August 31, 2011
Four Mounties charged with perjury during the inquiry into the death of Robert Dziekanski at Vancouver airport in 2007 are set to appear in court in Vancouver on Wednesday.
Constables Bill Bentley, Kwesi Millington, Gerry Rundell and Cpl. Benjamin Robinson are accused of lying about their actions when they confronted Dziekanski and stunned him multiple times with a Taser.
Dziekanski, 41, died in the secure arrivals area of Vancouver International Airport on Oct. 14, 2007, moments after he was shot with RCMP stun guns. His death ignited an international debate about the police use of stun guns.
The Mounties told commissioner Thomas Braidwood they feared for their safety when Dziekanski picked up a stapler, but Braidwood rejected their testimony in his final report.
No charges were ever laid against the four Mounties in Dziekanski's death, but a special prosecutor approved the charges of perjury.
WELCOME to TRUTH ... not TASERS
Wednesday, August 31, 2011
August 31, 2011
August 30, 2011: Nicholas Koscielniak, 27, Lancaster, New York
Posted by Reality Chick at 07:24
Monday, August 29, 2011
"The Fayetteville Police Department is the second in North Carolina in the past six weeks to pull the Tasers from use. The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department did so in July after a 21-year-old man died after a Taser was used on him. The day before that man's death, a federal jury awarded $10 million to the family of a 17-year-old Charlotte teen who died in 2008 after he was stunned with a Taser. The suit was filed against Taser International, the Scottsdale, Ariz.-based manufacturer of the stun guns."
August 29, 2011
Nancy McCleary, Fay Observer
The Fayetteville Police Department is taking its Taser weapons off the streets so officials can determine whether it's safe to use them, authorities said Monday.
The decision comes almost a week after a Fayetteville man died after police used a Taser as they tried to take him into custody.
"I feel it was the responsible and prudent response to issues with the use of Tasers in the law enforcement profession in general," Police Chief Tom Bergamine said Monday in an email.
All officers have been ordered to turn in their Tasers at the department's training facility where the weapons will be inspected to make sure they are functioning properly, Bergamine said in a news release earlier Monday.
Bergamine said he has no reason to believe that the Taser used in last week's incident malfunctioned.
"The Fayetteville Police Department believes that it is imperative that we immediately verify that all of our Tasers are in proper working order to protect both the citizens and officers," the statement said.
The department also plans to review its policies and procedures regarding the use of Tasers, the statement said.
The department's use-of-force policy addresses the use of Tasers and cites conditions in which the weapons should be used.
Among them are controlling violent subjects when deadly force is not necessary, when conventional tactics and/or self-defense techniques are ineffective, when there is a reasonable expectation that it will be unsafe for officers to get close to a subject and to keep a person from committing suicide or a self-inflicted injury.
Michael Wade Evans, 56, of the 1100 block of Simpson Street, died Wednesday after a Fayetteville police officer used a Taser on him.
Police were trying to arrest Evans about 2:30 p.m. in front of Fuller's Old Fashion Barbecue at 113 N. Eastern Blvd. Evans was reported to have been acting erratically and trying to jump on vehicles as they passed him on the road.
When Evans resisted arrest, an officer used a stun gun. Evans became unresponsive and was pronounced dead at Cape Fear Valley Medical Center.
Fayetteville police have used Tasers since 1996, according to spokesman Gavin MacRoberts.
Evans is the second person to die in Fayetteville since 2008 after city police used a stun gun during an arrest.
In January 2008, Otis C. Anderson, 36, stopped breathing after a Taser was used to subdue him. The incident happened on Murchison Road. An autopsy later revealed that Anderson had a lethal amount of cocaine in his system and that the cause of death was an overdose of the drug.
Second to pull Tasers
The Fayetteville Police Department is the second in North Carolina in the past six weeks to pull the Tasers from use.
The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department did so in July after a 21-year-old man died after a Taser was used on him.
The day before that man's death, a federal jury awarded $10 million to the family of a 17-year-old Charlotte teen who died in 2008 after he was stunned with a Taser.
The suit was filed against Taser International, the Scottsdale, Ariz.-based manufacturer of the stun guns.
The city of Charlotte denied any wrongdoing but settled with the victim's family and paid them $625,000 in 2009, according to reports.
Taser International makes the stun guns used by Fayetteville police.
A company spokesman said there have been no reports of malfunctioning Taser weapons in the company's 17-year history.
"The vast number of these cases (deaths) tend to be caused by a drug overdose or delirium or some are simply unexplained," Steve Tuttle said.
It's not unusual, he said, for a law enforcement agency to review its policies and procedures for use of Tasers.
"We'll have lots of situations in which departments want to get to the bottom of what happened in an event like this," Tuttle said. "You want to make sure the weapons are in normal operating order."
Tuttle also cited a Department of Justice study published in May that showed no increased risk of an irregular heartbeat caused by a Taser gun.
Sheriff Moose Butler said he had no plans to pull the Tasers his deputies carry.
"We have, as the usual course and practice, reviewed all of our policies regarding use of force, and we have found them to be appropriate," said Debbie Tanna, a Sheriff's Office spokeswoman.
"We have also inquired as to whether there have been any product warning, recalls or notices of defects in the Taser devices, or any reports of them, which would tend to impact the use of the devices," Tanna said. "We have found none."
Cumberland County Commissioner Charles Evans has been critical of the Police Department's use of Tasers. He commended Bergamine's decision but said it should have been done earlier.
"Actually," Evans said, "I don't think Tasers should be used at all. I think our leadership under the current administration should have looked at this a long time ago."
The three officers involved in the incident that resulted in Michael Evans' death have been placed on administrative duty pending the outcome of an investigation by the State Bureau of Investigation, which is routine in uses of police force resulting in death.
Police have identified the officers as Alexander Leviner, 35; Christopher Crews, 25; and Travis Smith, 22, all assigned to the Campbellton Bureau.
The SBI is continuing to investigate, a spokeswoman said Monday.
August 29, 2011
When law enforcement and mental illness collide, the results are often painful for both sides. Nationally, more than a half-million people with mental illness are behind bars. These unfortunate folks are often jailed for nonviolent offenses.
Even worse, sometimes the results are tragic, as in the local case of Steven Hayes, who died this June when Nassau Bay police shocked him three times with a Taser because he was shouting and pounding on a table. Hayes was bipolar, according to his family, who said he had never before been violent.
This is the sort of incident that makes us glad to see the recent decision of Harris County Commissioners Court to launch the Crisis Intervention Response Team (CIRT) program, which will introduce mental health professionals into the law-enforcement equation. The county plan, called for by Sheriff Adrian Garcia, is modeled on the Houston Police Department program in which mental health workers are deputized to ride with police officers. These mental health deputies take charge when responding to situations involving people with mental health issues.
As reported by the Chronicle's James Pinkerton and Mike Morris ("A plan to treat - not jail - the mentally ill," Page B1, Aug. 22), fewer than one percent of the people that HPD's CIRT teams encounter wind up in jail. Many incidents are dealt with at the scene, and around a third of the people go on to receive medical treatment, which the jails are obviously hard-pressed to deliver. These kinds of outcomes will now be possible outside the Houston city limits.
People who need help will get it, and the county will save money. Sheriff Garcia calculates savings of over $2 million annually in jail operations alone. And jail overcrowding will be eased. Unfortunately for Professor Edward Hayes of UH-Clear Lake, this new program comes too late to save his brother Steven's life. But Hayes supports the program: "I'm almost certain that had our law enforcement in Nassau Bay had such a team with them, my brother would be alive today."
Those are sobering words, which make us all the more grateful for the county's new program.
Friday, August 26, 2011
August 26, 2011
Daryl Slade, Calgary Herald
The family of a man who died after being jolted by police with a stun gun during an arrest nearly three years ago walked away from a fatality inquiry Friday with a better understanding of what happened.
However, although they now know for sure Gordon Bowe was afflicted with cocaine-induced excited delirium syndrome, they say they still are not totally clear about why he died on Nov. 1, 2008, after allegedly breaking into a home on 42nd Street S.E.
“It answered a lot of questions for me,” Robert Bowe of Vancouver, the father of the deceased, said outside court. “I still have some doubts about some of the things that happened, but I don’t put any blame on the police officers or anybody else involved.
“Some of the procedures and training (of police) may be inadequate when it comes to this type of thing.”
Robert Bowe said he still believes the use of a stung gun should be a last resort and, if possible, officers should avoid trying to restrain someone in such a heightened state for as long as possible.
“Let it run it’s time out and if the person doesn’t survive, there’s even more evidence to try to help educate people,” he said. “I feel good about the outcome of this (evidence). It’s just a sad thing my son happened to be one of the very few.”
He said it was more likely his son, in the state he was in, was not trying to hurt anyone, but it was a chemical imbalance and he was fighting for his life.
It was determined after the fact that Gordon Bowe, 30, suffered from excited delirium and that the stun gun deployed by the city police officer, one of four officers trying to restrain him, did not play any role in his death.
The devastated father also warned all young people that they should never take illicit drugs even once, because they are then susceptible to excited delirium.
