October 28, 2011
QMI Agency, London Free Press
Nottawasaga OPP say a Taser was pulled during an incident between fellow officers.
On Oct. 14, more than two officers were involved in an "interaction" resulting in a Taser being pulled, but police wouldn't confirm if the weapon was used on officers.
"We're just calling it an interaction right now," said Dave Ross of OPP corporate communications. "I can't say if it was used or not used. I can just say it was unholstered during the interaction."
No injuries were reported, but Ross did say police are taking the incident seriously.
"Our professional standards bureau is conducting an internal investigation into a conducted energy weapon (Taser) being unholstered by one of our members during an interaction with other members in the detachment."
The incident happened while the officers involved were at the Nottawasaga detachment, but names have not yet been released.
"Because they're police service matters, we can't speak to officer's name," Ross said.
WELCOME to TRUTH ... not TASERS
Saturday, October 29, 2011
October 28, 2011
Saturday, October 22, 2011
October 22, 2011
Burlington Free Press
The Vermont State Police agreed to change its policy regarding Tasers following an incident with a 23-year-old Northeast Kingdom man with a disability.
The policy revision was prompted by a complaint about using a Taser on the uncooperative man April 6, officials said. The state police also agreed to pay a small financial settlement as part of the complaint filed by Disability Rights Vermont, a protection and advocacy organization.
A.J. Ruben, a supervising attorney for Disability Rights Vermont, declined to release terms of the signed financial settlement, which he acknowledged is public record. Ruben said the family asked him not to release the name of the victim or the settlement amount, which he termed "not large." He said the case was more about getting the state police Taser policy modified for people with disabilities and not about the payment to his client.
The Burlington Free Press filed a public-records request Friday afternoon with the state police Friday afternoon to determine the cost to taxpayers. The request is pending.
Ruben said the policy changes will save taxpayers money by avoiding future incidents.
In a joint statement, state police and rights group outlined the following:
Troopers responded to a home April 6 at the request of developmental services and mental health professionals. The man with disabilities including Down syndrome, was told by care providers that he needed to be taken to a new placement. He refused to get dressed and accompany the caregivers. When troopers arrived, they attempted to escort the man from the home, but he pulled away. Trooper Paul Mosher, who is assigned to the Derby barracks, deployed his Taser. Then the man was helped into his care provider's vehicle, evaluated at the emergency room, released uninjured and transported to the new placement.
Changes to state police policy regarding Tasers includes placing people with cognitive impairments in a category that requires special consideration before use of a Taser, and the devices will be used only if the person is armed and presents a risk of harm, or if there are no other reasonable alternatives to maintaining safety or taking the person into custody.
"We are pleased with the outcome and the spirit of cooperation in working ... to create a policy that will help protect citizens with disabilities, while providing more clearly defined direction for our troopers," Col. Tom L'Esperance, director of the state police, said in a statement.
Ruben said in a statement: "The actions taken by the state police, including the change of policy, are progress in the continuing effort to restrict the use of the Taser against individuals with disabilities for non-threatening disability-related behavior."
Friday, October 21, 2011
October 20, 2011
Julie O'Neill, WCPO.com
CINCINNATI - A Channel 9 investigation has found that more than 10 weeks after U.C. Upward Bound student Everette Howard Jr. died after he was tased by police, the Taser X26 used to subdue him has still not been tested for its electrical output.
Howard's family, and their attorney, speaking exclusively with 9 News, say they are outraged to learn of a disturbing gap in the investigation, which is apparently slowing it down, regarding the place... and method of the intended testing.
What police and loved ones of Howard agree on is that his death was both unintentional and tragic and finding out exactly why he died is important to his family, to police, and to anyone who might be hit by a Taser-type weapon in the future.
The weapon made by Taser International is used by authorities across the Tri-State and around the globe as a non-lethal police force option. It fires two probes, which send an electric current into the body to incapacitate a subject.
The Hamilton County Coroner's Office has not yet released a cause of death in the Howard case. 9 News has learned the delay may be because the taser used in the Aug. 6 incident has still not been tested for its electrical output.
Ohio's Bureau of Criminal Investigations (BCI), under Attorney General Mike Dewine, has been charged with finding a lab to test the output. BCI wants to send it to a lab in Canada, but says the process is being stalled by customs issues.
Asked why this weapon needs to be sent outside the country, Attorney General Dewine responded, " The Canadian company has been referred to us by many people and we have checked this out. We believe that they have the expertise to do it."
But 9 News took a closer look at how the Canadian lab will test the weapon and had some serious questions concerning whether this lab will be able to accurately measure how much power came out of the weapon.
The testing procedure protocol the lab would follow states:
"The authors give no warranty or representation of any kind whatsoever that the recommendations contained in this report are comprehensive."
The testing procedure also describes the weapon's waveform as having two parts: the Arc phase (the quick high-voltage phase), and the Main phase (the longer, lower-voltage phase).
