The subject officer could have reasonably thought that the Taser deployment would not be lethal based upon his training,” the SIU director wrote.

This SIU report proves that “pepper spray clearly could have been used” in this case, Falconer said. The Taser, he said, should be used as a last resort short of a gun. “It’s seen in more innocent terms,” the lawyer said.

The independent agency determined the victim had underlying health conditions that could have contributed to his death. However, Falconer says that coroner’s refers to an excessive level of calcium going to the heart and that’s a genetic marker affecting about 20 per cent of the population.

Two OPP officers were dispatched to a Blue Mountain residence in Collingwood on June 24 following an assault complaint.

Firman was found sitting in a chair outside one of the buildings, but when police moved in to arrest him, he became agitated. He then got up and “moved aggressively” towards one of the officers, according to the SIU. One officer tried to intervene and Firman struck her in the face with an elbow, Scott wrote on his report. Firman continued to advance upon the subject officer and the officer discharged his Taser. Firman “took a few additional steps” before falling to the ground and lapsing into unconsciousness.

Emergency services responded and Firman was taken to hospital where he was pronounced dead.

Falconer said he will represent the family at an inquest. No decision has been made yet to pursue a civil lawsuit, Falconer said.

The SIU is an independent agency that investigates reports that involve police where there has been death, serious injury or allegations of sexual assault.

Meanwhile, the OPP says it has no plans to halt use of the Taser.

'Shotgun marriage' claim over new Taser firm

December 7, 2010
The Independent

Staff from the Taser firm stripped of its licence after its weapons were used in the stand-off with gunman Raoul Moat will be working for the new company set up as its sole replacement in the UK, Home Office officials said today.

Pro-Tect Systems will be replaced by start-up firm Tactical Safety Responses (TSR), which is based in the same area and will use some of the same staff as its Northampton-based predecessor.

But Graham Widdecombe, of the Home Office, denied MPs' suggestions it was a "shotgun marriage" to get a firm in place very quickly in an effort to avoid a shortage of Taser weapons and cartridges.

Earlier, Pro-Tect managing director Kevin Coles told the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee that his firm broke its licence when its late director of operations Peter Boatman, a former police officer, decided to take the X12 Tasers, which were still being tested by Government scientists, directly to police involved in the Moat manhunt.

Mr Widdecombe agreed the Home Office had withdrawn authorisation to Pro-Tect, then granted a new licence to another company based in the same area with some of the same employees of the previous firm that had been struck off.

Asked by committee chairman Keith Vaz if he thought that was acceptable, Mr Widdecombe said: "Well it's something we had to look into very very carefully and it's not something we did lightly."

He went on: "We did seek assurances that the principles of Pro-Tect wouldn't be involved in any way in the setting up of the new company and that there were procedures in place and that the lessons had been learned. We're adding additional conditions to their section five authority to ensure that one person acting alone cannot do something similar." He went on: "This is a newly-formed company. That's something we looked at very carefully to establish whether this was a new company or not, and to get assurances from them that the new arrangements were such as to avoid any similar situation."

Asked by committee member Steve McCabe why a completely different company was not chosen for a fresh start and a clean slate to avoid the impression "that everything was a bit cosy and collusive", Mr Widdecombe said no other UK firm had a business relationship with suppliers Taser International.

Mr McCabe added that with Taser International and now TSR both being monopoly
suppliers, "the one protection in the system is that you license it so that it's above board and we have some safeguards. And the only decision you can come to after what's happened is to go back to what sounds like a version of the original company and start again."

Mr Widdecombe replied: "We do understand the concerns of the committee.

"Discussions were held with Taser International and it was suggested they might want to look in the longer-term more widely."

SIU concludes investigation into taser death

MISSISSAUGA, ONTARIO -- (Marketwire) -- 12/06/10 -- The Director of the Special Investigations Unit (SIU), Ian Scott, has concluded that there are no reasonable grounds to charge an officer of the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) - Collingwood Detachment, with a criminal offence in regards to the death of a Collingwood man in late June of this year.

The SIU assigned four investigators and two forensic investigators to probe the circumstances of this incident. The SIU designated four officers as witness officers and one officer as a subject officer. Twenty-three civilian witnesses were interviewed.

The SIU investigation determined that on June 24, two OPP officers were dispatched to the Blue Mountain Residence in Collingwood in regards to an assault complaint. The subject of the complaint, 27-year-old Aron Firman, was found sitting in a chair outside one of the buildings. Both officers attempted to speak to an agitated Mr. Firman, with varying success. When both officers moved in to apprehend Mr. Firman, he got up from the chair and moved aggressively towards the subject officer. The witness officer tried to intervene and get control of Mr. Firman, but was unable to do so as Mr. Firman struck her in the face with his elbow. Mr. Firman continued to advance upon the subject officer, who responded by discharging his Taser at Mr. Firman. Mr. Firman was able to take a few additional steps before falling to the ground and lapsing into unconsciousness. EMS was contacted and responded. Mr. Firman was taken to the Collingwood General and Marine Hospital where he was pronounced dead.