John Chernenkoff, the deceased’s father-on-law, said he feels a lot better after hearing the evidence at the inquiry, but said he is not happy with the discrepancies between the evidence of the police officers and the report by the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team.
“What happened in this incident, as far as the outcome, is still up in the air,” he said. “We will be making some recommendations. We’ve drawn up a few, but we want to finalize them before presenting them to the judge.”
Mary Erschbamer, Gordon Bowe’s stepmother, said she was happy to find “he was not a criminal, that this was an illness.”
Dr. Christine Hall of Victoria, who has done extensive research on excited delirium for the past decade, told court that it would be beneficial to better understand the rare illness. She added it would be beneficial if police agencies keeping track of all such in-custody incidents were to provide better data to herself and other researchers.
Currently, she said, they are only scratching the surface and still face great opposition from critics in the medical field.
She told Crown lawyer Jo-Ann Burgess said she wished more physicians were involved in assisting the study, but it’s a tough sell because of the level of personal criticism she faces from a skeptical portion of the medical field.
“It’s difficult to engage physicians in a controversial topic, but if we had better data and better understanding scientifically, that would be much easier,” Hall testified.
“Also, just for people to realize we’re talking about a very, very small proportion of people, as we understand at the moment. So changing things isn’t rapid, but we need to follow it. . . . This notion that it’s all a giant coverup and it’s all a big conspiracy theory, we’re really ignoring the medicine.”
Robert Bowe said he was pleased with the studies Dr. Hall is doing on the illness now and will continue in the future.
“She’ll possibly have some recommendations to have better procedures for the future to stop deaths when police encounter this situation,” he said.
Provincial court Judge Heather Lamoureux invited all interested parties — the family, Calgary Police Service, Taser International, Alberta Health Services and Emergency Medical Services — to provide suggested recommendations to her by Oct. 31.
She will then file a report outlining the evidence and recommendations, if any.
August 26, 2011
Daryl Slade, Calgary Herald
The officer who fired his Taser at a man who had allegedly broken into a southeast residence says it would have been difficult to do things any differently, given the information he and his fellow officers had.
"If at the time we knew the house was 100 per cent vacant, our tactics could have changed," Const. Stefan Van Tassell testified Thursday at a fatality inquiry.
"If there was nobody else in the house and he only could have harmed himself, we could have bought more time."
Van Tassell said it was only later determined that Gordon Bowe, 40, was in a state of excited delirium when he and other officers arrived at what they believed to be an occupied home in the 500 block of 42nd Street S.E. on Nov. 1, 2008.
The four police officers involved in subduing Bowe, including Van Tassell, were subsequently cleared of any potential wrongdoing and the investigation concluded the stun gun did not play any role in the man's death.
Dr. Christine Hall, a Victoria emergency room physician who has spent the past 10 years researching excited delirium syndrome, said Calgary police are "the gold standard" in incorporating training of the rare affliction.
"We're trying to give police agencies enough to know what to deal with," she testified. "A lot of people don't believe there is something significantly different about people who die in custody and the thinking is 'whoever touched him last must have caused his death.'
"But as a medical researcher, you look at the cases, you change the names, places and dates, and it's the same symptoms."
Hall said some doctors have never seen excited delirium and "think it's crap," but hers and other researchers' goals are to define the factors that police should be aware of when dealing with someone who has excited delirium.
She said such people are agitated, incoherent, are often partly naked and exhibit enormous strength.
Hall said she has submitted a research paper on the subject to the Journal of Forensic and Legal Medicine, to help identify the symptoms and how to handle someone with excited delirium.
"It's very easy after the fact to look back and have all the cards fall and say, 'How couldn't I see that?' " she told provincial court Judge Heather Lamoureux, who is hearing the inquiry into Bowe's death.
"But it might not be an obvious thing while it's going on. Even though you're educated, you're not expecting that to happen. You have no idea somebody is going to die."
Court previously heard that Calgary police dealt with 37 arrests of people with excited delirium over the most recent three-year period examined.
She said it is being examined where such a suspect might be sedated from a distance, but that is difficult because of dosages and concerns the person might flee before it takes effect and either be injured or passed out somewhere unknown.
Van Tassell told Crown lawyer Jo-Ann Burgess that he and his partner arrived at the home and he used his flashlight to see the intruder through a broken window into the dark basement.
"I observed him in the baseent," Van Tassell said, alludng to Bowe.
"He was very irritated and aggressive. He was shouting, flailing his limbs about. I announced, 'Calgary police, you are under arrest,' several times. He didn't acknowledge me. I continued to issue challenges to him."
The officer said he then drew his Taser gun and deployed it through the open window and saw the man fall backwards, but he got up again fairly quickly and began moving toward him.
Van Tassell said he then went into the basement and saw Bowe running back and forth. He fired the stun gun two more times, but believed he missed the target at least once before he went down.
"I pulled the Taser, because it was the most effective means of taking him under control without injury," the officer told court.
Van Tassell said it took four officers, including himself, to finally handcuff Bowe. It was only after they got the cuffs on him that they suspected he was in an excited delirium and they summoned paramedics.
Van Tassell said he could not specifically recall if he had warned Bowe that he was intending to use his Taser if Bowe didn't comply.
The officer said the man was grunting and snorting heavily and never did give a verbal response. It was only at the point that he was handcuffed and subdued that it was suspected he might be in a state of delirium from use of illicit drugs.
"He wasn't communicating properly, just grunting, and I realized excited delirium was a possibility," Van Tassell recalled, "but I couldn't say with certainty he had excited delirium.
"He had been running around flailing, not fully clothed, but it was not until after the cuffs were on we thought it might be excited delirium."
The fatality inquiry continues today.
Thursday, August 25, 2011
August 25, 2011
Daryl Slade, Calgary Herald
CALGARY — The city police officer who fired his stun gun at a man who had allegedly broken into a southeast residence says it would have been difficult to do anything differently, given the information he and his fellow officers had at the time.
“If at the time we knew the house was 100 per cent vacant our tactics could have changed,” Const. Stefan Van Tassell testified at a fatality inquiry.
“If there was nobody else in the house and he only could have harmed himself we could have bought more time.”
Van Tassell said it was only later determined that the man they encountered, Gordon Bowe, 40, was in a state of excited delirium when he and other officers arrived at what they believed to be an occupied home in the 500 block of 42nd Street S.E. on Nov. 1, 2008.
The four police officers involved in subduing Bowe, including Van Tassell have been cleared of any potential wrongdoing and the investigation concluded the stun gun did not cause the man’s death.
Van Tassell, now in his seventh year with Calgary police, told Crown lawyer Jo-Ann Burgess that he and his partner arrived at the home and he used his flashlight to see the intruder through a broken window into the dark basement.
“He was very irritated and aggressive,” Van Tassell said. “He was shouting, flailing his limbs about. I announced ‘Calgary police, you are under arrest,’ several times. He didn’t acknowledge me. I continued to issue challenges to him.”
The officer said he then drew his stun gun and deployed it through the open window and saw the man fall backwards, but got up again fairly quickly and began moving toward him without saying anything coherently.
Van Tassell said he then went into the basement and saw Bowe running back and forth. He fired the stun gun again twice, but believed he missed the target at least once before he went down.
“I pulled the Taser, because it was the most effective means of taking him under control without injury,” the officer told court.
Van Tassell said it took four officers, including himself, to finally handcuff the large man while he was on the basement floor.
It was only after they got the cuffs on him that they suspected he was in an excited delirium and they summoned the awaiting paramedics.
Van Tassell said he could not specifically recall if he had warned Bowe that he was intending to use his Taser if he didn’t comply, but said it was standard practice to do so.
He said once Bowe was under control and searched for any weapons, some of the officers went to clear the residence, to be certain there was nobody else inside.
The officer said the man was grunting and snorting heavily and didn’t give a verbal response. It was only at the point that he was handcuffed and subdued that it was suspected he might be in a state of delirium from use of illicit drugs.
“He wasn’t communicating properly, just grunting, and I realized excited delirium was a possibility,” Van Tassell recalled. “But I couldn’t say with certainty he had excited delirium.
“He had been running around flailing, not fully clothed, but it was not until after the cuffs were on we thought it might be excited delirium.”
Excited delirium is described as a condition that includes a combination of delirium, physical agitation and anxiety that can include hallucinations, speech disturbances and disorientation that can lead to an elevated body temperature and superhuman strength.
Court heard previously that police deal with about a dozen cases a year of excited delirium. Although they are trained how to deal with such suspects, it is not always apparent initially what they are facing.
The inquiry continues through Friday.
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.
Tuesday, August 23, 2011
VERY INTERESTING COMMENT FROM "CONCERNED CANADIAN" FOLLOWING THIS ARTICLE!!
August 9, 2011
Whit Richardson, Security Director News
With campus security departments preparing for the imminent return of students, the recent news of a student’s death after being Tased by a campus security officer at the University of Cincinnati may force a re-examination of policies dictating when Tasers should and shouldn’t be used.
