September 28, 2011: Howard Cooke, 30, York, Pennsylvania
WELCOME to TRUTH ... not TASERS
Thursday, September 29, 2011
Wednesday, September 28, 2011
September 28, 2011
CJAD FM, Montreal
The family of a Montreal man who died four days after being repeatedly tasered by a police officer is expressing satisfaction that a police ethics committee has cast blame on the officer for his actions.
Thirty eight year old Quilem Registre died in hospital in October 2007, several days after receiving six discharges from a Taser gun fired by a Montreal police officer who had pulled him over for running a stop sign. The officer had deemed Registre very agitated and aggressive.
Now, a police disciplinary committee has reportedly produced an official blame against the office for excessive use of a Taser.
Quilem Registre's sister, Francine, while expressing satisfaction with the ruling, says she'll wait to see what punishment, if any, the officer gets. But Registre expresses doubt that the officer would learn anything from a simple suspension, and hopes to see him fired.
September 26, 2011: Gerald Hall, 34, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
The report is no longer available but, at the moment, a Google search of Gerald Hall, Taser still shows up (http://news.google.ca/news?sourceid=navclient&ie=UTF-8&rlz=1T4GGHP_enCA431CA431&q=gerald+hall+taser
OKC POLICE ID DEAD MAN
KOKC - Sep 27, 2011
Oklahoma City Police say 34-year-old Gerald Hall died after being involved in a scuffle near Northwest 105th and Western. Officers used a taser on Hall after he failed to comply. Six police officers are on paid administrative leave. ...
Posted by Reality Chick at 14:18
This article has been translated from French to English, with a little help from me. French version follows at the end.
September 28, 2011
Caroline Touzin, La Presse
The Police Ethics Committee reprimand a Montreal police officer for using a stun gun six times in less than a minute against Quilem Register, who died in hospital four days later.
In a decision that has not yet been made public, but La Presse has obtained, the Committee concludes that the officer Yannick Bordeleau has "abused his authority, using a greater force than necessary to accomplish what he was permitted to do."
His colleague Steve Thibert is also blamed for "not having respected the rule of law by not intervening in the abuse of the DAI (stun gun) by the agent Bordeleau."
October 14, 2007, in the Saint-Michel, the two officers wanted to challenge Mr. Registre because he failed to make a stop at the wheel of his car. The 38-year-old driver refused to stop and collided with three parked cars on 23rd Avenue before stopping.
Police then noticed that the driver, still in his car, was intoxicated and agitated. The agent Thibert shouted "Taser! Taser!" to his colleague, who was holding the man, his hand resting on his chest, while the latter gave him a kick.
According to the two officers, Mr. Registre had symptoms of a person suffering from "excited delirium". The officer Bordeleau said that the suggestion of his colleague to use the stun gun was "ideal circumstances", it said in the 27-page decision of the tribunal.
The agent Bordeleau gave a first discharge. "Would not it have been more appropriate for police to get Mr. Registre out of his car and control him immediately? asks the decision's author, Richard W. Iuticone.
Although this control was necessary, the Committee gives the benefit of the doubt to officer Bordeleau as to his decision to deploy the DAI (stun gun) once on Mr Registre. "
The five other discharges were "exaggerated", the Committee concludes, however. From the first shock, Mr. Registre fell to the ground, face down, hands under him. The police did not move. But they knew that the muscle contraction caused by the discharge lasts five seconds. "So, enough time for them, being a few feet from Mr. Registre, to fall on him, grab his arms and handcuff him," says the Committee.
"Officer Bordeleau approached Mr. Registre only after the fifth discharge, simply, during the second, third and fourth shock shouting at Mr. Registre to show him his hands," says the Committee.
The tribunal noted the testimony of a use of force expert from the National Police Academy, Bruno Poulin, who said a person with "excited delirium" cannot understand the orders of a police officer. The Committee was also "troubled" by the slow reaction of Officer Thibert, who approached Mr. Registre "only during the second shock" and did not physically neutralize him until after the fourth discharge.
At the time of his arrest, Registre was under the influence of alcohol and cocaine. He was taken to hospital. He lost consciousness in the ambulance. His condition rapidly deteriorated to the point where he had to be operated on four times. He died Oct. 18.
At the conclusion of an investigation in August 2008, coroner Catherine Rudel-Tessier concluded that stun gun discharges were not sufficient to cause the death of Mr. Registre, but that they were "possibly involved." He received a total of six discharges for a total of 300 000 volts in less than a minute. He had liver, colon and small bowel necrosis.
Last year, the Registre family filed a $500,000 civil suit against the City of Montreal and the two officers involved. The case is still before the courts.
Le Comité de déontologie policière blâme un policier de Montréal pour avoir utilisé un pistolet électrique six fois en moins d'une minute contre Quilem Registre, mort à l'hôpital quatre jours plus tard.
Dans une décision qui n'a pas encore été rendue publique, mais que La Presse a obtenue, le Comité conclut que l'agent Yannick Bordeleau a «abusé de son autorité, en utilisant une force plus grande que celle nécessaire pour accomplir ce qui lui était permis de faire».
Son collègue Steve Thibert est aussi blâmé pour ne pas «avoir respecté l'autorité de la loi en n'intervenant pas lors de l'utilisation abusive du DAI (pistolet électrique) par l'agent Bordeleau».
Le 14 octobre 2007, dans le quartier Saint-Michel, les deux agents ont voulu interpeller M. Registre parce qu'il avait omis de faire un arrêt obligatoire au volant de sa voiture. Le conducteur de 38 ans a refusé de s'arrêter et a heurté trois voitures garées sur la 23e Avenue avant de stopper sa course.
Les policiers ont alors remarqué que le conducteur, toujours dans sa voiture, était intoxiqué et agité. L'agent Thibert a crié «Taser! Taser!» à son collègue, qui retenait l'homme, la main appuyée sur sa poitrine, pendant que ce dernier lui donnait des coups de pied.
Selon les deux agents, M. Registre avait les symptômes d'une personne atteinte de «delirium agité». L'agent Bordeleau a estimé que la suggestion de son collègue de se servir du pistolet électrique était «idéale dans les circonstances», peut-on lire dans la décision de 27 pages du tribunal administratif.
L'agent Bordeleau a donné une première décharge. «N'aurait-il pas été plus convenable pour les policiers de sortir M. Registre de sa voiture et de le contrôler immédiatement? se demande l'auteur de la décision, Me Richard W. Iuticone. Bien que ce moyen de contrôle s'imposait, le Comité donne le bénéfice du doute à l'agent Bordeleau quant à la décision qu'il a prise de déployer le DAI (pistolet électrique) une première fois sur M. Registre.»
Les cinq autres décharges étaient «exagérées», conclut toutefois le Comité. Dès la première décharge, M. Registre est tombé au sol, à plat ventre, les mains sous lui. Les policiers n'ont pas bougé. Or, ils savaient que la contraction musculaire provoquée par la décharge dure cinq secondes. «Donc, assez de temps pour eux, étant à quelques pieds de M. Registre, pour se jeter sur lui, lui saisir les bras et lui passer les menottes», conclut le Comité.
«L'agent Bordeleau s'est approché de M. Registre seulement après la cinquième décharge, se contentant, pendant les deuxième, troisième et quatrième décharges, de crier à M. Registre de lui montrer ses mains», relève le Comité.