A post-mortem examination was conducted on Mr. Firman on June 26, 2010 by Doctor Michael Pollanen, Ontario's Chief Forensic Pathologist. The post-mortem report indicates that Mr. Firman died from "cardiac arrhythmia precipitated by electronic control device deployment in an agitated man." The report further notes that Mr. Firman had a couple of underlying health conditions that "could" have predisposed him to arrhythmia in these circumstances. Of course, the legal determination of cause of death will be decided by an inquest jury, if an inquest is called.

Director Scott said, "There are no reasonable grounds to believe that the subject officer committed a criminal offence in relation to the death of Mr. Aron Firman. In my view, both officers had the lawful authority to apprehend Mr. Firman under s. 17 of the Mental Health Act. They also had the authority to arrest him for assault. When they approached him, he was significantly resistant and struck the witness officer above the eye with his elbow. The subject officer deployed his Taser, and for the purpose of my analysis, I am accepting that this deployment caused Mr. Firman's death."

Director Scott added, "The Taser is characterized as a less lethal or intermediate weapon both in the OPP operator recertification material and the use of force model. However, in this incident, the Taser's deployment in my view caused Mr. Firman's death. Obviously, in this case, there is a dissonance between the post-mortem findings and the aforementioned classification of the Taser. However, the subject officer could have reasonably thought that the Taser deployment would not be lethal based upon his training. In these circumstances, and in light of Mr. Firman's demonstrated degree of aggression, I am of the opinion that the Taser's deployment was not excessive, notwithstanding the fact that it caused Mr. Firman's demise."

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.

SIU Communications/Service des communications, UES
Frank Phillips
416-622-2342 or/ou 1-800-787-8529

Ontario police watchdog blames Taser in man’s death

December 7, 2010
Patrick White, The Globe and Mail

The investigator’s opinion is unambiguous and unprecedented: Stun guns can kill.

In what could be the strongest official condemnation of taser use ever issued in Canada, an investigation into the demise of 27-year-old Aron Firman has presented a clear connection between stun-gun use and the young man’s death.

Mr. Firman died on June 24.

Ontario Provincial Police had been dispatched to Blue Mountain Residence, a Collingwood group home, on a complaint that Mr. Firman had assaulted another resident.

When two officers arrived, Mr. Firman was seated in a chair. He calmly answered their queries until they told him he might have to go to jail. He rose and elbowed one officer in the head before aggressively approaching the second.

The second constable shot a taser at Mr. Firman, who fell to the ground unconscious. An ambulance crew rushed him to Collingwood General and Marine Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

To investigate the death, the SIU brought in Michael Pollanen, Ontario’s chief forensic pathologist and a key player in cases involving the likes of Stephen Truscott and disgraced pathologist Charles Smith. He offered a clear cause of death for Mr. Firman: “cardiac arrhythmia precipitated by electronic control device deployment in an agitated man.”

Based on Dr. Pollanen’s postmortem and 28 interviews, Mr. Scott cleared the officers but blamed the weapon.

Most police agencies in Canada classify tasers as an intermediate “less-than-lethal” weapon. The SIU investigation offers a direct challenge to that designation.

“The last few months have been excruciating,” said Mr. Firman’s father, Marcus. “It is now compounded by the knowledge that it didn’t have to happen.… If I get nothing else out of it, it’s that protocols must be changed. Another life is too many.”

An inquest is expected to be announced in the case.

Previous inquests, including the Braidwood inquiry into the death of Robert Dziekanski, have only suggested a possible link between deaths and tasers.

A company spokesman said the SIU had not consulted Taser International in the investigation.

“TASER stands behind the safety of its products but we do not comment on an unfortunate death without having been provided any factual documentation by the SIU or had the opportunity to review the autopsy report,” Steve Tuttle said in an e-mail. “We continue to stand by the independent peer reviewed medical studies that have shown that the TASER electronic control devices are generally safe and effective.”

Taser killed Ontario man: SIU

December 7, 2010
CBC News

A stun gun killed an Ontario man with schizophrenia last June, but no criminal charges will be laid against the officer who used the weapon, Ontario's Special Investigations Unit has concluded.

