March 30, 2010
By Vanessa Miller, Boulder Daily Camera
Judge rejects request to throw out the case filed by parents of Ryan Wilson
A wrongful-death lawsuit filed by the parents of a Boulder man who died after a Lafayette police officer shot him with a stun gun can move ahead to trial after a federal judge rejected Taser International's request to throw out the case.
Ryan Wilson, 22, died Aug. 4, 2006, after being stunned by a Taser while running from Lafayette police, who were investigating a report of marijuana plants growing in the area. The Boulder County Coroner's Office ruled that Wilson died of an irregular heartbeat caused by a combination of the exertion from running, the Taser shock and a heart condition present since birth.
The stun-gun company denied the Taser caused his death. It argued that there's no proof the Taser properly connected to Wilson in the first place, while also arguing that the device worked appropriately by immediately incapacitating him.
U.S. District Court Judge Philip A. Brimmer, in a written order filed Tuesday, accused the company of trying to "have its cake and eat it too."
"The court is satisfied that a jury, relying upon the evidence of what occurred upon the discharge of the Taser and the expert testimony .., could conclude that the Taser contributed to Mr. Wilson's death," he wrote.
Wilson's parents, Wendy and Jack Wilson, filed separate lawsuits against Taser International, the Lafayette Police Department, Chief Paul Schultz and officer John Harris, who shot Wilson with the Taser.
Taser International officials and Chief Schultz didn't return calls from the Camera on Tuesday.
The lawsuits, which were combined in 2008, allege that Taser makes a defective product and that officials don't warn customers; that Harris used excessive force; and that Lafayette police and Chief Schultz should have better managed Harris based on previous issues.
Harris also was accused of using excessive force with a Taser in 2005, when he and another officer subdued a drunk-driving suspect who tried to hit and kick them, according to a police report.
Lafayette police and officer Harris have denied the allegations and also requested the case be thrown out.
Those requests are still pending, but Wendy Wilson's attorney, Mike Thomson, said he's "very confident the claims will survive."
Jack Wilson said he's "very optimistic" as well.
"My counsel is waiting to set up a trial date and get this thing set for trial as soon as possible," he said. "There is plenty of evidence to show that the Taser was either the sole cause or partly the cause of my son's death."
In the end, Wilson said, his primary hope is to achieve justice and spread the message of the dangers of Tasers.
"We want to make it public that Tasers can be lethal if not used properly," he said, "and we want to discourage the use of Tasers throughout the country."
WELCOME to TRUTH ... not TASERS
Wednesday, March 31, 2010
March 30, 2010
March 31, 2010
Belleville's police chief is welcoming the new guidelines on Tasers. The Provincial government released the new rules on the use of "Conducted Energy Weapons" yesterday. The new rules give a lot of discretion to the officer using the weapon, and Chief Cory McMullan says that discretion is crucial. Only supervisors and Emergency Task Force officers will be issued the stun guns.
Rick Bartolucci, Ontario's Minister of Community Safety, quoted in the Globe and Mail on March 30, 2010 - Ontario to tighten taser rules for police: "We're enhancing Ontario's position with regards to its measured approach by introducing a very, very significant guideline (that's) very very prescriptive," Minister of Community Safety Rick Bartolucci said Tuesday. "There was a lack of consistency with regards to guidelines and training standards, so those are the two recommendations that we zeroed in on to make changes as quickly as possible."
Wayne Frechette, Barrie, Ontario Police Chief, quoted in today's Barrie Examiner - Taser Rules Need to be Clarified: "They sometimes ask us to make diagnoses that take doctors four visits over three weeks to do, that we are expected to do in two seconds ... It's got to be something where death or serious bodily harm may be imminent" ... (adding he suspects there will be clearer information when the directive is sent out to various police departments) ... "A schizophrenic running around with a weapon in hand is no less dangerous than an ordinary person running around with a weapon in hand ... Who are we to diagnose who has what? We're there because of the guy's behaviour. The underlying cause of that behaviour is really beyond our field. It makes little difference to us in the moment. I'm still between a rock and a hard place here, because if your behaviour is such that we are considering using a Taser, it's got to be pretty violent ... The fact that you have a bad ticker, that may factor into your ultimate demise if you do get Tasered, but we're in no position to make those diagnoses."
Tuesday, March 30, 2010
See Ontario's new guidelines for taser use
Ontario's new taser guidelines warn police to avoid taser use on a subject in control of a moving vehicle, bicycle or other conveyance; on sensitive areas of the body (i.e., head, throat, genitals); on a handcuffed subject; on a pregnant woman, elderly person, young child or visibly frail person.
Ontario's new taser guidelines ignore Taser International's October 2009 warning to avoid hitting suspects in the chest. (See CNN's Taser makers say don't aim at chest)
Instead, the guidelines advise that a medical assessment be obtained when BOTH PROBES are deployed on the chest near the heart.
March 30, 2010
Tobi Cohen, Canwest News Service/National Post
New guidelines and training standards for Taser use by Ontario police officers will come into effect this summer.
The province made the announcement on Tuesday following a two-year review of conducted energy weapon use.
The Policing Standards Advisory Committee looked at a number of issues related to Tasers including precautionary measures, training requirements and reporting procedures.
The committee recommended a set of standardized guidelines for both those who use conducted energy weapons and those who train the police officers who do.
"Ontario's new training standards are consistent with our government's long-standing, measured approach with respect to Tasers," Community Safety Minister Rick Bartolucci said in a statement.
"When used appropriately, these weapons remain an effective option for police services in carrying out their responsibilities and protecting communities."
Currently, about 17% of police officers, including tactical and hostage rescue units and front line supervisors, are authorized to use such weapons.
A spokeswoman for Mr. Bartolucci said that's not going to change despite recommendations from the Police Association of Ontario (PAO).
PAO president Larry Molyneaux believes more officers should be carrying the devices.
"We are obviously in favour of standardized training, however, it doesn't address what our bigger issue is," he said.
"Our feeling is that all front line officers, once properly trained, should be equipped with conducted energy weapons."
The PAO believes the expanded use of Tasers would ultimately reduce injury to both the public and police officers.
"Conducted energy weapons present a valuable tool and a less dangerous option than a firearm," he said. "It's another tool in an officer's tool belt."
A memorandum from the ministry to police chiefs indicated a one-day session to educate current Taser trainers will be held at Ontario police colleges in May, while a pilot train-the-trainers course will roll out in June.
Stun gun use by police officers has been a contentious issue across Canada for some time.
Controversy over the weapon peaked after the death of Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski at the Vancouver International Airport in October 2007.
Mr. Dziekanski died shortly after he was struck at least five times with a Taser by RCMP.
An inquiry into his death recommended severe limits be put on Taser use in B.C.
March 30, 2010
Globe and Mail/Canadian Press
Report to recommend continuing use of tasers, but sets specific guidelines when it comes to vulnerable people
Ontario is tightening the rules around the use of stun guns by police, and will provide specific guidelines for the use of force when it comes to vulnerable people such as children and the mentally ill.
A draft report obtained by The Canadian Press recommends the continued use of tasers in Ontario, calling them “an effective, less lethal weapon” for law enforcement.
But it's asking the government to amend current provincial guidelines to include rules about deployment of the guns as well as standardized training for all users and instructors.
Minister of Community Safety Rick Bartolucci says the recommendations will be implemented as quickly as possible to ensure the province continues to have a measured approach to its use of tasers.
The report also suggests the ministry talk with police about who should be authorized to use the weapons, but Mr. Bartolucci says he's not going to expand their use for now.
The review was launched two years ago, after the 2007 death of Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski, which sparked a public inquiry in British Columbia.
Sunday, March 28, 2010
March 27, 2010
By Gabrielle Giroday, Winnipeg Free Press
The family of a Winnipeg teen who died after police stunned him with a Taser in July 2008 plans to sue the weapon-maker after an autopsy linked his death to the weapon, the family's lawyer said.
Autopsy results obtained by the Winnipeg Free Press say Michael Brian Langan, 17, died after police shocked him twice with a Taser in a city back lane in July 2008.
Police and witnesses said officers chased Langan down the lane after he broke into a car, and then shocked him after he refused to drop the knife he was brandishing.
The autopsy report says Langan's death was caused by a heart arrhythmia brought on by the Taser shocks.
The report indicates two darts hit Langan above his collarbone and on the left side of his chest.
Contributing to the death was a heart abnormality Langan had, as well as running from the police before he was shocked, says the report.
After Langan's death, his mother called on police to suspend their use of stun guns, saying she believed the Taser was connected to her son's death.
"This confirms it. There's no question about that," said lawyer Jay Prober, who represents Sharon Shymko, Langan's mother.
The report indicates Langan had injuries on his scalp, trunk and arms and legs as well as a high volume of alcohol in his system. The teenager also had marijuana in his system, the report says.
Prober said the family is planning a lawsuit that would "especially" target Taser International, the Arizona-based manufacturer of the stun guns Winnipeg police carry.
He said the family will also seek government funding to have counsel at the inquest into Langan's death.
"They don't have money," said Prober.
Taser International, which did not have access to Langan's autopsy report, issued the following comment Friday:
"TASER stands behind the safety of its products but it is our policy not to comment on a tragic death without having been provided any factual documentation whatsoever. We do know that TASER devices save lives and reduce injuries to officers and suspects," said the statement.
Dr. Thambirajah Balanchandra, Manitoba's medical examiner, said he has not called an inquest into the death yet because he is awaiting word from Manitoba Justice and the Winnipeg Police Service on whether criminal charges will be laid. Under the province's Fatality Inquiries Act, an inquest is called in all cases in which someone dies in an incident involving on-duty police.