Here’s what happened: UC police officers were responding to an early morning 911 call that reported an assault at a dorm when they encountered an agitated 18-year-old student who wouldn’t back off after being asked multiple times, according to an article from the Cincinnati Enquirer. The student was shot with a Taser stun gun and died of a heart attack, according to the newspaper. UC police have temporarily stopped using Tasers as a result, the newspaper reported.
The newspaper’s report also discusses the liabilities surrounding the use of Tasers and a new weapon being deployed by law enforcement officials: the Mark 63 Trident device from Virginia-based Aegis.
This may be an issue worth a deeper examination by Security Director News. What do you think?
Concerned Canadian says:
August 23rd, 2011 at 6:33 pm
Unfortunately, no police agencies have any ‘black box’ testers to regularly test for output irregularities of Tasers. ‘Output variance’ was proven by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) News several years ago — and subsequent government testing reveals numerous weapons perform outside of the safety allowables set by the manufacturers. In British Columbia (Canada), 80% of the M26 models failed; the older devices were eventually shelved across the country. Whenever there is a death proximal to a Taser, it is imperative for a third party to measure the device, to do so accurately with a proper electrical safety standard brought to bear. Medical Examiners cannot rule out a Taser as a contributing factor without proper measurement being done first to ensure it is performing within the manufacturer’s specifications. This is rarely done.
‘Excited Delirium’ is often cited as the cause-of-death, yet this is not a diagnosis that is recognized by either the American Medical Association or its Canadian counterpart. It is a very wide, diverse list of symptoms, which came from a certain Dr. Bell at the Boston Sanatorium For the Insane in the1840’s. They were still using leeches and doing blood-letting back then—but this is where ED was first observed in several dozen patients in as many years. It would be interesting to know who introduced the term to police. You never hear about Excited Delirium until a Taser-related death occurs.
Also of grave concern(and something that must be haunting Taser International in the two major product liability lawsuits it has lost – and the dozens it has settled out of court) is there is no electrical safety standard for shocks IN the body. The electrical safety standard bodies UL, IEC and CSA will tell you, they have never tested Tasers or Conducted Energy Weapons in general — nor would they- because up until the Mark 63, all devices have been INVASIVE, allowing electrical current to pierce the skin, entering the body and passing through it. The Ul says not enough is known about the actual mechanism of shocks, the ‘paths’ such current takes within the body and the physiological effects and/or damage inside the body, where resistance is negligible. No one has ever done any body density mapping to see what damage such current can do. No company testing was ever done to predict effects due to age, weight, gender, ethnicity, mood, electrolyte levels, adrenaline in the system, salt content in the blood, dart placement, dart size, dart depth, number + duration of stuns, etc. The real question is how the devices were approved without anyone in government in either the U-S or Canada,verifying the manufacturer’s safety claims.
Tasers are implicated as either the cause or contributing factor in 682 deaths in North America since they were deployed just over a decade ago. Amnesty International hasn’t updated the numbers but the blog TRUTH NOT TASERS HAS been logging the deaths, regularly and accurately, based on media reports. There is now an average of two deaths per week in the U-S. Yet since the Braidwood Inquiry recommended a tightening of CEW use by Canadian police, there hasn’t been one single death. The weapons are not to be used as compliance tools in Canada – only in truly life threatening situations. In other words, Tasers are now treated as deadly weapons, not cattle prods.
These remain untested, unregulated electrical devices. They do not bear certification marks like every other electrical product sold or used in Canada and the U-S. Police in Canada are in violation of the Electrical Safety Standards Act. Because of this, the liabilities could be huge. Now the manufacturer has abdicated legal responsibility with its long list of risks and warnings, hanging law enforcement out to dry when someone dies. All you need to read is the fine print of Training Bulletin # 17 and the latest Volunteer Waiver, which tells the whole story. In a decade, we have gone from non-lethal to less-lethal… and now an admittance the devices are LETHAL. Has human physiology changed in that ten years? Or the design of the device? No – the only change is the manufacturer’s opinion of the safety of its products. What should insurers, shareholders and forward-thinking police officers make of all this,now that the Braidwood Inquiry, the U-S Courts and Taser International itself are in agreement that Tasers KILL? This is not what anyone was told a decade ago, when the promotional material maintained the devices were “safe to use on any attacker”?
Individuals in government and law enforcement in both countries either dropped the ball- or worse, co-operated— in allowing a weapon to be deployed prematurely without enough scientific scrutiny to ensure the manufacturer’s medical & safety claims were true. The promise of public safety was broken. And people continue to die.
Sunday, August 21, 2011
August 21, 2011
LaNia Coleman, The Bay City Times
BAY CITY — A federal judge in Bay City has approved a $1 million settlement in the wrongful death suit filed by the family of Brett Elder, the Bay City teen who died after Bay City police used a Taser to subdue him.
Eugene Elder Sr. filed the lawsuit against the city and Cpl. James Lyman in December 2009, nine months after his 15-year-old son died at a party on South Catherine.
An autopsy showed the teen died of “alcohol-induced excited delirium” coupled with “application of an electromuscular disruption device.”
Officers were called by party-goers who said the teen attacked a woman, placing her in a headlock.
Bay County Prosecutor Kurt Asbury has said the teen was intoxicated, “highly agitated and combative” and “took a fighting stance” against three officers.
Lyman deployed his Taser, the probes of which struck Brett Elder in the torso, according to reports. Witnesses claimed the teen had his hands cuffed behind his back when the Taser was fired.
Based on the state police investigation, Asbury declined to authorize criminal charges, saying the evidence did not prove any officers committed criminal acts.
Acting on the recommendation of retired Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Pamela Harwood, who served as mediator, U.S. District Judge Thomas L. Ludington signed an order for the disbursement of $1 million to four of the teen’s family members and the family’s attorneys.
The settlement provides $219,554 for Eugene Elder Sr.; $200,000 for Eugene Elder Jr. and Eric Elder, Brett Elder’s brothers; and $1,000 for Nancy Malucci, Brett Elder’s grandmother, court records show.
Another $7,500 is to be paid to attorney Howard Linden for administering Brett Elder’s estate.
The remaining $371,946 goes to Southfield attorneys Geoffrey N. Fieger, James J. Harrington IV and Robert M. Giroux Jr. of Fieger, Fieger, Kenney & Giroux, who represented Eugene Elder, according to court files.
The Bay City Times could not reach the Fieger law firm, Bay City attorney Kenneth G. Galica or city officials.
Eugene Elder Jr. declined to comment and other family members could not be reached.
Saturday, August 20, 2011
August 19, 2011
Frederik Joelving, Reuters
NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - A new study adds a cynical note to the highly charged debate over Tasers, the American-made stun gun that has made its way quickly into law enforcement across the globe.
As it turns out, people looking to settle arguments about the weapon's safety may not get much help from scientists.
That's because the answer they get from published studies seems to depend on who paid for the research, according to a report in the American Heart Journal.
Looking at 50 human or animal studies on Taser safety, researchers found that 23 of them had been funded by the manufacturer, Taser International, Inc, or done by scientists with financial ties to the company.
Twenty-two of those studies, or 96 percent, concluded the stun guns were safe or at least unlikely to be harmful. By contrast, only about half of the research not linked to Taser International reached that conclusion.
"When you read articles that are very favorable to the device, invariably you will see that one of authors is affiliated with the company making Tasers or sitting on the board," said Dr. Byron K. Lee, who worked on the new study.
"I'm not necessarily saying the research is done dishonestly and they lied and twisted their conclusions, it could very well be they designed their research to give favorable results," added Lee, a cardiologist at the University of California, San Francisco.
According to the Scottsdale, Arizona-based company, its weapon has conquered the market rapidly, and is now used by law enforcement agencies in 107 countries.
With a pull of the trigger, two darts fly out of the gun and lodge in the skin or clothes of the target. The darts set up a high-voltage electric circuit that causes both sensory nerves and motor nerves to go haywire. The result is excruciating pain and violent muscle spasms that immobilize even the feistiest suspect.
NOT SO HARMLESS?
But critics say the powerful jolts, which in rare cases have caused broken bones, could also hijack the heart, causing it to enter a deadly flutter called ventricular fibrillation.
They worry particularly about the cases in which police have used the Taser on children and the elderly, as well as mentally ill people and drug addicts, who may be more vulnerable.
To dispel those fears, scientists have conducted scores of experiments, including an outlandish Taser-funded study published last year, in which sheep were doped up on methamphetamine and then shocked with a Taser X26 gun.
But the studies can't seem to agree.
"Both sides have research to back their claims that the Taser is safe or unsafe," Lee told Reuters Health.
If you Taser very close to the heart, he said, you might trigger a fatal heart rhythm in some animals. But if you aim further away, or use different animals, you might not.
Of course, Lee added, it is also possible that independent scientists might be biased toward finding harm.
"It is much more interesting to say that there is something wrong here, that there are harms," he explained.
When asked if that could have happened in his own study, he acknowledged that the researchers who rated the 50 articles knew where the funding for each had come from. Still, he said he felt their assessments would hold up to scrutiny.
ACCUSATIONS OF BIAS
Steve Tuttle, vice president of communications for Taser International, told Reuters Health that there was no bias in Taser-funded studies.