To read the entire test procedure, click here.
The people who wrote the protocol state their information will primarily come from the lower energy phase.
They state that because of potential equipment limitations, "measurements of the peak voltage, peak current and charge of the arc phase may be in error."
9 News discussed the testing concerns with Mike Leonasio of Force Technologies Institute.
Leonasio tests Tasers regularly for law enforcement at his lab in Northern California and was referred to 9 News as an "expert" by a federal agency looking into standardizing the measuring of tasers.
"They specifically talk about some equipment not having the capabilities of measuring that high voltage spike. We don't have that problem," said Leonasio. "The equipment that we utilize has no issues with that whatsoever so we can actually record the entire waveform."
Leonasio says he began testing weapons in response to news reports in Canada three years ago that weapons were failing tests there.
In one case, the Royal Canadian Mounted Patrol pulled hundreds of Tasers after 80 percent reportedly failed tests.
In another case, the Canadian Broadcast Company (CBC) had an accredited lab test 44 X26 Tasers in use at that time by U.S. police officers.
CBC reporter Frederic Zalac reported, "The results revealed that four Tasers delivered higher electrical charges, at times up to 50 percent higher than the manufacturer's specifications."
"I think what they proved was what I've seen as well," said Leonasio, "They showed a significant percentage of devices that were outside of manufacturer's specs."
Taser international challenged the method of testing done for that CBC report.
In fact, at an inquiry into a death in Canada following a tasing, Taser International co-founder Tom Smith testified that the weapons did not need testing.
"The device is calibrated such that it can not output any more power. It's running at 100 percent so we do not recommend testing the output," said Smith.
Leonasio says it's very important to test.
"It's important because we need to know what this weapon is doing. And to kind of put it into context a little bit it's not uncommon for us in law enforcement for us to test equipment. Radar guns are tested on a regular basis, blood alcohol testers are tested on a regular basis," said Leonasio.
In fact, the U.S. has standards concerning the testing of X-ray machines, automatic electronic defibrillators, pacemakers etc., but not tasers.
9 News asked Attorney General Dewine whether he thought there should be some standard way of testing these weapons so that we can be perfectly accurate as to what is released from them and protect people who might be hit by them.
"Well again, what we have to do is go to the best place we can find and that's what we're doing," said Dewine. "The report will stand on its own. If there are exceptions in the report, if there are things where they indicate they could not test, that's something that the prosecuting attorney in Hamilton County, Mr. Deters, and whoever else looks at it in Hamilton County, is going to have to take into consideration. I would just emphasize that the report that this lab does and the testing that this lab does is only part of the whole investigation."
"On behalf of the family, we're impatient," said Attorney Al Gerhardstein, who represents the Howards.
"Any testing that's a waste of time is just that. It's a waste of time. If it's going to delay an answer to these parents it shouldn't be done. The right thing should be done. And if we're this far down the road on Tasers and we still don't know how to test them in order to make sure they're safe for deployment into peaceful civilians then we better get on this as quickly as possible and do more to protect citizens," said Gerhardstein.
"I'm not for taking Tasers off the street. I'm for reform. I'm for training. I'm for safety, honesty, tell the truth," said Travonna Howard, Everette's mother.
The Howards say their son, an award-winning wrestler and captain of his team in high school, was a respectful kid who had a bright future.
"He knew authority, his records, his awards, his community involvement, what he did speaks for itself," said Travonna.
"I just think how we sacrificed and we worked hard to get our son for school and overtime and working days and working nights. We sacrificed because we wanted what we didn't have and what was best for him," said his mother.
Everette actually graduated from the Upward Bound program the night before he died.
On the night he died, a report of a fight on campus brought in U.C. police.
According to U.C. police, Everette ignored a warning to back off, so an officer tased him. The accounts given by police and witnesses of exactly what led up to the tasing are still being investigated.
"Sometimes I'm just broke to think what my son's body went through with that," said Travonna.
There is an effort in the U.S. currently to come up with a standard way of testing tasers.
The "National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), Office of Law Enforcement Standards (OLES)" had a meeting in January of this year, during which industry experts weighed in.
NIST refused any comment, only referring 9 News to Leonasio as an expert sitting on its panel.
Leonasio tells 9 News NIST is working on an international standard, but did not say when such a standard for testing the electrical output of Tasers would be released.
Taser International refused comment, and has thus far denied numerous requests for an on camera interview with 9 News.
9 News is continuing its research into all facets of Taser use and the safety concerns surrounding this electroshock weapon.
Wednesday, October 19, 2011
October 19, 2011
Robert A. Baker / The Post-Standard
Syracuse, NY -- Taser International, the maker of stun guns used by Syracuse police and other police agencies in the state, reacted to several points made by the New York Civil Liberties Union in a report released today on Taser use in the state.
The NYCLU studied Taser-use reports from Syracuse and seven other police departments in the state and found that police departments are “consistently misusing and overusing Tasers” and faults an absence of sound policies, training and guidelines in the use of Tasers.