"We're obviously waiting anxiously for dates (for the inquest) to be set," said Prober.
A spokesperson for Manitoba Justice said it has not received a request for funding yet from the Langan family.
"Should the family request funding when the inquest is called by the Chief Medical Examiner, their request will be considered in light of the policy currently being developed," she said.
The spokesperson said, in a prepared statement, the government supports the use of stun guns by police. "We believe that officers should have access to the best equipment possible in order to keep themselves and Manitoba communities safe.''
Prober said Langan's family still has questions about the teen's death which could be answered at the inquest.
"We know what the cause of death was, but what prompted the police to use the Taser in these circumstances?" said Prober.
"Was it one of those Tasers that emitted a stronger shock than it was supposed to?"
In October 2009, Taser International sent out a directive to people using stun guns to avoid targeting the chest area. Instead, the company encouraged them to stun the "lower centre of mass (below the chest) for the front of the body, and below the neck for the back."
"Should sudden cardiac arrest occur in an arrest situation involving a TASER electronic control device (ECD) discharge to the chest area -- plaintiff attorneys will likely file an excessive use of force claim against the law enforcement agency and officer and try to allege that the (stun gun) played a role in the arrest related death by causing ventricular fibrillation (VF), an arrhythmia that can be fatal without intervention," said a Taser release.
"The available research does not support this and demonstrates that while it may not be possible to say that (a stun gun) could never affect the heart under any circumstances, the risk of VF is extremely rare and would be rounded to near zero."
The Winnipeg Police Service also recalled 50 older models of the stun guns in December 2008, along with other police agencies in the country.
The move came after CBC News and Radio-Canada tested some X26 Tasers made before 2005 and found some delivered more electricity than promised.
Police told the Free Press in December 2008 there was no indication one of the recalled weapons was connected to Langan's death, but the possibility was being investigated.
Saturday, March 27, 2010
March 26, 2009
By GENE JOHNSON (AP)
SEATTLE — Three Seattle police officers were justified when they used a stun gun on a pregnant mother who refused to sign a traffic ticket, a federal appeals court ruled Friday in a case that prompted an incredulous dissent.
Malaika Brooks was driving her son to Seattle's African American Academy in 2004 when she was stopped for doing 32 mph in a school zone. She insisted it was the car in front of her that was speeding, and refused to sign the ticket because she thought she'd be admitting guilt.
Rather than give her the ticket and let her go on her way, the officers decided to arrest her. One reached in, turned off her car and dropped the keys on the floor. Brooks stiffened her arms against the steering wheel and told the officers she was pregnant, but refused to get out, even after they threatened to stun her.
The officers — Sgt. Steven Daman, Officer Juan Ornelas and Officer Donald Jones — then stunned her three times, in the thigh, shoulder and neck, and hauled her out of the car, laying her face-down in the street.
Brooks gave birth to a healthy baby two months later, but has permanent scars from the Taser. She sued the officers for violating her constitutional rights, and U.S. District Judge Richard Jones allowed the case to continue. He declined to grant the officers immunity for performing their official duties and said Brooks' rights were clearly violated.
But in a 2-1 ruling Friday, a panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed. Judges Cynthia Holcomb Hall and Diarmuid F. O'Scannlain held that the officers were justified in making an arrest because Brooks was obstructing them and resisting arrest.
The use of force was also justified because of the threat Brooks posed, Hall wrote: "It seems clear that Brooks was not going to be able to harm anyone with her car at a moment's notice. Nonetheless, some threat she might retrieve the keys and drive off erratically remained, particularly given her refusal to leave the car and her state of agitation."
They also noted that the force used wasn't that serious because the Taser was in "touch" mode rather than "dart" mode, which hurts more. They reversed the lower court's opinion and held that the officers were entitled to immunity from the lawsuit.
The officers' lawyers, Ted Buck and Karen Cobb, said the officers made the right decision under the circumstances they faced.
"Police officers have to have the ability to compel people to obey their lawful orders," Buck said. That's all the court recognized today. The 9th Circuit just applied the law instead of getting caught up in the otherwise unfortunate factual circumstances."
The majority's opinion outraged Judge Marsha Berzon, who called it "off the wall."
"I fail utterly to comprehend how my colleagues are able to conclude that it was objectively reasonable to use any force against Brooks, let alone three activations of a Taser, in response to such a trivial offense," she wrote.
She argued that under Washington law, the officers had no authority to take Brooks into custody: Failure to sign a traffic infraction is not an arrestable offense, and it's not illegal to resist an unlawful arrest.
Berzon said the majority's notion that Brooks obstructed officers was so far-fetched that even the officers themselves didn't make that legal argument. To obstruct an officer, one must obstruct the officer's official duties, and the officers' only duties in this case were to detain Brooks long enough to identify her, check for warrants, write up the citation and give it to her. Brooks' failure to sign did not interfere with those duties, she said.
Furthermore, Brooks posed no apparent threat, and the officers could not have known how stunning her would affect the fetus, or whether it might prompt premature labor — another reason their actions were inexcusable, Berzon said.
Brooks' lawyer, Eric Zubel, said he would ask the 9th Circuit to rehear the case.
"This is outrageous — that something like this could happen to a pregnant woman, in front of an elementary school, at 8:30 in the morning, to someone who posed no threat whatsoever," he said.
Friday, March 26, 2010
March 24, 2010
BRUCE RUSHTON (firstname.lastname@example.org), THE STATE JOURNAL-REGISTER
A pathologist called the January death of Patrick Burns a “textbook case” of excited delirium brought on by cocaine, but a coroner’s jury on Wednesday found the cause of Burns’ death to be “undetermined.”
Jurors returned the verdict after being told that Sangamon County sheriff’s deputies used Tasers 21 times while subduing Burns, who had broken into a Grandview home.
Burns, 50, had a history of drug use and bipolar disorder. Cocaine, marijuana, Wellbutrin and Prozac were in his system when he was brought, hog-tied, to Memorial Medical Center on Jan. 23. He died five days later.
John Yard, special agent with the Illinois State Police, said four deputies deployed Tasers 21 times as they struggled with Burns in a muddy ditch, but it is impossible to know how many times he was actually shocked. The wires that carry charges from stun guns to targets could have become detached as Burns flailed and fought, Yard said.
Burns, an accountant for the state, fought so hard that he bent handcuffs, Yard testified, and sutures were needed to close cuff wounds on his ankles.
Burns had forced his way into a house, broken out windows, apparently with his hands, and beaten a woman inside, but he was outside and calm when deputies arrived.
One deputy went inside to check on the woman while three colleagues dealt with Burns. However, Burns’ demeanor suddenly changed when a deputy prepared to take photographs of his injuries, Yard said.
“He hops up and starts striking an officer in the abdomen,” Yard said. “He was shouting at the officers: ‘The rapture is coming. Drugs are good. Drugs are bad.’”
The deputies and Burns, clad in underwear and a long-sleeved t-shirt, were soon covered in mud and struggling, Yard said.
Paramedics who initially reported that deputies shocked Burns after he was in cuffs later said they believed the deputies were still trying to bring him under control when they saw the Tasers deployed, Yard testified.
The deputies eventually realized the shocks weren’t having any effect, the agent said.
‘It’s not working’
“One of the officers said ‘It’s not working, we need to do something else,’” Yard said.
But deputies had no good options, Yard said.
“In this case, I’m not sure what else they could have done short of striking him with batons and flashlights,” Yard said.
Before his run-in with deputies, Burns had beaten his fiancée and accused her of trying to poison him, Yard testified.
When Burns first left his home, less than a block from the house where he encountered deputies, his fiancée went outside to try to convince him to return. However, Yard said, she went back inside and locked the door when he hit her again.
She was still there when officers arrived and forced their way in after the struggle with Burns.
“They found her in the bedroom, cowering, covered up in sheets,” Yard testified. “She said she felt that he was capable of doing anything.”
Burns did not have a toxic level of cocaine in his system. However, Sangamon County Coroner Susan Boone and Dr. Jessica Bowman, the pathologist who conducted the autopsy, told the inquest jury he died of excited delirium due to cocaine abuse.
Excited delirium is a condition in which the brain is “on hyper-overdrive,” Bowman said. If the brain stem that controls vital functions is affected, death results.
“It could be a textbook case for instructing students -- it’s that classic and that tragic,” Bowman said. “The only saving grace is that no one else lost their life in the process.”
Sheriff Neil Williamson, who sat through the inquest, said he was surprised that, despite Bowman’s conclusion, the coroner’s jury returned an “undetermined” verdict.
“I was convinced it was cocaine-induced excited delirium,” Williamson said. “I support the deputies 100 percent. We still believe in the use of the Taser.”
Boone praised deputies, saying there could have been more deaths “but for the police officers.”
State’s Attorney John Schmidt said his office is reviewing the case. He said he didn’t know whether any charges will be filed or when the review will be complete.
Michael Burns, Patrick Burns’ father, said he wasn’t satisfied with the coroner’s investigation.
“They really didn’t give us the answers we were looking for,” he said.
Tense exchange with relatives
During a tense exchange with Patrick Burns’ relatives while an inquest jury was deliberating Wednesday, Sangamon County Coroner Susan Boone and Dr. Jessica Bowman, the pathologist Boone hired to conduct the autopsy, defended their work, but refused to answer several questions.