In an email, Tuttle argued that in most cases, there are three degrees of separation between the scientists doing Taser-backed research and the company.
"The doctors are only paid their normal salary for the research and receive no extra compensation and no moneys from TASER," he said.
"It is worth noting that Dr. Lee has been a paid expert in litigation against TASER and this fact is not mentioned in the conflict of interest section of this report," Tuttle added.
While acknowledging this, Lee countered that it was more than a year ago and that the journal did not require disclosures that far back.
He also said that after he started doing Taser research in 2008, he had removed himself from the case and paid back all the moneys he'd received.
Debates about conflicts of interest and corporate funding biasing research are nothing new, and happen throughout the medical community.
For instance, a study from 1998 in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that scientists from the tobacco industry rated secondhand smoking harmless more than 90 percent of the time. Only 13 percent of researchers without industry ties came to that conclusion, however.
"When you come to a research question with predetermined bias because of funding that you get, you can very much design a study to further the company's interests," Lee said. "I think that is a very real danger of biomedical research."
"The first step is to be aware of it, and then look really critically at the article's methods," Lee said.
Wednesday, August 17, 2011
August 17, 2011
Amnesty International has today (17 August) reiterated its concern of the wider deployment of Tasers after a man living in Barrow, Cumbria died after he was struck by the weapon.
Tuesday, August 16, 2011
Monday, August 15, 2011
August 15, 2011
Allie Grasgreen, USA TODAY
The death of an 18-year-old high school graduate after University of Cincinnati police used a Taser on him is likely to reopen an intense debate on whether or how the weapons should be allowed on college campuses. Yet since the last time that debate was had - following high-profile incidents at the University of California at Los Angeles and University of Florida in 2006 and 2007, respectively - it seems that not much has changed.
After investigating the incidents, those two universities, to be sure, revisited their own police department policies regarding how and when Tasers should be used. Both determined their officers acted appropriately, but UCLA issued new guidelines allowing Taser use only on "violent subjects," and Florida created a more formal, step-by-step confrontation approach that makes the weapons more of a last resort at public events.
At the macro level, perhaps because the weapons are rarely used, nothing really changed.
"I'm not sure if it's any different," said Anne P. Glavin, president-elect of the International Association of College Law Enforcement Administrators and chief of police and director of public services at California State University at Northridge. "It's considered in the profession to be a so-called less-lethal weapon. And the notion behind that is it provides an alternative to using deadly force."
But at the institutional level, policies have slowly have become less vague and less broad than they used to be, said Camelia Naguib, deputy director of the Police Assessment Resource Center (PARC).
"I think those incidents and a number of others [not at colleges] have really changed the way people are looking at policies," Naguib said. "They encouraged departments to more carefully look at circumstances under which use of Tasers is appropriate." There have been myriad reports on Taser deaths and safety, though not specifically in higher education. Even Taser International, the company that creates the original product, has itself released more safety guidelines over the years. For instance, officers now know to avoid aiming the weapon at a person's chest to reduce the risk of cardiac arrest.
Florida's new "tiered approach" mandates additional steps to subdue a disruptive individual before the police intervene. Linda Stump, director of the university's police department, said she didn't know whether more informal contact with the person before the officers approached would have altered the outcome of the notorious "Don't Tase me, bro" incident, in which officers forcibly removed a student from the microphone during a John Kerry speech. But under the new system, someone from the venue's staff would have approached the student first and asked him, non-forcibly, to leave, rather than the initial response being police escorts - and ultimately, use of a Taser when the student resisted their grasp. (That was, of course, after he uttered the quote that launched a thousand YouTube videos.)
At UCLA, police confronted an Iranian-American student who refused to show identification in the library. After handcuffing him, officers shocked him multiple times with a Taser, even when he appeared handcuffed and subdued, and critics complained about the use of force, though at the time the UCLA police department's policy allowed for Taser use for "pain compliance against passive resisters." Many of those angry about the use of a Taser suggested that the student's ethnicity influenced the way he was handled -- a charge denied by UCLA.
Eight months later, PARC concluded an outside investigation of the incident with a report recommending that UCLA make a number of changes to its use of force and Taser policies to align them with best practices. (Naguib said the best practices have not changed significantly since the recommendations were made, but today PARC would advise against pointing the Taser at the chest. Cincinnati's policy says police should aim for the back; the second-best option is the front torso, but officers should avoid the head and neck. The policy does not mention the chest, and police have not released details about where Everette Howard, the student who died at Cincinnati, was hit.)
The report does not, however, suggest that UCLA or other institutions abandon the Taser. "Mindful of the risk of injury or death, we nonetheless conclude that the Taser's benefits outweigh those risks as long as policies for use of this instrumentality are narrowly tailored and properly restrictive."
An initial review has found the Cincinnati police followed proper procedure, but the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation is now conducting its own review. (The university released some records to Cincinnati.com, which said Howard "appeared to be very angry and agitated but not at anyone in particular," and that an officer could not understand what he was saying.)
Judging by PARC standards, Cincinnati police acted appropriately by reportedly warning Howard that the Taser could be deployed if he continued to advance toward them. The warning, which should always be issued when an officer is not in imminent danger, is an important step that had been removed from UCLA's rules when it revised its policy prior to the incident in the library, but has since been added back.
Best practices, PARC said, restrict Taser use to "violent, actively aggressive or imminently violent subjects, currently engaged in physical or active resistance, where the suspect has been given a warning and a reasonable opportunity to comply, and where milder uses of force could be reasonably judged as likely ineffective." Departments should also define those states of violence or aggression, so that when officers have to make snap judgments, they have something clear-cut to base them on, the report said.
Best practices go even further in making predetermined responses aligned with different levels of aggression. A "force options" or "force continuum" system provides "an explicit range of appropriate responses for each level of subject resistance or threat," PARC says.
Cincinnati's policy does contain such a feature, but whether the officers used it is less clear.
Local media reported that Cincinnati police said Howard "appeared agitated, angry, and had balled fists" while approaching officers, who had arrived at the residence hall after a 911 call reported an assault. Howard allegedly did not back off when they asked him to. Based on definitions from PARC and the Police Executive Research Forum, that would indicate either "passive or mild resistance" or "active physical resistance," if Howard could have defeated or significantly impeded an attempt to take him into custody. Based on Cincinnati's own policy, Howard's actions would fall under "Uncooperative: refusing to comply with commands." The appropriate officer response would be to exercise "Restraint Techniques" such as verbal commands or balance displacement, according to the policy; while Howard reportedly did not respond to verbal commands, Tasers are not listed as appropriate responses until the suspect's behavior escalates to "Resisting Officer": actions such as wrestling with an officer or pulling away.
"The central component of any constitutional use force policy is that officers only use the level of force that is reasonably necessary to safely resolve any given situation, taking into consideration the totality of the circumstances, including the suspect's actions, the risk of death or injury to officers and others, and the availability and efficacy of lesser force options," the report reads. Force continuums take table or chart form to help officers better visualize the appropriate action and when they might need to escalate or de-escalate their responses.
Because multiple shocks have been correlated with increased likelihood of death, PARC says repeated use of the Taser should be discouraged. But if officers must fire more than once, they should do so each time only after reassessing the situation and determining that the subject still poses a threat significant enough to fire again. Police stunned Howard once before he went into cardiac arrest. The coroner's office later announced Howard had been struck by a Taser and hospitalized, after he fell ill and became combative, once before, in 2010.
"In sum, cumulative research and the experience of law enforcement agencies that equip their officers with Tasers tends to suggest that the use of the Taser generally carries few health risks to subjects," the report concludes. "Indeed, many departments have found that it actually increases overall safety to subjects by reducing or making the use of injurious or deadly force less likely.
"Nonetheless, Tasers are not considered - by research, most law enforcement agencies or departments, and even Taser International - entirely risk-free. As such, departments should take care to monitor usage and to ensure that its use is restricted to those situations when it is the most appropriate force option."
Sunday, August 14, 2011
The friend who sent me a link to this editorial asked: "Where have all the heroes gone? Are there really none left?"
One really is left to wonder.
August 14, 2011
Risk management is all about dollars, but there are times when leaders must peer above the bottom line to protect and defend a community’s values. The Otto Zehm tragedy is a perfect example.
Back in June 2006, the Zehm family sought an apology and retractions from the City of Spokane after the Police Department held a news conference about the fatal confrontation with the mentally disabled janitor. The family and its attorneys had seen the damning convenience store video that the rest of the public would see in July. Assistant City Attorney Rocky Treppiedi replied in a letter that the city stood by its version of events. The city essentially blamed Zehm for the outcome, defended the actions of the officers and chided those who had been “hyper-critical.” The letter includes this line:
“There are many other facts that go into the analysis of the use of force by Officer Thompson, including how and when he used the baton and Taser. In short, Chief Nicks will not, as you request, publicly retract what you characterize as ‘misrepresent- ations’ because they are not misrepresentations.”