In a release today, Syracuse police said they have yet to read the report, which became available to the public at 11 a.m. today.
“The Syracuse Police Department will have no comment on this report until we are provided with an official copy of the report and we have had time to thoroughly read and examine the information contained in this report,” the release said.
Taser International, which also had not received a copy of the report, reacted to what was published this morning in The Post-Standard.
One point was on the number of deaths quoted in the report. More than 200 people died after being shocked by Tasers, according a Department of Justice figure quoted in the published report.
Tasers were listed by authorities as the cause or contributing cause in only 12 of those cases, Steve Tuttle, vice president of communication for the Arizona-based manufacturer of stun guns, said today. And of those 12 deaths, the majority were from injuries suffered in a fall after being stunned.
The report said only 15 percent of the incidents reviewed involved a subject who was armed or thought to be armed, which, the NYCLU said, “shatter the illusion that Tasers are primarily used as an alternative to deadly force on armed or otherwise dangerous subjects.
Tuttle said that he was surprised that the number was so high. Nationally, he said, the number is closer to 10 percent. The vast majority of subjects who are hit by Tasers should be unarmed, he said.
“You don’t bring a knife to a gunfight,” Tuttle said. “You don’t replace firearms with Tasers.”
Taser International does not train police departments on the use of the Taser, Tuttle said.
“We don’t train users, we train certified teachers,” Tuttle said.
The departments send officers to train with Taser International to become teachers in their own departments, but Tuttle said.
“It’s up to the police departments to train their officers,” Tuttle said.
Each department may have different standards for defining use of force, which includes when to use a Taser device, he said.
“We can’t teach officers use of force. We are not experts in the use of force,” Tuttle said. “We show them safe operation.”
"If they are suggesting good training and good policies are part of Taser training, they are correct," Tuttle said.
As far as people of color being stunned in greater proportion than white people, Tuttle said that number must be compared to the arrest rate of each community studied.
“Is there a higher proportion being arrested?” he asked. If there is, he said, it stands to reason that a high proportion would be stunned as well.
October 19, 2011
Robert A. Baker / The Post-Standard
Syracuse, NY -- Police in Syracuse and seven other police departments in New York are overusing and misusing Tasers and are inadequately trained in the use of the stun guns, the New York Civil Liberties Union said in a report to be released today.
Officers are using Tasers on people who are not a threat, targeting vulnerable areas of the body, administering excessive numbers of shocks and excessively long shocks, failing to give prior warnings, and using Tasers on vulnerable populations and a disproportionate number of people of color, the report states.
“If you look at Syracuse’s Taser policy, like most of the policies we reviewed, it does not comport with what experts say is appropriate use of Tasers,” Corey Stoughton, the report’s author, said.
The report calls for agencies to expand training beyond Taser International guidelines and for New York state to regulate and monitor Taser training and the use of force policies in departments statewide.
Syracuse Police Chief Frank Fowler declined to comment until he’s had a chance to read the report, which was embargoed until today.
The report, called “Taking Tasers Seriously: The Need for Better Regulation of Stun Guns in New York,” was based on 851 Taser-use reports filed by eight police departments across the state from 2005 to 2009. The departments are Syracuse, Albany, Glens Falls, Greece, Guilderland, Nassau County, Rochester and Saratoga Springs. The report, which The Post-Standard has received a copy of, will be released at 11 a.m. today.
The departments were picked for their size and each department has a liberties union office in the area, a spokeswoman said. The NYCLU also looked at the use-of-force policies and the Taser training procedures in the eight departments as well as the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office and the Suffolk County Police Department.
There are 350 law enforcement agencies that carry Tasers in New York, the report says. Two-hundred people, including a Central New York man, have died after being stunned by a Taser, according a U.S. Department of Justice statistic cited by the report. Tasers deliver up to 50,000 volts of electricity, either from probes that are shot from the gun or by placing the device directly against the skin of the target.
The report cited two Syracuse incident as examples of inappropriate Taser use:
•In 2009, a 15-year-old boy was hit by a Taser probe fired by a Syracuse police officer in an attempt to break up a fight at Fowler High School. The officer was aiming for another student. The NYCLU is representing the boy and his mother in a federal suit against the Syracuse Police Department. The family could not be reached for comment.
•A mentally ill man who was shocked at least a dozen times by three Syracuse officers using Tasers. Charges were never filed against the man, the NYCLU said. The NYCLU report calls the incident “particularly disturbing.”
According to Syracuse Police Department Taser-use reports on the incident, police were called a “mental complaint” Aug. 5, 2006, in the city. The 6-foot 2-inch, 260-pound, 53-year-old man refused officers’ orders to get on the floor. One officer noted that the man was “highly agitated” and “became combative” after a first use of the Taser had no effect. The report does not identify the man or say where the incident took place.