Richard Burns, Patrick Burns’ brother, started the exchange by telling Boone that she had promised the family that they could ask questions of Bowman, whom the coroner had earlier defended in front of the inquest jury. Boone told the jury she felt she needed to address Bowman’s qualifications due to media coverage that had created “confusion” in the community.
“Dr. Bowman is extremely thorough,” Boone told the jury. “She is trustworthy and unbiased.”
When Boone brought Bowman in to answer questions with the jury out of the room, Burns began by asking the doctor if she had taken a forensic pathology examination administered by the American Board of Pathology, which certifies forensic pathologists.
“You know what, you don’t have to answer,” Boone interjected.
Bowman did not answer the question.
“I know for a fact that exam does not reflect competence in the field,” the doctor said.
When Burns asked whether Bowman conducts autopsies for other counties, Bowman said, “I don’t think you’re concerned about your brother.”
When Burns asked Boone if she had conducted her own probe or relied on an investigation conducted by the Illinois State Police, which the Sangamon County sheriff’s office called to investigate the case, the coroner did not answer. Instead, Boone turned to ISP special agent John Yard, who said that he had investigated.
“We worked really hard to put this together to tell you what happened to Patrick,” Boone told the family.
Bowman offered her condolences and said Patrick Burns probably felt no pain and is feeling no pain now.
“I’m sorry,” the pathologist told Michael Burns, Patrick Burns’ father.
“So are we,” Michael Burns replied.
Correction: A headline on a previous version of this story implied that Burns' death was caused by a Taser. As the story says, a coroner's jury found the cause of death to be "undetermined."
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
March 24, 2010
Frances Dinkelspiel, Berkeleyside
Newly-appointed Berkeley, California police chief Michael Meehan on whether Berkeley police officers will ever get Tasers:
(The answer is no, at least not in the short term)
“The Taser is simply one tool. What I want is the perfect tool. I want something where we can push a button, everything stops and we take care of the lawful purpose we have intended and nobody gets hurt. That’s what I want. The problem is that it doesn’t exist.”
Posted by Reality Chick at 09:33
Monday, March 22, 2010
"... died as a result of a bilateral pulmonary emboli due to a deep vein thrombosis in his right leg. It found that the tasering "did not cause Mr. Buckner's death or make a significant contribution to his death."
So this poor fellow was being DISCHARGED from the hospital even though he was just about to die from "deep vein thrombosis"?? Give me a break!!
March 22, 2010
A Chattanooga Police report says an Erlanger Hospital security guard was justified in using a taser on an uncooperative patient, who died a short time later.
The report by detective Justin Kilgore says, "We did not find any criminal wrongdoing on the part of the Erlanger police officers involved and decided that this case should be administratively cleared."
The case involves the Nov. 27 death of Edward Buckner who had refused to get into a wheelchair after being treated at Erlanger and being readied to return to Moccasin Bend Mental Health Institute.
The report says Mr. Buckner slid out of his wheelchair and refused to get back in. Three Erlanger officers tried to get him back in, but he continued to refuse.
It says officer Leightaylor Noorbergen then performed a sternum rub and applied a pressure point behind the patient's ear, but that had no effect.
The report says at that point officer Shane Webb decided to use his taser in a drive stun mode for five seconds on three occasions.
The officers then got Mr. Buckner onto a blanket and into a Moccasin Bend transport van.
When the van arrived at Moccasin Bend, the patient was unresponsive. He was transported back to Erlanger, where he was pronounced dead a short time later.
An autopsy by the medical examiner's office found that Mr. Buckner died as a result of a bilateral pulmonary emboli due to a deep vein thrombosis in his right leg. It found that the tasering "did not cause Mr. Buckner's death or make a significant contribution to his death."
The police report says the medical examiner "noted that during the autopsy there were no significant injuries or signs of foul play. The death was listed as natural."
The taser used by officer Webb was tested and found to be have been used three times at five seconds as he described.
Detective Kilgore said he met to discuss the case with District Attorney Bill Cox, Police Lt. Tim Carroll, Police Sgt. Bill Phillips and TBI Investigator Tom Washington.
He said the group agreed that officer Webb had followed Erlanger policy in use of the taser.
Posted by Reality Chick at 15:40
March 22, 2010
By Shannon Murphy | The Bay City Times
Brett Elder’s story will be told beyond the Bay City area.
A documentary filmmaker from Missouri is featuring the story of Elder’s March 22, 2009, death in a film about the use of Tasers by police departments.
Elder was 15 when he was shocked by a Bay City police officer’s Taser and died a short time later.
Filmmaker Nick Berardini said he became interested in the issue of Taser safety while he was a journalism student at the University of Missouri. While Berardini was working for an NBC-affiliate news station, a young man in Moberly, Mo., died after he was Tasered for more than 30 seconds by police.
“That situation was so scary to us. We thought we’d look into it and see if there was anything similar going on elsewhere,” Berardini said.
Elder’s story will be featured in the documentary along with four other young men across the country who had Tasers used on them. Four died; the fifth is in a coma, Berardini said.
The film takes a look at Taser’s popularity with police departments and why they are used so often, Berardini said.
Berardini was not able to speak with Elder’s family, but spoke with several of his friends.
He said Elder’s situation surprised and alarmed him.
“It’s unfair that (the police) can manipulate a situation like Brett’s. They can say he’s taking a combative stance and justify using a weapon on a kid, when in reality it should be fairly simple to calm everyone down,” Berardini said. “The idea that anyone be objected to any level of force for simply not responding to an officer’s commands is very alarming to us.”
Berardini’s film is in post production and he hopes to show it at film festivals this fall. He has not yet released the film’s name.
Those interested in learning more about the film and updates can check out Berardini’s blog at www.taserfilm.blogspot.com.
Saturday, March 20, 2010
March 20, 2010
TEVIAH MORO, Orillia Packet & Times
Simcoe North MPP Garfield Dunlop is taking a risk by reopening the debate on the use of Tasers by Ontario police forces.
On Friday, Dunlop announced his plan to reintroduce a private member's resolution that calls on the Ontario government to equip all front-line officers in the province with Tasers. The Progressive Conservative's resolution also asks that the province train officers in the use of Tasers, generically known as conducted energy weapons (CEW).
As it stands, under Ontario's Police Services Act, only tactical team members and patrol supervisors are able to use Tasers.
Dunlop, as his party's community safety critic, says there is unanimous support among law enforcement agencies in Ontario to enable front-line officers to have Tasers.
There is little reason to doubt that, in general, law enforcement is supportive of outfitting more officers with conducted energy weapons.
And any tool or policy to help law enforcement get the job done should be embraced. But here's why Dunlop is taking a risk with his resolution, and the rub:
Tasers have gained a nasty reputation ever since 2007, when Mounties repeatedly shocked Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski, resulting in his death in the Vancouver airport.
The jury is still out whether that reputation is well deserved. The provincial government is expected to table a report looking into the use of Tasers at the end of March, Dunlop notes.
Though some argue it's wrongheaded to compare Ontario police services to RCMP in Vancouver, looking at contrasts is worthwhile.
If the Dziekanski case were an isolated incident, are there any Ontario regulations that would have helped prevent such horrific misuse of the weapons? Perhaps restricting Tasers to tactical team members and patrol supervisors is one.
In the Dziekanski case, the RCMP officers obvisously lacked training. Would the same problem result in Ontario if Tasers were handed out to all front-line officers? How much would it cost to provide adequate training to prevent such a problem?
As it stands, in Ontario, people have died after being shocked by Tasers, whether it's due to "excited delirium" or not. In considering Dunlop's motion, lawmakers should think long and hard whether conducted energy weapons will bring more safety or grief to law enforcement.
March 20, 2010
IAN MCINROY, Barrie Examiner
Simcoe North MPP Garfield Dunlop will be reintroducing a private member's resolution on Monday, asking the government to provide funding to equip and train all front-line police officers with conducted energy weapons (CEW), often called Tasers.
Currently, the Police Services Act allows only members of tactical teams and patrol supervisors to use them.
"The Progressive Conservative caucus feels that, with training, the use of conducted-energy weapons by front-line police officers can help keep our communities safe," Dunlop said. "We will look closely at the budget when it's announced next week to see what, if anything, will be allocated to this important initiative."
Barrie's top cop thinks Dunlop's resolution has merit.
"If an officer is already carrying a lethal weapon, why not let them carry a less-than-lethal weapon," Barrie Police Chief Wayne Frechette said. "That doesn't seem to me to be a great stretch."
A CEW report created through the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services, is expected to be made public at the end of March and address use of Tasers, policies and procedures, Dunlop said.
"Our understanding is the report will be very proactive in the use of having front-line officers with Tasers," he said. "We want the government to follow through and equip more frontline officers."
Laura Blondeau, spokesperson for Community Safety and Correctional Services Minister Rick Bartolucci, says the ministry has no current plans to change its legislation on CEWs.
"We have no intention at this time from changing our approach to Tasers, or CEWs in Ontario," she said. "Right now the protocol that is in place is something that we will continue to employ."
Frechette said if the Police Services Act was changed to allow the use of Tasers by front-l ine officers (after extensive training), it could be another tool in their crime-fighting arsenal.
"The issue will arise. Is this going to mean more use of Tasers?" Frechette said. "Of course, the more people who have them, the more they will be used. That speaks to the strict control of their use."
Amnesty International says 17 people have died in Canada since 2001 as a result of being shocked with a conducted energy weapon.
Frechette acknowledged there have been fatalities related to Taser use, but said other circumstances lead to the deaths.
"The cause of death has never been specifically linked to Tasers," he said.
