May 4, 2011
Manchester Evening News
A police watchdog has found that officers who used a Taser gun TWICE on a man who was having an epilpetic fit were right to do so.
But officials at the Independent Police Complaints Commission have now asked for a review of GMP's policy for dealing with people experiencing medical episodes after Howard Swarray was zapped at a Whalley Range gym.
Mr Swarray, 41, was working out at the Powerleague gym on Wilbraham Road when he suffered a seizure and collapsed.
Witnesses said that as he came round he began to struggle with staff and paramedics and police were called.
One officer was recorded en route as saying: "If he is getting aggressive I am sure 50,000 volts will stand him up."
When police arrived they unsuccessfully tried to handcuff Mr Swarray, who remembers nothing of the incident.
One officer then hit him on the arms and legs before his Taser-trained colleague, who had made the earlier comment, authorised himself to use the weapon, which is allowed under GMP policy.
He discharged it once and when it appeared to have no effect fired it again, this time in 'drive stun' mode.
Mr Swarray was then handcuffed but officers said he continued to act aggressively so they used 'various methods' to restrain him further, including bending his
toes back. Another officer stood on his legs.
Mr Swarray was then sedated with the horse tranquilliser ketamine and spent more than two weeks in hospital which included eight days in a drug-induced coma.
Eventually he was diagnosed with kidney failure.
A health expert told the IPCC that although a Taser could cause muscle damage it was most likely that Mr Swarray's condition was caused by physical exertion or resisting physical restraint.
Three ambulance staff were treated in hospital for bruises after the episode, which happened on 23 November 2009.
Mr Swarray submitted a complaint via his solicitor claiming the use of the Taser on him was innappropriate and that officers used excessive force.
But the IPCC investigation found that while some of the tactics used were 'questionable', 'no officers breached policies or procedures or comitted misconduct'.
Despite those findings the watchdog has asked the Association of Chief Police Officers to carry out a review into the tactics used for dealing with people experiencing serious medical episodes.
They have cited 'sufficient public concern' around incidents such as Mr Swarray's for doing so.
IPCC Commissioner Ms Naseem Malik said: "It is evident from our investigation that the officers involved were responding to an incident in which a man appeared to be violently resisting attempts to deliver medical treatment.
"Subsequent medical evidence shows Mr Swarray had been in the recovery stage of an epileptic seizure and not in control of his actions. However, although the initial report had suggested Mr Swarray was having a seizure, at the point the officers arrived to provide assistance it is evident the exact cause of Mr Swarray's behaviour had not been fully established.
"The fact is all of the actions taken by the officers were within their training and did not breach force policies. There is nothing within either ACPO or GMP policies that prevents the use of Taser against a person who has suffered an epileptic seizure.
"With hindsight actions such as giving commands and attempting compliance through pain to a person who was already known to be unresponsive were questionable. However the officers were considering options within their training and the officer who discharged the Taser believed he had no other option.
"The language used by the officer en route to the incident was inappropriate and suggested a certain mindset. However it is evident he then considered tactical options before deciding to use the Taser.
"However, while our investigation has found individual officers have acted correctly, the overriding concern remains that a medical condition exists that can prompt an individual to be in a totally disorientated state which can result in them being incredibly violent, yet the only option open to police officers in dealing with such an individual at present appears to be to deliver controlled violence.
"While I recognise that police need to protect the public and themselves against violent individuals, my concern is whether there is an alternative to the use of a Taser to deal with people whose violence arises from a medical condition such as epilepsy. For this reason the IPCC is writing to ACPO to suggest that, in conjunction with relevant charities or healthcare providers, they consider whether other, potentially less violent tactics could be used in these types of situations to ensure people suffering medical emergencies receive the right care and that frontline police officers have the relevant knowledge to assist them.”
WELCOME to TRUTH ... not TASERS
Wednesday, May 04, 2011
May 4, 2011