In the reports, the three officers gave their estimates on how many times they each used their Tasers: five to six times, three to six times and four to five times. After the Tasers were used, the man was admitted to a psychiatric hospital, the report states.
Although the advocacy group did not study cases involving the Onondaga Sheriff’s Office and the now-defunct Clay Police Department, incidents involving those agencies are singled out:
•The death in March 2008 of Christopher H. Jackson, who was pronounced dead after he was hit by a Taser used by a Clay police officer inside Jackson’s home in Norstar Apartments in Clay.
•The January 2009 use of a Taser on a mother in the town of Salina by Onondaga County sheriff’s Deputy Sean Andrews after the woman was pulled over in a traffic stop. The deputy pulled the woman from her van and used a Taser on her in front of her children. The incident made national news and the county settled a resulting lawsuit for $75,000.
The two cases were pulled from news stories because they are examples of the points the NYCLU is trying to make, Stoughten said.
In reviewing the Taser-use reports statewide, one statistic stood out, Stoughton said.
“Sixty percent of the reports had not documented information for using the Taser,” said Stoughton, a senior staff attorney with the NYCLU. “That’s crazy.”
Instead of being used as a non-lethal weapon of last resort, “you’re seeing Tasers being used as a pain compliance tool for people who are passively resisting or are restrained,” Stoughton said.
In Syracuse, 56 percent of the people involved in a Taser incident with Syracuse police were black. That is disproportionately high considering blacks make up 25 percent of the city’s population, the NYCLU said.
In Albany, where blacks make up 28 percent of the population, 68 percent of the people who were shocked were black. In Rochester, 48 percent of the people who were shocked were black. Blacks comprise 38 percent of that city’s population.
Each time a Taser is used, departments document the incident in a Taser-use form. While those forms are compiled, the NYCLU found “almost no police departments surveyed” required a review of the data to assess their Taser programs.
The Syracuse and Greece police departments “actively interfere with attempts to provide sufficient information” through the forms they use to report Taser use, the NYCLU said.
The form the Syracuse department uses to report Taser incidences has little room for officers to describe the incident, the NYCLU said. And, when the officers have room, they often neglect to justify why multiple cycles of Tasers on individuals were justified.
The report calls for greater oversight by the state on the use of Tasers and Taser training of police.
Misuse of stun guns is linked directly to inadequate use-of-force policies and inadequate training on the use of Tasers, according to the report. Most departments rely solely on training materials prepared by the manufacturer, Taser International, to train police, the report states.
“The training Taser International provides is, literally, how to operate the weapon,” Stoughton said. “It doesn’t cover appropriate use or the dangers of multiple and prolonged shocks.”
The U.S. Department of Justice and the Police Executive Research Forum both warn departments that they should not rely solely on the Taser training manual, “but it appears that’s what we do in New York State,” Stoughton said.
Tuesday, October 18, 2011
Apparently it is okay for our police to use a legally-defined LETHAL WEAPON against a child carrying a pen, even if it did look like a knife. And no sanctions on this rookie officer? What if the child had died? Thank God he wasn't wielding a stapler! Another justification comes from the fact that the boy gave the police the finger! That showed 'disrespect for police' apparently, so that is the rationale for using the taser. Oh-- the boy HAD been seen with a knife earlier. Truth be told, after a 40-minute stand-off, the boy was lured out on the porch and the Taser was fired. We have no indication on placement of darts, duration of stun, etc. We just have police investigating police. Again. WVPD Chief Lepine is a former Mountie. This all leans heavily towards the need for the Independent Investigation Office (IIO). When will this civilian-led body be formed?
October 18, 2011
The Canadian Press
WEST VANCOUVER, B.C. — Police were convinced an armed, deaf, 11-year-old was violent and a danger to himself and others when they used a Taser on him following a confrontation last April, a police report has said.
Chief Pete Lepine of the West Vancouver Police Department said in a news release Monday the RCMP officers involved that day faced a dire situation that had little chance of a publicly acceptable outcome.
He noted officers could have declined to use a Taser and risk the situation escalating to the point where the boy harmed himself or others, possibly forcing officers to use lethal force.
Or officers could take the path they ultimately chose: Use the Taser on the boy and deal with the public relations disaster later.
"I can assure all of you that everyone involved in the original incident, as well as the investigation, was fully aware and sensitive to the fact that the police were dealing with a child," Lepine wrote.
"However, ultimately, the boy's age was secondary to the fact that his apprehension was deemed necessary in order to prevent him from causing further grievous bodily harm or death.
"...If the officers had decided not to take overt action to apprehend the child quickly, they would likely have been subjected to harsh criticism for standing idly by while the child harmed himself or someone else."
Lepine was heavily criticized last month for releasing his investigators' independent findings into RCMP actions that day by simply saying the officers were justified in using the device on a child.
He provided no explanation as to why.
On Monday, he said he was releasing a detailed account after consulting with other agencies conducting a review of the incident and also the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, which has been highly critical of RCMP Taser use in the past.