"There is an element of risk in any use of force. A Taser is not a lethal weapon, but it is a step up from pepper spray," he added
The chief said there is a time and place for using such a weapon.
"Their use is not an everyday event. If someone is going berserk and you can't talk them down in short order, that would be an appropriate use," he said. "You Taser them to avoid injury to the officer, the suspect or possibly a bystander."
Police are trained to deal with stressful situations without using undo force, Frechette said. "If someone is arguing with an officer about a speeding ticket, that would obviously not be an appropriate use."
Even the possibility of being stunned with a Taser is enough to subdue a suspect, he said.
"Sometimes you just have to show it to someone for it to be effective," he said. "We've arrested a number of people and we're finding, anecdotally, that as soon as the Taser comes out, they're saying 'OK, we'll get back into the car'," he said.
The Police Services Act requires police forces to report their use of Tasers to local police service boards.
"The not so good news is the use of the Taser," Frechette said.
In 2008, city police displayed their Tasers 14 times and used them eight times. Last year, they were displayed 21 times and used 13 times.
"What is down is use-of-force incidents across the board," he added.
There were 92 incidents in 2009, where Barrie police drew firearms 32 times, and 102 incidents in 2008, when weapons were drawn 37 times.
Posted by Reality Chick at 07:26
Thursday, March 18, 2010
March 18, 2010
By Derek Cheng, NZ Herald
Incidents of police firing the Taser device will no longer be routinely reviewed, as officers should not be deterred from using them for fear of being subject to a long investigation, Police Minister Judith Collins says.
Under the Taser trial, it was standard practice to investigate each instance when it was used. But Ms Collins said that would no longer be the case for the national roll-out, despite the Independent Police Conduct Authority (IPCA) thinking it should be standard practice.
"After the trial started, nobody actually made any complaints to IPCA about Tasers, so quite clearly there wasn't a problem," Ms Collins said.
"We're not going to have investigations every time a Taser is used. We get police officers shot, beaten up. I don't want these Tasers to be such a problem for police that they don't use them because they're worried they're going to get hauled through a huge IPCA investigation."
The national roll-out of Tasers, which deliver a 50,000-volt shock and are considered as a non-lethal alternative to guns, began this week.
By June, 3500 officers will be trained to use 733 Tasers across the police frontlines. Thirty-two Tasers were in use during the trial.
Ms Collins said every Taser had a video recorder that also recorded audio, which acted as a deterrent for misuse.
"Where there has been concern overseas, they didn't have cameras, and ours is a much more modern instrument."
She added that the IPCA was obliged to investigate any complaints, so people would still be free to lay complaints about Taser use if they wanted.
"The trial is officially over. It [the Taser] has absolute Government sanction and $10 million funding. But police are not going to be providing Tasers to their frontline troops and then having their frontline troops worry about using them."
She said in hindsight that fears of police misusing the Taser as a compliance tool were "a load of rubbish".
"It's already saved lives and police are doing a great job. I don't see the problem. If the alternative is the gunshot, I would say even a 50,000-volt electric shock from a Taser is a better result than a gunshot."
Meanwhile, Ms Collins said she supported Police Association concerns that growing disrespect for police could lead to more serious encounters, such as police assaults. The union says its members are reluctant to charge people for insulting behaviour because judges have not convicted in such cases, saying police should have to cope with insults as part of their job.
Ms Collins said she had to respect the independence of the judiciary, but added that police had the power to take people to police cells for a night for low-level offending.
"I am mostly concerned with the most serious levels of violence, but the lack of respect shown by people who should understand the need to uphold the law and respect for the law can be counterproductive."
March 17, 2010
Maria Babbage (CP) – 14 hours ago
TORONTO — Ontario is poised to revamp its guidelines on the use of stun guns by police, The Canadian Press has learned.
The changes are expected to be made public March 30, sources say, about two years after the governing Liberals launched a review of Taser use in the province.
Currently, only tactical officers and supervisors are allowed to carry Tasers in Ontario, but the government is being urged to make them available to all front-line police officers.
It's among the recommendations made by the police standards advisory committee, a group of representatives from police groups and municipalities within the ministry tasked with providing advice to the government about the use of stun guns.
Ontario is already considered to be a Canadian leader in regulating the use of stun guns, said Larry Molyneaux, president of the Police Association of Ontario, which has a seat on the committee.
"What we're doing is actually just tightening it up in relation to training and regulations," he said.
Police organizations have long advocated for all uniformed police officers to be allowed to carry stun guns - otherwise known as conductive energy weapons - arguing they're less lethal than guns and will save lives.
Uniformed police, rather than supervisors or tactical officers, are usually the first on the scene, Molyneaux said. In some rural areas of the province, it can take up to an hour to respond to a call.
"When you have a radio call and you're involved in a situation where you might need that CEW at the very onset, you don't have time to wait for somebody that carries one," he said.
"So what we want is the first responding officer to have the option of using that CEW."
Government officials wouldn't comment on whether they plan to follow that advice, but hinted that drastic changes are not in the works.
"We have and will continue - notwithstanding the report - to have a very measured use of Tasers in the province of Ontario," said Laura Blondeau, a spokeswoman for Community Safety and Corrections Minister Rick Bartolucci.
Progressive Conservative critic Garfield Dunlop said he's planning to re-introduce a resolution in the legislature demanding that all front-line officers carry Tasers.
"It will save lives," he said.
"With people that are just being completely out of hand ... where they have a case where they can put the person down and save his life as opposed to using a gun on him, then I think that it's fully warranted and it's fully acceptable to the general public as well."
Tasers have become an increasingly common tool for police across Canada, leading some critics to question whether the rules governing their use are adequate.
Some complain that Tasers are being used by police to subdue unco-operative people even when they don't pose a threat, while others maintain they're a useful tool if officers are properly trained and held accountable.
The bottom line is that stun guns can kill, and the government must be cautious in deciding whether to expand their use, said NDP justice critic Peter Kormos.
"We still don't know enough about when Tasers are lethal," he said.
In June 2008, a 36-year-old man died in Simcoe, Ont., after provincial police used a Taser. He collapsed upon arrival at the police detachment and died later in hospital.
Tasers have been in use in Ontario since 2002. Officers who carry them must undergo a two-day training course and follow guidelines that fall in line with the so-called "use of force" model that's taught to all police personnel, according to the Ontario Provincial Police Association.
Under the province's Police Services Act, any officer who uses a weapon other than a firearm on another person must report the incident to their police chief. Misuse of the weapon can result in criminal or police services charges, said Molyneaux.
The threshold is lower for using a Taser than a firearm, said association president Karl Walsh. A person must display "assaultive behaviour" before a Taser can be used.
Both federal and provincial governments are working on national standards for Taser use, but Ontario - which has its own police force, unlike some provinces which use the RCMP - is planning to forge its own path.
Any federal model will likely mirror Ontario's, because the province is "years ahead of everybody else," said Walsh.
Ontario launched its Taser review after the 2007 death of Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski, which sparked a public inquiry in British Columbia.
Dziekanski died after being hit with a RCMP Taser at the Vancouver airport. A video of the confrontation taken by a fellow passenger was seen by millions of people and triggered public outrage and a re-examination of stun gun use.
In releasing its findings last July, Justice Thomas Braidwood called on the B.C. government to place severe restrictions on the use of Tasers, including that the weapons only be used when there's a threat of bodily harm.
Other provinces have also taken a second look at how they use stun guns, and the RCMP is planning a sweeping overhaul of its Taser policy.
At least 20 people in Canada are known to have died after being struck with a Taser.
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
Family of teen killed by Taser shock sues gun maker - Suit accuses Taser of failing to tell officers about danger of using device near chests
March 17, 2010
By Cleve R. Wootson Jr., Charlotte Observer
The family of a teenager killed after he was shocked with a Taser by a police officer in 2008 is suing the company that makes the electronic stun gun.
The civil suit, filed in federal court on Tuesday, says Taser International didn't warn its customers that the weapon could be lethal if deployed near the chest, which happened in Darryl Wayne Turner's case.
The suit, which does not list a specific monetary amount, says Turner's death could have been prevented if Taser International had also instructed police departments using the device to keep defibrillators nearby.
Turner, 17, died March 20, 2008, after a confrontation with police at a Food Lion store on Prosperity Church Road where Turner had worked.
After mediation, Officer Jerry Dawson was suspended for five days without pay and required to undergo additional training. The city of Charlotte paid $625,000 to Turner's family in August 2009, though the city didn't admit wrongdoing.
It was the largest police-related claim the city had paid out in nearly a decade, and the family's attorney, Ron Harris, indicated then that there could be additional litigation.
Tuesday's suit against Taser points to a 2006 study funded by the company that concluded that users should avoid discharging the Taser in the chest area. The suit alleges that company didn't warn its users to avoid shocking people in the chest.
"There was a wealth of information, from our perspective, available to Taser that indicated that there was an inherent problem related to deploying the Taser to the chest area," Harris said. "Despite the wealth of information available, they failed to warn their customers and those using the Tasers of the dangers."
Taser International could not be reached for comment Tuesday night.
Tasers use compressed nitrogen to shoot two tethered needlelike probes that penetrate skin and deliver an electric shock. The weapon is designed to subdue a person temporarily. CMPD has used the devices since 2004, including in the March 2008 incident involving Turner.
According to court documents, police were called after the store manager asked Turner to leave and he refused. Store surveillance video showed Turner at the customer service desk, knocking over a display and throwing an umbrella. He then moved closer to a store manager and employee, at one point raising his arm and pointing at the manager.