Le tribunal souligne à grands traits le témoignage d'un expert en utilisation de la force de l'École nationale de police, Bruno Poulin, selon qui une personne en «delirium agité» ne peut pas comprendre les ordres d'un policier.
Le Comité se dit aussi «troublé» par la lenteur de réaction de l'agent Thibert, qui s'est approché de Registre «seulement pendant la deuxième décharge» et ne l'a neutralisé physiquement qu'après la quatrième décharge.
Au moment de son arrestation, Registre était sous l'influence de l'alcool et de la cocaïne. Comme c'est l'usage, il a été transporté à l'hôpital. Il a perdu connaissance dans l'ambulance. Son état s'est rapidement détérioré, au point où il a dû être opéré quatre fois. Il est mort le 18 octobre.
Au terme de son enquête, en août 2008, la coroner Catherine Rudel-Tessier avait conclu que les décharges de pistolet électrique n'étaient pas suffisantes pour causer la mort de M. Registre, mais qu'elles y avaient «possiblement contribué». Il a reçu en tout six décharges pour un total de 300 000 volts en moins d'une minute. Il avait le foie, le côlon et l'intestin grêle nécrosés.
L'an dernier, la succession de Registre a intenté une poursuite civile contre la Ville de Montréal et les deux policiers en cause. Elle réclame 500 000 $. La cause est toujours devant les tribunaux.
September 28, 2011
High School Perspective
By Cole Froude, Tillsonburg News
September 22, was a shocking and disturbing day for all teenagers across our region.
A 17-year old adolescent male was involved in a fight that started at approximately 12 p.m., in downtown London. The 17-year-old - whose name has yet to be released - picked up a lawn chair to defend himself against a brutal attack against him.
A nearby police officer saw the event unfold and rushed to the scene, pulled out his taser and open fired on the 17-year-old.
The youth took a direct hit to the head and chest. All the action was caught on a cell phone recording device and immediately uploaded to the popular video sharing site YouTube.
This caused a heated debate over the past few days, arguments over excessive use of force and responsible policing blew up the comment sections of the video, causing the most talked about event of the day.
The 17-year-old's mother has launched a lawsuit against the London Police Department. "He was only sent to the hospital because of the tasering," she said in a public statement.
The police officer who fired the taser did not use any means of communication to calm down the situation.
Is that morally right? A police officer can't arrest you for no reason but tasering you without any notice is okay?
London police Chief Duncan said that, "We are not required to issue a warning before tasering."
Really? Are you kidding me? What if this person was blind, or was developmentally challenged? Would that change things?
At the time the kid was tasered, the fight had already calmed down.
Is this police brutality?
Not only does it disgust me to know that a kid my age was tasered but to even think that the provincial guidelines state tasers should not be used in sensitive areas such as the head just outrages me.
London police say they are doing an internal investigation.
But its not all doom and gloom.
Monday, students from Beal Secondary School took to the streets and exercised their civil right to protest. About 150 protesters turned up to support the cause of police brutality.
A 19-year-old named Kyle, who helped organize this protest, told London's AM 980 News, "We are starting to stand up for ourselves... right now we are just trying to spread the word that cops need to be more accountable for their actions."
I applaud these kids who risked suspension and maybe a grounding or two by their parents to come out and protest.
Thames Valley District School Board issued a statement after the protest concerning the disciplinary action of the students who walked out of class.
"Any issues concerning this is being dealt with on a case by case basis. No suspensions have been issued at this time."
We all have a say in this world. Let this be a wakeup call for all of us young adolescents of this generation.
Change starts with us don't be afraid to stand up for what you believe in.
Cole Froude is a Glendale High School co-op student doing his placement at the Tillsonburg NewsNews
September 28, 2011
The Charlotte Observer
We don't argue with the idea that Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officers should be armed with the safest weapons available. So in that sense, the Charlotte City Council's decision to buy new Tasers that prevent officers from firing high voltages of electricity for more than five seconds at a pop makes sense.
But this move does not end concerns over the use of Tasers, associated with the deaths of two suspects in Charlotte in the past three years. These are not truly the "non-lethal" weapons that they are so frequently advertised to be.
Amnesty International says Tasers contributed to about 351 U.S. deaths between 2002 and 2008. The group also says 90 percent of those tasered were unarmed at the time.
Taser International, which provides most such weapons (and the company supplying the guns to the CMPD), points to a different view in a May study by the National Institute of Justice. In a look at Taser use by six police departments nationwide over a two-year period, the institute's researchers found 99.7 percent of those tasered suffered no serious injuries. Their conclusion: "The risk of human death due directly or primarily to the electrical effects of [Tasers] has not been conclusively demonstrated."
It's hard to reconcile those views. Yet even the study provides fodder for concerns. "Risk of human death ... not conclusively demonstrated" is not the same as no risk. And the study says data have shown significant health risks when Tasers are used against small children, people with diseased hearts, the elderly, those who are pregnant and some others. Researchers also acknowledged that many of the deaths after Taser exposure "are associated with continuous or repeated discharge of the CED..., especially when the individual may be under drug intoxication."
These are crucial caveats. In the March 2008 death of 17-year-old Darryl Turner, a CMPD officer tasered the teen for 37 seconds, a violation of police policy. The city paid the family $625,000 as a result, but admitted no wrongdoing. A federal jury ordered Taser International this summer to pay $10 million to the family. The company said it will appeal but in 2009 it released an advisory urging police not to shoot suspects in the chest, where Turner was shot. It also began pushing a version of its gun that allows only five seconds of current before officers can fire again.
The model the council agreed to has that feature and other safety measures including an audible "pre-warning" that the device is about to be used, said CMPD chief Rodney Monroe. Taser officials tout other benefits including the ability to fire a second time quickly without reloading.
Such features are welcome but they remain no substitute for officers having and following good guidelines about the use of these devices. In the past, that has been a problem for CMPD - and a costly one. If the officer in the Turner case had followed policy, the teen might be alive, the city wouldn't have had to shell out $625,000 to a grieving family, and the council might not be approving $1.83 million for new Tasers. That last cost is acknowledgment that officers could not be depended upon to abide by a policy of not tasering suspects past five seconds, the limit on a Taser blast unless the trigger is held down.
This move won't force officers to show good judgment and abide by strong guidelines. The new Taser allows more blasts in the Taser's battery life, and two blasts in quick succession. Studies show multiple Taser shots pose health risks even in healthy adults.
Tasers have been welcome tools to police officers in protecting the public, suspects and themselves. They have helped reduce the numbers of lethal incidents in which an officer is forced to discharge a gun. But Tasers carry dangers that should not be ignored. Training, officers following sound guidelines and vigilance about health risks are crucial to helping ensure tragedy does not result from Taser use.
Tuesday, September 27, 2011
September 27, 2011
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Charlotte-Mecklenburg police are getting new, and supposedly safer, Tasers. Although the non-lethal tools have been the focus of controversy over the past few months, police are confident Tasers are not a problem. Just to be safe, they asked city council for $1.8 million to buy the new models.
The X2 version has several new safety features. The shock only lasts five seconds no matter how long the officer holds the trigger. The amount of electricity is now more exact.
Police Chief Rodney Monroe said these new Tasers are the top of the line models. "We don't believe that there is a better model out there," he told council members.