Five years later, we learn that Jim Nicks did retract his views when placed under oath in front of a federal grand jury. So, it’s clear that the peddlers of misrepresentations worked for the city. Many still do. To borrow a term from the medical examiner’s report, perhaps they acted in a state of excited delirium when they viewed the video and discovered their initial story was filled with falsehoods.
Whatever the case, nobody in a position of leadership bucked the city’s hyper-defensive stance and stepped forward to represent the truth. Nobody said, “Enough!”
Neither the mayor at the time, Dennis Hession, nor the one who followed, Mary Verner, stood up to the department. Verner even defended Officer Karl Thompson’s actions. Once he got around to watching the damning convenience store video, Spokane County Prosecutor Steve Tucker punted the case to the feds.
Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick was hired after the incident, but she retained Nicks as second in command, where he remains. “You lie, you die” is her mantra. We shall see. Treppiedi remains in the employ of the city, despite his aggressive actions in this case (and others) to confront anyone who would dare challenge the Police Department.
Five years after Zehm’s death nobody has suffered any consequences. Thompson still might. He faces trial in federal court.
To recap, Zehm did not lunge at Thompson, as the public was told. He reacted defensively to an assault in which baton strikes and Tasering were not warranted, according to the acting police chief at the time. He died after being subdued and tied up.
Rather than apologize and face the consequences, the Police Department and the city embarked on an extended masquerade and then wondered why the public demanded an ombudsman with strong oversight powers. Even today, we don’t have that, because police officers won’t drop their resistance to independent investigations.
In the end, taxpayers will pay for this tragedy. In exchange, they ought to at least get assurances from city leaders that trampling truth and justice is no longer an acceptable risk management strategy.
Saturday, August 13, 2011
"The website Truth Not Tasers claims that 39 people have died in relation to "conducted energy devices (CEDs)" this year in the United States, an average of five per month."
August 8, 2011
Patrik Jonsson, Christian Monitor
A naked man on drugs died in Wisconsin this weekend, after police used a Taser stun gun to subdue him. A student died at the University of Cincinnati after balling his fists and getting tasered by police. A man high on drugs in Manassas, Va., also died this weekend after police tasered him as he escaped, partially handcuffed, after punching an officer and a firefighter.
All three deaths are being investigated. One of the departments, the University of Cincinnati Police Department, has suspended the use of Tasers by its officers.
About 15,000 US police departments, including 29 of the nation's 33 largest cities, use a total of 260,000 Tasers. The devices have been the objects of controversy since first being deployed broadly in the 1990s. Some describe them as an alternative to the nightstick that reduces officer injuries and saves lives. Others see the stun guns as instruments of torture whose growing use make them a symbol of reckless policing.
In some cases, the Tasers are only tangentially related or unrelated to the actual cause of death, and that may be the case in the three incidents from this weekend. But recent studies have shown that the weapons can have an outsized impact on people with health problems or who are very high on drugs and in a state of "excited delirium."
Tasers contributed to some 351 US deaths between 2001 and 2008, says Amnesty International, which adds that 90 percent of those tasered were unarmed at the time they were electrocuted. The website Truth Not Tasers claims that 39 people have died in relation to "conducted energy devices (CEDs)" this year in the United States, an average of five per month.
On the other hand, 99.7 percent of people who are tasered suffer no serious injuries, according to a May report from the National Institute of Justice. "The risk of human death due directly or primarily to the electrical effects of CED application has not been conclusively demonstrated," says the report.
A growing number of police departments have begun to limit Taser use, imposing stricter policies for use or even taking the instruments out of officers' hands. Memphis, San Francisco, and Las Vegas police departments have all opted out of Taser use recently, amid growing questions about the level of threat necessary to justify electrocuting someone with 50,000 volts delivered through barbed bolts.
"Because of the criticism and the deaths, there's been a lot of people backing off of Tasers," says Samuel Walker, a professor emeritus at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, who studies police accountability. "The fact is, a lot of departments are taking some very positive, proactive steps to ensure accountability, and controlling Tasers is one of part of doing that," he says. But in other departments, he adds, "they're using it much too broadly and recklessly, where it isn't appropriate."
The current Taser debate hinges on when, not if, the stun guns should be used. Few disagree with the use of Tasers as an alternative to deadly force, but in some departments, officers can employ Tasers when someone is simply refusing to obey an order.
Tasers are often most used when police officers are dealing with unruly people who themselves are unarmed, but whose failure to comply with police instructions make officers to feel threatened. Most departments use the "billy club policy," which holds that Tasers are appropriate in any situation where an officer would otherwise pull and be ready to use a billy club, or night stick, which tends to lead to more serious injuries than a Taser.
Taser opponents point to the public outrage over the tasering of a fan at a Philadelphia Phillies baseball game, and various lawsuits documenting officers using Tasers on subdued, non-aggressive, or even handcuffed people. Tasers "can be used too much and too often," the National Institute of Justice found in its May report.
At the same time, some law enforcement officials have pushed back against setting higher standards for Taser use.
"Police chiefs are saying, don't write the standards so that it's going to take away decision-making ... when I write my own policies," says John Gnagey, executive director of the National Tactical Officers Association, in Doylestown, Pa. "The argument that Tasers should only be used when the use of deadly force is authorized is asinine."
After releasing an advisory in 2009 urging police not to shoot suspects in the chest, Taser International is now marketing the old version of its gun, which allows for only a five second blast of current before officers have to make the decision to hit the suspect again. A newer version of the gun allowed officers to apply continuous current, which the NIJ said in a separate May report has been associated with deaths.
In all three cases from this weekend, the victims were acting erratically and, in at least one, in Manassas, Va., the man had already physically assaulted a police officer. But whether the occasions rose to a level where officers would have used deadly force is far from clear. None of the three men were armed.
In Kaukauna, Wisc., police responded to a report of a naked, out-of-control man running across a city bridge. When police reached him, the man appeared to be in the throes of a drug overdose, claiming he was covered in snakes. When he refused to comply with officers, a Taser was used to knock him down.
At the University of Cincinnati, a recent high school graduate, at the university for college-preparatory summer classes, was approaching the police with an "altered mental status" and balled fists when he was brought down with a Taser. The University of Cincinnati Police Department has suspended the use of Tasers as it investigates the case. One newspaper account said the officer who fired the Taser was "very distraught" by the young man's death.
Some police departments, including Kansas City, Seattle, and Madison, Wisc., have begun publishing their Taser policies on their public websites, in an effort to increase transparency and respond to public concerns. None of the three police departments involved in this weekend's incidents publish their policies on Taser use, with one – Prince William County – citing "tactical concerns." Calls to the other two departments were not returned by the time this story was posted.
"This is a very important point of accountability that goes beyond Tasers, a form of openness and transparency," says Professor Walker.
Some battles over Tasers have played out in the courts.
"Tasers and stun guns fall into the category of non-lethal force; non-lethal, however, is not synonymous with non-excessive force," ruled the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in 2009. "All force – lethal or non-lethal – must be justified by the need for the specific level of force employed."
In July, a North Carolina jury returned a $10 million verdict against Taser International, the maker of the stun guns, for the 2008 death of a 17-year-old in Charlotte, N.C., ruling that company failed to provide police with adequate warnings or instruction. Taser International plans an appeal.
The day of the North Carolina verdict, another Charlotte man died in a Taser-related incident, prompting that city's police department – considered one of the most professional in the nation – to impose a 45-day suspension on the use of the weapons, to review their polices.
"My personal opinion is that when departments become restrictive and take away a tool, it's generally because they're afraid of some sort of public pressure coming from a certain segment of society," says Mr. Gnagey. When public pressure does succeed in restricting or banning Tasers, he adds, "Later on, when things die down, we'll just quietly introduce it back into the population."
August 12, 2011
By Clint Wolf, Beloit Daily News
LOVES PARK — Tasers have been put on the shelf at another Stateline Area police department due to concerns raised about the use of the devices.
The Loves Park Police Department has suspended use of Tasers by officers. Loves Park Mayor Darryl Lindberg said the decision to shelve the Tasers was made Thursday in a meeting between himself and police department personnel.
“The only reason we decided to do this at this time was because there have been so many incidents in other agencies,” Lindberg said. “Until some of these issues are resolved, we felt it was best to put them on the shelf.”
The most recent Stateline Area incident occurred Aug. 2 when Anthony Slaymaker was Tased by a Roscoe Police Officer. Slaymaker had to be taken by ambulance to a Rockford hospital where he received treatment for several days. Family members say Slaymaker, 21, suffered a heart attack following the Tasing.
Roscoe Police Chief Jamie Evans said an investigation into the incident is expected to be completed soon.
The investigation is being conducted by the Winnebago County Sheriff’s Department and Sheriff Dick Meyers said the investigation could be completed this week, but did not say for certain. The Winnebago County Sheriff’s Department and the Rockford Police Department discontinued use of Tasers over a year ago.
The Roscoe Police Department has used Tasers since 2007.
The South Beloit Police Department discontinued use of Tasers in April after concerns were raised about use of Tasers and how officers were trained in their use. Also, a video of the 2008 arrest shows former South Beloit Police Sgt. Brad McCaslin applying a Taser to a woman’s neck.