Later, the soundless video shows Officer Dawson entering the store with a Taser in his hand. Dawson approached Turner with the Taser pointed at him. Turner took a step toward the officer, and police say that's when Dawson fired the Taser. Turner continued to walk past the officer with the Taser probes in his chest.
Police later determined that Dawson violated department policy by holding the Taser's trigger for about 37 seconds, until Turner fell to the ground. Turner died from cardiac arrest.
An autopsy showed the teenager's heart was pumping so fast and chaotically from the stress of the confrontation and the Taser shot that it stopped pumping blood properly.
According to the CMPD report on the incident, a review board "determined that the initial decision to discharge the Taser was within our procedures, but the prolonged use of the Taser was not."
Tuesday, March 16, 2010
MANATEE COUNTY - A Manatee County Sheriff's sergeant who works in the jail has been suspended for using his taser on an inmate.
Surveillance video released today by the Manatee County Sheriff's Office shows Sergeant Donald McGowan using his taser on inmate Mia Barnes.
According to an internal report, Barnes was in jail for a misdemeanor charge. When she got to the jail she threw her shoes and refused to follow orders, so the deputy used his taser on her. She fought with the deputy and he tasered her two more times.
An investigation found that the first use of the taser was not justified.
The deputy was given a 43-hour suspension without pay, lost vacation time and has to be retrained on the use of a taser.
March 15, 2010
By Jennifer Squires, San Jose Mercury News
SANTA CRUZ - A Santa Cruz County Superior Court judge denied a motion by a stun-gun manufacturer to dismiss a civil lawsuit filed by a man who claims he suffered permanent injuries after being shocked by one of the weapons in 2006.
Monday, Judge Jeff Almquist turned down the request by TASER International that would have ended the case. Almquist also fined TASER International $15,000 for delaying the court process, according to court documents.
Watsonville resident Steve Butler, now 51, is seeking lifetime medical costs in the suit. The trial is set for Aug. 2.
Saturday, March 13, 2010
Friday, March 12, 2010
March 12, 2010
ABC Radio Australia
New Zealand's Justice Minister is heading to New York - and the United Nations Human Rights Committee - to defend his country's use of Taser stun-guns by police.
Simon Power will face questioning over two days from the committee of 18 countries on Tasers and other issues relevant to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
The minister will be joined by New Zealand's ambassador to the United Nations, Jim McLay, a former National Party leader and Justice Minister.
Mr Power is expected to tell the committee that the electro-shock weapons have only been used on a few occasions by New Zealand police, and that they are an instrument of last resort.
March 12, 2010
BRIAN MACLEOD, Sudbury Star
The Use of Force report prepared by Greater Sudbury Police suggests the city's finest are using their Tasers responsibly -- their use has dropped despite an increase in confrontations -- but it's also interesting to see what happens when the zappers are not used.
In fact, the numbers for 2009 show that despite publicity surrounding questionable use of Tasers by other police forces -- most notably the RCMP -- a solid argument can be made for their use, if it's accompanied by appropriate training.
Police reported a jump in use of force incidents to 121 in 2009 from 95 the previous year. That in itself is not a concern. Use of force situations arise in many circumstances, from traffic stops to confrontations with suspects to injured animal complaints.
But that jump in incidents was accompanied by a drop in Taser use to just 11 times in 2009 from 23 the previous year.
Chief Frank Elsner cites better training on the devices for the drop in use.
Looking deeper into the numbers we find that when officers do not use Tasers to resolve confrontations, they're turning to "empty hand techniques" or drawing their guns. They are not turning to pepper spray or batons in higher numbers.
Consider that when an officer doing hand-to-hand combat with a suspect increases the chance of someone getting injured and drawing a gun increases the tension if the subject does not comply, it's possible to see why the police are not anxious to get rid of Tasers.
And the devices are effective at resolving confrontations. Officers reported that Taser use was 100% effective last year and 91% effective in 2008. By comparison, empty-hand techniques were effective 69% of the time last year (61% in 2008) and drawing and/or discharging weapons were effective 86% of the time (88% in 2008).
Which means Tasers tend to end confrontations more successfully, and in some cases with less potential for injury to the officer or the suspect. (Assuming the Taser was used responsibly, and not in the cowboy fashion that is sometimes caught on video and placed on YouTube.) Think of the 14% of the time in which officers drew their guns and the result was deemed not to be effective. That's a pretty tense situation.
Police report that 30% of the incidents involving use of force were to protect officers, 49% were to effect arrest, 3% were to protect the public and 13% were to destroy an animal.
The report also reminds us of the situations police officers face. They were confronted with an edged weapon 17 times, and a different type of weapon -- beer bottles, bats or a belt with metal studs -- five times. In most cases, incidents involved officers on patrol, and the distance between the officer and the suspect was less than two metres.
Numbers can never tell an entire story, but they do show that police appear to be sensitive to concerns about overuse of Tasers and officers have used reasonable alternatives to bring about the end of tense situations.
Thursday, March 11, 2010
March 11, 2010
British prime minister William Gladstone famously said: “Justice delayed is justice denied.” Gladstone may well have been speaking of the case of Randy Fryingpan, and Const. Mike Wasylyshen.
In October 2002, Const. Wasylyshen and four other officers were investigating a complaint of the attempted theft of a car. When they arrived on the scene, they found four people in the suspect vehicle.
Three of them left the car when ordered, but 16-year-old Fryingpan didn’t. He had passed out.
Wasylyshen unholstered his handy Taser and gave the unresponsive Fryingpan not one, not two, but EIGHT zaps in 68 seconds.
This is where Wasylyshen and Fryingpan entered the netherworld of complaints against police. Fryingpan registered a complaint, which was dismissed by the police when they arrived at the quite amazing conclusion that Wasylyshen was justified in Tasering an unresponsive man. Fryingpan’s lawyer appealed to the Law Enforcement Review Board in 2005. It took two more years before a decision was made to charge Wasylyshen with unlawful exercise of authority and insubordination. The internal disciplinary hearing on Wasylyshen will be held on Aug. 9 of this year.
Why the delay? According to Tony Simioni, head of the police union, if an appeal request is made, it must be heard, unlike a court of law where a judge decides if there is cause of hearing. This has resulted in cases dragging out for years.
This is absurd. No one — neither the alleged victim nor the accused cop — should have to wait eight years for a resolution.
Wednesday, March 10, 2010
March 10, 2010
The Canadian Press
VICTORIA, B.C. — The Victoria police department announced Wednesday that two of its officers face criminal assault charges, the same day an audit of the department recommended a review of use of force incidents.
The audit, released Wednesday and written by the provincial Police Services Division, found 13 officers out of about 260 were responsible for one-third of all the department's use-of-force reports.
"Overall, the use of force review reveals that the Victoria Police Department is a well-functioning department with appropriately trained and generally highly motivated individuals who take considerable pride in their job and the work they do for the community," said the review, requested by the solicitor general in January 2009.
It said there were no major areas of concern identified, but the authors did note "one key item of concern."
"It may be that these offices are conscientious about reporting any type of physical interaction or that these officers work in particularly challenging environments," said the audit, dated March 4.
"However, the audit team recommends that the department proactively identify the officers that generate a higher proportion of use of force reports and review these incidents to ensure that the high frequency of use of force is not highlighting any training or management issue that needs to be addressed."
Details of the assault charges against the two officers have not yet been released.
Despite the latest case of Victoria officers facing charges, the audit report, based on data from 2007 and 2008, said the department did not have a pattern of public complaints out of the ordinary compared to other B.C. police departments.
However, the report did find that Victoria police officers were more likely to use Tasers than pepper spray to subdue suspects - in 51 per cent of incidents involving intermediate weapons compared to 40 per cent for spray.
But it notes that things changed after Robert Dziekanski died in Vancouver's airport after he was shocked by an RCMP Taser. "It appears there was a strong effect in the aftermath of the death of Robert Dziekanski," noted the report. The use of force decreased 10 per cent after Dziekanski's October 2007 death, and the use of Tasers dropped 85 per cent.
The authors made dozens of recommendations, for both administration and the use of force, including that the department enact policies for ensuring all weapons are maintained in good working order, annual requalification for intermediate weapons such as Tasers, and that all use of force incidents be reviewed.
The report noted that the Victoria police department has hired a new chief of police, Jamie Graham, since the audit was ordered and the Police Services Division "observed improvement in various aspects of the department as a result."
Former solicitor general John van Dongen ordered the audit after the mayor of Esquimalt, which neighbours Victoria, raised concerns about the level of police service the community received after amalgamating with the Victoria department.
The Victoria department has faced several high-profile controversies in recent years, including a lawsuit by a 15-year-old girl who was left leashed to a cell door in the department's drunk tank for hours and charges against a veteran officer.
March 10, 2010
By FRANK MAIN, Chicago Sun-Times
... The announcement came just hours after the death of a man in the suburbs after he was Tasered by police. Jaesun Ingles, 31, of Riverdale, died after he was Tasered by Midlothian police outside a Dunkin’ Donuts in the south suburb early this morning. Ingles was pronounced dead at 12:31 a.m. at MetroSouth Medical Center in Blue Island, the Cook County medical examiner's office said.
Posted by Reality Chick at 15:05
Monday, March 08, 2010
March 8, 2010
Ian Mulgrew, Vancouver Sun
B.C. Police Complaints Commissioner Stan Lowe thinks a public hearing into a West Vancouver police officer's off-duty assault is needed to restore public confidence.
What planet is he living on? The police complaints process in this province is in a shambles.
It doesn't work, it has long been in need of reform and there isn't anyone who disagrees.
Lowe is a prime example of what's wrong with it.