Those safety features could have meant the difference between life and death in 2008 when Darryl Turner died after being shocked by a police-issue Taser, and again two months ago when La'Reko Williams died. Williams' family made an appearance at the meeting Monday night, wearing shirts memorializing the 21-year-old man, but did not speak about the new Tasers.
The lawyer Charles Everage said the council should not have voted on the Taser deal until it figured out why WIlliams died from the shock. "We're not here to express any emotion about it," he said.
Police haven’t been allowed to use their Tasers since Williams died. The weapons have been in a state of review and testing and the department have been reviewing their policies for using Tasers. In fact, for the first time, CMPD officials said officers have deployed Tasers 760 times since 2004.
Police said those are time officers may have been forced to draw their guns instead, but they did not say how many of those suspects were seriously injured.
In light of the new X2 model Tasers, only one Charlotte resident spoke out about the weapons being added to officers' arsenal.
"If they're going to use these instruments that do cause devastation and it does cause death, they should be better trained," he said.
Cardiologists at Presbyterian Hospital in uptown Charlotte said any Taser can be dangerous, regardless of the safety mechanisms built into them because all Tasers hit suspects with thousands of volts of electricity.
"There are plenty of average, healthy people that in very unique situations can have weird electrical cardiac events," said Cardiologist Kevin Sharkey. "You've seen people on the basketball court collapse and die from an arythmia they didn't know they had."
Police have not said when officers will get the new Tasers. Even when they do, they may not use them right away because officers may need new training.
September 27, 2011
Jennifer O’Brien and Craig Glover, London Free Press
Taunting police and chanting obscenities, a crowd of rowdy youths took to London streets for nearly eight hours Monday, protesting against last week’s caught-on-video police Tasering of a city-high school student.
“F--- the police,” the protestors — most of them students at Beal secondary, near where the incident took place — chanted, dozens of them thrusting their middle fingers up at a handful of police officers who stood outside police headquarters.
Occasionally, the crowd changed its chant to “peace and love,” “shame on you,” or “stop police brutality.”
But the overriding message was against the police.
“It’s taking a bunch of teenage kids to tell the police they are doing a bad job,” shouted one protestor by megaphone.
“We had a 17-year-old shot in the face with a Taser, and we want accountability.”
The protest started about 9 a.m. in front of Beal, then grew in size and volume as protestors marched to the nearby police station, before heading west again on Dundas St.
The crowd sat down in the middle of the intersection at Dundas and Richmond streets, one of the city’s busiest downtown crossings, then moved on to City Hall before turning back to hit the same stops.
Though fueled mostly by peers of the teen who was Tasered after a fight on Dundas St. last Thursday, the protest was organized by a non-student group via Facebook over the weekend.
“We all watched the YouTube video of a Beal student being Tasered in the head without warning last week. It’s outrageous,” said Anthony Verberckmoes, one of several organizers encouraging students to join the protest early Monday.
“People are fed up with police brutality,” he said.
The crowd generated support, even as protestors held up traffic.
“I don’t mind waiting,” said Brea Felton, whose car was stopped on Richmond St. during the downtown sit-in.
“That was uncalled for,” she added of Thursday’s Taser incident.
The Tasered youth, 17, is charged with assault with a weapon in the dustup with two other young men before the officer arrived, subduing the 17-year-old with a shot from his stun gun.
Many protestors said they were proud to stand up for their beliefs, but didn’t like all the vulgarity.
“It looks like we’re the aggressive ones,” said Dylan Wilson, 18.
Several students said they were told protesting would mean a one-day school suspension, but a Thames Valley District school board spokesperson said no students were suspended for taking part.
Police cruisers followed the marchers and at stops, officers stood as some youths waved fists, screaming obscenities at them.
“Today, it’s not a matter of preventing them from having a voice,” said Police Chief Brad Duncan. “Some of them were doing things I would term as silly . . .
“Many of these protestors were very up and close and screaming in our officers’ faces and they showed the utmost professionalism.
“When dealing with protests and . . . with young persons, one thing you want to be very careful about is allowing them the opportunity to exercise that right (to protest),” said Duncan. The chief said he stands by his officer.
Sunday, September 25, 2011
September 24, 2011
Jamie Doward, The Guardian
Amnesty International has written to the coroner conducting the inquest into the death of Raoul Moat questioning how police came to fire a non-lethal weapon at him despite a Home Office study concluding it was inaccurate and unreliable.
The human rights group said it wanted to establish whether the officers who fired the experimental Xrep Taser were aware of research conducted on behalf of the Home Office Scientific Development Branch, the body that evaluates specialist equipment. The research found the weapon was unlikely to be effective and had a high risk of missing its target. Officers using the weapon shot at Moat twice. One round missed and the other appeared to strike him without effect.
Oliver Sprague, Amnesty's UK arms programme director, said: "It's alarming that officers chose to deploy a weapon whose testing data had shown it to be highly inaccurate and highly likely to fail. Lessons must be learned from this and no weapon should be deployed by any UK police force until it has been officially sanctioned by the Home Office."
The Moat inquest is expected to last a further four weeks.
Friday, September 23, 2011
September 22, 2011
By LAWRENCE ROSENTHAL/Law professor, Chapman University School of Law
Orange County Register
There are few things more likely to give a prosecutor heartburn than charging a police officer with a crime, especially one involving the use of excessive force against a suspect.
Prosecutors work with the police every day. Charging an officer can poison relationships that are critical to effective law enforcement. And, these cases are hard to win.
Allegations of excessive force are usually made by not very nice people in not very nice parts of town. Juries are reluctant to take their word against that of a police officer. Also, excessive force cases often involve split-second judgments by officers who justifiably fear for their safety. Most jurors think that even a clear mistake should not turn a cop into a criminal. Most of us occasionally make mistakes at work, but we don't go to jail for them. In a generally conservative area like Orange County, juries are likely to be particularly supportive of police.
Why, then has Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas brought felony charges against two Fullerton officers arising from the death of Kelly Thomas, a 37-year-old homeless man who suffered from mental illness, who the officers reasonably suspected was in possession of stolen property, and who was not following police instructions when placed in custody?
First, there is unusually good evidence about what happened. There were a number of surveillance cameras in the area, and a number of bystanders.
Some of them took cellphone videos. This evidence seems to show a deliberate decision to administer a severe beating to an obviously impaired man who posed little threat.
Second, the physical evidence is deeply troubling. It indicates that Thomas died from what seems to have been a savage and prolonged beating.
Third, it appears that the officers made false or misleading statements about what happened. If the officers lied, a jury is more likely to convict. As I often argued to juries when I was a prosecutor – "Ladies and gentlemen, innocent people don't lie."
If the case is so strong, why was Officer Manuel Ramos only charged with second degree murder, and Corporal Jay Cicinelli only charged with voluntary manslaughter? Why were the other officers at the scene not charged at all?
Prosecutors have little hope of convicting unless they show appropriate sensitivity to the tough job facing the police. One of the defense lawyers has given us a preview of the picture he will paint for the jury, saying: "Police officers who risk their lives daily ... now have to be concerned with being charged in the courtroom for simply performing their duties." One of the ways a prosecution can go awry is when the case is overcharged – when the prosecutor files more serious charges than have fair support in the evidence. Juries can lose faith in prosecutors who seem unfairly aggressive.