Lepine said police were called to the Prince George residential group home at about 5:30 p.m. April 7 after a report that an adult had been stabbed by an 11-year-old boy.
Officers were told the boy was hearing impaired but that his hearing aids had been damaged in a previous incident.
Before police arrived at the scene, the boy had holed himself up in the large, main residence with a bottle of wine and a knife. He also had access to other weapons, Lepine's report said.
Police were told he was "prone to extremely violent outbursts, during which he exhibited extraordinary strength for his age and size and presented a viable threat to his own safety as well as the safety of adults attempting to manage his outburst," the report said.
Investigators were also told he would not back down from a physical confrontation and could attack officers.
The police who arrived on the scene positioned themselves to watch the boy and quickly determined that a forced entry of the residence wasn't reasonable.
Instead, officers attempted to negotiate with him.
Lepine's report said when the boy appeared at a small second-story window, one of the officers tried to talk to him. The boy opened the window and used a knife to cut out the screen and hung his upper body outside, prompting concern he might fall.
Lepine's report said officers also saw the boy slashing at his sweatshirt and running a knife blade over the palm of his hand and up his arms.
Eventually, the boy asked for some belongings, the report said.
Police left them on the front porch and the boy came to retrieve them -- armed with a knife at all times. He made the sign of a cross, which police had been told was "an indication that things were going to get bad."
The boy came out of the house again to post a note, which officers couldn't read.
At this point, Lepine's report said, investigators concluded that their efforts to de-escalate the situation weren't working and that the boy was increasingly a danger to himself.
"His willingness to engage in violence and use weapons against adults indicated that physical confrontation with the boy would present an extremely high risk to all involved," the report said.
The officers decided to use a Taser if the boy came out again.
The boy was asked to come out and clarify the contents of the note. When he did, he was holding a knife and a Taser was deployed once.
Officers gained physical control of the boy and found he had a pen, not a knife, in his hand.
During the independent investigation of the RCMP's actions, Lepine said West Vancouver investigators sought the opinion of a "recognized subject matter expert" in policing that concluded the officers' decisions were "sound, appropriate to the situation and in keeping with their training and existing policy."
"It was clear to me that the officers involved responded to a dynamic and potentially deadly incident in a measured, appropriate and professional manner," Lepine concluded.
After the boy received the jolt, the boy was taken to hospital for observation and released the next day.
The Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP and B.C.'s children's watchdog have launched their own investigations. The RCMP is also conducting an internal review.
Two RCMP officers were placed on administrative leave after the incident, but they returned to their full duties in late June.
October 18, 2011
Andrea Woo, Vancouver Sun
The 11-year-old boy whom Prince George RCMP hit with a Taser in April was holding a pen, not a knife, at the time, an update on the investigation reveals.
However, the boy did have a knife earlier in the incident and was described as having "extraordinary strength" and being prone to "extremely violent outbursts," the update says.
The details were released on Monday by West Vancouver Police Chief Peter Lepine, who was following up on a promise to release more information on his Sept. 15 decision not to recommend charges against the officers.
"The officers decided that the Conducted Energy Weapon (i.e., the Taser) would be their best force option for resolving the incident as safely as possible," Lepine wrote.
The officers were dispatched to a residential address at 5:30 p.m. on April 7 after a call reporting a man had been stabbed.
A 37-year-old man with a stab wound was taken to hospital with non-life-threatening injuries, while the boy, who allegedly stabbed the man, barricaded himself inside the residence.
Before police arrived, the boy had been seen drinking from a bottle of wine and walking around the residence with a knife, Lepine wrote.
According to information gathered from adult witnesses, the boy:
. Was hearing impaired but without his hearing aids.
. Was prone to "extremely violent outbursts, during which he exhibited extraordinary strength for his age and size."
. "Would not back from physical confrontation with adults and was likely a high risk to attack officers if they approached him suddenly or unexpectedly."
. Would exhibit "warning signs" before violent outbursts, including making "the sign of the cross."
Officers saw the boy slashing his sweatshirt and running a knife blade over the palm of his hand and up and down his arms, Lepine wrote. The boy also gave the officers the middle finger and threw a wine bottle and wine glass out of the window of the residence.
The boy came out of the residence several times, once to gather some personal effects he'd asked for, and again to post a note on the porch wall. It turned out to be illegible when officers tried to read it.
"He kept a knife with him at all times and, while outside on the porch, officers and adult witnesses saw him make 'the sign of the cross' in front of his chest," Lepine wrote.
After 40 minutes, officers felt the boy was growing increasingly frustrated. They decided to intervene before the situation "escalated to the point where lethal force was an appropriate option for the resolution."
When the boy emerged from the residence a third time, "the Taser was deployed in a single cycle and the boy was immobilized long enough for the officers to gain physical control over him and seize what turned out to be not a knife but a pen," Lepine wrote.
"Once the boy was physically secure, officers immediately removed the Taser probes from his back and had him transported to hospital."
