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Sunday, February 27, 2011

Los Angeles man dies

February 27, 2011
Contra Costa Times

February 24, 2011: Unidentified male, age unknown, Los Angeles, California

EDITORIAL: Reaffirm policy on Taser use

February 27, 2011
The Town Talk

The Lafayette Parish Coroner's Office has issued its report on the death of Javon Rakestrau, 28, who died in October after being Tasered by a Lafayette Parish sheriff's deputy. The report says Rakestrau died of complications of bronchial asthma, and that the stress of his arrest and the Tasering contributed to the death.

Rakestrau's blood contained a chemical indicating that he had smoked marijuana.

The finding is consistent with coroners' findings in similar cases, although we'd note that cases in which suspects die soon after Tasering seem to dwarf the number of deaths that occur as a result of asthma, cardiac problems or other conditions in arrests that don't involve Tasers. Rakestrau's death is one of at least 15 in Louisiana among suspects subjected to Tasering since 2004.

Lafayette Parish, with less than 5 percent of the state's population, accounts for three of them.

We'd urge local law enforcement agencies to take this opportunity to make sure officers know Tasers are to be used as an alternative to deadly force. The mounting list of deaths after arrests involving Tasers makes their use too risky for any other application, at least until more data can be collected and analyzed.

The Lafayette Parish Sheriff's Office has said the deputy involved in the Rakestrau arrest acted properly and within policy. The deputy performed first aid on Rakestrau until an ambulance arrived.

The video from the deputy's patrol car shows an arrest in a known drug trafficking area.

The deputy places Rakestrau against the hood of the patrol car, apparently to be frisked. Rakestrau reaches into his jacket pocket. He appears to try to throw something on the ground. Was it a weapon?

It doesn't seem to be, although the suspect's body shields it from the deputy. The deputy pulls Rakestrau away from the car, and they end up on the ground and mostly off camera. A few seconds later, they're both on their feet again, and the deputy shocks Rakestrau with the Taser.

If the deputy's use of a Taser was an alternative to the justifiable use of a firearm, then Rakestrau had a chance to live that he wouldn't have had otherwise, even though the suspect didn't act sensibly during the arrest.

The Taser becomes a humanitarian tool.

If the Taser is used for a lesser purpose, it becomes a tool with potentially lethal consequences that neither the law enforcement officer nor the suspect is in a position to predict.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Sentiment : Strong Sell

Strong sentiments on the Yahoo Finance TASR message board yesterday:

SFPD Chief admits tasers can kill
25-Feb-11 12:47 pm

Some of you may continue to believe everything you have been told about the safety of tasers but I have now reached my limit. The last time I saw the liti-gators circling like this it was with asbestos.

That product was not well researched, the management ignored and buried warnings from their researchers and the management tried to "settle & seal" so their shareholders would not find out the truth. Once they did, it was an end game so long that you still see advertisements today for legal action that are asbestos related.

This was a very nice way for their management to bury the deceit, deception and non-disclosures of the true liabilities of the product.

For years we have been told that ECDs, "Don't affect the heart and cannot kill."

I believed it until now.

If you are a LONG and still believe that tasers cannot casue death, then I would suggest that you look at the statement made by the acting San Francisco Police Chief, Jeff Godown. He actually admitted that tasers can kill!

Interview: Jeff Godown on the Use of Tasers

I would then suggest that you contact Training@TASER.com and ask them to send you their latest exposure/liability release form that all officers have to sign.

After EVERYTHING that we have been fed by this executive management team about "product safety" this is disgusting!

It actually states that, "The Electronic Control Device (ECD) can produce physiologic or metabolic effects which include, but are not limited to, changes in: . . . heart rate and rhythm . . .!"

What ?!?!?!

This management team has gone out of their way, for years, to convince us and the public that this was not true! They have spent millions of our money covering up and paying off settlements as a result of all of these false claims! Now, even law enforcement knows this was a lie!

These guys have already settled one shareholder suit ($21M in 2007). AND THAT WAS WITH OUR MONEY! Anyone care to wager on how long it will be before another one is filed?

How much longer does management really think that they can keep this from everyone? Law enforcement officers are now admitting the truth and lawyers obviously already know it. And the victims families are the ones that really have to live with these consequences. Now that law enforcement agencies and the management have acknowledged these facts, what is to stop them from all piling on to our investments?

I would really like to know why are we just now finding this out?

They disclose this information to law enforcement officers in fine print and to liti-gators and victims behind closed doors, but not their own shareholders?

If you REALLY want to get a great laugh, contact CEO Patrick Smith and ask him about a paper he presented at the NDIA III Conference in 1998. He said during that presentation that this technology “does not affect the heart." Right!

So, which is it? Did they not do the research on their technology? Did they simply make false statements? Or, maybe, heart fibers in humans have evolved over the last 13 years so that this technology now effects the heart rhythm. But WHEN did they now this that this technology captured cardiac rhythm?

We really deserve a response.

I can see that in the future tasers will only be used in limited scenarios, because, as SFPD Chief Godown so eloquently put it, tasers "can kill.”

I cannot help but think that this will affect profitability in the future. Increased awareness of the truth will, inevitably, lead to reduced use and fewer cartridge sales.

It will also lead to MORE liti-gators going after whatever value remains.

Good luck to you all! I am GONE!

Sentiment : Strong Sell

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Supreme Court quashes Spratt conviction

February 24, 2011
Aja Styles, WA Today

A wrongful conviction against Taser victim Kevin Spratt has been quashed by the Court of Appeal after horrifying footage showing nine police brutalising the 41-year-old Aboriginal man was made public.