Lindberg said the decision to discontinue use of Tasers was not easy. He pointed out he had been a police chief for 18 years and he said there were benefits in their use. He noted that officers had a risk of injury if they had to physically subdue a suspect and using Tasers reduced some of that risk.
Posted by Reality Chick at 12:33
August 13, 2011
Brennan David, Columbia Daily Tribune
A second special investigation has cleared Moberly police officers in the death of a 23-year-old man who was tased three times in August 2008.
Special Prosecutor Milt Harper acted for Randolph County in the county’s investigation into the death of Stanley Harlan. Police said they resorted to using Tasers after Harlan resisted arrest when they stopped him on suspicion of driving while intoxicated.
Harper concluded that Officer J.J. Baird was not criminally negligent. Harper did, however, conclude Baird was civilly negligent based on Moberly’s $2.4 million settlement with the family.
“It should be very clear that he did not do it to harm him and cause death,” Harper said yesterday. “I think he did it out of stupidity, lack of training, etc.”
Darrell Harlan, the victim’s father, said he is disgusted with Harper. “I guess it’s all right to torture people,” he said. “That cop knew how strong the Taser was. He thought it was all right to Taser someone for 31 seconds. Harper is saying it’s fine to torture people.”
Harper’s investigation began soon after special prosecutor and Howard County Prosecuting Attorney Mason Gebhardt in January 2009 concluded Baird was not criminally liable, Harper said. A judge who appointed Gebhardt as special prosecutor later recused himself, resulting in a do-over.
Harper considered the original evidence, the latest scientific testing and testimony from the civil case because some Moberly officers refused to cooperate. At the heart of the matter was the standard for Taser use in 2008 and how that standard has evolved.
In 2009, Taser recommended that chest shots not be used because of possible cardiac issues.
But Baird in this case cannot be held to a standard that did not exist in 2008, Harper said. It was found that Harlan suffered some sort of cardiac condition during his autopsy, making a guilty verdict difficult to obtain for the state.
It was found that Baird applied the Taser three times for intervals of 3, 21, and 3 seconds, Harper said. Harlan’s father disagrees with those times, saying the longest was 10 seconds longer.
“Had he done that today the same way, I would have charged him with a criminal offense,” Harper said. “That would have been criminal negligence because he would have violated a training rule.”
The legal firm that represents Baird and other officers, Brown Carnell Farrow LLC, said it believes its clients acted accordingly to training at that time and criticized Harper for his presumption of civil liability.
“Mr. Harper knows that Moberly’s insurer settled that case without any input from the officers involved,” said a news release from Brown Carnell Farrow. “Mr. Harper also knows that the settlement papers state that no one admits any wrongdoing.”
Harper said he was frustrated with that view, saying, “I hope this demonstrates this officer’s belligerence. I hope his continued belligerence does not cause Moberly another incident in their community.”
Edmonton officer wants disciplinary charges stayed - Wasylyshen’s lawyer argues alleged Taser incident nine years old
August 12, 2011
EDMONTON - There is another delay in the disciplinary hearing of an Edmonton police officer charged with unnecessary force in a 2002 Taser incident.
Const. Mike Wasylyshen was charged in the Oct. 5, 2002, incident during which teenager Randy Fryingpan was allegedly Tasered eight times in 68 seconds.
Wasylyshen also faces a charge for hitting Fryingpan in the head and three insubordination charges for alleged violations of police procedure.
Wasylyshen’s lawyer, Robert Hladun, was scheduled to deliver his closing arguments on Friday. That was put off until November after Hladun filed a judicial review in the Court of Queen’s Bench.
He hopes the court will give the hearing’s presiding officer, Supt. Paul Manuel of the Calgary Police Service, the authority to throw out the disciplinary charges because the incident took place nine years ago.
If the application succeeds, the authority to stay the charges would be in Manuel’s hands.
“Right now, my client just wants to take advantage of the law everyone else can take advantage of,” Hladun said after the hearing.
In previous testimony, Fryingpan said he still has nightmares and takes painkillers because of injuries sustained by eight Taser strikes. He said he had several drinks that night at a friend’s birthday party, after which he and three companions climbed into a parked Oldsmobile “to smoke a joint” at about midnight or 1 a.m.
Wasylyshen was one of five officers who responded to complaints of an attempted car theft. The Taser was used during Fryingpan’s arrest.
After the 2002 incident, Wasylyshen’s father, then-police chief Bob Wasylyshen, decided no internal disciplinary action would be taken against any of the officers present during the arrest. But in 2009, the Law Enforcement Review Board ordered police Chief Mike Boyd to lay several charges against Wasylyshen.
Wasylyshen was not present at Friday’s hearing, which is scheduled to resume Nov. 29.
Friday, August 12, 2011
I am heartened to learn that this outrageous case of police brutality will be investigated by an independent investigator. I know nothing about Michael Gennaco, but hopefully he knows what he's doing and can perform an unbiased and truly independent investigation. Justice must be seen to be done, to be done. The officers who beat Kelly Thomas to death must be punished to the full extent of the law.
And I quote from below: "Fullerton's acting police chief, Kevin Hamilton, acknowledged this week that the department had allowed police officers involved in the altercation with Thomas to watch a video that captures the incident before writing their reports about it. Hamilton said supervisors allowed the review so that the officers would have a chance to refresh their memory and write an accurate account of the incident."
August 12, 2011
Los Angeles Times
The Fullerton City Council on Friday directed its attorney to draw up a contract to hire a police watchdog to review its embattled Police Department in the wake of a homeless man's deadly encounter with six officers.
The council is expected to approve the contract next week with Michael Gennaco to conduct an independent review of Kelly Thomas' death. Gennaco oversees Los Angeles County's Office of Independent Review and daily scrutinizes the L.A. County Sheriff's Department's actions.
The council's decision came after a closed-door meeting to discuss Kelly Thomas' death and its impact on the city. In the last week, Police Chief Michael Sellers has taken a medical leave and Thomas' parents have filed a claim against the city, alleging police brutality.
Also on Friday, local blogger Tony Bushala submitted paperwork to the City Clerk to begin a recall petition against Mayor F. Richard Jones and City Council members Pat McKinley and Don Bankhead. The three, along with Sellers, have come under fire for their silence on the Thomas case.
"The best department in this country could improve, and that's what we're looking to do," Gennaco said. "I can't tell you, because I don't know, where Fullerton falls on the range." He estimated the contract would run from $50,000 to $70,000.
The deadly incident occurred July 5 while officers were investigating reports of someone trying to break into cars at the downtown transit center. They tried to search Thomas' backpack.
The encounter escalated after Thomas ran. Witnesses said officers beat and kicked Thomas and used a Taser on him multiple times. He died five days later after being removed from life support.
Gennaco is former head of the civil rights section of the U.S. attorney's office in Los Angeles, overseeing investigations of police misconduct and hate-crime cases.
The circumstances surrounding Thomas' death are already under criminal investigation by the FBI and Orange County District Attorney's office.
Fullerton's acting police chief, Kevin Hamilton, acknowledged this week that the department had allowed police officers involved in the altercation with Thomas to watch a video that captures the incident before writing their reports about it.
Hamilton said supervisors allowed the review so that the officers would have a chance to refresh their memory and write an accurate account of the incident.
August 12, 2011
Jonathan Lloyd, NBC LA
Ron Thomas stood next to pictures of his son's bloodied face Friday during a news conference and calmly expressed the outrage many have felt since the death of his son more than one month ago.
"I need the truth," said Thomas. "You may have noticed I've been able to apply some pressure. I'll continue to do so."
Thomas' son, Kelly, died five days after a July 5 altercation with Fullerton police. At Friday's news conference in Century City, Thomas spoke about his meeting earlier in the day with the Orange County District Attorney and his attorney outlined their efforts to learn more about his son's death.
Attorney Garo Mardirossian said he is trying to obtain a videotape and police reports associated with the case. He said he hopes that someone involved in the altercation at a Fullerton transit station will step forward.
"We don't believe all six of these officers are equally culpable," Mardirossian said at the Century City news conference. "We believe at least three were pretty bad. We're hoping that one or two of these officers will come forward and break the code of silence. Tell us what happened. Why did they continue to beat Kelly Thomas after he was completely motionless?"
"Our aim is to bring out all the evidence. Show us what these six officers have seen."
Mardirossian was referring to a report that officers in the case were allowed to see a videotape of the altercation before they wrote their case reports. Supervisors allowed the review of the footage so that the officers would have a chance to refresh their memory and write a more accurate account of the incident, according to remarks by acting Chief Kevin Hamilton published in the Los Angeles Times.
Thomas said the DA assured him Friday that he would be able to see the video.
"Personally, I will never be able to watch that video myself," Thomas said.
Thomas said his expectations of the meeting with the DA were tempered by an earlier one-on-one with the Fullerton police chief -- who is now on medical leave -- and the fact that the investigation is ongoing. He said he was told it would "not be much longer" before he heard from the office regarding charges.