Lepine, who also sought the opinion of a use of force expert, determined the officers' actions were appropriate.
"I understand and expect that there will be those who believe that my decision to publicize these details is an attempt to vilify the 11-year-old boy in order to exonerate the police," he wrote.
"I can assure all of you that everyone involved in the original incident, as well as the investigation, was fully aware and sensitive to the fact that the police were dealing with a child. However, ultimately, the boy's age was secondary to the fact that his apprehension was deemed necessary in order to prevent him from causing further grievous bodily harm or death."
David Eby, executive director of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, which was consulted in the investigation, said he is glad West Vancouver police released more information. But he said the information is "extremely concerning" and means the investigation now must "go to the next level."
"This explanation that the child didn't have his hearing aids, that the child had no weapon at all when he was ultimately Tasered, raises some very serious questions for us and escalates this incident, in our mind, to one that requires the urgent attention of the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP," Eby said.
The officer who deployed the Taser had just 18 months experience with the force. He was placed on administrative leave following the incident.
October 18, 2011
Carol J. Williams, LA Times
Police used excessive force when they fired Tasers at a pregnant woman in Seattle and a victim of domestic abuse in Maui, a federal appeals court ruled Monday in a case that could influence how police handle those resisting arrest across the West.
The ruling by the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, sitting in a full 11-judge forum used to decide important questions of law, could prompt police forces to reexamine their rules and practices for the temporarily debilitating stun guns.
In the Seattle case, a seven-months pregnant Malaika Brooks was driving her son to school when she was stopped by police, ticketed for driving 12 miles over the 20-mph speed limit and blasted with a stun gun three times after refusing to sign the citation.
Two years later and thousands of miles away in Maui, Jayzel Mattos was trying to defuse a brewing clash between her drunk husband and four police officers called to a domestic disturbance when one of the officers suddenly dropped her to the floor with two jolts from his Taser, which was set in dart mode.
The federal appeals court ruled that in both instances, police used excessive force and that their actions violated the Constitution's protection from unreasonable force.
While deeming the use of the stun guns in Seattle and Maui excessive, the court said the officers weren't liable in the civil suits filed against them because the law governing Taser use wasn't clearly established at the time of Brooks' 2004 arrest or when Mattos was jolted without warning for what police said was obstructing police at her home in 2006.
But the court's ruling Monday may now serve to establish that using stun guns without an imminent threat of harm is unreasonable, at least in some cases, exposing police officers to liability in future lawsuits, legal analysts said.
Barry McDonald, a constitutional law professor at Pepperdine University, said the 9th Circuit ruling wouldn't be unduly restrictive for law enforcement because the circumstances in the two cases it reviewed were unusual and unlikely to be relevant in most instances when police decide to use stun guns.
"They took some pretty sympathetic factual scenarios to establish this law," said Laurie Levenson, a criminal law professor at Loyola Law School, noting Brooks' advanced pregnancy and the allegedly unprovoked stunning of Mattos.
The ruling should encourage police to better assess the threat level they confront and the severity of the offense for which a citizen is resisting arrest, said Levenson, describing the decision as "certainly not a case where the court says police can't use Tasers."
The Los Angeles Police Department has detailed guidelines for officers on the appropriate use of stun guns and their procedures already comply with the court ruling, said Assistant Chief Sandy Jo MacArthur.
Other regional law enforcement agencies have been refining their stun gun rules after a similar decision last year involving Coronado police in San Diego County.
Monday's ruling could influence the outcome of a lawsuit filed by the parents of a San Bernardino man who died in May. Three officers were accused of shocking him repeatedly with stun guns for 10 minutes. Allen Kephart, 43, was stopped by three sheriff's deputies after he honked his horn at them for turning in front of his car, the lawsuit contends.
Four of the 11 judges dissented in part from the 9th Circuit ruling, including Chief Judge Alex Kozinski, who expressed concern that restricting the use of non-lethal force with Tasers could result in police resorting to more dangerous means to subdue those resisting arrest.
In the last decade, Kozinski said, half a million police officers were assaulted in the line of duty and 536 were killed, "the vast majority while performing routine law enforcement tasks like conducting traffic stops and responding to domestic disturbance calls."
Two of the dissenters disagreed that Brooks' constitutional rights were violated, saying she brought the action on herself by repeatedly refusing to sign the traffic citation or to get out of her car when police tried to arrest her.
"There are only so many ways that a person can be extracted from a vehicle against her will, and none of them is pretty. Fists, batons, choke holds, dogs, tear gas, and chemical spray all carry their own risks to suspects and officers alike," wrote Judges Barry G. Silverman and Richard R. Clifton.
Wednesday, October 12, 2011
October 12, 2011
Dirk Meissner, The Canadian Press
The death of a Vancouver man who was left intoxicated and alone in a frigid alley by police 13 years ago has the British Columbia government moving to put some distance between Crown prosecutors and police when it comes to assessing criminal charges against officers.