Internal CCTV footage from inside the East Perth lock-up showed Mr Spratt being Tasered 14 times while on the floor screaming in agony was broadcast worldwide last year, after being released by the Corruption and Crime Commission.

Mr Spratt had been arrested in August 2008 after an incident in King William Street in Bayswater. But he was further charged with obstructing officers in the Watch House, which related to the Tasering incident.

Advertisement: Story continues below Mr Spratt served two months jail for the offence, which ran concurrently with other jail terms imposed for three other charges.

Mr Spratt brought his conviction for obstructing police before the Court of Appeal today.

The action was against his arresting officer, Detective Constable Brett Fowler, who wrote up the report in which it stated that Mr Spratt "again became violent and aggressive towards police who were attempting to restrain him by kicking and flailing his arms towards police as they approached".

Internal CCTV footage of the Watch House showed Mr Spratt simply sitting on a chair grabbing hold of the seat with his arms and hands as the Taser barbs were deployed.

Justice Stephen Hall found that Mr Spratt had been denied justice by not being able to view the footage prior to pleading guilty to the charge in the Perth Magistrates Court and his appeal was granted.

Outside court Mr Spratt's lawyer Steven Penglis said they were seeking financial compensation for what occurred in the watch house.

"The system failed Kevin in this regard in two ways; first, as you've heard, we had a charge laid by a police officer who wasn't there at the time of the alleged offence and didn't take steps to verify that it was true by looking at the CCTV footage and secondly, when that police officer realised that it was wrong he didn't take any steps to ensure that it came to the attention of Kevin, the prosecuting sergeant or the court," he said.

Mr Penglis has written to the Police Commissioner about these concerns.

Mr Spratt said he was pleased with the outcome.

"It has brought a lot of bad memories back but I just want to move on with life," he said.

Earlier today, Police Commissioner Karl O'Callaghan conceded claims about Kevin Spratt resisting police in the Perth Watch House appeared to be wrong.

Mr O'Callaghan rejected shadow attorney-general John Quigley's assertions in Parliament last week that he lied the the public in a "flow-chart" of the events displayed to the media to explain the lead-up to that night, saying at the time he believed the statement of material facts to be correct.

"There is no deliberate intent to mislead anybody at all, it is not my style, I have never done it nor will do it," he told 6PR Radio.

The flow chart was designed to help media understand the chain of events when reporting and was only meant as "an aid", Mr O'Callaghan said.

He did however concede he was "not (happy) now" after it was revealed that the charges of obstructing officers came after the Tasers were deployed.

But he said he has been unable to interview the officers involved because the CCC had taken over the inquiry since November 15 last year and it was now up to the corruption watchdog to release their findings.

San Francisco Police Commission votes to allow department to study use of Tasers

February 24, 2011
Bay City News

The San Francisco Police Commission voted 6-1 Wednesday night to allow the Police Department to look into the use of Tasers by officers, nearly a year after shooting down a similar proposal.

The decision came after a lively six-hour debate regarding the conducted energy devices, widely known as Tasers.

Last March, the commission voted 4-3 against a proposal by then-Police Chief George Gascon to study the use of Tasers by the department.

Three new members have been appointed to the commission since then, and interim Police Chief Jeff Godown, who took over as The City’s top cop when Gascon was named district attorney last month, was hopeful that the commission’s new makeup would result in a different approach to the Taser issue.

In the commission chambers, the Police Department reenacted a typical scenario that would require the use of a Taser, while other officers recounted dangerous incidents in which the devices could have helped take suspects into custody.

An opposing presentation, organized by Commissioner Angela Chan, had several experts outline the dangers of the less-than-lethal devices, which provide an electrical charge that they said can still cause serious injury or death and are frequently used unnecessarily.

Godown said the department would take a “thoughtful approach” to studying the use of Tasers and agreed to return to the commission to report its findings within 90 days.

Police Cmdr. David Mahoney, who led the police presentation in favor of the devices, said that Tasers “are not a replacement for a firearm,” but are “simply another tool in the toolbox” that officers can use when confronted with dangerous situations.

San Francisco Sheriff Michael Hennessey said the Sheriff’s Department has been using Tasers since 2002 and has “found them to be very effective.”

Cristine Soto DeBerry, representing Mayor Ed Lee, said the mayor also supported allowing the Police Department to study the issue.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

San Francisco Police Commission braces for another Taser debate

February 22, 2011
Rebecca Bowe, San Francisco Bay Guardian

The San Francisco Police Department, police commissioners, and community advocates are gearing up for another debate about whether or not SFPD officers should carry and use Tasers. The hearing will be held at tomorrow’s Feb. 23 police commission meeting.

Interim Police Chief Jeff Godown -- carrying forward a plan that originated with his predecessor, former police chief George Gascon -- called for a hearing on the Taser proposal, according to a Police Commission spokesperson. If it wins approval, the SFPD will begin conducting research to develop training and policy guidelines for the SFPD to implement Tasers. The issue has ignited fierce debate in the past, and resistance is likely to be revived on this go-round.

Last year, the commission rejected Gascon’s proposal to add Tasers to police officers’ use-of-force options. Now, Commissioner Angela Chan, who was appointed last year by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors after the proposal had been defeated, is emerging as a voice of dissent.