In this case, first degree murder would be hard to prove beyond a reasonable doubt. First degree murder requires proof that the officers intentionally set out to assassinate Thomas. It seems more likely, however, that they just lost control. That is second degree murder, which requires only conscious disregard for the victim's life. If the officer was merely negligent, he is guilty of involuntary manslaughter. These are serious felony charges, but they avoid the risk that the jury will think that the prosecutors are overly zealous.
As for the officers who were not charged, it is not a crime to fail to intervene when you see someone else committing a crime, even if you are a police officer. It is also not a crime for an officer to use force to help a colleague subdue a suspect even if the officer does not know how the confrontation started. There may be a reasonable doubt about whether the other officers on the scene realized that Thomas had done little to provoke the officers who were charged and posed little threat to them. If, on the other hand, the other officers lied about what they saw to protect their colleagues, they could be guilty as accessories after the fact. They also could lose their jobs, even if they are never charged criminally. One of the things that makes excessive force cases difficult to prove is the unwillingness of officers to testify against colleagues. We need to do more to stop this code of silence.
So far, the District Attorney's charging decisions seem defensible. The public, however, should demand that all officers who made false reports are punished. I have long believed that prosecutors and police departments should show leniency to officers who admit that they made a mistake, but treat officers who make a deliberate decision to lie or cover up severely. We can all sympathize with split-second error in judgment; but we should never tolerate a calculated coverup. Even more important, if officers know that to keep their jobs, everyone on the force has tell the truth, even about their mistakes, they are more likely to avoid conduct that can get them in trouble in the first place. In the end, that is what we all want out of tragedies like the death of Kelly Thomas.
The author is a Professor of Law at Chapman University School of Law. He has both prosecuted and defended police officers accused of misconduct.
September 22, 2011
San Gabriel Valley Tribune
WILL it make any difference, what the dispensation will be of the cases of the Fullerton police officers charged this week with murder and manslaughter in the death of Kelly Thomas, a 37-year-old, mentally ill homeless man?
Of course it will. The wheels of justice not only need to be set into motion; ideally, they need to take us where we need to go.
This is going to be as complicated and controversial and gut-wrenching a trial as anything this side of Rodney King. It will be long and divisive and call into question practically every aspect of the complex relationships between law-enforcement officials and the rest of society. Its resolution will not come quickly or easily.
And of course, without full access to the range of facts surrounding the case that will, we hope, come out in the trial, we don't know whether the officers are guilty of the charges.
But, without passing judgment on individual officers involved, the very fact that they were indicted on these serious felony charges says incredibly positive things about American society.
It says that we are a society ruled by law - not by lawmen. It says that while we respect our police officers, we will hold them accountable for committing crimes the same as the rest of us are held accountable. It says that while our district attorneys certainly need to work together with police offiers in collaring criminals, indicting, charging and prosecuting them, when the tables are turned - when it seems that it is the officers themselves who have broken the law - then we must not hesitate to prosecute them as well.
It says that, even as officers are almost always the good guys in pursuit of the bad guys, our society is different: Might does not in itself make right.
What an incredible balancing act we ask police officers to perform every minute of their working - and non-working - days. To protect us, and themselves, they must aggressively go after criminals and suspected criminals. Split-second decisions must be made. A Taser may be on their belts. A gun certainly is. A baton's deployment may save a life or cost a life. Which to choose when words fail? No amount of training buys perfection in an often thankless job.
Given contemporary technology, much that an officer does is recorded. And we have a place where we draw the line. In the case of Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas, that place was when Fullerton police Officer Manuel Ramos pulled on latex gloves and told Kelly Thomas, "Now see my fists? They are getting ready to F you up."
Rackauckas said: "Ramos was telling Kelly Thomas at that moment that this encounter had changed. That it went from a fairly routine police investigation, a fairly routine police detention, to an impending beating by an angry police officer."
After that beating, Cpl. Jay Cicinelli kneed Thomas twice in the head and used his Taser on him four times, Rackauckas said. The corporal also hit Thomas in the face with the Taser eight times.
Thomas died several days later in a hospital.
Ramos faces second-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter charges. Cicenelli faces charges of involuntary manslaughter and use of excessive force. Four other officers involved are on paid administrative leave. That shows that in some cases, public safety employees absolutely do catch a break.
Given the dangerous nature of their work, police officers on trial for violent crimes are tougher to convict than other citizens. These will be difficult prosecutions. But the courageous decision to prosecute at all shows that, unlike in authoritarian states, no American is above the law.
September 23, 2011
Dale Carruthers, QMI Agency
LONDON, Ont. - A teenager is in hospital and a group of high school students are threatening a protest against police after an officer used a Taser to break up a brawl in London, Ont., on Thursday.
The clash between two young men around noon was captured on a cellphone video reviewed by QMI Agency and later posted to YouTube.
The images show one combatant hitting the other with a chair, when an officer on foot hurries in from the street and shoots a dart from a Taser stun gun at a young man wearing jeans and a black shirt.
From the video, it appears the two boys had separated when the officer approached.
The crowd gasps in horror as the Taser's prongs appear to hit the young man in the face. He falls to the ground and is motionless for nearly one minute.
"You shot him in the head. You never even asked him," screams another male on the video.
The officer didn't give any warning before using his stun gun, said witness Vivian Greening.
"He just pulled out the Taser and shot him," she said. "They didn't even try to talk to the kids (or) yell at the kids."
Student Cody Hill, 17, who was in the crowd watching the fight, also said the cop Tasered the boy without warning.
It's not clear from the amateur video, with its imperfect audio, whether the officer gave a warning.
The onlookers spilled onto the street to watch the fight, many of them students at nearby H.B. Beal Secondary School.
Hill and a group of friends say they plan to hold a protest on Monday to decry the police response.
Police confirmed a 17-year-old who was Tasered was taken to hospital and another boy is in custody, but wouldn't comment if the officer issued a warning before using the stun gun.
"Our investigation is unfolding," said Const. Dennis Rivest. "There's a number of people that need to be interviewed right now and we still have a lot of work that we have to do to complete this investigation.”
The boy's injuries aren't life-threatening, police said.
"And we're going to wait before any further comment on the situation."
Canadian researcher Andrew Podgorski, who studied stun guns for the Canadian government, said youth are more at risk of injury and death from being hit with a Taser's 50,000-volt jolt.
"The younger you are, the more susceptible you are," said Podgorski. "Younger people are generally . . . smaller in size."
One in 1,000 people who get Tasered die, said Podgorski, adding those under the influence of drugs and alcohol are more likely to die.
According to use-of-force statistics, London police used stun guns 28 times in 2010.
In 2004, Londoner Peter Lamonday, 33, died shortly after being Tasered by police at a convenience store.
Tuesday, September 20, 2011
The third of three parts
By Marty Goldstein
SLAM! Sports, Canoe.ca
After a lifetime of achievement in football, wrestling and as a clinical psychologist, Mike Webster made a startling decision while the third part of this interview was being written. He went public with his application to become the new Commissioner of the RCMP, despite being blackballed by the force for speaking out at a public inquiry about takedown procedures and tactics he found utterly revolting.
"When I am done the organization will have a new face, a new business model, and a new direction; the Canadian public will have renewed confidence in their national police service and the membership will have rekindled their smouldering motivation," he wrote in the cover letter.
