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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Judge sides with Taser in patent lawsuit

Bloomberg Business Week


A federal judge in Arizona has ruled in favor of Taser International Inc. in a patent lawsuit that pit the maker of electric-shock devices against a rival company.

U.S. District Court Judge Mary H. Murguia entered a final judgment Monday against Stinger Systems Inc., concluding the company violated Taser's patent on the dual-mode, "shaped pulse" technology in its electronic control device products.

The court found that Stinger's flyback quantum technology in its Stinger S-200 electronic control device infringes on Taser's patent.

The judge ordered Stinger not to make, sell or import the S-200 in the U.S. until Feb. 11, 2023, when the Taser patent expires.

Stinger has already stopped selling the S-200 ECD. The company is in the process of being liquidated.

Taser shares added a penny to $3.65 in afternoon trading, and Stinger fell by the same amount, to 5 cents.

Washington man dies after he is tasered

August 31, 2010: Unidentified male, age unknown, Spanaway, Washington

Sunday, August 29, 2010

EDITORIAL: Tybee Police Chief: Domino effect - Taser incident has far-reaching impact

PART OF the burden of leading a city department - especially a police department - is taking responsibility when things go wrong.

Thus, after three decades of service Tybee Island, Tybee Police Chief Jimmy Price will end his tenure at the seaside community on a down note. He has struck a deal with the city council by which he will come back to work for a week, so that he can retire while not under suspension.

These decisions are in the best interest of the public.

Chief Price's pending resignation comes in the wake of an incident in which two of his officers used a Taser on an 18-year-old autistic man. The police officers apparently took Clifford Grevemberg's trouble communicating and emotional response to being handled - hallmarks of autism - as evidence of disorderly conduct, a charge for which the teenager was later cleared.

Mr. Grevemberg, who had been simply sitting on a curb after the Tybee Beach Bum Parade outside a south end night spot, suffered a broken tooth and scrapes to his face and knees.

Following an inquiry by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation the two officers, Travis Daniel, 25, and Timothy Sullivan, 36, now face felony charges. But not for the Tasering itself. Instead, they were faulted for allegedly falsifying their account of the event on the official police report.

The soon-to-be former police chief is merely the latest domino to fall in this avoidable, embarrassing incident.

Both Messrs. Daniel and Sullivan were suspended and resigned June 9. Police Cpl. Javier Valdes, the supervising officer in the case, has resigned, as has Adam Thran, whose presence at the time of the Tasering, Mr. Sullivan allegedly concealed. Mr. Thran was a noncertified (and therefore not empowered to make arrests) employee at the city jail.

That means the city of Tybee Island is now out a police chief, a supervising corporal, two officers and a jailer, all because the officers apparently could not recognize autism and were overzealous with the use of a new Taser.

To be sure, the job of policing Tybee Island can be difficult: The city swings from sleepy-town off-season, to a summer of packed bars and beaches. But sworn officers are granted power and weapons in order to keep the peace. It is incumbent on police supervisors to instill the right training and proper mindset among street cops before they enter sometimes boisterous, sometimes belligerent crowds.

Aside from the personnel issues, a civil suit brought by Mr. Grevemberg is pending against the city.

That means Tybee must now foot the bill for searching out and training the new police officers and jail employees, on top of any damages the court might award the citizen victim.

The Tybee Police Department's lapse - Chief Price's lapse - could end up costing the city a pile of clams.

It's a warning Tybee's next police chief should take to heart.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Nevada man dies after he is tasered

August 25, 2010: Eduardo Lopez-Hernandez, 21

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Michigan man dies after he is tasered

August 23, 2010 - Michael Ford, 50, Livonia, Michigan

Monday, August 23, 2010

Warren reaches settlement with taser victim Heidi Gill

August 23, 2010

The city of Warren has reached a settlement in a civil case from the woman who was repeatedly shocked with a taser gun outside a bar in 2007.

Officer Richard Kovach made national headlines after his tasering of Heidi Gill was all caught on dashcam video. Now nearly three years later, the city hopes to put the whole incident behind them.

Warren's law department and the city's insurance carrier formed the agreement with Gill's two attorneys for the sum of 300 thousand dollars. The city will have to pay their insurance deductible of 250 thousand dollars.

Warren Mayor Michael O'Briend said "These decisions are made by the law department on what the best position would be for the city both financially and liably."

In other words, it may be cheaper to settle on a smaller sum than risk a long legal battle in court that racks up legal fees plus, there's the chance the city could ultimately lose.

The 250 thousand dollar deductible will have to come out of the ci ty's general fund and Councilman Al Novak says the money is just not there there. Novak said "We don't even have money to cut grass. He said that this negligence costs taxpayers a phenomenal amount of money.

Novak says the city can't afford any form of negligence from any of it's employees because it's ultimately up to the taxpayers to foot the bill.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Use of Tasers undermines trust in police

August 22, 2010
BY KEN GREEN, Columbia Daily Tribune

It was disappointing but not surprising that the Columbia City Council rejected the Taser-Free initiative as an ordinance and left the matter to voters in the Nov. 2 election.