Attorney General Shirley Bond said Wednesday the Criminal Justice Branch will no longer allow Crown prosecutors to investigate allegations against police in the same jurisdiction. The branch will instead use special prosecutors.
The change is a key recommendation from an inquiry conducted by Judge William Davies that examined the death of Frank Paul in December 1998. The aboriginal man was dumped by police in an alley, drunk and soaking wet, leaving him to die of exposure.
No police officers were ever charged in the case, which saw Davies conclude last June that "broader measures need to be taken to ensure the public's confidence in charging decisions that affect police officers."
Davies found that prosecutors conducted themselves with integrity when deciding no charges should be laid. But he was concerned about the perception of preferential treatment by the Crown when assessing police-related cases.
Bond said police accountability is a prominent public issue in B.C. She cited not only the recommendations from the public inquiry into Paul's death, but also the inquiries into the RCMP-connected death of Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski and police work related to capturing serial killer Robert Pickton.
"I would certainly want to believe that we've learned enough lessons through the circumstances of both the Frank Paul case and the Dziekanski case, and the missing and murdered women (inquiry)," she said. "In fact, there have been enough circumstances in our province that we have learned lessons from."
Bond said the changes to the way investigations involving allegations against police officers will be handled in the future indicates the government is serious about Davies' recommendations. She said the Liberals want to ensure the public is confident police officers are not above the law.
Another of Davies' recommendations -- for an independent civilian-led body to conduct investigations in police-involved incidents -- was announced after the inquiry into the death of Dziekanski. The man died after her was stunned by an RCMP Taser at Vancouver's airport.
Bond said the government is planning to introduce the newly-appointed head of the civilian police investigation body by the end of this year, and expects the new office to be functioning by next June.
Criminal Justice Branch spokesman Neil MacKenzie said investigations involving police officers are already being handled by his department while the new policies and procedures are being drafted.
"The intention of the branch is to have the policy changes in place by the end of this year," he said.
The government plans to implement several other recommendations from the Davies' inquiry. They include sending automatic alerts to Crown officials if it takes longer than 30 days to make a charge assessment, and improving the system for notifying family members about the progress of charge assessments and the decisions.
Monday, October 10, 2011
Saturday, October 08, 2011
October 7, 2011
Robert Hiltz, Postmedia News
OTTAWA — Canada's national police force has reduced the use of controversial Taser stun guns significantly in the past three years, according to the RCMP complaints commission's annual report.
In the report released Friday, the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP was optimistic about the use of Tasers since the commission released its 2009 report — made public in June 2010 — on the use of the stun guns.
The CPC said it is satisfied with the RCMP's progress in response to a report on the death of Robert Dziekanski, who died in 2007 after being Tasered and restrained by four RCMP officers at Vancouver International Airport.
The commission also found that the RCMP is moving toward clearer policy regarding the use of the stun guns and has implemented a higher threshold for their use.
However, in the report, the interim chair of the CPC criticizes the national police force's commissioner for "extensive delays" responding to recommendations. Ian McPhail says that just over half of the notices from the RCMP commissioner have been delayed by "more than six months", while another two have been delayed for more than a year.
"In performing its work, the commission continues to be guided by the tenet that in order to be effective, review must be timely," McPhail writes. "I remain concerned that extensive delays in the response of the RCMP Commissioner to the commission's recommendations continue to occur."
Complaints commission figures show that 39 notices submitted to the head of the RCMP are still outstanding. Twenty of those have received no reply from the commissioner for an average of more than eight months.
"While the RCMP made a significant effort to clear its backlog in 2009, the backlog returned and has continued to grow this year. Although the CPC received 38 commissioner's notices from the RCMP, most were in response to interim reports sent to the RCMP in the previous fiscal year," the report states.
"The CPC's concern regarding the delay in the provision of commissioner's notices continues to grow, as these delays threaten the integrity of the public complaint process."
The watchdog is unable to complete its reports, or provide them to the complainant or RCMP member, until it receives a notice from the commissioner.
The documents also say external police investigations into serious incidents involving RCMP officers have begun quickly in the wake of a previous CPC report.
McPhail says the CPC's role is integral to keeping the RCMP accountable to the public and urges that the government reintroduce a bill that would create a new complaints and review commission with expanded powers. A new mandate is necessary, the interim commissioner says, because greater oversight is "widely accepted as essential" and the new review body needs stability to effectively carry out its duties.
The bill to create a new commission died when the 2011 federal election was called.
Thursday, October 06, 2011
Please see the event being organized for the second year in Montreal with families of people killed by police.
Organized by the Justice for Victims of Police Killings Coalition comprised of the family, friends and allies of Anas Bennis, Claudio Castagnetta, Ben Matson, Quilem Registre, Gladys Tolley & Fredy Villaneuva.