He was appointed to this job after being a longtime prosecutor and the face of the criminal justice branch of the Attorney-General's Ministry.
He was the man who told the world that no charges would be laid in the death of Robert Dziekanski at YVR at the hands of four RCMP officers.
That distasteful December 2008 presentation, more than a year after the tragedy, was an affront to Dziekanski's family and to decency.
The attorney-general's office should be ashamed of its conduct in the case.
Lowe portrayed the Polish immigrant as a chronic alcoholic, the four officers as having done their duty and the investigation as above reproach. He said zapping Dziekanski five times with a Taser was "reasonable and necessary."
A week later, Lowe got his promotion to police complaints commissioner.
We now know Dziekanski wasn't a drunk, the four officers appear to have colluded with each other and to have lied. The glacial RCMP investigation was botched.
At the moment, the cops in this province play musical chairs with each other when police misconduct is alleged.
Abbotsford Chief Bob Rich, a former Vancouver cop, passes judgment on his former colleagues; when his boys are in trouble, well, he calls on someone like Delta Chief Jim Cessford to conduct an inquiry; and the RCMP, well, they've been acting like a law unto themselves.
It was Rich who decided the North Shore cop could keep his job with a demotion and 10-day suspension in spite of drunkenly beating a man on Jan. 21, 2009, while trying to wrongly arrest him.
That Lowe and his group of ex-cops are the oversight body is a $3-million-a-year joke. That is why the public has lost faith.
Lowe thinks a public hearing into the West Vancouver outrage will silence critics of the system and restore faith.
He couldn't be more wrong.
This problem isn't going away and another hearing won't solve anything. We have been wrestling with this problem now for years but the cops just don't seem to get it.
Most recently, a lawsuit was launched over two Vancouver officers who assaulted a man claiming it was a case of mistaken identity -- as if it were okay had they thumped the right guy.
Yao Wei Wu, 44, was dragged out of his house Jan. 21, 2010 and badly beaten, suffering fractures to his face and injuries to his legs and back. His eyes were swollen shut. His wife, Chi Nan Man, says she has suffered serious psychological trauma after witnessing the savage attack.
If you or I did the same thing, we would have been charged almost immediately.
These two thugs are still on the job and Delta police are taking their sweet time with the investigation.
What's worse, Lowe turned up at a press conference to stand beside Chief Jim Chu and defend this law-enforcement legerdemain.
The list of police misconduct in B.C. is already long and getting longer because the consequences for the officers involved is usually slight or non-existent.
That's why confidence in the system has evaporated and why some officers think they can get away with anything.
Faith in the police complaints process in B.C. will only be restored when cops and their insider friends like Lowe are not in control.
We don't need another hearing to tell us the police oversight system is broken; we need it fixed.
Sunday, March 07, 2010
March 7, 2010
Jason Bennetto, Mail Online
The smartly dressed sales executive travelling on the number 96 bus across Leeds didn't notice his body descending into a state of severe hypoglycaemia.
He didn't have time to ask his fellow passengers for help, or press the bell. Instead he slumped back in his seat in a diabetic coma, his head lolling from side to side.
This was why he wore a special tag and chain around his neck: it advertised his diabetes. His mother and father, both retired GPs, had encouraged their son to wear it ever since he had started having to take insulin 20 years earlier.
Nicholas Gaubert had been looking forward to a drink with friends in the suburb of Headingley after work. Instead he was critically ill, unconscious on the top deck of a bus continuing its route north through the early evening rush-hour traffic.
Some 40 minutes later, it terminated at the Holt Park depot and the driver checked his vehicle. He was used to turfing drunks off the night bus at weekends, but it was Wednesday and the man apparently fast asleep on the top deck was far from dishevelled.
On another evening, the driver may have reacted differently, but the timing tonight was bad for Gaubert: just six days after the July 7, 2005 London bombings and one week before the fatal shooting of the Brazilian Jean Charles de Menezes by police firearms officers. Paranoia and suspicion, especially on public transport, were rife. And Gaubert had a rucksack.
So the driver kept his distance and shouted at him to wake up and leave. When Gaubert failed to stir, the driver climbed off the bus and told his superiors, who cleared the depot and called the police.
The nearby Asda supermarket was evacuated and an armed unit was called. Eight firearms officers were sent; three entered the bus. The white male didn't look like a textbook terrorist and the bus was empty and far from the city centre.
But he was sweating profusely, wouldn't respond to their shouted orders and they couldn't see his hands, so an officer pulled his X26 Taser stun gun out of its holster, flicked on the 50,000-volt electric gun's red dot laser sighter and pointed it at him. It was the first time a West Yorkshire officer had deployed a Taser.
The man was well within the 21ft range so, when he still failed to respond, the officer shouted a final warning and squeezed the trigger.
Two 20mm-long metal barbs attached to plastic-coated copper wires shot instantly and noiselessly from the barrel. The barbs penetrated Gaubert's cotton shirt and embedded themselves in his skin.
For five seconds there was a crackling noise as the electricity shot down the wires and discharged into his body. Gaubert's body went into uncontrollable muscle spasms and he fell from his seat.
He landed face down on the floor with one hand under his body. The police shouted again for him to show his hands but he still didn't move; so the officer pulled the trigger for a second time.
Another wave of electricity surged down the copper wires and tore into him. (At the subsequent inquiry, the officers would claim they had to stun Gaubert again to make sure it was safe to approach him).
Finally they got hold of him, put on handcuffs and put him into the back of a police van - which is when he regained consciousness and was able to shout that he needed urgent medical attention. He was taken to Leeds General Infirmary.
'I shudder to think what could have happened if I hadn't come round,' says Gaubert. 'They would have put me in a cell and I would probably have died. I was in a diabetic coma, and all they were bothered about was whether I was going to blow up an empty, stationary bus.
'I showed no aggression - I was unconscious and unable to respond to their demands. I think they just saw it as an opportunity to try out their toys.'
Gaubert has since become what is believed to be the first person in the UK to obtain compensation for being shot with a Taser.
West Yorkshire Police has confirmed that it made an out-of-court settlement - thought to be tens of thousands of pounds - and an apology, after a civil action brought against them.
No such apology was received by the 89-year-old war veteran who last year became the oldest person in the UK to be stunned with a Taser.
Three weeks before this incident, the retired carpenter had gone into a residential home for the elderly in Llandudno, North Wales. But the confused man, who has not been named, was determined to return to his family home, just a few minutes' walk away.
As the sun rose on a chilly Saturday morning in January he climbed out of a window at the care home and wandered the empty residential streets clutching a shard of glass. At 6.30am a police officer knocked him to the ground with a 50,000-volt Taser charge.
North Wales police later said their officers feared he would commit suicide using the broken glass. But the pensioner's sister-in-law told Live: 'He was frightened to death and was hiding behind cars. He told us that he held a piece of glass to his throat because he was afraid of the police - he wanted to keep them away.
'He said afterwards: "I would never have cut my throat." And that when he was hit by the Taser the pain was terrible.
'He fell to the floor and was handcuffed. It's awful that the police should end up shooting an old gentleman of his age.'
His daughter-in-law adds: 'They treated him like an animal. They should have talked him out of it. That's what they would have done in the past: talked to him, not shot him.' The family complained, but the Independent Police Complaints Commission backed the decision to use the Taser.
In most cases it is enough for an officer to draw the Taser out of its holster or to point the laser red dot at the offender to gain control.
On other occasions officers intimidate a target by switching on the electricity so the end of the weapon sparks - known as 'arcing'.
But Tasers were fired, or as police chiefs prefer to call it 'deployed', 1,765 times between April 2004 and June 2009. Stun gun officers have a less PC term for firing their weapon - they call it 'sparking up'.
Since being introduced in April 2004 Tasers have been used in more than 5,400 incidents in England and Wales.
The number of people being targeted is increasing all the time, and their use can now only rise further since the decision in 2008 by then Home Secretary Jacqui Smith to fund an extra 10,000 Taser guns.
Up to 30,000 front-line officers will be armed with the new weapons. Some forces will only let fully trained officers use them, but many will give them to officers after 18 hours' training.
Amnesty International says 334 people in the US died between 2001 and 2008 after the stun guns were used on them. Taser International, the Arizona-based manufacturer, dismisses these findings.
A spokesman claims: 'In only a couple of disputed cases has a Taser been listed as the "cause" of death.'
Nonetheless, Taser International issued guidelines last October warning police to avoid shooting a suspect in the chest 'where possible', and acknowledging the heart-attack risk from stun guns, although they still claim the danger is 'extremely low'.
But perhaps of greater concern than increased numbers of X26 guns is the expectation that the police will soon be armed with a new long-range model. The more powerful weapon can immobilise a suspect for 20 seconds from 100ft away and is being tested by Home Office scientists.
The eXtended Range Electronic Projectile (XREP), the size of a shotgun cartridge, is designed to pierce the target's skin and then deliver a 500-volt shock from its battery-powered circuits (the lesser voltage makes no difference to the pain and paralysing effect). Senior officers believe the XREP could be used in riots and other serious public order confrontations.
The Home Office says the new weapon is still under consideration, but a police source told Live: 'It is not a question of if, but when we get the go-ahead on this. This is an extremely useful bit of kit.'
The XREP round has three fins that pop out as it rotates through the air to increase its accuracy. It is fronted by four barbs designed to pierce clothing and skin, securing the projectile to the target's body. Six more electrodes fan out at point of impact, distributing the shock over a greater body area than the X26.