"It went ok," said Thomas of the meeting. "I knew going in there, there were things he would not answer. But there were important things I had to get across to him, such as, why is it necessary to beat somebody so severely in the head and face, to break the bones in and around the face area? They were spending so much time on his head and face, why didn't they just handcuff him?"
After serving in the Army, Thomas joined the Orange County Sheriff's Department. He said he has taught arrest control techniques.
His 37-year-old son, a homeless man with mental illness, was hospitalized after an altercation July 5 with officers who were responding to a report of vehicle break-ins at the Fullerton Transportation Center. Kelly Thomas was removed from life support five days later.
At the new conference, Thomas showed a photograph of Kelly Thomas that he took two days after the beating. It shows his son's severely injured face as he was in a hospital bed.
"I don't know why I took the pictures, I just did," said Thomas. "It brings to mind the question, how would they feel if someone did this to their son or daughter?"
Earlier this week, Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas told NBC4 there is no evidence to show the officers intended to kill Kelly Thomas, but they are still trying to determine if officers used excessive force in his death.
On Thursday, the family of Kelly Thomas filed a claim -- a precursor to a lawsuit -- against the city. The claim alleges excessive force in the July 5 arrest at the Fullerton Transportation Center.
According to the claim, officers "in unison severely beat (Thomas) with their fists and with objects and subjected (Thomas) to excessive applications of Taser electricity and to numerous forms of excessive and deadly force under circumstances in which (Thomas) was subdued and restrained and represented no threat of harm to the Fullerton police officers, causing the death (of Thomas)."
During a closed-door special session Friday, council members considered hiring outside counsel to conduct an independent review.
At about the same time the council was meeting, residents submitted recall paperwork for three city officials. Fullerton residents plan another rally for Saturday at the police department.
Thursday, August 11, 2011
August 10, 2011
By Scott Winfield, The News Record
University of Cincinnati Police Division reports indicate two separate assaults taking place prior to the death of Everette Howard Jr. near Turner Hall Saturday.
One day after UCPD released a heavily redacted report – which left out basic public information including names and ages – concerning Saturday's events, a full, unedited report was released as public record Wednesday.
The withholding of information was to prevent interference with investigations on the incident conducted by the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation (BCI), which is assuming full investigatory control of the incident, said Mitchell McCrate of the General Council in an email to The News Record and other Cincinnati media.
"All are now in agreement that the information requested is subject to release," McCrate said. "If the university has proceeded cautiously in the release of information the sole reason is to ensure that it does not in any way affect the ability of BCI to conduct this investigation."
McCrate stressed that UCPD is not trying to withhold information from the public.
"Ironically, this caution may have subjected us to the charge that we are concealing information, but nothing could be further from the truth," McCrate said. "At the end of the day our interest in the independence and integrity of the investigation is our overriding concern."
UCPD received a 9-1-1 call shortly after 2 a.m. Saturday from a resident adviser in Turner Hall concerning an assault in room 141, the reports said.
UCPD Officer Rick Haas arrived on scene to find Officer Brian McKeel questioning parties involved outside, according to Haas' report. Haas entered the building and began questioning people in room 141.
According to Haas' report, roommates Nemuel Bonner, 18, and Everette Howard Jr. had friends visiting. A third roommate, Desean Cook, 18, also had visitors not known to Bonner or Howard.
When Cook's friends began to leave, one tried to take a hat that belonged to Bonner, prompting Bonner to demand it back.
The unidentified man refused and struck Bonner with his shoulder. His friends attacked Bonner, at which point Howard and Bonner's friend intervened, according to reports. Shortly after the fight, Cook's party left the room.
Haas tried to question Howard after the incident occurred, but Howard was reportedly unable to speak coherently.
As the aggressors were unavailable for questioning, the matter was dropped.
An hour later, McKeel received a call describing a second fight on Jefferson Avenue behind Turner Hall.
According to McKeel's report, he was first to arrive on the scene followed by Haas and Lt. Elliott. As McKeel arrived, a large group of individuals scattered in all directions.
Haas and Elliott pursued a group heading southbound on Jefferson Avenue, while McKeel stayed to question those in the immediate vicinity.
The second assault was initiated when Cook's friends found a member of Bonner's group, Demonte Mingo, 18, waiting on the corner of Jefferson and University avenues for a ride from his brother, Tyrone Scruggs, 22, according to McKeel's report.
Once Scruggs arrived, the group began attacking Scruggs, prompting Bonner, Howard and others to retaliate once more.
During questioning, McKeel heard a transmission from Haas asking Elliott for assistance after Haas used his model X26 Taser on Howard who was with the first group heading southbound, according to McKeel's report. It is not clear why Howard was Tasered.
At 3:17 a.m., the Cincinnati Fire Department was contacted for assistance with Howard after he was shocked by Haas' Taser, according to reports.
Howard was later pronounced dead at University Hospital.
A statement and account by Haas of the Taser incident was not filed, according to UCPD, and it is unclear where and how Haas used his Taser to subdue Howard.
No charges have been filed against the parties involved, who appear to be members of UC's Upward Bound Program – a pre-college program administered by the U.S. Department of Education and UC designed to motivate and provide academic skills for eligible students interested in education beyond high school – and it is unclear who initiated some of the attacks.
All investigations into this matter will now be handled by the BCI.
Wednesday, August 10, 2011
August 10, 2011
Thomas Clouse, The Spokesman-Review
The Spokane Police Department’s second-in-command believes an officer didn’t follow department policy in the fatal 2006 confrontation with Otto Zehm, contradicting his previous statements.
That revelation prompted Spokane Mayor Mary Verner to say Tuesday that the city is re-evaluating its legal strategy.
The disclosure, contained in documents recently filed in federal court, includes admissions from Assistant Police Chief Jim Nicks – then acting chief – that Officer Karl F. Thompson Jr. violated department use-of-force policies and that detectives failed to thoroughly investigate the convenience store beating on March 18, 2006. Zehm died two days later.
“Based on the video, during Officer Thompson’s initial engagement of Otto Zehm, Mr. Zehm appears to be ‘active resistant’ and is not assaultive toward the officer. Therefore Officer Thompson was not authorized to utilize an impact weapon on and strike Zehm,” Nicks said, according to the court records.
The testimony is a reversal of what Nicks said the night Zehm was beaten, Tasered and hogtied. It also contradicts the city’s position that its officers handled the case properly, and that Zehm bore responsibility for the escalation of force by continuing to flail as officers beat him.
Nicks’ 2008 grand jury testimony became a key part of the June 19, 2009, indictment charging Thompson with using unreasonable force and lying to investigators. Indications that Nicks would testify for prosecutors became public in March 2010, but Tuesday was the first time any city official acknowledged a discrepancy in their public portrayals of the event.
In a prepared statement, Verner said, “Assistant Chief Nicks’ affidavit is consistent with what (Assistant) U.S. Attorney (Timothy) Durkin indicated the Assistant Chief would testify to in a legal filing in April 2010. As we did then, we are evaluating this information in light of the case the City is involved in – the separate civil case.”
Attorney Breean Beggs, who along with Jeffry Finer, is representing the mother and estate of the 36-year-old mentally ill janitor, said Nicks’ declaration in the criminal case essentially means that the civil case against Thompson and the city is over.
“Nicks speaks for the city. The only remaining thing left for the civil case is the nature and the extent of the damages,” Beggs said.
The tragedy began after two young women erroneously reported that Zehm stole money from their accounts at a nearby ATM. Thompson responded to the call, approached Zehm inside a Zip Trip convenience store and immediately began beating him with a baton. The confrontation lasted several minutes and several other officers responded. They eventually hogtied Zehm and placed a plastic mask over his face before he stopped breathing.
Court records indicate that officers reviewed videotapes from the convenience store on the night of the incident, passed information onto Nicks, who then described a “very horrific fight. The officers were definitely within the (department) policy. … The officers used the lowest level of force possible.”
After Beggs and Finer filed a $2.9 million civil claim against Spokane, city attorneys responded with a 56-page denial on June 18, 2009. That denial blamed Zehm for his own death.
“Any injury or damage suffered by Mr. Zehm was caused solely by reason of his conduct and willful resistance,” the city’s response states.
Beggs said it’s now clear that city officials already knew, or should have known, about Nicks’ testimony to the grand jury before they wrote that reply.
“I’m waiting for them to explain to us why they thought it was better not to reveal what they knew about the case from the beginning,” Beggs said. “All this information is going to come out. So why not get it out so the public has all the facts and so the case can get resolved?”
Verner indicated she hadn’t read Nicks’ declaration on Monday night when questioned by The Spokesman-Review. “I’m certainly going to review it carefully to see how it affects the city’s position in the civil and criminal case,” she said.
Then on Tuesday morning, Verner issued the statement saying the city must allow the legal process to run its course.
“Ultimately, we, too, are seeking an outcome that is just and fair, based on all the evidence and circumstances. The City of Spokane and I are committed to open and transparent government, and this is part of the process. Our employees must tell the truth as they see it.”
If that’s the goal, Verner and city attorneys stumbled along the way, said local attorney James Sweetser, who served as Spokane County Prosecutor from 1995-’99.