Justice Pour les Victimes de Bavures Policières /// Justice for the Victims of Police Killings
October 6, 2011
The Saginaw News
The deaths of two people in police custody in Michigan late last month is enough to convince us that police agencies need far more strict policies on the use of Tasers to electrically stun suspects into submission.
The most recent was in Mount Pleasant, where a 35-year-old man from East Orange, N.J., was found dead Sept. 24 in the Isabella County Jail about an hour after his arrival following a scuffle with police and repeated use of a Taser on him.
An autopsy has been completed, and the results expected in the coming weeks.
What’s not clear in this case, nor in the death of a 27-year-old Warren man on Sept. 17 after Warren police used a Taser on him, is whether the weapon caused these deaths, contributed to them or was not a factor.
State police are investigating in the Mount Pleasant case; Warren police also called for an outside agency to probe the incident there.
What is clear is that Tasers are getting a bad reputation in connection with the deaths of a very few of the many unruly people they are used to subdue.
One shot with the electric probes of a Taser, and most people fall to the ground and convulse helplessly. In most cases, the suspects recover quickly after the electric jolt ends.
That’s the scenario that police likely expect when they substitute a “less lethal” Taser for a firearm, a police baton or pepper spray.
But one death after use of a Taser is one too many, much less two in Michigan on consecutive weekends.
The Taser absolutely is a weapon that is less lethal than a police firearm.
But its use should be reserved as a substitute for situations that call for police to respond with deadly force. If police guidelines call for an officer to use a firearm, then a Taser should be considered an acceptable alternative.
Otherwise, Tasers should remain holstered.
Their use in less-than-life-or-death situations gives police a black eye in the public mind, especially when more than one officer is present.
In the Mount Pleasant case, three police officers and several bar bouncers wrestled with the New Jersey man in an effort to get handcuffs on him. The bouncers called police after the man was accused of grabbing women in the bar.
What ensued outside the bar was an evidently mighty struggle to get the man under control, according to newspaper reports in the Mount Pleasant Morning Sun.
A Taser was used several times on the man, who continued to struggle with police even after he got to the county jail.
Police departments have begun using the devices to save both the public and officers from injury. Police don’t have to physically mix it up with unruly suspects, and people fighting or fleeing police don’t face the harm they might from bullets or police batons.
Yet, we see Tasers used by police on suspects who may present little threat. In Burton late last month, an officer fired one at a woman fleeing a bank after trying to pass a bad check. The device’s barbs didn’t penetrate her jacket, and she surrendered without a struggle when police caught up with her.
Tasers in Michigan have been used on a 15-year-old Bay City teen who died, on an 80-year-old Isabella County man and to arrest a naked man running around outside in February.
Those are the kinds of cases that cry out for better policies for police use of the electrical stun devices.
As is any death of a person in the hours following use of a Taser.
Even years after their introduction in the police arsenal, and after various studies, the jury is still out on why some people have died after they were shocked with a Taser.
That unknown alone is reason enough to limit the weapon’s use to life-or-death situations.
If a scenario calls for the use of deadly force, let a Taser be the “safer” option available to officers.
Otherwise, keep them holstered.
RT @winnipegpolice LOST 5
#taser cartridges in 2010 and they've lost 3 so far this year. Now, they've lost a complete TASER!!
October 6, 2011
Winnipeg Free Press
WINNIPEG police are hoping the right hands -- not the wrong hands -- find a missing Taser.
Spokesman Const. Jason Michalyshen said on Wednesday that for the first time in Winnipeg a complete Taser unit, holstered and attached to an officer's service duty belt, is missing after apparently falling off somewhere in the northwest quadrant of the city.
"This is a very serious concern for us," Michalyshen said. "If it gets into the wrong hands or is misused it can cause serious injury... It's unfortunate it did disappear."
Up until now, only the spare cartridge from a Taser had ever fallen off an officer's belt.
Michalyshen said police are also hoping to get back the entire unit to help figure out why it dropped off the officer's belt. He said the Taser holster is different than a sidearm holster, but he wouldn't get into details about officer equipment.
Michalyshen said all they know is the Taser disappeared sometime around midnight on Tuesday night and the officer didn't realize it was gone until near the end of his shift.
Police ask anyone who finds the device to contact them immediately.
October 6, 2011
VICTORIA — There will be no inquest into the death of Robert Dziekanski, who died after being stunned multiple times by a Taser during a confrontation with Mounties at Vancouver International Airport in October of 2007.
Chief B.C. Coroner Lisa Lapointe says her office had planned to hold an inquest after the police investigation was complete, but now she says it's not in the public interest because a full public inquiry has been held into the case.
However, a coroner's report on the death will still be released to the public.
Retired B.C. Appeal Court Justice Thomas Braidwood conducted a two-part inquiry into the case, reviewing the death of Dziekanski and the use of stun guns in general.
In his final report, Braidwood rejected the testimony of the four Mounties involved, who said they felt threatened by Dziekanski, ruling they could not have believed he posed a danger to anybody.
The Mounties have since been charged with perjury.