Chan submitted a handful of reports published by American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Amnesty International, and other sources critical of Tasers for commissioners to review prior to the meeting. She’s also preparing a 45-minute presentation highlighting concerns about the weapons.

The SFPD will give its own 45-minute presentation to try and convince commissioners that it should be allowed to move forward with the plan this time. “It’s another tool for officers to use when encountering violent persons,” noted Sgt. Andray Chak, a police spokesperson.

Chak said it was too soon to provide any details about whether the Taser proposal would take the form of a pilot program, or be implemented all at once. He did not have specific information about how training would be developed, how the department planned to solicit input from various communities, or how long the department expected to be working on a draft policy if the police commission granted approval. Chak did note that if the SFPD moves forward, it may host town hall meetings about Tasers.

The Feb. 23 police commission meeting is likely to bring vociferous community opposition. The Coalition on Homelessness (COH) and a number of other community-based organizations are encouraging people to attend the meeting and speak during public comment.

In a letter submitted to the police commission, Asian and Southeast Asian Societies, Causa Justa (Just Cause), The Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club, COH, and other community advocates point out that Tasers have been declared a form of torture by a UN torture panel, and cite a University of Calfornia San Francisco study finding that police shootings more than doubled in the first full year of Taser implementation.

The community organizations also pointed out that Tasers are manufactured in Scottsdale, Ariz. -- and San Francisco is still boycotting Arizona for enacting SB 1070, a bill that has drawn widespread criticism for encouraging racial profiling. Meanwhile, in a lean budget year, the cost of implementing Tasers is estimated at around $2 million, according to the letter.

Despite being turned down last time, the department has revived its Taser proposal in the wake of two officer-involved shootings early this year, including one that struck a mentally ill, wheelchair-bound man who was brandishing a knife. That case came under scrutiny after it was caught on a phone camera and posted to YouTube.

Following that incident, Gascon suggested that the outcome may have been different if officers had the option of deploying Tasers.

Yet Allen Hopper, police practices director at the ACLU, questions the idea that deploying a Taser would have been the correct response in that circumstance -- especially in light of a recent Police Commission vote to strengthen SFPD practices when encountering people with mental illness. The Commission recently directed the SFPD to establish a Crisis Intervention Team (CIT), based on a policing model that emphasizes deescalation. Yet Hopper says deploying a Taser would achieve just the opposite.

"We think it's putting the cart before the horse to give the police Tasers before they put that plan into effect," Hopper said. People with mental-health problems, he added, are more likely to be on strong medication, or prone to excited emotional states and rapid heart rates -- all of which could place them at a higher risk for serious injury or even death if struck with a Taser.

Counted among a class of weapons called conducted energy devices, Tasers deliver a painful electric jolt when deployed, temporarily immobilizing a subject by disrupting the central nervous system and causing involuntary muscle contractions. While they tend to be hailed by law enforcement as non-lethal alternatives to firearms, human-rights organizations have criticized Tasers because accidental deaths have been linked to their use. According to a report by Amnesty International, more than 330 people were reported to have died in the last decade after being struck by police Tasers. While not all of those deaths were directly attributed to the Tasers in coroners' reports, many of the people who died were found to be in "excited states of delirium" or under the influence of illegal drugs or prescription medications when they were Tasered.

Police taser debate to resume in San Francisco

February 22, 2011
C.W. Nevius, San Francisco Chronicle

Everybody has an opinion about Tasers. And when the Police Commission once again opens discussion on Wednesday night, we're probably going to hear plenty of them - loudly.

Angela Chan is new to the commission, but she's already tired of the rhetoric.

"This heated, yes-no debate where you have people yelling, 'I want Tasers,' and someone else is yelling, 'I don't want Tasers,' is not helpful," she said. "I'm hoping we can have a more thoughtful, substantive discussion."

Good luck. Things always seem to start out in a reasonable tone and then go off the rails.

So before the smoke and confusion fill the room, let's stick with the central premise: A Taser is a good idea because it is an option between a police baton and a firearm. That's an idea that makes perfect sense.

Even most of the critics agree with that. But they tend to bring in other considerations.

"Maybe Tasers are the answer; maybe they are not," said Commissioner Petra DeJesus, who voted against them a year ago. "But is this the time for them?"

DeJesus worries about the cost to a city in a budget crisis. Chan has concerns about effectiveness. And at least one other member of the commission wanted to wait until he heard where Mayor Ed Lee stood on Tasers.

For the record, Lee backs Tasers for the Police Department - sort of.

"Mayor Lee supports researching Tasers," said spokeswoman Christine Falvey. "He wants to explore possible alternatives to lethal force, and Tasers are potentially a good option."

A year ago, the commission rejected a Taser proposal that would have researched guidelines for use. In other words, the commission voted, 4-3, to not even look into the idea.

That can't happen this time.

The good news is that three new members have joined the commission - Chan, Jamie Slaughter, and Carol Kingsley - so a fresh look is likely.

Chan will probably vote against Tasers, but she has certainly looked into the issue.

"I have tried to find as many experts as possible," she said.

The problem is that the experts can't agree. Chan cites the Braidwood Inquiry, a Canadian study of "conducted energy weapons." She says the report shows that in police departments with Tasers, "officer-involved shootings are not down, victim shootings are not down, and lawsuits are not down."

However, there's also data in the same report that supports the use of Tasers, provided strict training and guidelines are followed.