“I think the city officials and the litigators at the city have to realize they represent the citizens,” Sweetser said. “Even if the judgment may be paid by taxpayers’ money, full disclosure and honesty has to take precedence over tricky litigation tactics.”
According to court records filed Friday, Nicks is prepared to testify in Thompson’s upcoming federal trial that major crimes detectives failed to analyze the video of the confrontation and compare it to Thompson’s statement; they never followed up on a report from an ambulance crew that Thompson struck Zehm in the head with a baton; and his own review of the video shows that Thompson violated several policies and procedures by applying unjustified force against the retreating Zehm.
Nicks also said, among a list of concerns, that Thompson did not stop and engage Zehm with verbal commands as the officer – who continues to earn $76,000 a year as the investigation stretches past five years – later described to detectives.
Thompson’s immediate use of a baton on the retreating Zehm “was a level of force higher than that authorized by the Spokane Police Department’s policies and procedures governing the use of force on public citizens.”
And the use of a Taser, when it appeared that Zehm had stopped resisting, was “not authorized” and violated department policies. Nicks also said he expressed all the listed concerns to Chief Anne Kirkpatrick, who along with Nicks declined comment Tuesday through spokeswoman Officer Jennifer DeRuwe.
Carl Oreskovich, who was hired by the city in 2008 to prepare both civil and criminal defenses for Thompson, said he and law partner Steven Lamberson, have filed a motion seeking to exclude Nicks’ testimony. That motion was originally filed June 4, 2010, the day they queried Nicks about the full nature of his grand jury testimony.
“My recollection was he told us during the course of the interview that he didn’t consider himself an expert on use of force,” Oreskovich said. “If he doesn’t qualify as an expert, then his opinion is irrelevant.”
Nicks stated in court records that he has spent the majority of his career reviewing officer reports to determine whether their use of force was justified. Ultimately, U.S. District Court Judge Fred Van Sickle will decide whether Nicks testifies.
Sweetser, the former prosecutor, said the public shouldn’t have to wait until a police official testifies under oath before the full story comes out.
“That’s what the public expects. They don’t expect the city to obfuscate and mislead and try to trick public opinion,” he said. “That ultimately undermines confidence in government.”
"All it took was an inside investigation, an outside investigation, a lawsuit, public pressure to hire a police ombudsman, an FBI investigation, five years, 20 weeks and one day to drag the truth out into the light."
August 10, 2011
Shawn Vestal, The Spokesman-Review
It took just five years, 20 weeks and a day.
But finally we’re hearing the truth about Otto Zehm from Jim Nicks.
In a statement filed Friday in the federal case against Officer Karl Thompson, Nicks – who was the acting chief when Thompson and other officers confronted, beat, Tasered and hog-tied Zehm at a Zip Trip on March 18, 2006 – says Thompson’s account of the confrontation is factually wrong, his actions were improper and the subsequent police investigation of the incident was insufficient.
Nicks, stunningly, notes that there are a lot of “glaring inconsistencies” between the statements of Karl Thompson and the evidence.
He didn’t have much to say about the glaring inconsistencies between the statements of Jim Nicks and the statements of Jim Nicks.
The night Zehm went on his ill-fated shopping trip for candy and pop, Nicks rushed to the scene. So did City Attorney Rocky Treppiedi. Such was their dedication to the truth that they came out to a crime scene on a Saturday night, to get right to the bottom of things.
Which they very, very quickly did.
I happened to be on the weekend cops shift that Saturday night. I was at the convenience store, outside the crime-scene tape, trying to get a little information before a fast-approaching deadline. Nicks eventually came out and declared that the officers involved had followed all the department’s policies. And – hey, no contradiction here – he assured citizens that there would be a full investigation.
Even then – before Zehm had died, before much of anything was known about what happened – it was obviously a truth-challenged statement. Jim Nicks may not have known then what he knows now. But he did not know what he said, either.
As has become obvious.
“The officers were definitely within the (department) policy,” he said that night. “The officers used the lowest level of force possible.”
A few months later, Nicks said, “Karl had a lawful right to use the amount of force necessary to gain control of the suspect with the belief that Officer Thompson was about to be pushed, hit or charged. With that in mind, Thompson was within policy and training to use a nightstick and Taser in the manner which he did.”
Between then and now, Nicks has made a slow, gradual journey toward the light, apparently – while sticking up for Thompson and retailing obvious whoppers, such as Zehm’s fictional “lunge” toward Thompson, a tale that was first told that Saturday night outside the Zip Trip.
But then, sometime before Thompson’s June 19, 2009, federal indictment, Nicks apparently managed to take a peek at the store’s videotape. He testified to the contradictions in Thompson’s testimony before a grand jury. In June 2010, he approached Thompson’s defense team and told them about his concerns. On Friday, his statement was filed in federal court.
Better late than never, I guess. The thing is, all this truth-telling remained under wraps while the city continued to play hardball and cover its butt and blame Zehm and issue no-comments. But back when all Nicks had to spread was B.S., nobody seemed to mind.
If you’ve followed the case, reading Nicks’ current statement is breathtaking. Nicks says Zehm did not assault Thompson, lunge at him or try to punch him – Zehm was “retreating” and “non-assaultive.” Nicks now says Thompson should not have Tasered Zehm, or gone after him as quickly as he did with a baton – literally within a couple seconds. Thompson should not have used “vertical” blows to Zehm’s head.
Thompson, Nicks says, said a lot of things that are simply not supported by the evidence, and he points them out one by one. In particular, he notes time and again that Thompson’s testimony contradicts the store’s security video.
Which has only been available to police since … the night of the fight.
Five years, 20 weeks and one day. That’s how long it took for the acting police chief’s truthful account to emerge.
Nicks’ statement includes several eye-openers. When the cops interviewed Thompson about what happened, they gave him a nice, long, off-the-record interview, followed by a lunch break, followed by an on-the-record interview. Which they later allowed him the opportunity to correct.
Then there was this gem: “The SPD Major Crimes Unit also failed to perform a side-by-side analysis and comparison of Officer Thompson’s recorded statement against the objectively recorded Zip Trip store security video.”
And this: “Thompson’s immediate baton strikes to the retreating, non-assaultive Zehm did not serve a legitimate law enforcement purpose … and no reasonable officer would have perceived Zehm’s response to Officer Thompson’s presence as assaultive.”
Well … duh. All it took was an inside investigation, an outside investigation, a lawsuit, public pressure to hire a police ombudsman, an FBI investigation, five years, 20 weeks and one day to drag the truth out into the light.
Nicks is second in command of the Spokane Police Department. First is Anne Kirkpatrick. She likes to talk about the importance of telling the truth. Her supposedly cardinal rule: “If you lie, you die.”
What happened to Otto Zehm in the Zip Trip was appalling. The failures of honesty, accountability and good faith that followed are despicable.
Nicks’ long, strange trip to the truth only makes that more obvious.
August 8, 2011
Greg Stanley, Rockford Register Star
ROSCOE — A 21-year-old man suffered a heart attack Tuesday after he was struck with a Taser by a Roscoe police officer.
Police confronted Anthony Slaymaker of South Beloit that night on a sidewalk near the McCurry Road and Illinois 251 intersection. It’s unclear what led to the confrontation and why the officer fired a Taser gun.
Slaymaker was taken in an ambulance to Rockford Memorial Hospital where he was put into a medically induced coma. He has since woken from the coma and is recovering in a hospital bed, said Terry Monahan, Slaymaker’s attorney.
“He’s not totally responsive yet,” Monahan said.
Slaymaker hasn’t been criminally charged or arrested. A police report of the incident is not yet available.
Roscoe police Chief Jamie Evans declined to comment on the confrontation.
“We’re still investigating everything, and we’re going to put everything under review,” Evans said.
The Winnebago County Sheriff’s Department began an independent investigation into the matter. Once Evans has the results of that investigation, she’ll meet with State’s Attorney Joe Bruscato to determine how best to move forward.
Slaymaker’s family is also waiting for more information and may take legal action against the Police Department.
“We’re not there yet,” Monahan said. “We need some more facts and Anthony to be recovered. We don’t have the police reports from the officers who responded. We’re still trying to determine if any future residual problems may be there.”
Evans said it isn’t clear whether Slaymaker’s medical emergency was caused solely by the Taser gun or whether a medical condition contributed to it.
In October 2009, TASER International issued a nationwide warning bulletin that advised officers against shooting a Taser gun into someone’s chest. The bulletin said it opens the officer, the agency and TASER International to liability if heart damage, such as sudden cardiac arrest, occurs.
Rockford police and the Sheriff’s Department rounded up their Taser guns a day after the bulletin was issued and haven’t used them since.
The use of Tasers has recently caused legal problems for other local police departments and municipalities. The city of South Beloit faces a lawsuit that stems, in part, from former Sgt. Brad McCaslin’s 2008 use of a Taser on a handcuffed woman. McCaslin also faces criminal charges for the incident.
The Winnebago County Board reached an $85,000 settlement agreement in February with a woman who was struck with a Taser by a sheriff’s deputy while she was handcuffed in 2008.