It can be fired from any 12-gauge shotgun, but Taser has developed a custom-designed shotgun, in conjunction with American firearms company Mossberg.
It uses 'ammunition key' technology to prevent accidentally using normal shotgun cartridges, and comes with a distinctive yellow stock and forearm. There is also a special mount that allows a Taser X26 to be attached to the underside of the barrel, so police could carry both weapons at the same time.
The possibility of this very different kind of Taser weapon coming into widespread use has provoked great concern among human rights organisations.
Oliver Sprague, the UK's Arms Programme Director of Amnesty International, says: 'Because it's a projectile weapon it's much more likely to cause injury and damage if it hits someone in the face or head.'
He adds: 'The key concern, however, is instead of Tasers being used in genuinely life-threatening cases, you start to see it creep into mainstream policing. It is disturbing to consider that a Taser could be in the hands of every police officer in a matter of years.'
'I'm walking down a long room in the dark. I know there's a violent thug lurking somewhere in the shadows; I've been warned. It's nerve-racking, even though I'm armed with a Taser.
'Suddenly a huge man wearing a motorcycle helmet leaps out in front of me. He starts slamming a baseball bat on the ground and shouting threats. My heart goes into overdrive.
'I manage to pull my stun gun out of its holster and turn it on, all without electrocuting myself. The red target dot is pointed at the centre of the hooligan's chest, and I shout a warning. I'm ignored. So I pull the trigger.
'What happens next reminds me of firing an old-fashioned spud gun; there is hardly any resistance or noise. The lightweight weapon looks and feels like an item from Lego's Star Wars range, but the comparisons with child's play end there.
'The metal prongs shoot out too fast to see. Amazingly, they are on target and lodge into my target's chest. For five seconds there's a crackling noise as the electricity flows and I yell 'Taser! Taser! Taser!'
The burst of 50,000 volts is automatically sent down the wires, but this shock can be repeated at the pull of the trigger. The Taser can also be held against a person and the electric charge activated. This is known by officers as a 'drive-stun'.
Because this is a Metropolitan Police Taser refresher training day in west London, my would-be assailant, who is now lying flat on his back, is heavily padded and wearing a protective vest.
Pulling the trigger felt like a no-brainer, but in real life most encounters involving Tasers are nowhere near as straightforward, and require officers to think fast under pressure.
Critics do acknowledge that, when used properly, the Taser provides the police with an invaluable addition to their arsenal.
The weapon has undoubtedly saved lives, prevented hundreds of serious injuries to both the police and suspects and reduced the number of times officers have had to open fire with more deadly conventional handguns and semi-automatic rifles. They have also proved an effective deterrent against violent offenders.
Sergeant Andy Harding is the Met's Territorial Support Group's lead Taser instructor and a national police stun gun adviser.
He says, 'A few years ago you would have had doors being splintered, hand-to-hand fighting, and people getting injured.
'The huge difference now is that you don't need to get up close and personal. People are aware of what a Taser can do and are terrified of the red dot.'
But while the Metropolitan Police's TSG public order unit has won plaudits from around the world for their Taser training and deployment, there is growing concern that other British police forces and squads are far less stringent when it comes to using the weapons.
National police guidelines state that a Taser should only be used in situations where an officer is 'facing violence or threats of violence of such severity that they would need to use force to protect the public, themselves or the subject.'
There also appear to be alarming differences between police forces as to how guidelines are interpreted. You might think London's Metropolitan Police, as the biggest force in England and Wales, should logically be the 'Taser capital' of Britain. But the title goes to a force 250 miles north - Northumbria.
Despite having only 4,100 officers (compared with the Met's 32,600) Northumbria comes top of the Taser league table, having used a Taser 797 times from April 2004 to June 2009, compared with 751 by the Met.
Third place goes to West Yorkshire with 378. Comparisons with other forces further highlight this Taser postcode lottery. For example, in Merseyside, whose police force is slightly bigger than Northumbria, Tasers have only been used 80 times since April 2004.
And as Live has discovered, not only are they being used more often, but increasingly police forces are deploying them against children.
Records obtained using Freedom of Information requests show that the police in England and Wales fired or threaten to fire Tasers against at least 142 under-18s in the 20 months up to the end of August 2009.
The youngest case disclosed involved a 12-year-old boy who was threatened with a Taser after West Mercia police were called to a school in Kidderminster in February 2008. The boy had threatened staff with a pair of scissors. After officers with Tasers were deployed he surrendered his weapon and was arrested.
Northumbria officers used Tasers against under-18s 33 times, including stunning four 16-year-olds and a 15-year-old, in the 20 months up to August 2009.
This compares with 24 incidents in the Met during the same period. North Wales Police Tasered three 16-year-olds in the first eight months of 2009; the force will reveal only that the incidents involved boys 'threatening self harm'.
In another incident in North Wales in February 2008 an officer Tasered a 15 year-old boy who was smashing up furniture at his home in Gwynedd.
Experts warn against Taser use on children because of the risk of a heart attack. The Government advisory body, the Defence Scientific Advisory Council, notes 'children and adults of small stature [are] at potentially greater risk from the cardiac effects of Taser currents than normal adults of average or large statue.'
National police guidance stresses that officers should be 'vigilant' in considering whether to stun a child or small person.
But a Home Office spokeswoman counters: 'The latest statement from independent medical advisors states that the risk of death or serious injury from the use of Tasers is very low.'
America, by virtue of its numbers and longer experience, has the most extreme anecdotes about Tasers. One of the most disturbing incidents took place last November, after local police were called to a home in Ozark, near Little Rock, Arkansas, to investigate a reported domestic-disturbance.
According to the report by Sheriff Dustin Bradshaw, when he arrived, a ten-year-old girl was curled up on the floor and screaming.
The officer wrote in his official report: 'Her mother told me to "Tase" her if I needed to.' The officer tried to take the girl, who has emotional problems, into custody. But she was 'violently kicking and verbally combative' and kicked him in the groin.
So Sheriff Bradshaw delivered 'a very brief drive stun to her back,' his report said. The girl's father didn't approve of his daughter being shocked with 50,000 volts.
Anthony Medlock told a local newspaper: 'My daughter doesn't deserve to be Tasered.' No disciplinary action is to be taken against the officer after his boss defended his action.
Liberal Democrat shadow home secretary Chris Huhne believes the UK should learn from the US experience of Tasers.
He says: 'Given the serious concerns about the safety of Tasers, which have killed more than 300 people in the US, they should not be used on children.
'Ministers should not be putting Tasers in the hands of any more police officers until they really know how dangerous they are. A full inquiry into their use must be conducted before they are rolled out any further.'
Not all forces agree with the decision to arm nonspecialist officers. Sussex Police and the Metropolitan Police are among those which are refusing to extend the use of Tasers to the rank and file. Northumbria Police, however, defends its use of the weapons.
Assistant Chief Constable Steve Ashman says, 'Far from endangering the public I would contest that such usage of this tool has resulted in less risk to the public and police officers alike.'
This positive view is not one shared by Nicholas Gaubert, who accused police of using him for 'target practice' when they stunned him twice while he was unconscious in a diabetic coma.
Gaubert's solicitor Ifti Manzoor is equally scathing: 'The question remains - why didn't it cross the police's mind that this man might be ill? Instead they opted to hit an innocent man with 50,000 volts. My client believes he is fortunate to still be alive.'
With increasing numbers of guns, the danger of them being used as a first resort and the potential arrival of a powerful new weapon, fears will only grow that too often the response appears to be to stun first, ask questions later.
Saturday, March 06, 2010
See also: WWW.EXCITED-DELIRIUM.COM
March 6, 2010
Frank Luba, The Province
Since voluntarily changing the rules in 2008 around when Tasers are used, the transit police have used the conducted energy weapon just once.
The transit police had used Tasers a total of 10 times in 2007 and 2008, which resulted in a complaint from the B.C. Civil Liberties Association to the Office of the Police Complaints Commissioner.
The transit police said Friday they have been exonerated in their use of the weapon in nine of the 10 instances, with the disciplinary authority asking for a review of the 10th incident.
The police also released a DVD of videos of the incidents taken by cameras on the Tasers or by cameras in the station where the incidents took place.
The BCCLA was surprised to hear about the exoneration of the police because the group hasn’t seen the decision.
Insp. David Hansen of the transit police said the police complaints commissioner’s report is still not complete but that the force intends to discuss it with the civil liberties group after the investigation is finished.
BCCLA executive director David Eby still wants improvements around the use of Tasers.
“There needs to be a [consistent] policy around when it’s used and how it’s reported,” said Eby.
He conceded the situation has improved, particularly after provincial Solicitor-General Kash Heed directed police, sheriffs and corrections officers in July to severely restrict the use of Tasers.
“It’s a much better situation than it was when transit police were Tasering people for fare evasion,” said Eby.
Heed was not available for comment Friday but a ministry source said the province is working with the federal government as part of ongoing negotiations to incorporate the Braidwood Commission’s recommendations about Tasers into RCMP policy and standards.
The transit police’s use of the Taser plunged after the force voluntarily changed the guidelines for using the weapon from suspects being “non-compliant” to “actively resistant.”
So instead of Tasering someone because they were fleeing after being asked for their ticket, as had happened previously, the last time transit police used the Taser was on an actively resistant suspect armed with a butcher knife.
The subject was later convicted of assaulting a transit police officer.
Despite the reduction, Hansen wouldn’t drop the weapon from his force’s armoury.
“It’s a valuable tool,” he said. “To us, it’s something we need. It’s another step. It’s a less-than-lethal option. I still feel there’s a need even though there’s only been one incident [since the guidelines changed].”