By law, citizens have the final say on what weapons police use. Columbia Police Chief Ken Burton correctly said in a Tribune article: “I understand where we get our authority to use force, and that is from the citizens.”

We appreciate the work of our police force, and we thank the officers for their service. The Taser-Free Columbia campaign hopes to restore to our officers the citizens’ trust, which has been compromised by police use of the Taser. And we do respect, as the mayor said, “the officer’s right and the family’s right for the officer to come home safely.”

Other residents of Columbia, however, also deserve to come home safely. After being shot with a Taser for 31 seconds, a 23-year-old Moberly man died in front of his family. How many Taser-injured people make it home, forever changed, to a family forever changed? The excessive force of excruciating pain caused by the Taser affects people and their friends and families, causing outrage, fear, hatred and lack of cooperation — attitudes toward our police that are spreading throughout our community.

What really brings day-by-day safety to our police is the confidence and support of the community and its families toward officers they feel can be trusted to be fair, to use only reasonable force and, only if necessary, to have the good of our community and its residents at heart. Taser use degrades community confidence and trust in police.

Unfortunately, before voting, council members did not address the issues of Taser unreliability and liability.

As we have learned more about Tasers and other conducted electrical devices, the question is: How will any amount of additional training, or better rules and strict adherence to those rules, or more transparency, adequately control the Taser when the weapon itself so easily lends itself to abusive use, has poor quality control, lacks standards, is unreliable and is therefore unsafe? A friend and former policeman who trains officers in weapon use shared with me: “Tasers tempt and enable many officers to discard their broader force-continuum responsibilities instead of using conflict resolution and other less dangerous conventional forms of defusing a situation.”

Tasers are not firearms. There are no mandated state or federal requirements for training or use of these weapons, so every community is on its own in deciding whether or how to allow conducted electrical devices. At the grass roots, people are discovering their flaws and dangers.

Last year, the Memphis, Tenn., city council banned Taser use. This year, San Francisco’s police commission voted “no” to Taser use by officers after hearing several researchers and advocates warn against their lethal and legal risks. And recently the Las Vegas, N.M., police chief decided to put away Tasers after seeing police departments across the country face lawsuits over their use. “Hearing all of the litigation behind it, we just decided to not go with it,” he said.

Litigation is happening here in Columbia and Mid-Missouri as well. Our city has already settled a Taser case for $300,000. And two other potentially million-dollar Columbia Taser cases — Derrick v. Giger & Logan and Marine v. Laforest — are in process. The civil court awarded $2.4 million to the Harlan family in Moberly, where the medical examiner ruled the death of Stanley Harlan a homicide. Potential ripe grounds for additional Columbia lawsuits involve people who were tased and, subsequently, were not charged with crimes.

A federal court recently ruled, in Bryan v. McPherson, that the excruciating pain caused by the Taser in itself constitutes excessive force. The court is reviewing whether an officer’s “qualified immunity” in Taser lawsuits should be eliminated.

We must realize every time the Taser is drawn, litigation against Columbia and even against individual officers and individual members of the city council is possible. The Taser-Free campaign is not about neutering officers’ use of an effective force continuum. It’s about helping the police return to a safer force continuum and giving them back the respect of the community.

When officers pull a Taser, they are to warn: “Taser! Taser! Taser!” Should not the Taser warning we hear be, “Lawsuit! Lawsuit! Lawsuit!”?

Columbia’s annual autumn growth spurt brings thousands of new U.S. and foreign students, as well as new employees who will call this city home. We don’t want these populations to begin avoiding Columbia because of highly publicized police use of excessive force and litigation. It is in the urgent interest of newcomers and of everyone to join the groundswell of consciousness about Columbia police use of force and the relationship between police and the public, including the many dangers of Taser use.

Written in 1829, Sir Robert Peel’s brilliant “Nine Principles of Policing” still provides a moral compass for the ethical relationship between police and the public. Peel stresses that citizens should be responsible for eliminating situations that foment crime and that the police, as citizens, focus on the safety of the whole community. His seventh principle says, in part: “Police, at all times, should maintain a relationship with the public that gives reality to the historic tradition that the police are the public and the public are the police.”

We the People for Taser-Free Columbia ask Columbia voters to examine this issue and vote “yes” on the CED/Taser-Free ordinance on Nov. 2.

Ken Green is a member of People for Taser-Free Columbia.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Michigan man dies after he is tasered

Stanley Jackson, 31, Superior Township, Michigan

California man dies after he is tasered

Died on July 5, 2010: Edmund Gutierrez, 22, Imperial, California

Florida man dies after he is tasered

August 19, 2010: Adam Disalvo, 30, Daytona Beach, Florida

Friday, August 20, 2010

Researchers develop new system for testing Tasers

August 20, 2010
Montreal Gazette

OTTAWA — A team of researchers led by a Carleton University professor has developed a new system for consistently testing the thousands of Tasers used by Canadian police.

Andy Adler, a Canada Research Chair in biomedical engineering, working with five other academic and industry experts has established a method for agencies across the country to test Tasers and other "conducted-energy weapons" and determine whether the devices are operating within their manufacturers' specifications.