Proponents of Tasers, like commission President Tom Mazzucco, will reference the nationally recognized Police Executive Research Forum, whose report shows dramatically lower numbers for officer-involved shootings when departments can use a Taser. That agency's executive director, Chuck Wexler, will speak to the commission.

"Look," says Mazzucco, "the use of force is never pretty. I wish there was some magical device that would just freeze the person in his tracks. There's not. So I'd just like to see the commission open it up to a pilot program and see what works."

The Taser discussion comes just as the commission unanimously approved crisis intervention training to deal with the mentally ill. Someone is bound to ask why Tasers are needed if the training works.

"Crisis intervention with the mentally ill is a totally separate issue from Tasers," said interim Police Chief Jeff Godown. "Last year one of our sergeants was thrown through a plate glass window. That's what we are talking about."

Statistics will be flying Wednesday, and conflicting testimony and data are expected. But that doesn't change the central point:

Tasers are far from perfect, but they are the best alternative available.

"Confronted with a violent, dangerous suspect," said Police Officers Association Vice President Kevin Martin, "Would the commission prefer to see lethal force or nonlethal force? They can't have it both ways."

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Fatality inquiry scheduled for Gordon Walker Bowe

November 5, 2008: Clifton Purvis, director of the Serious Incident Response Team, said the autopsy was scheduled for Tuesday. The results, including toxicology tests, will take weeks, he added. "It would be inappropriate to comment on the actions of police officers at this time," said Purvis. "That's what our goal is, to examine the actions of the police officers and determine what their conduct was, whether it was appropriate or inappropriate." He said the team is made up of civilian investigators and seconded police officers who report to him, not their police chiefs. "I can tell you it will be independent because I'm heading the investigation, reviewing the investigation, and I'm the one deciding whether charges should be laid against police officers or not," said Purvis. "I'm not a police officer. I'm a lawyer with the prosecution service and I'm not beholden to anybody," he said.

May 8, 2009: "The Taser was deployed once, I don't know if he was struck." Alberta Serious Incident Response Team director Clifton Purvis

August 6, 2009: The taser was deployed three times, he [Alberta Serious Incident Response Team director Clifton Purvis] said, and twice it was not effective due to the missing prong. It was fired in “stun mode” a third time during the struggle with Mr. Bowe. Mr. Purvis said he's satisfied that Mr. Bowe died of excited delirium syndrome related to cocaine toxicity, not as a result of the taser.

Well, then, it's a foregone conclusion, isn't it??

OOPS - Wait just one minute:

"It is not helpful to blame resulting deaths on “excited delirium,” since this conveniently avoids having to examine the underlying medical condition or conditions that actually caused death, let alone examining whether use of the conducted energy weapon and/or subsequent measures to physically restrain the subject contributed to those causes of death." - Braidwood Report, July 2009

BOWE, Gordon Walker, 30, Calgary

On November 1, 2008, Gordon Bowe became unresponsive after being restrained as a result of an altercation with police. He was transported to hospital and died November 2, 2008.

Inquiry Date Scheduled: June 13-21, 2011, 9:00 a.m., Calgary Provincial Court, Judge H.A. Lamoureux

Pre-Inquiry Conference Date Scheduled: May 9, 2011, 1:30 p.m., Calgary Provincial Court

Autopsies thrown into question

Grant William Prentice, 40 - Brooks, AB - May 6, 2009 - RCMP - tasered at least 2 times - "Official" cause of death: acute cocaine toxicity and "the medical examiner also concluded the taser did not play a role in the death"

February 17, 2011
Alex Mccuaig, Medicine Hat News

A Calgary pathologist whose work is being called into question was involved in at least two investigations stemming from deaths in southeastern Alberta, the News confirmed Wednesday.

Concerns about the quality of Dr. Michael Belenky's work arose publicly after Calgary Police requested a review on Jan. 26 of one of the pathologist's reports.

Alberta Justice announced five days later that 12 cases handled by Belenky at Alberta Medical Examiners Office Calgary will be reviewed.

The News learned autopsies connected to the February 2010 alleged homicide of Morbe Buluk in Medicine Hat and the fatality of Grant Prentice, who died during an arrest in May 2009 in Brooks, were performed by Belenky.

Regarding Prentice's death, Cliff Purvis, director of the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT) — which investigates deaths involving police — said, "he was the medical examiner."

But Purvis added, "the findings of the medical examiner's office didn't rest solely on Dr. Belenky's opinion and won't affect the outcome of our file."

Died during arrest

Prentice, 40, died after Brooks RCMP officers used a Taser and physical force to subdue the man after witnesses reported he was acting erratically. The ASIRT investigation cleared Mounties of any wrongdoing, attributing the death to acute cocaine toxicity. Purvis stated the toxicology report wasn't conducted by Belenky.

"That was done by a separate expert in the medical examiner's office," Purvis said.

ASIRT's role, regardless of the ME's report, he added, is to investigate whether police committed any criminal offence. In this case, ASIRT found, police actions were justified.

"I'm not reopening the investigation because it has little impact on our case," said Purvis.

Informed of Belenky's connection to the investigation of his son's death, Bill Prentice said he suspected the pathologist's involvement in the file when Alberta Justice announced its review of Belenky's examinations. "It makes you wonder," said Prentice. "The whole thing sounds to me like it could have been a problem." He said he never had much faith in the report into his son's death. "We could have raised a bunch of hell but guess what's going to happen? Nothing... They'll deny everything no matter what.'