On June 24, two Ontario Provincial Police officers were dispatched to a group home in Collingwood, Ont., where they tried to arrest to Aron Firman, who they say turned combative, elbowed one officer in the face and was then hit with the electric shot by the other officer.

"The Taser is characterized as a less lethal or intermediate weapon both in the OPP operator recertification material and the use of force model," SIU director Ian Scott said in a release. "However, in this incident, the Taser's deployment in my view caused Mr. Firman's death."

Scott concluded that the officers had the authority to arrest Firman for assault and that there were "no reasonable grounds" to charge the officer who used the Taser on the 27-year-old with a criminal offence.

The "officer could have reasonably thought that the Taser deployment would not be lethal based upon his training," he said. "In these circumstances, and in light of Mr. Firman's demonstrated degree of aggression, I am of the opinion that the Taser's deployment was not excessive, notwithstanding the fact that it caused Mr. Firman's demise."

Firman's father, Marcus Firman, said the officers made things worse that night. His son struggled with life, taking pills to control voices in his head, smoking marijuana and having brushes with the law.

"Aron was obviously going through some sort of crisis, but at the time they entered there he was actually sitting down and they were able to ask him some questions," he said. "But they actually escalated it by threatening him with jail — actually telling him he was going to go to jail. He reacted to that … and he was Tasered … which killed him."

A post-mortem report by Ontario's chief forensic pathologist on June 26 indicated Firman died from "cardiac arrhythmia precipitated by electronic control device deployment in an agitated man."

Firman's is only the second case in Canada where a medical examiner has blamed a Taser for sparking heart failure.

Following the SIU's report, Ontario Provincial Police Insp. Dave Ross said his force has no plans to stop using Tasers.

"Not at this particular time, but again there is likely to be an inquest," Ross said. "We'll participate fully with the inquest and look forward to any recommendations they may have."

A mandatory coroner's inquest will be held in Firman's case, according to a spokesman at the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services.

"We will await the results and recommendations of the inquest," Stuart McGetrick said in an email.

"In the meantime, the ministry has in place a use-of-force guideline that sets out the procedures to be followed when a Conducted Energy Weapon is used, including circumstances for use, limitations, medical considerations, reporting and accountability, and equipment control," he said. "That guideline remains in effect."

The SIU is an independent civilian agency that investigates cases of serious injury, sexual assault or death involving police.

Judge orders man's body exhumed

December 7, 2010
Jimmie E. Gates, Clarion Ledger

The body of a 21-year-old Jackson man who died in 2007 after a police officer jolted him with a Taser will be exhumed for a new autopsy, a Hinds County judge ordered.

Patricia Forbes, the mother of Rafael Forbes, filed a lawsuit in 2009 against the city of Jackson, Taser International Inc. and others related to her son's death.
The lawsuit is scheduled for trial in January in U.S. District Court in Jackson.
The body will be exhumed for a new autopsy after a medical expert for the family questioned findings in the 2007 autopsy done by Dr. Steven Hayne for the Hinds County coroner's office.

It's uncertain when the body will be exhumed.

Last Thursday, Circuit Judge Malcolm Harrison signed an order allowing exhumation.
The city of Jackson's defense is the Taser didn't cause Forbes' death, based on the autopsy conducted by Hayne.

The motion to exhume the body says Hayne ruled Rafael Forbes' death was a result of hypertensive heart disease, morbid obesity and hyperthermia.

But Dr. Nathaniel Brown of Cleveland, the medical expert hired by Patricia Forbes, said it is impossible to fully analyze the cause of death using Hayne's autopsy report, according to court papers.

In addition to 30 years of medical experience, Brown also is the coroner for Bolivar County.

According to the court document, Brown said Hayne's analysis was general. For instance, he said in the category of pathologic diagnoses: Hayne notes 'post Taser activation x2 on the right chest,' but rendered no further analysis of the taser's effect in the internal report.

The Forbes' family's "expert advised the plaintiff that the bulk of the autopsy report is unreliable," according to the motion granted by Harrison. "And he opined further that the autopsy report is inconsistent with the decedent's previous medical records and the testimony provided by witnesses at the scene."

David Goff, an attorney for Taser International Inc., questioned Brown's expertise.

"Dr. Brown indicates no education, training, experience or skill in forensic pathology or examining exhumed bodies," Goff says in court papers.

Patricia Forbes is seeking an unspecified amount in damages.

The city of Jackson argues the lawsuit should be dismissed on several grounds, including immunity and that it does not condone the use of excessive force by officers.

Police reports said Forbes was arrested following a foot chase near Claiborne Street.
After Forbes resisted arrest the Taser was used on him, according to police accounts.
Forbes began showing signs of shortness of breath and was taken to Central Mississippi Medical Center, where he died.