The procedure will also define data collection requirements so that information from the testing of any CEW in Canada can be used for forensic analysis of that particular weapon and be added to a central database for future research.

In a 2009 report, commissioner Thomas Braidwood concluded that "conducted-energy weapons do have the capacity to cause serious injury or death" — but the manufacturers say there's no danger if the devices are used as specified.

"Clearly, the government wants to do testing, but we felt if, as experts, we provide a detailed recommendation of how testing should be done, that would help everybody," Adler said.

He added the authors represent the labs that have done almost all the Taser testing in Canada. About 6,000 of the estimated 15,000 Tasers in use in Canada have been tested.

Adler said the testing procedure the authors are recommending goes beyond the guidelines proposed by manufacturer Taser International.

"Taser has their guidelines, but they needed to be augmented," Adler said. "We made a much, much more specific protocol."

For example, instead of just reporting the average values of electrical impulses from the weapons — as the company does — the report says all electrical pulses should be analyzed and the maximum and minimum values should be reported, in case they're dramatically different from the average.

A maximum-charge limit is also being proposed based on electrical safety specifications.

Currently, Taser calls for an average charge of 125 microcoulombs, a measurement derived by combining the intensity of a charge and the time it lasts. The new protocol calls for a maximum charge of 182 microcoulombs.

Adler said a consistent testing protocol is something federal and provincial officials, as well as the Braidwood Commission — which investigated the death of Robert Dziekanski at the Vancouver International Airport — have called for.

With the protocol now in print, he's hoping officials adopt the recommended measures.

"We did the work because we hope it will be taken up," he said.

Taser tests find variation in weapon force

August 20, 2010
CBC News

Researchers led by a Carleton University professor have found the charges delivered by some Tasers and other conducted-electricity weapons can vary from the manufacturer's specifications, delivering either too much or not enough charge.

Andy Adler, the Canada Research Chair in biomedical engineering at Carleton, said three to 10 per cent of the 6,000 Tasers and other stun guns tested were found to be delivering charges that were outside specified thresholds, or tolerances.

Weapons that deliver a more powerful shock than they are rated for could put the target at greater risk, said Adler. And weapons that deliver too little charge can also pose dangers too, he said.

"The weapon that is below tolerance would have less effect on the subject," said Adler. "That would worry a police officer because they are looking for a particular effect. They are relying on their equipment to do something and if the equipment doesn't do it, it puts everyone involved in a dangerous scenario."

As a result of the preliminary findings, Adler and four industry researchers are recommending a new testing procedure that goes beyond the guidelines specified by the manufacturer — one that tests the minimum and maximum charges reported, and not just the average. The recommendation also proposes a maximum charge limit for the weapons.

Welcomed by police
Adler said he hopes the report will help inform police in Canada on whether the age of the weapon has an impact on its performance over time. He said police welcome the research.

"Police are fascinated by the research we're doing. They very much want to know that they're functioning correctly, that they're within specifications, that they can be relied on," he said.

The recommendations are limited to testing the weapons and do not address questions of when and where the weapons should be used.

Last year, former B.C. Appeal Court justice Thomas Braidwood issued a report on the use of Tasers after the death of Robert Dziekanski at the Vancouver airport. Braidwood found that stun guns can be deadly and said police should have stricter limits on when the weapons should be used.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Trial postponed in Taser death case

August 19, 2010
Associated Press

WINNFIELD, La. (AP) - A trial for a former Louisiana police officer accused of repeatedly jolting a handcuffed man with a stun gun before he died has been postponed until October. Former Winnfield police officer Scott Nugent's trial on manslaughter and malfeasance charges was scheduled to start Aug. 30, but state Judge John Joyce agreed to postpone it until Oct. 11. In January 2008, Nugent allegedly shocked 21-year-old Baron Pikes nine times with a 50,000-volt Taser while arresting him. Pikes' death was ruled a homicide.

#500 - California man dies

August 18, 2010
The Associated Press

DUBLIN, Calif.—A 50-year-old Oakland man being held in Santa Rita Jail has died after being shocked twice by a Taser during a fight with deputies. Sheriff's spokesman Sgt. J.D. Nelson says Martin Harrison died in a hospital about 5 a.m. Wednesday. Harrison had been hospitalized since Monday night after the fight in the jail's minimum security area. Nelson says Harrison was shocked by a Taser by one deputy, then shocked a second time when he charged the deputy and other deputies came to help out. The two deputies who deployed their Tasers have been put on routine paid administrative leave while the incident is investigated. An autopsy was planned to determine the exact cause of death.
Nelson says Harrison had been in custody since Aug. 13 after being arrested on a warrant for driving under the influence.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

EDITORIAL: On tasers, the evidence is in

August 16, 2010
Globe and Mail

Taser International, the manufacturer of the electric stun gun, went to court in British Columbia to quash the key finding of a commission of inquiry – that tasers can kill. It tried to censor a free society's ability to get the truth about a weapon in common use by police across North America. Taser actually demanded the right to exercise a kind of “prior restraint:” to be shown the inquiry report before release, so it could make objections. Because it was denied this right, the Arizona-based manufacturer said, the report was unfair and illegal.