Anniversary Approaches

As she prepares to mourn the one-year anniversary of her son Morbe's death on Family Day, Stela Buluk said she feels lost without her boy. Morbe Buluk was involved in a physical altercation on the evening of Feb. 17, 2010 with a 26-year-old man in Medicine Hat. Afterwards, he made his way home but began to act erratically and the family contacted police. The 18-year-old was taken into custody and was examined by paramedics, according to Medicine Hat police, but was found in medical distress a few hours later in his cell on the morning of Feb. 18. He died three days later at a Calgary hospital. A Medicine Hat man is currently facing manslaughter charges in connection with this case. Buluk's mother said she was informed three weeks ago that the her son's autopsy will be reviewed. "I hope at the end they do the right thing," said Buluk, who emigrated from Sudan with her three children and husband in 2003. "I'm struggling. I feel like I'm stuck in one place and don't know what to do. You just lose a son like that and now you don't know what's going to happen. You don't know," said Buluk. That autopsy was conducted on Feb. 24, 2010. However, questions began to surface last December when a local defence lawyer told the court he hadn't received the ME's report nine months after the autopsy was completed.

Alberta Justice spokesperson David Deer said the department cannot currently comment on specific cases but said Belenky left the ME's office prior to the announcement of the review. Deer added Belenky's departure was not connected to the investigation. "The first goal of the review is to review every criminal file this pathologist worked on regardless of whether it involved a conviction or acquittal," said Deer. "We'll take whatever time necessary to do that," Deer said Belenky had the recognized qualifications to practise forensic pathology in the province and was licenced by the College of Physicians & Surgeons. "Dr. Belenky certainly did have the credentials as well as being licenced," said Deer.

Medicine Hat defence lawyer Bill Cocks said he has never seen the work of a pathologist called into question like this in his 35 years of practicing law in Alberta. "The pathologist in some kinds of murder cases is critical," said Cocks. "We can't put the pieces together ourselves and we rely on this person's expertise." He said evidence presented by a pathologist is rarely questioned. "Who's to challenge it? Most people don't have the resources to hire their own pathologist and conduct the examination or review the report to make their own determination."

Alberta Justice has announced it will launch fatality inquires for both Morbe Buluk and Grant Prentice but dates have yet to be set.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Canadian medical study to look at Taser research gaps

February 15, 2011
The Canadian Press/CTV

OTTAWA — Gaps in the research on how Taser stun guns affect people will be one focus of a federal program aimed at better understanding the powerful weapons used for years by Canadian police.

Other studies will look at test procedures to ensure Tasers operate properly and ways to evaluate new weapons police might adopt, records obtained under the Access to Information Act show.

The $1.8-million Taser research program is overseen by the federal Centre for Security Science, a joint initiative of the Public Safety Department and Defence Research and Development Canada. The effort is slated to run through 2012-13.
Civil liberties advocates say the work is overdue given long-standing questions about stun gun safety.

"It's certainly welcome, we just wish it had been there a lot earlier," said Hilary Homes, a human rights campaigner with Amnesty International Canada.

"We hope it moves ahead on time -- ahead of time, if possible."

David Eby of the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association said it's positive that government recognizes the need for study, but he argued some topics have already been researched elsewhere.

"What I don't understand is why they're only doing this work now."

Almost a decade after police forces began using the Taser, the law enforcement community is still grappling with its effects.

In an effort to see common threads, the watchdog over the RCMP looked at the 10 cases, spanning 2003 to 2008, in which someone died in Mountie custody after a Taser had been used.

It urged the police force not to hog-tie people and called on the Mounties to better train officers on identifying, dealing with, and using force on the mentally ill and those with drug and alcohol problems.

Martin Champoux, a spokesman for Defence Research and Development Canada, acknowledges a need for more research to give policy makers and the policing community "scientific methodologies and tools that they need to make sure that they've got this right."

A panel of biomedical experts will deliver a report by August on existing research about the physiological effects of the Taser. That will help identify gaps and lay the groundwork for a strategy to fill them, Champoux said.

Another study will develop test procedures and performance measures to ensure Tasers are operating according to the manufacturer's specifications. Police forces will then be able to use it as a tool for checking their Tasers, he said.

The program will also include development of a protocol for "testing the next big thing" police might adopt to control suspects, Champoux added.

Though it is unclear what that might be, there has already been chatter about experimental weapons that emit sound, heat and noxious smells to disperse crowds or incapacitate would-be attackers.

"Nobody's brought anything to us to evaluate in the policing context," Champoux said.

Holmes applauded the move to create an approval process, saying it could have helped avoid the worldwide furor over safety of the Taser. "Some of that might have been mitigated if there had been a proper approvals framework in the first place."

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

The directive mirrored a recommendation from a B.C. public inquiry on Taser use prompted by the 2007 death of Robert Dziekanski at the Vancouver airport.

Roped moose not affected by Taser attempt

February 15, 2011
Fairbanks Daily News Miner

FAIRBANKS — Biologists with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game have failed in their attempts to Taser a cow moose roaming a Fairbanks neighborhood with a rope around its neck, so they decided to let nature take its course.

The moose was Tasered Feb. 4 in the Hamilton Acres subdivision in east Fairbanks, with the hope it would be stunned enough the rope could be removed. Biologists used a special wildlife Taser shipped from Southeast, but the instrument did not disable the moose.

The rope remained after a group of good Samaritans pulled the moose out of the Chena River on Jan. 2. It had fallen through the ice.

“We got a couple shots at her, but we couldn’t get both probes to stick, probably because of her thick winter hair,” said Fairbanks area biologist Don Young.