Webster, who has been a teacher at the British Columbia Police Academy, the Canadian Police College, Europol, and the FBI Academy at Quantico, Virginia (helping train for hostage situations and providing his expertise in the most tense and dangerous conditions imaginable), promised "... by the time I am done I will have identified a new (and permanent) Commissioner and Senior Executive from within the organization who are committed to 'turn around change.'"
The path from sports to news headlines for Dr. Michael Webster began after earning a Master's Degree and thereafter being awarded a doctorate from Western Washington University in 1981. "I worked occasionally during both -- more so during my Masters. I did guest shots, mystery wrestler, cameos, and filled in for sick and injured masked men while studying full-time -- territories included: B.C., Washington, Oregon, Puerto Rico, and Hawaii," he told SLAM! Wrestling.
Webster began specializing in working with police crisis teams after being involved in negotiations during two penitentiary standoffs in B.C., and built a unique career around the world. In one of those standoffs a female prison staffer was killed by friendly fire which caused a stir across Canada.
The FBI called him to the 51-day Branch Davidian standoff in Waco, Texas in 1993. It was arguably the first long-term incident to be driven by the television news cycle and remains controversial because of the 76 fatalities (including women and children) after the assault on the armed compound as authorities sought to arrest cult leader David Koresh. Webster believes that high cost could have been averted.
"The FBI could have withstood (perceived) public pressure and maintained the conciliatory approach they had adopted during the first week (that resulted in 30-35 people walking out of the compound). The FBI suffered from an action imperative -- they needed not only to be doing something, but to be seen to be doing something. Sometimes it's better to do stuff that's effective but not visible."
An armed standoff in 1995 between the Ts'Peten Sundancers and the RCMP at Gustafsen Lake, B.C., resulted in a fundamental shift in his approach, after telling the Vancouver Sun, "The greatest thing I will take away from 100 Mile House with me is the incredible knowledge I have about native spirituality and how effective that can be."
Webster explained, "Prior to our success at Gus Lake, the police dealt with this type of situation using a linear approach. First talk, and if that doesn't work, go right away to 'heavy tactics.' The strategy applied at Gus Lake and afterwards (e.g. the 'Freemen' at Jordan Montana) was a parallel approach. I now advise making it easy for the other party to agree while at the same time making it difficult for them to disagree."
In one of his papers, he described his underlying philosophy:
"The less freedom, rights, or control we allow the opposition the more valuable it becomes to them and the more aggressively they will pursue it. Force now becomes counterproductive as it has driven the opposition into a defensive position where they will resist us with all they can muster. Once the strategy of force is deployed there is no turning back. The opposition will have difficulty accepting your efforts to talk it out after you have tried to take them out ... To paraphrase Mahatma Ghandi, if we continue in the pursuit of an eye for an eye we all end up blind."
One of the more shocking situations Webster worked on was the assault that ended the 1997 occupation of the Japanese Embassy by Tupac Amaru (Marxist-Leninist guerrillas) in Peru, which lasted four months before it was concluded by a surprise raid.
"The great military strategist Sun Tzu stated, 'The best general is the one who never fights.' Restating him to suit our purpose we might say, 'The best crisis manager is the one who never assaults.' ... The whole thing was a 'cock-up' start to finish. On the surface (literally!) there was a negotiation with the subjects, while underground none of us knew President Fijimori was digging his tunnel under the ambassador's residence. It is difficult to manage a conflict when there is a conflict within a conflict." (It ended with the death of one hostage and all 14 revolutionaries, eight of whom were murdered by the military after being captured.)
As a result of Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers using Tasers five times, which resulted in the senseless death of Polish immigrant Robert Dziekański at Vancouver Airport in 2007, the name of Dr. Michael Webster came to the forefront of newscasts, online, and among civil liberties groups.
After appearing at the Braidwood Inquiry and insisting the officers' testimony was rehearsed (for which they are now facing a trial), Webster wrote an open letter to Dziekański's mother, Zofia Cisowski. He was relentless in his criticism of use of the unproven devices and the underlying corporate culture of Canada's national police agency, which he likened to "Putin's Russia."
When threatened by the brass with being blackballed, Webster exposed their corruption even more by detailing their lack of due diligence.
"The existing 'science' has variously been termed 'TASER Science' or 'junk science.' The weapon has never been subjected to rigorous, independent, and impartial research. And the buyers (i.e. police persons) are far from sophisticated. When questioned on the weapon they simply regurgitate Taser International's party line ... I have said it is neither humane nor logical to inflict crippling pain on someone who has lost his mental balance, as they did at YVR (airport)."
He continued: "In my continuing criticism of the RCMP's Senior Executive I believe I have given a voice to the oppressed membership. It is uncontroversial that for many street level RCMP policepersons their job is making them sick. I have had no support from my (self-serving) psychological colleagues, and no support from other police services."
When asked how he handled the reduction of income due to being shunned by the Mounties, after establishing such a successful practice, Webster harkened back to his college days.
"One of my heroes is the priest who was the President of Notre Dame when I attended there. His name is Father Ted Hesburgh. He once said, and I never forgot it, 'It is easier to live your morals than it is to teach them.' I try to implement this in my life from day to day. Losing the income was never an issue for me. It's easy to prattle on about your ethics when there is no cost."
After the facts about the Vancouver Airport confrontation became known, Webster was talked about as the best person to lead the RCMP and reform it. Previously he resisted the idea, saying, "The single most effective therapeutic agent for the RCMP would be the establishment of a strong union. Finally, senior managers who are presently accountable to no one would be reigned in." Now he believes he is the man for the job, after experiencing first-hand retaliation for being an advocate for change.
From Notre Dame, to Grey Cup and pro wrestling champion, to consulting on life and death crisis negotiations, Mike Webster, a soft-spoken and gentle giant, has always marched to the beat of his own drum. Now he hears the drums beating across the planet, and foresees a fundamental change coming among those who are not part of the elite now ruling over societies under corrupt political and social systems. And he wants to lead by example, as he has always done.
"Some may be discouraged by the challenge and say, 'but we have no forum' for such a transformational change. I would say the people of Iran have no forum to address the corrupt activities of their government either -- but look at them ... Social media is only half the answer. The other half is the young people whose lives are intertwined with it. My sense is that young people are becoming more politically active (witness our last Canadian Federal election) and less tolerant of 'corruption and willful neglect.' And with the decline of the U.S., as a world power, and the rise of India and China young people will unite East and West in a new political landscape."
Monday, September 19, 2011
September 19, 2011
Huffington Post Canada
A tense standoff involving Toronto police ended with a man being shot by a Taser before plummeting from a balcony to the concrete below.
The man was rushed to hospital in critical condition just after 5 a.m. Monday, after falling what appeared to be a distance of about nine metres.
The drama began around 1 a.m., when police from 12 Division were dispatched to arrest a suspect on the fourth floor of 1735 Weston Rd. near Lawrence Avenue. The man descended from the balcony to the third floor as he tried to evade officers.
Watch video of the incident
The Emergency Task Force, which serves as the tactical unit of the Toronto police, were called in for assistance. A negotiation team spoke with the man for more than four hours trying to coax him down and persuade him to give himself up for arrest.
Over the course of several hours, he at times straddled the concrete balcony's ledge, stood on top of it or sat down and leaned against it as he smoked a cigarette. As police approached, he would move closer to the balcony's edge.