Thankfully, the B.C. Supreme Court stood up last week against this attempt to defeat the public's right to come to its own conclusions. It pointed out that Thomas Braidwood, a retired appeal-court judge, had invited Taser to make presentations and provide studies. When Taser recommended presentations from experts, the commission arranged to hear from them. Mr. Braidwood was fair and his conclusions were reasonable, based on the evidence, said Mr. Justice Robert Sewell.

This is more than a defeat of an attempt (one of many) by the litigious Taser to silence its critics. It's an affirmation of Mr. Braidwood's thorough analysis of the dangers of the 50,000-volt gun.

Before Mr. Braidwood, the received wisdom among police forces in this country – received in part from Taser – was that the weapon does not kill. Police were therefore given wide latitude to use it. Just how wide, and to what deadly effect, was on view three years ago when an RCMP officer used a taser five times on Robert Dziekanski, an unarmed Polish immigrant distressed because he had been looking for his mother at the Vancouver International Airport for 10 hours, killing him and giving rise to the Braidwood inquiry.

The sections of the Braidwood report that Taser tried to quash are well worth reading. Taser claims the weapon has saved countless lives. If that were true, Mr. Braidwood asked, have deaths in custody fallen? No, they are higher, in B.C. and in a U.S. study, since the taser's introduction.

Every provincial solicitor-general, police board and police chief in the country should know what Taser International did not want them to know: that the taser has fatal risks, according to Mr. Braidwood's fair-minded review of the best available research. They should therefore restrict its use to situations involving a risk of serious physical harm to the police or public.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Man who suffered brain damage after being stunned wins $2.85M lawsuit from Taser

August 12, 2010
Jennnifer Squires, Mercury News

SANTA CRUZ -- A Watsonville man permanently injured after he was shocked with a Taser nearly four years ago won a $2.85 million settlement against the stun-gun maker this summer, the first time Taser International has settled a product liability case, according to court documents.

However, the company did not admit to any liability for the anoxic brain injury Steven Butler, 49, suffered after being shocked.

Over objections by the company's attorneys, Judge Jeff Almquist declined Thursday to seal the court documents that divulge the dollar value of the agreement.

Almquist said there's "therapeutic value" in leaving the court's business open to the public, even though those involved in the case signed a confidentiality agreement that forbids them from discussing the settlement.

"The agreement seems to be the best that can be accomplished," Almquist said.

Butler was drunk and off his psychiatric medication in October 2006 when he refused to get off a bus and a Watsonville police officer used a Taser X-26 electronic control device to subdue him. After being stunned, Butler went into cardiac arrest and stopped breathing. It took medical personnel 18 minutes to resuscitate him and, as a result, Butler suffered a debilitating brain injury.

Butler has brain damage and no short-term memory; he also lost mobility and his motor skills decreased. He needs around-the-clock care and can't be left alone, according to court documents.

His condition is stationary, meaning there's little chance Butler will recover, Almquist said in court.

Since the injury, Butler's brother, David, has been caring for him. Part of the settlement award will be put into a special-needs trust to provide the family with more than $4,700 a month to cover medical and other costs. The payment begins in September and is guaranteed for at least 20 years.

"This resolution will allow the Butler family to comfortably care for Steve for the rest of his life," attorney Dana Scruggs, who represented the Butlers, wrote in court papers.

Other money from the award will pay old medical bills and possibly purchase a home for Butler. A significant portion of the settlement will go to the family's attorneys, who spent more than 600 hours and $250,000 preparing the case for trial.

During Thursday's hearing, Steven and David Butler sat together in the back of the courtroom. Outside of court, the brothers, thin men with matching mustaches, declined to talk about the resolution.

Another of the family's attorneys, Nathan Benjamin, said "they're very happy to have this resolved." In a declaration filed by the court, Scruggs outlined the challenges in taking on the stun-gun company.

Taser International claimed Butler had several pre-existing cardiac and health conditions that contributed to his injury. However, Scruggs said most of the scientific and medical research about the adverse effects of electric shock from a stun gun is directly or indirectly financed by the company.

At the time of Butler's injury, the company had never lost a lawsuit.

Attorney John Burton, who won a lawsuit against the city of Salinas and Taser International on behalf of the family of Robert C. Heston Jr., helped with case. Heston died after being stunned multiple times by a police officer armed with a Taser in February 2005. The Heston case, in 2008, marked the first time a stun-gun victim had won a product liability trial against Taser International.

The legal team assembled for the Butler case compiled investigation, discovery, pleadings and research that filled 11 banker's boxes. They were prepared to go to trial in the spring, but the case was postponed and then settled.

Judge dismisses Taser's suit to stop release of safety report

August 13, 2010
John Yantis, Arizona Republic

A Canadian judge has ruled against Scottsdale-based Taser International Inc. in its attempts to quash a government report that said its stun guns can cause death.

A British Columbia Supreme Court judge this week dismissed Taser's arguments that the Canadian report was biased, based on speculation and ignored facts about the safety of its stun guns. The company also had argued that it should have been able to review the report's findings before they were released publicly.