Toxicology reports showed Forbes had no drugs in his system at death, Hinds County Coroner Sharon Grisham-Stewart said in 2007.

The initial chase began when police tried to stop a 1994 Mercury Marquis that was driving erratically, police said. The driver attempted to elude police before finally pulling over and bailing out of the car, along with Rafael Forbes and another passenger.

Timothy Lewis of Jackson, who was suspected of driving the vehicle, was arrested at the scene and also stunned with a Taser, police said.

During a search of the vehicle, police said they discovered a pound of marijuana, a scale and about $1,000.

Lewis was indicted on charges of felony possession of marijuana and felony fleeing from law enforcement. He pleaded guilty this year to felony fleeing and was given a three-year suspended sentence and fined $2,000.

The Jackson Police Department has used Tasers since 2006.

According to Amnesty International, more than 350 people have died after being stunned with a Taser since June 2001, including at least five in Mississippi.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Ontario cop cleared in Taser death

December 6, 2010
Toronto Sun, QMI Agency

COLLINGWOOD, Ont. – There will be no criminal charges for a southern Ontario cop who killed a man with a Taser this summer, Ontario's police watchdog has ruled.

Ian Scott, director of the Special Investigations Unit (SIU), concluded there are no reasonable grounds to charge the Ontario Provincial Police officer with a criminal offence in regards to the death of a Collingwood, Ont., man in late June.

Aron Firman, a schizophrenic who was on medication to control his symptoms, died after a police officer stunned him with a Taser while responding to an altercation between Firman and another resident at a group home in Collingwood.

In his report, Scott attributed Firman’s death to the deployment of the Taser, but said the device is characterized as “less lethal,” which led the officer to reasonably believe it would not cause death.

The SIU assigned four investigators and two forensic investigators to probe Firman's death and interviewed 23 civilian witnesses. The SIU investigates whenever a police officer harms or kills a civilian.

“In these circumstances, and in light of Mr. Firman’s demonstrated degree of aggression, I am of the opinion that the Taser’s deployment was not excessive, notwithstanding the fact that it caused Mr. Firman’s demise,” said Scott.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

North Carolina man dies after he is tasered

December 2, 2010: Clayton Early James, age unknown, Elizabeth City, North Carolina

Friday, December 03, 2010

Taser attack immigrant may have died asphyxiated

December 3, 2010

A Malian immigrant who died after French police used a Taser on him probably succumbed to asphyxiation, according to a preliminary report of an autopsy carried out this week. But his heart may have been affected by the use of the stun gun
The man’s death on Monday night caused renewed calls for a ban on Tasers by far-left politician Olvier Besancenot, who has campaigned on the issue for some time. The left-wing Front de Gauche and human rights groups, Raid-H and Mrap, echoed his demand.

Philippe Sarre, the Socialist mayor of Colombes, the suburb of Paris where the incident took place, has also declared that the weapon should be banned “if it turns out to be lethal”.

But the preliminary autopsy report was extremely cautious in its analysis of the cause of death.

There is “no certain, unique and absolute cause of death”, it said. The man “died of acute asphyxiation caused by inhaling gas since blood was found in his lungs”, it reports but adds that his heart was “hard and contracted possibly due to the use of the Taser”.

The police used tear gas and batons when the man, who had no valid residency papers, ran away from them, later attacking four officers with a hammer.

Police watchdog IGS has been ordered to investigate the use of Tasers by French police.

Report in Hyde fatality inquiry expected Wednesday

December 3, 2010
By Greg Bennett, The Coast Guard

A report from the fatality inquiry into the death of the former Shelburne man, who died 30 hours after being tasered by Halifax Regional Police in November 2007, will be released this Wednesday.

Justice Anne Derrick will release the fatality inquiry report into the death of Howard Hyde, which will examine the circumstances under which he died, the cause of death and the manner of death. Justice Derrick may make recommendations about any matters arising from the inquiry.

The inquiry opened on Feb. 18 at Halifax Provincial Court and heard submissions mainly over the summer

Nova Scotia's chief medical examiner, Dr. Matthew Bowes, concluded in 2008 that Hyde died of “excited delirium due to paranoid schizophrenia.”

Coronary artery disease, obesity and restraint during a struggle were also contributing factors, according to the findings released on Sept. 17, 2008.

Dr. Bowes didn’t uncover evidence that the taser, used on Hyde by Halifax Regional Police, caused his death.

Hyde, who was living in Dartmouth at the time of his death, had a history of paranoid schizophrenia.