CBC cameraman Tony Smyth, reporting from the scene, heard the man swearing at police. At one point, the man could be heard calling back, "If you want to get me, you'll have to get me on the run."
Shortly after 5 a.m., an ETF officer on the balcony above aimed a Taser at the suspect below while the man began to smoke another cigarette.
A CBC camera captured images of a red laser sight aimed at the man before the Taser was fired. The sound of the Taser being discharged was audible and the man dropped from the ledge before officers rushing toward him were able to stop him.
The man was rushed to a trauma centre in critical condition.
The Special Investigations Unit has been called in to investigate the case. The independent unit is dispatched for investigations involving the police that lead to a death or serious injury.
Sunday, September 18, 2011
Friday, September 16, 2011
September 16, 2011
Neal Hall, Vancouver Sun
No criminal charges should be laid against the RCMP officers who shot an 11-year-old boy with a Taser in Prince George last April, the West Vancouver police department announced Thursday.
"We have concluded that the actions of the officers involved did not violate the Criminal Code of Canada and we are not recommending charges," West Vancouver Police Chief Peter Lepine said in a statement. "Our investigation is only one of many that will ultimately examine the circumstances surrounding this incident."
The West Vancouver force was asked by the RCMP to investigate the incident last April to avoid the public perception that the RCMP was investigating its own officers.
The incident occurred in Prince George about 5: 30 p.m. on April 7, when Mounties responded to a 911 call that a youth had stabbed a 37-year-old man at a home.
Posted by Reality Chick at 06:59
September 15, 2011
Tyler Olsen, Chilliwack Times
A long-awaited report into the death of a Chilliwack man in police custody has found that RCMP officers acted reasonably in the case.
Robert Knipstrom died on Nov. 24, 2007, after being Tasered and arrested following a hit and run. Shortly after being taken to hospital, Knipstrom suffered a cardiac arrest and died.
The report from the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP "found that the use and subsequent deployment of the Taser on Mr. Knipstrom was reasonable in the circumstances, and the members appropriately sought and obtained medical treatment for Mr. Knipstrom."
But the CPC also expressed concerns with the investigation following Knipstrom's death. Many of the problems were similar to other CPC reports into in-custody deaths.
The CPC made four recommendations in its report, including that witness interviews in serious incidents "should be conducted by a two member team."
The report also takes the RCMP to task for the length of time it took the force to respond to the CPC's interim report, which was completed nearly 21 months ago.
"In the view of the CPC, that delay was neither appropriate nor necessary, nor has it been explained," said a press release issued Thursday.
Wednesday, September 14, 2011
Monday, September 12, 2011
Sunday, September 11, 2011
September 11, 2011
Plain Dealer Editorial Board
Howard Hammon III was no angel, especially on the night of June 13.
The 41-year-old was pumped up on booze and drugs when he plowed into the back of a car. He grew surly and fought when Middleburg Heights police arrived and tried to handcuff him.
Hammon, who stood more than 6 feet tall and weighed 275 pounds, stopped fighting only when police Tasered him. He also stopped breathing and was dead on arrival at Southwest General Health Center.
Hammon's own reckless behavior led to the sting of a Taser. It took three officers to put him on the ground. Obesity, drugs, heart disease, stress, his body position and, of course, resisting arrest all contributed to the tragedy.
Earlier this month, Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner Thomas Gilson ruled the death a "homicide," meaning it was caused by others, not necessarily that criminal liability was involved. The county prosecutor must review the case, but charges are not expected.
"It supports what we've said, that the police did nothing wrong," Middleburg Heights Police Chief John Maddox told Plain Dealer reporter Michael Sangiacomo.
But this death, and others like it, suggest that more work is needed on the risks of Tasers and on how to train police in their optimal use.
There is no question that police officers must protect themselves when confronted by violent suspects. But the Taser is more than just a tool of nonlethal force. In certain circumstances, it can kill.
Maddox said he is not going to revise his department's protocol on the use of Tasers following the Hammon death. That is a mistake. Hammon was not an armed killer. He was an impaired driver with a bad attitude. He had earned himself some time behind bars, not a hole in the ground.
Police should have clearer guidelines about the risk posed to suspects under the influence or in poor physical health by devices that stun or shock. In some cases, pepper spray or just waiting for sufficient backup might be feasible alternatives.
Best practices come out of bad situations. There may be a lesson to be learned in what happened to Hammon -- not just in Middleburg Heights, but in all police departments.
Sunday, September 04, 2011
September 4, 2011
James Halpin, FayObserver
The prongs from the Taser latched onto Martin Mitchell Sr.'s side, feeling like a knife had stabbed into his torso. Mitchell says he instantly went limp and started convulsing, nearly swallowing his tongue.
"My whole left side went numb," said Mitchell, 45, who was zapped Tuesday by a Cumberland County sheriff's deputy after allegedly assaulting his 16-year-old son outside Westover Middle School. "I couldn't even remember too much that happened, you understand. That's how bad that thing messed me up. I kept blinking in and out."
Mitchell, who disputes deputies' account that he was punching his son and that he ran at one of the intervening deputies, says he believes officers are increasingly likely to use Tasers because they are less lethal than firearms.
Industry watchdogs say Mitchell is not too far off the mark.
Katy Parker, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina, said the group has seen an increase in Taser use throughout the state and the country, partly because Tasers have become ubiquitous in law enforcement. As a result, Tasers are increasingly being used in situations where officers would not have pulled a firearm - situations that in some cases don't require much force at all, she said.
"Tasers are weapons that can be very effective if you have a suspect who is putting the officer in danger or someone else at risk of harm," Parker said. "But they're often used in situations where an officer issues an order and the suspect doesn't comply in some way. It's kind of used as pain compliance. ... That's very dangerous."
Fayetteville police have been using Tasers since 1996, and numbers released last week show that their use has been on the rise in recent years. Officers deployed Tasers 20 times in 2007 and only 16 times in 2008. But they stunned suspects 31 times in 2009 and 60 times last year, according to police numbers. Police had used their Tasers 25 times so far through August of this year.
Fayetteville police spokesman Gavin MacRoberts said Taser usage has been on the rise for several reasons. There are more officers in the field than before because the department has been nearly fully staffed in recent years, and those officers are equipped with newer, smaller Tasers that they keep on their belts, rather than in their patrol cars, he said.
Police also have been encountering more incidents each year that meet the department's requirements for using Tasers, MacRoberts said. That has to do in part with police encountering an increasing number of suspects under the influence of drugs or alcohol or with mental-health problems, he said.
Last week, the department pulled all of its Taser M26 units off the streets for testing following the death of 56-year-old Michael Wade Evans, a political activist who died after he was stunned by police on Aug. 24. Police say he was acting erratically and trying to jump on vehicles on Eastern Boulevard.
Evans was pronounced dead at Cape Fear Valley Medical Center. His cause of death remains under investigation.
Evans is the third person to die in Cumberland County after being hit with a stun gun.
In 2005, a Cumberland County deputy hit 52-year-old Richard McKinnon with a Taser. McKinnon, who had crashed his van after trying to elude deputies, was soaked in gasoline and burst into flames.
Otis C. Anderson, 36, died after Fayetteville police used a Taser to subdue him in January 2008. An autopsy found he had a lethal amount of cocaine in his system.