"It is quite clear to me that there were presentations made to the (inquiry) commissioner by medical experts and others to the effect that such weapons can cause serious harm and even death in exceptional circumstances," Judge Robert Sewell wrote.

In August 2009, Taser filed suit in Canada blasting the Braidwood Inquiry, the name of the government's report. The report, which took 18 months to research and was released in July 2009, was headed by retired Judge Thomas Braidwood.

It was sparked by the 2007 death of a Polish immigrant at Vancouver International Airport. He stopped breathing after being shocked five times by Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers.

Braidwood was tasked by the provincial government with looking into Taser use in the province, where Tasers were introduced in Canada. Braidwood also was asked to provide a complete record of the circumstances surrounding the death.

Taser spokesman Steve Tuttle called the ruling disappointing but said it clarified that the findings of the commission have no precedential value because it was "purely advisory." The Braidwood Study Commission did not make any findings of fault or misconduct, he said.

"We found it unfortunate that the Braidwood Study Commission conducted hearings for more than a year during which it was in possession of autopsy reports that cleared the Taser device of responsibility as the cause of Robert Dziekanski's death," Tuttle said in a statement.

Pathologists in British Columbia concluded the stun gun did not directly cause but may have played a role in Dziekanski's death.

A report released in December 2008 said three pathologists concluded that Dziekanski, 41, succumbed to "sudden death following restraint" with no definite cause. The factors that might have contributed to his death were heart disease from alcohol abuse, agitated delirium, physical stress made worse by the Taser shocks, inability to breathe and alcohol withdrawal, the report said.

Tuttle said although many of the findings of the commission are consistent with the company's warnings and training materials, it is important that the safety of its devices was recognized.

"Indeed, the Study Commission Report recommended that Taser devices continue to be used in British Columbia and commented favorably on the advantages of using Taser devices in circumstances in which police would otherwise have been required to use other means of force," Tuttle said.

The ruling didn't faze the company's investors. From Tuesday, when the judgment became public, and Thursday, the stock price slipped 1.7 percent, to $3.99.

The 556-page report criticized law enforcement for putting the stun gun on the street with little or no independent testing and recommended restricting use of Tasers.

Within hours, the head of public safety in British Columbia adopted all 19 of Braidwood's recommendations, including a ban on Tasers in non-criminal situations or where there is not an imminent threat of bodily harm.

In its lawsuit, Taser said it provided more than 170 studies, periodicals and reports with respect to the safety of the device and use-of-force questions. It said all the information clearly indicates that, when the device is used properly, it does not cause heart attacks. Taser objected that the information never found its way into the report.

Braidwood gave Taser every opportunity to bring forward all information, scientific studies and other material that it considered relevant, Sewell said in his ruling.

He also said there is nothing in the report that "a fair-minded person would construe as an attack or criticism of Taser's reputation as a corporate citizen or its right to carry on business and market its products."

"It is important to remember that the Commissioner, despite many submissions made to him, recommended the continued use of conducted energy weapons and commented favourably on the advantages of using such weapons in circumstances in which the police would otherwise have been required to use other means of force," Sewell wrote.

Sewell said he did consider Taser Chairman Tom Smith's deposition that he has had to deal with the issues raised in the report in "virtually every meeting" he had with potential customers and customers since the report was released.

"However, I find this evidence to be of little assistance," the judge wrote. "It consists essentially of vague, self-serving statements totally lacking specificity."

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

MIA: blog.taser.com

I tried to visit Taser International's blog this morning to see if they had anything to say about yesterday's verdict in the BC Supreme Court, but all I got was: "This user has elected to delete their account and the content is no longer available."

Just saying.

Taser manufacturer admits danger in training material

In training material released earlier this year, Taser International quietly acknowledged that its conducted energy weapons can have a negative -- even fatal -- impact on humans.

In stark contrast to the company's stance in a petition filed in B.C. Supreme Court, the company training bulletin released May 1 warns that, "incapacitation involves risks that a person may get hurt or die."

Download the complete training bulletin here.

The training kit also suggests that, "risk of an ECD (electronic control device) application having a negative effect on a person's heart rate and/or rhythm is not zero."

The company cautions that Tasers could also increase the risk of death or serious injury for pregnant women, the elderly, small children, sick people or "low body-mass index (BMI) persons" -- i.e. skinny people.

Taser's training material was released two months before the company filed a petition asking that the findings of retired judge Thomas Braidwood's public inquiry into the weapons be thrown out.

In that complaint, the company had argued that Braidwood's conclusion that Tasers have the capacity to cause death was unreasonable, and unsupported by the medical evidence.

In July, the company's lawyer David Neave told reporters, "The medical science that has been produced, involving human research, has all pointed that way -- that the devices do not have the effect that the commissioner says that they did."

Taser's complaint was dismissed by Judge Robert Sewell on Tuesday.

"It is quite clear to me that there were presentations made to the commissioner by medical experts and others to the effect that such weapons can cause serious harm and even death in exceptional circumstances," Sewell wrote in his decision.

During an interview with CTV News following Sewell's decision, Braidwood read excerpts from Taser International's training manual acknowledging the dangers of its weapons.