Biologist Tony Hollis was the trigger man. He shot the moose from 25 feet, the maximum distance for the Taser to be effective.

“We just could not get a good shot at 25 feet,” Hollis said.

The moose “showed no reaction as if it had got shocked,” he said. “It was more of a reaction to hearing the Taser go off — it sounds like a cap gun going off — and she took off.”

At that point, biologists decided to leave the cow, which was accompanied by a calf. After watching the cow during the course of two days while they tried to get in position to Taser the moose, biologists determined the rope is not hindering her ability to breathe, eat or walk.

“She’s not inhibited by the rope,” Young said. “We watched her feed and it doesn’t bother her. The rope is not hanging up on anything. It tracks right between her legs. It’s a pretty short rope.”

It was the first time state wildlife officials used a Taser on an animal in the northern region of the state, Hollis said. Officials in Southcentral and Southeast have experimented with the Taser on animals, he said.

“Using a Taser was attractive because, in theory, it drops the moose, you can run up to it, remove the rope and let her go,” Hollis said. “That was the plan.”

Biologists don’t want to use drugs to tranquilize the moose because if something went wrong and the moose died, or it was hit by a car and killed within the next few months, the meat would not be salvageable. The meat of drugged animals can’t be eaten for 90 days.

There’s a chance the rope could get caught on a tree limb and be pulled off, Young said. The rope also is “kind of rotten,” according to the man who put the loop around the moose’s neck during the rescue operation and who contacted Young.

The cow appears to be in “really good shape” Young said.

“She looks like she’s pregnant,” he said. “She’s definitely carrying some weight.”

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Constable's story evolved, lawyer says

February 12, 2011
Jana G. Pruden, Edmonton Journal

An Edmonton lawyer says a police officer's original notes -- not his subsequent testimony at a disciplinary hearing -- tell the real story of a 2002 arrest during which a teenager was repeatedly Tasered.

Const. Mike Wasylyshen, the son of former police chief Bob Wasylyshen, discharged his Taser eight times in the course of about a minute while arresting 16-year-old Randy Fryingpan.

Wasylyshen is charged with using inappropriate force during the arrest, and for allegedly hitting Frying pan in the head, causing him to lose a tooth. Wasylyshen also faces insubordination charges for violating police procedure, in part by allegedly having an unauthorized civilian with him on a ride along at the time.

The case was the subject of a police disciplinary hearing this fall, and the proceedings resumed on Friday for closing arguments from the prosecution.

Presenting officer Derek Cranna told the hearing he believes there is enough evidence to find Wasylyshen guilty on all of the disciplinary charges.

Wasylyshen's lawyer, Robert Hladun, will present his closing arguments when the hearing reconvenes next month.

The arrest happened on Oct. 5, 2002, as Fryingpan was sitting in a parked car on Abbottsfield Road with friends.

Wasylyshen responded to the scene to investigate whether the car was stolen. He got into a confrontation with Fryingpan when the drunken teen refused to get out of the car.

Testifying at the disciplinary hearing in November, Wasylyshen said he Tasered Fryingpan six times, not eight, because he contacted himself with one of the Taser strikes and another was unaccounted for. He said the Taser deployed for a complete five-second cycle only once.

Wasylyshen maintained the response was an appropriate use of force, which was in keeping with police procedure at the time.

But Cranna said that Wasylyshen's account of the event has changed through the years, and that details have changed to justify his actions.

Cranna said Wasylyshen's original notes describe only that Fryingpan pushed the officer's hands away, but in subsequent reports and proceedings Wasylyshen described being "violently pushed," or "batted away," and being hit in the arm with a closed fist.

"You can see the evolution of this over time," Cranna said, adding Wasylyshen provided details that would justify his actions.

He said Wasylyshen wasn't concerned enough about the dangers of the situation to wait for other officers, despite knowing that they would be arriving at the scene within moments.

Cranna said with eight Taser discharges in 68 seconds, Fryingpan wouldn't have had enough time to comply.

"The circumstances do not point to appropriate use of force," Cranna said. "They do not."

After the incident, then-chief Bob Wasylyshen decided no disciplinary action should be taken against any of the officers involved, but the Law Enforcement Review Board later ordered that charges be laid.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

RCMP moving forward with Taser recommendations: watchdog

February 10, 2011
Ian Mulgrew, Vancouver Sun

VANCOUVER — The Commission for Public Complaints into the RCMP has closed the file on the tragic 2007 death of Robert Dziekanski at Vancouver International Airport.

In a final report, interim chairman Ian McPhail said the force was in the process of addressing all 16 recommendations made in 2009 after the commission's initial investigation of the Polish immigrant's death at the hands of the RCMP.

Most of those recommendations concerned the use of Tasers.

The Mounties say 11 of the recommendations are already implemented, two have been partially implemented and the remaining three also have been separately addressed.

"In particular," McPhail wrote in the report, "the RCMP has revised its policy on the usage of (conducted energy weapons) and the reporting and tracking requirements flowing there from. The RCMP is also increasingly emphasizing de-escalation in its member training.

"In addition, the RCMP has developed and implemented an external investigation policy which requires that serious incidents be investigated by other agencies. Notably, the commissioner (of the RCMP) also addressed deficiencies in member note taking and emphasized the importance of thorough and reliable contemporaneous notes."
Concerns continue to exist with respect to the national force's capacity for strategic communications, McPhail added, and "the commission hopes that progress in this area continues."