Earlier this year, Brandon Jolvon "Red" Bethea, a 24-year-old schizophrenic inmate at the Harnett County Jail, died after being shocked with a stun gun multiple times, according to an autopsy report. Deputies left the Fayetteville man lying unchecked on the floor for about 20 minutes before discovering that he was unconscious.
The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner concluded following the autopsy that his death was caused by "complications of conducted energy device application."
Eddie Caldwell Jr., executive vice president and general counsel of the North Carolina Sheriffs' Association, noted that many deaths associated with Tasers are not caused by the shock but rather by other causes, such as drug overdoses. He said his understanding is that Tasers are safe when used on healthy people and that many law enforcement agencies require officers who carry them to be shocked as part of the certification process so they understand the consequences.
Tasers can help reduce the likelihood of a struggle - and the risk of injury to officers and suspects - during an arrest of an aggressive person, he said.
"If you've got a suspect with a butcher knife coming at you, as an officer, you have the legal right to kill him. But if you've got a Taser, you can tase him and that's more humane and a much better outcome for the suspect," Caldwell said. "The Taser is a device that, as much as anything, helps the citizen who is at that point belligerent and uncooperative."
Taser International says it has sold more than a 500,000 stun guns to more than 16,000 law enforcement and military agencies around the world. The company maintains that its weapons protect life.
Tasers reduce excessive use-of-force complaints and save lives while reducing the risk of injuries to suspects and police, Taser spokesman Steve Tuttle said.
"Although no use-of-force device is risk free - including Taser technology - when used properly, medical and law enforcement experts have concluded that Taser technology is among the most effective response to resistance tools available," Tuttle said. "We continue to stand by the independent peer-reviewed medical studies that have shown that the Taser electronic-control devices are generally safe and effective."
In May, the National Institute of Justice published a study of nearly 300 people who died after being shot with stun guns. In the vast majority of those cases, the devices "played no role in the death," according to the study, which reviewed 22 cases in which a stun gun was listed as a cause of death.
The study found that the risk of death when police deploy stun guns is less than 0.25 percent and says that "there is no conclusive medical evidence" that short-term electric shocks cause a high risk of serious injury or death in healthy, non-stressed and non-intoxicated people.
"However, there are groups who may be at risk for sudden death and those who are more vulnerable to physical insult," the report says. "These disparate but occasionally overlapping groups include small children, those with diseased hearts, the elderly and pregnant women."
It advised officers to avoid continuously shocking suspects for longer than 15 seconds but concluded that law enforcement officers do not need to refrain from using the devices to arrest uncooperative or combative subjects so long as the devices are used properly.
Amnesty International, which counts more than 460 deaths following Taser use since June 2001, responded by saying that the report underscores the need for strict limits on the use of shock weapons.
The group expressed concern that many of the study's nearly 300 people who died after being stunned did not appear to present a serious threat at the time they were shocked.
"Amnesty International believes that, apart from safety concerns, electro-shock weapons are particularly open to abuse as they are easy to use and they can inflict severe pain at the push of a button without leaving substantial marks," the group said in a statement.
The ACLU's Parker pointed to the death of 17-year-old Darryl Wayne Turner - a teen who suffered a fatal arrhythmia in Charlotte in 2008 after being shocked for 37 seconds by a Taser X26 - as an example of how Tasers can be dangerous when police hold the trigger down.
Dr. Douglas Zipes, an electrophysiologist and former director of the Division of Cardiology at the Krannert Institute of Cardiology, filed an expert report in a civil lawsuit against Taser by Turner's family. In the report, Zipes cites studies on animals conducted before Turner's death that showed Tasers have the potential to produce heart arrhythmias and ventricular fibrillation in the hearts of pigs.
"The medical hazard of ECD shocks resulting in cardiac arrest was foreseeable prior to March 2008 and appropriate testing should have been done to investigate this possibility before placing these products on the market," Zipes wrote.
In September 2009, Taser issued new warnings indicating that the risk of ventricular fibrillation following shocks is 1 in 100,000, he wrote. A federal jury in July awarded Turner's family a $10 million judgment against Scottsdale, Ariz.-based Taser because of his death.
The day after that award, a 21-year-old man died after a Taser was used on him, prompting the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department to pull its Tasers from use pending a review.
Pat Norris, president of the North Carolina Association of Chiefs of Police, said the association recommends that departments have policies in place regarding Taser use, but does not itself issue guidelines.
Law enforcement in Cumberland County do have such policies. The Fayetteville Police Department's policy addresses when it is appropriate for officers to use their stun guns. Those situations include:
When officers need to control violent subjects when deadly force does not appear to be necessary.
When conventional tactics including verbal commands and firm grip control are ineffective.
When officers cannot safely get close to a subject.
To keep a person from committing suicide or hurting himself.
After Evans' death, however, the department said it plans to review its Taser policies and procedures, in addition to inspecting the weapons. Police say they have no reason to believe the Taser that was used in Evans' arrest malfunctioned, but they were pulling the devices for inspection as a precaution.
"In light of recent incidents in not only here, but in other jurisdictions as well, it was decided that it was the prudent and responsible action to ensure all Tasers are in proper working condition," said MacRoberts, the Fayetteville police spokesman.
The weapons are being sent to the manufacturer to be tested to ensure the Tasers are operating within factory specifications for output and also to verify that their data recording systems are properly functioning, he said.
It was not known how long it would take Taser to complete the inspections, MacRoberts said.
Numbers for the Cumberland County Sheriff's Office use of Tasers were not available as of Friday.
Debbie Tanna, a spokeswoman for the Sheriff's Office, said deputies have no plans to change their policy on using Tasers.
Deputies are sometimes confronted with aggressive people while alone, and Tasers offer them a way to subdue the suspects without bloodshed or causing permanent injury, she said.
Deputies carry batons, pepper spray and Tasers, but not all deputies carry all of those tools, Tanna said. When confronted with a threatening situation, the deputies must make a split-second decision on how best to negate the threat, she said.
"Our deputies don't have the luxury, in most cases, of making a decision by sitting around and mulling about it," Tanna said. "We feel that (Tasers) are safe. We like the fact that it is an option for us when trying to subdue a violent suspect or in a situation that is out of control."
In 2008, the ACLU helped start the N.C. Taser Safety Project, which sought to have law enforcement agencies develop policies to ensure people are safely subdued when Tasers must be used. Parker said that because of a number of recent high-profile cases involving Tasers, the ACLU is planning to send out a new records request to all 100 sheriff's offices in the state and 25 police departments seeking an update on their policies on using Tasers. Law enforcement agencies should have policies limiting Taser use on the old, young and sick, Parker said.
They also should prohibit officers from holding the trigger down or repeatedly pressing the trigger when unnecessary, she said.
"It can be an effective weapon, but there ought to be reasonable limitations and restrictions put on those weapons to keep people safe," Parker said. "I think most of the time law enforcement is trying to do the best job that they can. But Tasers are still relatively new, and I think a lot of times people aren't aware of the risks."
Friday, September 02, 2011
BC Cops Opt for Spin Rather than Transparency - RCMP author of Taser e-mail now advising BC on police accountability
September 2, 2011
British Columbia Civil Liberties Association has confirmed that the police officer whose e-mail brought the Robert Dziekanski inquiry to a halt for months is now advising the provincial government on the formation of B.C.’s new police accountability body.