"I don't know what I can say about that," he laughed. "They lost, and I'm happy. End of story."

With a report from CTV British Columbia's Peter Grainger

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Report finding Tasers can kill will stand, judge rules

August 10, 2010
CTV/The Canadian Press

VANCOUVER — A judge has refused to quash an inquiry report that concluded Tasers are capable of causing death.

The maker of the conducted energy weapon had gone to court asking a judge to void the findings of the inquiry, which looked into the events surrounding the death of Robert Dziekanski.

But in a ruling released Tuesday, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Robert Sewell rejected Taser's request, saying the company's arguments hold "no merit."

Sewell said it's clear to him that the inquiry's commissioner, retired justice Thomas Braidwood, had carefully looked at the opinions of medical experts and his findings were reasonable.

"The petitioner's alternative argument before me was that the Study Commission Report's conclusion that conducted energy weapons have the capacity to cause death was patently unreasonable and unsupported by any credible evidence," Sewell said in the written ruling.

"I find no merit in this submission. It is quite clear to me that there were presentations made to the commissioner by medical experts and others to the effect that such weapons can cause serious harm and even death in exceptional circumstances."

Sewell also notes there is nothing in Braidwood's report "which a fair-minded person would construe as an attack or criticism of the petitioner's reputation."

Braidwood released a report on the weapons last year after the first of two sets of hearings following Dziekanski's death at Vancouver airport in October 2007. Dziekanski was repeatedly jolted with an RCMP Taser.

Braidwood concluded Tasers have the capacity to affect the heart and trigger a fatal heart arrhythmia. He said it was difficult to precisely quantify that risk, but he described it as low.

He also said police forces in B.C. should continue to have access to the weapon, but he said the benefits must be weighed against the risks and he called for restrictions on their use.

His recommendations were endorsed by the B.C. government and the RCMP.

Arizona-based Taser, which has a long history of litigation against any suggestion the stun guns are unsafe, said Braidwood treated the company unfairly and then reached conclusions that weren't supported by the facts.

Taser asked the court to throw out all of Braidwood's findings about safety and his subsequent recommendations, claiming he ignored dozens of medical studies provided by the company.

Braidwood said Tuesday he's pleased with the ruling.

"I read all the material carefully, as did my staff, and it was subject to discussion amongst us," he said in the interview.

"We feel that the conclusions we reached in the report were helpful to the administration of the conduct of the police."

Taser also argued in court that it should have had greater participation in the hearings and had a chance to review Braidwood's findings before they were made public.

A B.C. government lawyer said during the proceedings that Taser failed to prove Braidwood ignored any of the company's evidence and its participation was over and above what it was entitled to.

Sewell agreed.

"I can find nothing in the record which would suggest that the commissioner carried out the inquiry, the public forums and his investigation in a manner which was in any way inconsistent with his publicly stated intentions," he said in the ruling.

"In particular, it would appear that the commissioner gave the petitioner (Taser) every opportunity to bring forward all information, scientific studies and other material that the petitioner considered to be relevant and of importance to the commissioner's mandate."

Government lawyers also argued in court that a training document that was issued by Taser several months after Braidwood's report endorsed the inquiry's findings.

That document warned police officers to aim their stun guns away from the heart.

Taser said the training bulletin was only issued to protect the company from potential lawsuits and was not an admission the weapons are dangerous.

The bulletin warned of "a remote potential risk of cardiac effect."

One of the two brothers who founded the weapons manufacturer said in a court affidavit the training bulletin had been taken out of context.

"Taser has not and does not accept that the decisions in the report are supported by any medical evidence," Rick Smith said in the affidavit.

Instead, Smith said he told his staff to refer to "low," "extremely low" or "extremely unlikely" risks because he believed Braidwood's report opened the company up to new legal risks.

The province's lawyers suggested the document showed Taser already knew the weapons carry a small risk of death, but would rather keep that fact in the "fine print" of an obscure product warning rather than in the highly publicized findings of a public inquiry.

Taser's history of aggressively defending its weapons in court is well-documented.

Last year, the company sent out a news release boasting it had successfully won its 100th dismissal of a liability lawsuit.

However, the company cannot claim a perfect legal record. In 2008, a California jury ruled the weapon was at least partially responsible for the death of a man who died in police custody.

The company is quick to contact media organizations about stories on deaths that may be linked to use of their weapons, and when a state medical examiner in Ohio ruled that three men's deaths were in part caused by the effects of Tasers, the company sued.

Taser eventually won, and in May 2008, a judge ordered the medical examiner to delete any references in the autopsy findings that suggested the stun guns were to blame.

Braidwood's second report, examining Dziekanski's death in detail, was released in June.

That document chided the four RCMP officers involved in the man's death for using too much force and concluded the multiple Taser stuns likely played the greatest role in his death.

The RCMP publicly apologized to his mother and reached a confidential settlement that averted a civil case.

B.C.'s top court dismisses Taser challenge

August 10, 2010

The B.C. Supreme Court has dismissed a legal challenge by Taser International to overturn the findings of the Braidwood Inquiry. The company tried to argue the conclusion its weapons increase the risk of fatal heart failure.