An independent body with jurisdiction over complaints about all members, the commission normally waits for the RCMP to respond to a report before publicly releasing its findings.

In this case, however, the former chair felt public interest demanded the results of this investigation be released as quickly as possible.

The international attention, the widespread concerns over what happened and the slow pace of the Braidwood Inquiry into the incident, pushed the commission toward the release of the report in December 2009.

In it, former chairman Paul Kennedy concluded the RCMP officers failed in the performance of their duties and afterward, lied about what happened when they subdued the 40-year-old Dziekanski with multiple Taser jolts.

The RCMP only disagreed with the commission's criticism of a use-of-force expert who was consulted during the police investigation.

Lisa-Marie Inman, director of reviews for the commission, said the report was found to be limited in direction. For example, she said it failed to compare the officers' actions against the RCMP's specific policy for use of force.

As well, Inman said Fawcett's report made certain assumptions that were not conclusive, such as that Dziekanski was angry.

"The RCMP commissioner disagreed and referenced the use of force expert's qualifications and the evidence available to him," the commission said. "The CPC stands by its finding . . ."

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Tom Kaye a national figure in policing circles

See also Police chief wants tasers for all frontline officers

February 9, 2011
The Sun Times, Owen Sound

Outgoing Owen Sound Police Chief Tom Kaye is well known in policing circles provincially and nationally from his work, and sometimes controversial opinions, as an executive with both the Ontario and Canadian associations of chiefs of police.

Kaye was vice president of the CACP and the spokesperson on the issue when the organization released a policy paper in February 2009 backing the use of Tasers. He argued then that "to date there is no evidence, either scientific or medical, that a conducted energy weapon, has been the direct cause of death, anywhere, at any time, on any person."

Kaye was asked to chair the CACP committee on use of Tasers after "a major meeting in Orillia" that looked at the issue after the widely reported death of Robert Dziekanski, a Polish immigrant who died in October 2007 after RCMP officers Tasered him several times at the Vancouver airport, and several other deaths in Canada.

"Because of his knowledge on it, his interest in the subject, that's why he was appointed as chair of the special purpose committee in order to guide and direct all policing across Canada," Peter Cuthbert, the executive director of the CACP, said Wednesday.

"He's been very, very active and well respected on the board. I mean he's not an individual who comes to the table and stays quiet and mute, I'll tell you that," Cuthbert added.

Kaye said in January he looked forward to the day when every front-line police officer would carry a Taser.

During his time on the executive of the OACP, "Chief Kaye dealt with a lot of really important issues," said Jim Couto, the director of government relations and communications with the Ontario association.

"For instance, issues of diversity and the issue of racial profiling in policing, those were issues I know during his time were very prominent and he played a really key role in developing policing to a position where we acknowledge the unfortunate existence of that particular issue, racial profiling, and working with communities to move forward," he said.

"This is going to become a growth industry," Kaye was quoted as saying in 2001 about accusations of racial profiling by police. "That's what we've seen in the United States. It's become a multimillion-dollar business for consultants to come in and try and rid your organization of racism."

He was also quoted as saying that racism in police services is "certainly not something that we're that concerned about, because we don't believe it exists."

"Chief Kaye has always been very passionate about policing and what it can do in terms of community building and the role it plays in communities, in everyday lives of people," Couto said.

"Coming from a middle-sized service like Owen Sound, Chief Kaye had a really unique impact on OACP and certainly policing in the province. He was very well respected and his work at the CACP has been phenomenal . . . He's not a guy who shies away from tackling tough issues. I think he's done a fantastic job representing us not only in Ontario but across Canada."

Owen Sound Police Chief, Tom Kaye, Appointed to the Parole Board of Canada

February 9, 2011

Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound, ONTARIO – Larry Miller, MP for Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound, would like to extend congratulations to Owen Sound police chief, Tom Kaye, on his appointment as a full-time member to the Parole Board of Canada.

Tom Kaye has had a distinguished career serving the Owen Sound community. In 1995 he joined the Owen Sound police as deputy-chief. He was soon made acting chief in 1997 and was confirmed to that position in May of 1998.

From 2002-2003 he served as president of the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police, and for the past seven years has been on the executive of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police.

Commenting on the appointment, Miller said “Mr. Kaye has been a great leader in both our community and the policing community. I would like to thank him for his years of dedicated public service.” Miller concluded, saying “I wish him all the best in his new post.”

Louisiana man dies after he is tasered by police

February 5, 2011: Robert Ricks, 23, Alexandria, Louisiana

Taser fires back in lawsuit by Winnipeg teenager's family

February 9, 2011
Gabrielle Giroday, Winnipeg Free Press

The American manufacturer of the Tasers Winnipeg police carry said the death of a local teenager is not due to their products.

Michael Brian Langan, 17, died in July 2008 after an altercation with police in a William Avenue back lane. An autopsy report obtained by the Free Press last year said Langan died of heart arrhythmia after police shocked him twice with a Taser.

However, a recently filed statement of defence in a lawsuit by Langan's family strongly rejects Tasers as the cause of death.

"Taser specifically denies that Michael Langan's death was caused or materially contributed to by any discharge from an (electronic control device)," said the statement of defence on behalf of Taser International, which is headquartered in Scottsdale, Ariz. "Further, Taser denies that Michael Langan's death was caused or materially contributed to by any act or omission or anything done or failed to be done by Taser as alleged, or at all, and puts the plaintiff to the strict proof thereof."