Excited delirium is a controversial disorder characterized by extreme agitation, violent and bizarre behavior, and insensitivity to pain, elevated body temperature, and superhuman strength.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Police must have reasonable grounds for using Tasers, 9th Circuit rules

December 1, 2010
Carol Williams, Los Angeles Times

A Coronado, Calif., police officer used excessive force when he shot a Taser dart at a young driver who was stopped for a seat belt violation, a federal appeals court ruled Tuesday.

Carl Bryan, then 21, fell to the asphalt after being struck by the dart, breaking four teeth and suffering facial cuts. He later sued the Coronado Police Department and Officer Brian MacPherson.

The excessive-force ruling by the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals could have consequences for police use-of-force policies across the West, legal experts predicted. Two other lawsuits over Taser incidents are still pending before the appeals court, including a case in which a pregnant woman in Seattle was subjected to the device in a routine traffic stop.

Police must have reasonable grounds for using a Taser on a suspect, the appeals panel said, noting that Bryan was wearing only boxer shorts and tennis shoes and was clearly unarmed. Bryan was standing about 20 feet away with his back to MacPherson when he was hit.

"I think police departments will have to tailor their use-of-force policies to the Bryan decision from now on," said Steven E. Boehmer, the El Cajon, Calif., attorney who represented MacPherson.

The appeals panel, while deeming the Taser use excessive and unjustified, said the officer nonetheless deserved immunity from prosecution because the circumstances in which the weapon could be reasonably deployed weren't clearly defined at the time.

Because of the immunity grant, Coronado, in San Diego County, won't appeal the excessive-force ruling, Boehmer said, and would work with police to establish guidelines for use of the weapon.

Bryan, who now lives in Europe, where he assists his tennis-champion cousins Bob and Mike Bryan, still has state court actions in which he hopes to recover damages, said his attorney, Julia Yoo.

Bryan had been stopped at a seat belt enforcement roadblock at the Coronado Bridge after spending hours on the morning of July 24, 2005, driving between Camarillo and Los Angeles to fetch his keys that had been accidentally taken by a cousin's girlfriend. On the drive home from Camarillo to Coronado, Bryan had been cited for speeding and was agitated when he was stopped a second time by MacPherson, according to court records.

Western Australia police shift policy on Taser use

December 1, 2010
Sydney Morning Herald

Western Australia's police commissioner has announced a policy shift on Tasers, saying the stun guns should only be used when officers believe they are at risk of serious injury.

The change follows recent publicity over incidents in which police were deemed to have overstepped the mark in their use of tasers.

Karl O'Callaghan says the WA Police Professional Standards Division will also review police use-of-force incidents captured on CCTV to determine if officers' accounts of incidents match the tapes.

The policy change comes after charges against a Perth family were dropped after CCTV footage undermined the police case against them. The footage shown in the Perth Magistrates Court on Monday showed no evidence Ryan Walker, 24, had punched a plain-clothes officer, as police had alleged. An assault charge against him was dropped as were obstruction charges against his parents, Ken and Raelene Walker, who had questioned officers over their handling of a melee outside a Perth nightclub on January 16. Ms Walker sustained a broken ankle as she was taken from the scene by officers. The family is seeking an apology from police.

WA Police were heavily criticised earlier this year after video footage was released of unarmed man Kevin Spratt being tasered 13 times in East Perth Watch House in 2008 with nine officers present.

Mr O'Callaghan on Wednesday told reporters the new trial policy on Taser use meant officers had to believe they were at risk of serious injury before deploying the weapons.

That could include officers being attacked with a broken glass or some other type of weapon, he said.

"We are moving forward but what we are doing is making sure all of our processes are correct, because questions have been asked and I don't want those questions to continue; I want to answer them."

WA Premier Colin Barnett has apologised to the Walker family but says he retains confidence in the state's police force.

"These police men and women doing the day-to-day frontline work do need strong support and maybe do feel a little bit isolated at the moment, as there have been some situations that have gone wrong," he told reporters on Wednesday.

"Some mistakes have been made ... and maybe it's time to look at whether they do need to have some extra training in dealing with difficult situations they encounter on a daily basis."

Former WA deputy police commissioner Murray Lampard said the tasering of Mr Spratt was indefensible and the obstruction charges laid against the Walker family showed young officers lacked training.

Professor Lampard, who retired from the force in 2008, stressed the need for negotiation and communication skills training for young officers.

He said they needed to be trained in the importance of "verbal judo", conflict resolution and negotiation.

"When you're dealing with people, the community has an expectation that the police will act responsibly and will act appropriately and basically keep their oath of office to preserve life," Prof Lampard told ABC Radio.

"I think police need to, in certain circumstances, explore a number of options, to negotiate with people before deploying a weapon like a Taser."