Read the full report .

Taser International loses bid to quash Braidwood conclusions

August 10, 2010
Ian Bailey, Vancouver — Globe and Mail

Taser International has lost another bid to block the findings of the Braidwood Inquiry into the police use of tasers and the death of Robert Dziekanski

B.C. Supreme Court Justice Robert Sewell's ruling today comes after a hearing in which the Arizona-based manufacturer of taser weapons sought to quash the conclusion of inquiry head Thomas Braidwood that tasers could cause death or severe injury.

Mr. Braidwood’s inquiry looked into the October, 2007 death of Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski at Vancouver International Airport. RCMP officers approaching Mr. Dziekanski after he began acting erratically, stunned him a number of times with a taser. Mr. Dziekanski died shortly after the confrontation.

Mr. Braidwood focused on two issues in his inquiry – the circumstances of Mr. Dziekanski’s death and the police use of stun guns.

“I have concluded that the Study Commission fully discharged any duty of fairness which it owed to the petitioner with respect to the conduct of the mandate and with regard to its decision-making process,” Justice Sewell said in a ruling released Tuesday.

Justice Sewell said it's clear to him that the inquiry's commissioner, retired justice Thomas Braidwood, had carefully looked at the opinions of medical experts and his findings were reasonable.

Mr. Braidwood's explosive report rejected Taser's claims that its product does not cause death, a finding that Taser said was unfair and should not be allowed to stand.

Taser lawyers argued in court that the company did not have a chance to see the report before it was released and that the conclusions were not supported by the facts.

With a report from The Canadian Press

Edmonton constable's disciplinary hearing postponed

August 9, 2010
Matthew Bisson, News880

An Edmonton Police Constable, who fired a taser eight times at a passed out teenager, won't be facing the music just yet.

A disciplinary hearing for Constable Mike Wasylyshen has been postponed. It's not clear why.

Last fall, the Law Enforcement Review Board called for Wasylyshen to be charged with unnecessary exercise of authority and insubordination in connection with an incident in 2002. The board heard that Wasylyshen fired a stun gun eight times, in just over a minute, on Randy Fryingpan. It was an effort to remove the teenager from a vehicle that a 911 caller told police was being stolen.

It's not the first time the son of former Edmonton Police Chief Bob Wasylyshen has been in trouble with the law. He pleaded guilty to assault and was fined $500 for attacking a man on crutches outside a Whyte Avenue bar while off duty back in 2005.

South Carolina man dies after he is tasered

Andrew Torres, 39, Greenville, South Carolina

Ottawa police Taser off-duty officer near Parliament

August 10, 2010
Vancouver Sun

OTTAWA — A man Tasered near Parliament Hill on Sunday was an off-duty Ottawa police officer who has been disciplined by the force five times.

Ottawa Police Chief Vern White said the incident was "not in any way criminal or disciplinary."

The 42-year-old constable was stopped at a green light near the entrance to Parliament Hill. His two children were in the car, Const. Kathy Larouche said.

Police approached the car and questioned him.

"He became aggressive due to symptoms of his medical condition," Larouche said. To gain control of the situation, the officers Tasered the man, Larouche said.

He was taken to hospital to be "assessed."

The officer will not be charged criminally or under the Police Services Act.

The Ontario Civilian Police Commission, an independent oversight agency, said the officer faced several disciplinary matters in his 15-year-career. The incidents include firing his gun in a police station locker-room, being "uncivil to a member of the service during an incident at a restaurant," and fleeing the scene of a car accident.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

In Philadelphia, cops talk shock about stun guns

August 6, 2010
Philadelphia Daily News

In a Louisiana hospital last month, security guards Tasered the epileptic, suicidal nephew of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, triggering a seizure and a wave of public outcry over the use of stun guns in medical centers.

In Arizona, a young doctor died in 2008 after suffering a seizure while driving to work - and getting Tasered five times by a highway patrol officer who pulled him over for erratic driving.

And Philadelphia sports fans got even more notoriety - and city police, more criticism - after a cop Tasered a teenager who had leaped onto the field during a Phillies game in May.

With the use of stun guns more hotly debated than ever, crime-fighters from around the globe gathered in Philadelphia earlier this week for a two-day conference to tighten guidelines for the proper use of "controlled electronic devices."

The meeting was hosted by the Police Executive Research Forum, a nonprofit, independent police think-tank based in Washington. Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey is the group's elected president.

"We're looking at the whole issue of use of force: How do you handle people when you have to get control of them?" said Chuck Wexler, the group's executive director. "Our purpose is to do it in the most peaceful way to minimize injuries to that person and to the police officers."

The group already had 55 guidelines it developed five years ago at the U.S. Department of Justice's bidding. After this week's meeting, Wexler aims to have the tweaked guidelines completed by September.

Amnesty International has called for a moratorium on stun guns, saying police use them as tools of routine force rather than as an alternative to firearms. Since June 2001, more than 350 people have died in the United States after being shocked by police stun guns, according to the human-rights group.

But Wexler's group found that police departments that use stun guns have fewer injuries to suspects and officers than those that don't, according to a September 2009 study.