The complaints commissioner’s office did not respond to a request for an interview on Friday.
March 6, 2010
Metro Vancouver's Transit Police Service on Friday released video of nine incidents in which its officers deployed Tasers in response to a CBC freedom of information request.
CBC originally requested videos of 10 incidents from 2007 and 2008 in which transit police used stun guns while making arrests.
According to police, an independent investigation by B.C.'s Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner has since concluded that in nine of the incidents, the person who was hit with the Taser either assaulted or actively resisted the officers before police used the stun gun. The commissioner's finding cleared the way for the police to release videos of those incidents, transit police Insp. David Hansen said.
One other case remained under investigation, so the video of that was not released.
Four of the incidents involved people who were initially stopped for fare evasion, but police say that in each of those cases, the person was resisting arrest or assaulting an officer before the Taser was deployed.
All of the incidents happened in 2007 or 2008, when police policy allowed officers to use stun guns when dealing with "non-compliant" individuals. They were recorded either by cameras on the weapons themselves or transit surveillance cameras.
Transit police policy has since been re-worded to restrict officers to using the stun guns only when dealing with someone who is "actively resistant."
Police also said that since the change, there has only been one incident in which transit officers used a Taser, and that case involved a man armed with a butcher knife.
Public scrutiny of the use of Tasers grew following the death in October 2007 of Robert Dziekanski, who died after being stunned several times by RCMP officers at the Vancouver airport.
Friday, March 05, 2010
March 4, 2010 - Roberto Olivo, 33, Tulare, California
One of the officers used a Taser ... Officers eventually gained control ... Before an ambulance arrived, Olivo began to lose consciousness and had difficulty breathing...
Posted by Reality Chick at 09:44
March 5, 2010
Nearly 700 Taser stun guns will be available to 3500 front line police throughout the country by August.
Operator training began in each police district this week and the Tasers will become available from later this month. By August 681 are expected to be available throughout the country.
The electronic stun guns will "not be carried on the hip as a matter of course, but will be readily available to frontline staff," police say.
The guns use a 50,000 volt electric current to stop people and are used in situations where previously police may have used firearms.
They were introduced in small numbers at the end of 2008 and police reported that targeted people were surrendering when the Taser was pointed at them.
The stun guns have been criticised as being able to cause physical harm and possibly death, but police say there have been no known side effects when used in New Zealand.
Police Commissioner Howard Broad says Tasers have been used in the Auckland, Waitemata, Counties Manukau and Wellington police districts for just over a year and 10 people had been tasered.
"It's pretty clear that in several instances, the person could have been shot with a firearm if Tasers hadn't been available," Broad says on the police website.
He says Tasers are drawn 132 times and 92% of incidents are successfully resolved without them being discharged.
March 5, 2010
Jaxon Van Derbeken, San Francisco Chronicle
SAN FRANCISCO -- A day after the San Francisco Police Commission rejected his proposal to arm officers with Tasers, Chief George Gascón said Thursday he is giving up his push for the devices that he billed as a possible alternative to the use of deadly force.
The commission voted 4-3 just before midnight Wednesday not to give Gascón the go-ahead to develop guidelines under which officers could use the electronic stun guns, which would have been a first step toward adopting Tasers.
Opponents pointed to studies suggesting that the devices can kill people with heart conditions or even those who are otherwise healthy, and were skeptical of police promises that officers' use of Tasers would be sharply restricted.
In an interview Thursday, Gascón said he was "extremely disappointed" by the vote and would no longer press the matter.
"The majority of the commission has spoken loud and clear on this issue - they don't want to address it," Gascón said. "So we're going to just back off from it for the time being."
Chief researched incidents
Gascón, who had cited a study finding that as many as a third of 15 officer-involved shootings in a five-year period in San Francisco could have been avoided with Tasers, added: "Hopefully, there will not be any unfortunate incidents."
The Taser proposal was the first major policy initiative that Gascón had brought before the commission, which hired him on a unanimous vote last year on the recommendation of Mayor Gavin Newsom. Some of the commissioners who voted against the plan made it clear they felt the chief had overstepped his authority by not letting the panel be involved in vetting his idea.
Commissioner Petra DeJesus, one of three panel members appointed by the Board of Supervisors, said she refused to be a "rubber stamp" for the Police Department and Gascón, whom she accused of trying to circumvent a full review on whether the devices were safe to use on suspects.
DeJesus and the other commissioners appointed by the supervisors, Vincent Pan and Jim Hammer, joined Newsom appointee Yvonne Lee in rejecting Tasers.
Three backers on panel
All three votes in favor were cast by Newsom's other appointees - panel President Joe Marshall and Commissioners Thomas Mazzucco and David Onek.
During Wednesday's five-hour meeting, Gascón cited research by the Police Executive Research Forum think tank that found that police departments that adopted Tasers had dramatically lower rates of shootings and injuries than other departments.
But the commission also heard from two UCSF cardiology professors whose study of 50 police departments in California found that officer-involved shootings and deaths of suspects actually spiked during the first year of Taser deployment.
Other critics noted that roughly 400 people in the United States have died since 2001 after being hit with Tasers.
Hammer - who had attended a news conference Gascón held last week to push for Tasers - said Wednesday night that the UCSF study data had changed his mind.
He said almost half the department's 2,000 officers have not yet undergone training for dealing with mentally ill suspects, who he said were more likely to resist police orders and thus be hit with Tasers. Until those officers are trained, he said, he won't "rush into" adopting Tasers.
'He is the CEO'
Marshall, the panel's president, said he was bewildered by the vote.
"We brought him in there," Marshall said of Gascón. "He is the CEO, he runs the organization. He should be given the opportunity to try things."
Police union President Gary Delagnes called the commission's vote "political correctness run amok. Four people on the Police Commission obviously think that they know more than the experts in the field, more than the police chief.
"The next time someone in the city is killed, and it could have been prevented because of a use of Taser, the blood is on their hands," Delagnes said.
Gascón has cautioned that Tasers could not be used in lieu of guns in all situations, but he said he could easily envision situations where officers would use a Taser if given the choice. He said the commission's vote eliminated that possibility.
"What we're saying, is, 'You know what? We would rather you use a firearm and forget about the possibility of having this other option,' " Gascón said.
"I don't believe the commission is doing this to send any kind of personal message to me," he said. "But I think they are sending a message to the public and the organization at large. I'm not really sure what that message is.
"In the meantime, we've still got officers encountering situations out there with a tool bag that lacks all the tools that are available today."
March 5, 2010
by Gennady Sheyner, Palo Alto Online
Palo Alto police officers will no longer be allowed to fire Tasers unless the person they use it against poses an immediate physical threat, police officials said this week.
The department has just finished revising its policy for Taser use, Police Chief Dennis Burns said. The revisions, which were several months in the making, establish stricter standards for when officers are allowed to use Tasers.
The department's current policy, which was adopted in 2007, relies on the vague "reasonableness" standard and allows officers to use only the force that "reasonably appears necessary, given the facts and circumstances perceived by the officer at the time of the event, to bring an incident under control."
But a recent court ruling and several controversial incidents on Taser use in Palo Alto prompted the department to raise the standards and clarify the policy.
The new policy specifies, "Absent exigent circumstances, the TASER X26 should only be used against persons who pose an immediate threat of bodily injuries."
The revised policy will be presented to the City Council in the coming weeks, police said.
Palo Alto police began using Tasers almost two-and-a-half years ago and have used or attempted to use them on 12 different suspects over that time period, according to a new report from Independent Police Auditor Michael Gennaco.
Most of these cases involved unruly and uncooperative suspects who attacked officers or refused to leave their vehicles. But Gennaco's newest report, released Wednesday night, also describes one case in which a Palo Alto officer mistakenly applied a Taser against an intoxicated man near a local nightclub. According to the report, the man had been trying to punch the bouncer at the nightclub when officers arrived and asked him to back away.
The man was allegedly swaying in place and mumbling, "What's the problem?" when an officer trained his Taser on him, the report states. The man allegedly moved his hands to his chest area, at which time the officer deployed the Taser.
The man fell to the ground and "failed to put his hands behind his back as ordered." The officer then deployed the Taser in "stun drive" mode against the man's leg, according to the report. The man was then taken to the hospital, received a medical check-up and was released for booking into jail, the report states.
Gennaco, who reviews every case of Taser deployment, said his review prompted him to conclude that this use of Taser "was a mistaken application of the current PAPD policy to the factual situation." After reviewing the reports and video footage of the incident, Gennaco said he believed that the man was "simply gesturing to his own chest while referring to his own experiences in the narrative" when he was shot with a Taser.
The second use of Taser was also questionable, Gennaco wrote, because it was "unclear whether the man had time to comply with commands after his fall to the ground."
Gennaco recommended that the officer who fired the Taser receive more training on Taser deployment and be "debriefed on his failure to give warnings in this case." The officer should also be warned that future questionable Taser uses would likely lead to a formal internal-affairs investigations and possible disciplinary action.
Gennaco has been working with the police department to clarify its Taser policy. The department also considered last December's ruling by the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals against a Coronado, Calif., police officer who fired a Taser at a man after pulling him over for not wearing a seatbelt.
The court concluded that stunning a subject with a Taser is only justified when a suspect poses "an immediate threat to the officer or a member of the public."
Burns said the department had been in the process of revising the policy even before the federal court issued its ruling. He said he hopes the new guidelines will reduce instances of misapplied Taser use and clarify the standards for deployment.
"We want to give the officers more defined guidelines about where Taser use is appropriate," Burns said.