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Thursday, August 25, 2011

Cops unable to curb excited delirium custody deaths, inquiry told

August 24, 2011
Kevin Martin, Calgary Sun

Regardless of restraint method, police forces continue to have in custody deaths related to excited delirium, a senior Calgary officer told a fatality inquiry Wednesday.

Insp. Chris Butler said cops have tried various methods to limit the number of suspects who succumb to the syndrome, including Tasers.

But despite efforts to find ways to subdue out-of-control individuals, police haven’t been able to find a way to reduce such deaths.

“No matter how we change the method of restraint to try to maximize the rate of survival, we still have in-custody deaths,” Butler testified.

He said the Calgary Police Service abandoned neck restraints in the early 1990s, using pepper spray instead, when it was believed the choke holds were causing deaths.

But when fatalities continued in North America, groups such as Amnesty International called for the banning of OC spray, believing it was to blame, Butler said.

Since then, the CPS has resumed training officers to use neck restraints in some instances when trying to subdue individuals, he said.

Butler was giving evidence at a fatality inquiry into the death of Gordon Walker Bowe, who succumbed to excited delirium on Nov. 2, 2008.

Bowe was shot with a Taser gun during his arrest the previous evening, when he was found in an agitated state in an under-construction home on 42 St. S.E.

A report from Taser International said the weapon discharged an electrical current for two to five seconds, but officers on the scene said it appeared to have no effect on Bowe.

Meanwhile, the lawyer for the U.S.-based company said his client is not looking at developing suspect-debilitating dart guns.

Inquiry Judge Heather Lamoureux had asked in June, whether “medical restraints” could be delivered through weapons.

“I raised the issue with Taser, they’re not working in that area at all,” David Neave told Lamoureux.

“It’s difficult to, from a distance, provide, or administer a drug that will calm a person down sufficiently to take them into custody,” Neave said.

The hearing, which can make recommendations to prevent similar deaths, but cannot find blame, resumes Thursday.

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