To use a stun gun in Philadelphia, police must complete crisis-intervention training, a five-day session on mental-health awareness and other issues, said Lt. Francis Healy, Ramsey's special adviser. About 700 Tasers now are deployed for use citywide.

"It's a great piece of equipment, but it has to be used appropriately so we don't have these public outcries of misuse and abuse," Healy said.

Some neighbors want crosses representing Taser victims to be dismantled

August 6, 2010
By Mitch Mitchell, Star-Telegram

FORT WORTH -- Each of more than 450 crosses outside New Mount Calvary Baptist Church represents a person who was killed by a shock from a Taser, according to a sign announcing the National Taser Memorial.

Some people who live nearby said it looks more like a cemetery. And they want it dismantled.

City code compliance officers who visited this week left without issuing the church or its pastor a citation, a city official said.

Highland Hills Neighborhood Association members acknowledge that the city may be restricted in regulating the number of crosses that a church can have on its property, but still, they want their objections noted.

"I don't think that our neighborhood should have something in it that looks like a national cemetery," said Laura Meeks, beautification chairwoman and past president of the association.

"It really does not say anything good about our neighborhood."

The memorial was established in January at the church in the 5800 block of Oak Grove Road in far south Fort Worth. A large cross bears the name of Michael Jacobs Jr., a mentally challenged man who died in April 2009 after a Fort Worth police officer used a Taser on him for nearly a minute.

The city of Fort Worth settled a lawsuit with the Jacobs family for $2 million in May after the Tarrant County medical examiner ruled the death a homicide.

"I really think the big boys downtown do not want this symbol of the $2 million settlement that they had to pay to remain," the Rev. Thomas Franklin, pastor of New Mount Calvary, said Friday.

But Eunice Givens, president of the neighborhood association, said neighbors object to the clutter the memorial brings to the neighborhood.

"We are trying to clean the community up," she said. "We are out here trying to encourage folks to keep their community clean. And instead of [Franklin] trying to improve the community, he's adding something that takes away from our efforts.

"If he was concerned about others in this community, he would never have put it up. It creates a bad image for our community."

Franklin said that in Louisiana, where he is from, members got a burial plot when they joined a church. The memorial is neat and the grass is cut, he said.

"There are almost 500 people who have been tortured to death by Taser devices, not counting the ones who have been wounded," Franklin said.

"This is our way of showing our respect for those families and showing that someone really cares."

Kyev Tatum, president of the Tarrant County chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, who helped create the memorial, said the Police Department makes the point that Tasers save lives, but the memorial shows that Tasers kill people.

"The memorial makes such a powerful statement," Tatum said.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Frustration with new Ontario police complaints office

August 3, 2010
CBC News

The new Office of the Independent Police Review Director says it has so many complaints against police to investigate it can't handle them all — so it's enlisting the help of the police themselves to tackle the problem.

The OIPRD was established last fall "to provide an objective, impartial office to accept, process and oversee the investigation of public complaints against Ontario's police," says a notice on the organization's website.

But some who have filed complaints are showing their frustration.

In February, Chris van Hartskamp and a friend were in sleeping in a parking garage stairwell.

Van Hartskamp, who is homeless, said security guards attacked them.

He admits he and his friend had been drinking but says the security guard's actions were excessive.

"They had me handcuffed and they were beating me up and everything," he said.

The security company claims it was van Hartskamp who did the fighting.

Van Hartskamp wouldn't back down. He complained to Toronto police but nothing seemed to happen.

In his frustration he filed a complaint with the OIPRD - but they sent his complaint back to the police.

Gerry McNeilly, the head of the OIPRD, won't discuss individual cases, but insists all complaints will be investigated.

Since April there have been 1,500 complaints — many of them related to the G20.

McNeilly says most get sent back to police to look in to because he doesn't have the staff to fully look through all the complaints without some help.

McNeilly says the police investigations will be different with the OIPRD oversight.

"I have the ability to take investigations back if I'm not happy with how the investigation's unfolding. I have the ability to give directions to chiefs," he said.

Van Hartskamp isn't convinced.

"I think it's just, like a merry-go-round. I don't think nothing's going to happen really, I really don't think nothing's going to happen," he said.

SIU Investigates Custody Death in London, Ontario

No word yet whether a taser was used or what kind of a "group home" the man lived in.

MISSISSAUGA, ONTARIO -- 08/04/10 -- Ontario's Special Investigations Unit (SIU) is probing the circumstances surrounding the custody death of a twenty-year-old man in London. The London Police Service (LPS) reported the following information to the SIU:

-- On August 3, at approximately 6:30 p.m., officers attended a group home at 313 Clarke Road in London at the request of Emergency Medical Services (EMS) to deal with a male who was acting aggressively.
-- There was an interaction between the man and officers, and he was arrested.
-- EMS provided treatment to the man, and he was subsequently transported to London Health Sciences Centre - Victoria Hospital.
-- He was pronounced dead at 8:22 p.m.

A postmortem will take place today. Five 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.

Monday, August 02, 2010

Louisiana man dies after he is tasered

August 1, 2010: Dennis C. Sandras, 49, Houma, Louisiana