The court documents were filed in response to a lawsuit by Langan's family against Winnipeg police Chief Keith McCaskill, two unidentified officers and Taser International. Langan died after police pursued a suspect for allegedly breaking into a car on nearby Notre Dame Avenue.

Police found Langan in a William Avenue back lane, and said they warned him repeatedly to put down a knife he was brandishing before they Tasered him.

Langan died after being rushed to hospital, and his mother said in the aftermath she wanted stun guns banned.

Police said soon after the death that the homicide unit was investigating, but have not announced any charges.

City officers have continued to carry Tasers after Langan's death. Taser International said in its statement of defence its products go to accredited law enforcement agencies in Canada "as an alternative to a firearm and the use of deadly force."

The statement of defence says the company provided product warnings and training materials to the Winnipeg Police Service in each product box, as well as copies of medical studies related to electronic control devices (ECDs).

"At all material times, Taser designed its ECDs to deploy a conductive energy pulse designed to cause neuromuscular incapacitation so as to incapacitate a person momentarily while reducing the likelihood of injury or death to that person or to the attending law enforcement officer(s)," said the statement of defence.

Johanna Abbott, director of the chief medical examiner's office, said dates for an inquest on Langan's death have not been set because the police investigation hasn't finished. Lawyer Jay Prober, who represents Langan's mother, said the teen's family is eager for the inquest to happen.

"They want to know all the circumstances surrounding Michael's death, not just what they're being told, and what they're reading about, and what the police say," he said.

He said the statement of defence filed by Taser International "flies in the face of the medical examiner's report."

In the autopsy report, a medical examiner's report said Langan's death was due to "cardiac arrhythmia (ventricular fibrillation) due to deployment of electronic control device." The report also said Langan had a heart abnormality that contributed to his death, as did running from police.

The young man had alcohol and marijuana in his system when he died, according to the report.

No statement of defence has been filed so far by Winnipeg police, who declined to comment Tuesday.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Police Officer pleads guilty -Testicle Taser threat

Toronto police officer pleads guilty to threatening man in custody

February 7, 2011
CTV News

A Toronto police officer has pleaded guilty to one count of threatening bodily harm after being caught on video intimidating two people in custody with a Taser.

Video released Monday during Const. Christopher Hominuk's trial shows the officer using his Taser to try to exact information from the men.

The video was captured on May 24 while police were investigating a theft call in Etobicoke. It shows an officer holding a Taser to a man's neck while the man lies in handcuffs across the back seat of a police cruiser. In the same video, the officer can be seen threatening a second man's genitals with the Taser, saying he will be shocked if he fails to co-operate.

On Monday, a spokesperson for Chief Bill Blair described the officer's behaviour as "disgraceful."

The officer did not discharge his Taser on either prisoner, the court heard.

Hominuk, who is 37 years old and has 13 years of police service behind him, was charged and suspended from duty with pay in June 2010. He was most recently posted with 22 Division in the city's west end.

He is set to be sentenced at the College Park courthouse on June 14, 2011.

With a report from CTV Toronto's John Musselman

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Cop threatened to Taser prisoners

February 2, 2011
Sam Pazzano, Toronto Sun

A Toronto Police officer admitted he threatened to Taser two prisoners in the testicles to force the duo to help him catch a suspect.

Const. Christopher Hominuk, 37, pleaded guilty to one count of threatening bodily harm in a May 24, 2010 incident involving two suspects.

Both victims were handcuffed and sitting alone in different police cruisers.

Hominuk’s actions were captured on the in-cruiser video cameras, which revealed him slapping Robert James Bolgan, 47, in the face and forcing him to lay down on the back seat.

The video was played in open court before Justice Hugh Fraser Monday.

As soon as Hominuk opened the cruiser door, he pushed his Taser into Bolgan’s genital area.

Crown attorney Philip Perlmutter said Hominuk demanded to know from Bolgan the identity of a missing suspect. Bolgan replied he didn’t know.

“I’ll f---ing Taser. If you are lying to me, when I get back to the station, I’m Tasering you in the f---ing nuts,” Hominuk barked at Bolgan.

Bolgan had redness to the side of his forehead where he was struck.

Hominuk then confronted his second victim, Roger William Bradshaw, 39, who was lying in a nearby cruiser’s back seat.

Hominuk pressed his Taser into Bradshaw’s neck and repeated his demand for the identity of the fugitive. When Bradshaw insisted he didn’t know him, Hominuk snarled: “If I find out you’re lying, I’m going to f---ing Taser you in the nuts.”

Bradshaw was unharmed. The Taser was never activated or used on either man.

A sentencing hearing for Hominuk, 37, is scheduled for June 14 at College Park.

Hominuk and other officers were investigating a break-in at some tractor trailers in Etobicoke when police arrested the two men and another individual at 36 Taymall Rd.

Court heard that neither victim was intimidated or physically injured. Neither complained about the threats or treatment. Hominuk’s Taser was never activated or used in the incident.

Hominuk’s misconduct was discovered while police viewed the in-camera video for an unrelated purpose.

Hominuk, a 14-year officer with an exemplary record and was a probationary sergeant at the time. He’s married and has two children, said his lawyer Peter Brauti.

Brauti told court “there will be medical evidence that will be an extenuating circumstance” at the sentencing hearing.

Hominuk lost his probationary rank and could lose his job if he’s sentenced to a custodial or conditional sentence, said Brauti.

Hominuk was suspended with pay since being charged in June last year.