Dick Bent, along with another senior RCMP officer Russ Nash, has been hired on a contract that will pay him as much as $70,000 over six months (including expenses) to “make recommendations on a strategic and operational framework” for the new Independent Investigation Office.
“We could understand why the province might bring in the RCMP to provide this advice if better and more independent advice were not available elsewhere,” said Robert Holmes, Q.C., President of the BCCLA.
“But there are civilian bodies across the world that do this kind of work every day, and have for years. Does it really make sense to have the RCMP setting this body up when that force’s failures are the reason the IIO exists in the first place?”
One of the key issues in the Dziekanski Taser inquiry was whether or not the officers had appropriately evaluated the situation at the airport in advance of using the Taser. In June of 2009, an e-mail from then RCMP Chief Supt. Dick Bent to assistant Commissioner Al McIntyre titled “Media strategy – release of the YVR video” read, in part, as follows:
Finally, spoke to Wayne and he indicated that the members did not articulate that they saw the symptoms of excited delirium, but instead had discussed the response en route and decided that if he did not comply they would go to CEW [Conducted Energy Weapon/Taser].
Commissioner Braidwood said he was “obviously appalled” at the late disclosure of such a critical e-mail message, three weeks after the last witness had testified, and almost four months after the four officers involved had testified. No explanation was ever offered about why the e-mail did not surface except that federal lawyers had “overlooked” the key document accidentally. The e-mail shut the inquiry down for three months when it surfaced.
“We suggest that the Provincial government stop asking the police how to investigate the police, because B.C.’s police have demonstrated time and again that they cannot do it effectively and in a manner that maintains public confidence,” said Holmes.
“Instead, the Province should be reaching out to Ontario’s Special Investigation Unit, the Independent Police Complaints Commission in England, the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland, and the South Australia Police Complaints Authority, among others.”
Thursday, September 01, 2011
With regard to the nine Taser related deaths in the United States in August, including the rather mysterious circumstances of Nicholas Koscielniak, 27, who died on Tuesday morning in Lancaster, NY, it is time for America to decide if it wants its law enforcement to continue using a lethal weapon as a compliance tool. If so, ‘unintended consequences’ will continue to occur.
In the wake of nearly 30 deaths proximal to Conducted Energy Weapons (CEWs) in Canada, a Public Commission Inquiry was called. In May 2010, after two years of testimony and deliberation, Commissioner Thomas Braidwood recommended elevating Tasers in the use-of-force continuum, from intermediate (like batons + pepper spray) to a position just below the firearm, only to be used in used in the rarest of situations. Since then Canada has not had a single death; yet on average, there are two citizens dying every week in the United States, where the weapons are still being used to obtain compliance from argumentative or uncooperative citizens.
The Braidwood Inquiry concluded these "police tools" are not as safe as first advertised when they were first introduced in 1999. Commissioner Braidwood determined CEWs CAN kill, something even the manufacturer is admitting now. If you study the fine print of its latest training manual and training waiver it is proof positive - for the first time, from the manufacturer itself - that the devices are deadly.
This low-key admission is a far cry from the early promotional material, where the manufacturer claimed their devices were "safe to use on any attacker". After listening to a lengthy list of experts, Braidwood determined there are life-threatening risks to vulnerable populations like seniors, children, pregnant women, as well as obese, underweight, distraught, drugged or mentally ill citizens. That would leave whom to zap? Healthy men between 15 and 55? A tally based on media reports can be found here on Truth-Not-Tasers, which now puts the death toll surrounding CEW use at 684 victims. If this was a car part or a prescription drug rather than a "police tool", imagine the outcry.
One question the media and governments need to begin asking is: How many police agencies have use of force guidelines that are out-of-date? The manufacturer says users should avoid head, neck, chest and genital shots, not to mention repeated and prolonged stuns. Wouldn't this make the weapon tactically useless in dart/probe mode? How do you shoot a moving target in the legs with darts, especially from a distance? This should make it more of a ‘close quarters’ weapon, shouldn’t it? And, although shots to the back are now deemed ideal by Taser, the optics of shooting someone from behind suggests the police are cowardly or under-handed. An adversary who has his back to you isn’t dangerous, is he?
Police are struggling with a troubled and troubling technology, which they are recognizing now to be unreliable or, worse, becoming factors in fatal encounters. Yet police are loath to give Tasers up OR admit they made a mistake by deploying them in the first place. There are a few forces giving up their Tasers, like in Southwest Ohio, where officers are using a different device called the Trident. If you check, you'll find that in the beginning, NO Police or Government Agency in either Canada or the U.S. ever verified the manufacturer's safety claims with independent testing; since then, measurement has been done for police in Canada, using resistance values suggested by the manufacturer.
Also, the Underwriters Lab, Canadian Standards Association and the International Electrotechnical Commission never tested Tasers. Nor have these safety standard bodies certified the devices to ensure their relative safety. Electrical products are not to be sold or used in Canada without proper certification. And yet, the police continue to use them in defiance of the Canadian Electrical Safety Standards Act. The UL, CSA and IEC have not measured Tasers for another reason: because they are INVASIVE.
The international safety standard (called the IEC 479), measures shocks ON the body, where skin resistance offers some protection from shocks. BUT there is NO electrical safety standard for shocks IN the body, where resistance is non-existent and where salts, fluids and nerves allow for easier conductivity. National standards are being developed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the IEC, in hopes of creating a fairer, more rigorous test protocol, based on strong, independent science.
In the past decade, the characterization of CEWs went from 'NON lethal' to 'LESS lethal', once deaths began to occur; now, 'lethal' is being admitted by Braidwood, the U.S. Courts (in the Heston and Turner wrongful death suits) and even the manufacturer. Lethal?! Has human physiology changed in ten years? Did the technology alter significantly? It would seem the only visible difference is the company's opinion of its own products - and how to use them. That should tell us all we need to know about what’s really happened - safety claims were made that are proving to be tragically exaggerated or false.
It is hard to fathom how such a blunder could happen, but it appears police and politicians were not told the whole truth about the inherent risks. That is the nature of the $10-million judgment awarded to the Turner family in Charlotte, North Carolina in July. The jury believed Taser International failed to warn its customers for nearly four years, after it learned its devices do indeed cause cardiac arrest. Was science ignored? Was proper testing averted so a company could corner the market in the burgeoning 'non-lethal' field? Did the makers do enough science needed to ensure the relative safety of these new, higher-powered 26-Watt weapons? Some will argue the marketing was premature and the public were used as guinea pigs.
The manufacturer's only pre-deployment science was shocking one pig in 1996 to develop the wave-form and then zapping five dogs in 1999. The raw data is 'missing' and the results were never published so you can forget any third-party peer-review science. Even more disturbing is that these skimpy experiments were done using the 5-watt system, not the 26-watt system police ended up buying.
The integrity of the evaluation process for new technology was compromised in the U.S. a decade ago. No one verified Taser's medical and safety claims. How could the joint non-lethal taskforce and the national institute of justice (NIJ) fail so fundamentally in their duties? Why should anyone believe anything these same people say now in terms of what should be done to fix this problem? Perhaps a true third party with no vested interest - like a university - should be put in charge of proper measurement of all CEWs, based on the IEC-479 standard.
The time has come for true civil servants, unbiased scientists and medical experts AND the media to get the truth out there, before more lives are lost.
Posted by Reality Chick at 10:22