Thursday, November 15, 2007

Canada Orders Review of Use of Tasers After Video of Polish Immigrant's Death Released

Public Security Minister Stockwell Day told the federal Parliament today that he is ordering a review relating to the use of Tasers, weapons that paralyze subjects by administering shocks of 50,000 volts.

Day's announcement came after eyewitness video was released that shows police at Vancouver International Airport using a Taser stun gun more than once last month against Robert Dziekanski, an unarmed Polish immigrant.

Dziekanski, who had never been on an airplane before and who didn't understand a word of English, had flown to Canada to live with his mother in Kamloops, British Columbia. He had spent more than 10 hours in the airport being processed and no doubt grew increasingly exhausted and confused.

After being tasered, Dziekanski collapsed and died.

Yesterday's Globe and Mail recounts Tasered man's last moments and provides links to the 10-minute amateur video of Dziekanski being shot with the Taser, convulsing and screaming in pain, being subdued by police and then going silent and no longer moving. [The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation also links to the video]

Background on taser use:
  • Taser FAQs (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation): "... Steve Palmer of Canadian Police Research Centre — a partnership among the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, the RCMP, and the National Research Council Canada — said there have been several international studies that demonstrate their harmlessness (...) Canadian police say Tasers have saved 4,000 lives since police forces started using them in this country in 1999. Still, Staff Sgt. Peter Sherstan, of the RCMP's Emergency Response Team in Edmonton, says Tasers should not be considered non-lethal (...) 'There are still risks. There could be a situation where a person hit with a Taser shot could fall and hit his head. But we have to balance that out. We have several cases where if Tasers weren't present, guns would have been the alternative'. Amnesty International Canada has been calling for a suspension in the use of Tasers until studies can determine how they can be safely used. The organization repeated that call after two people died in one week after being shocked with a Taser by police in October 2007."
  • Taser-related deaths in Canada: "In Canada, at least 18 people have died shortly after police officers shocked them with a Taser."
  • Task force rejects call to stop using tasers in Quebec (Globe and Mail, October 23, 2007): "The head of the task force, Ronald Bélanger, a Quebec police academy specialist on the use of force, argued that the taser has played a useful role as an alternative weapon when employed by trained police officers (...) In Quebec, eight police forces, including the Sûreté du Québec, have used the taser as far back as 2001. Guidelines were introduced last February, but, with the recent deaths, the government is looking to impose a protocol to be followed by all police forces. For instance, the task force will recommend that police clearly identify individuals who may be at risk from taser use, including people who may be suffering from mental illnesses or showing signs of excited delirium. It will also call for more restrictive procedures before and during the use of the gun, as well as improved training of officers employing the weapon."
  • Review of Conducted Energy Devices (Canadian Police Research Centre, August 2005): "Definitive research or evidence does not exist that implicates a causal relationship between the use of CEDs [tasers] and death. Existing studies indicate that the risk of cardiac harm to subjects from a CED is very low. Police officers need to be aware of the adverse effects of multiple, consecutive CED cycles The issue related to multiple CED applications and its impact on respiration, pH levels, and other associated physical effects, offers a plausible theory on the possible connection between deaths, CED use, and people exhibiting the symptoms of ED [excited delirium]. It would be unwise and counter-productive for any police service or government body to develop policies and procedures that explicitly specify in what kinds of circumstances a CED may or may not be used. The application of best practices relating to the safe use of CEDs should lead to an increase in public confidence in CEDs as appropriate law enforcement tools."
  • Canada - Excessive and lethal force? Amnesty International’s concerns about deaths and ill-treatment involving police use of tasers (Amnesty International, November 2004): "As the taser has become a more widespread and established weapon in law enforcement officers’ non-lethal arsenal, Amnesty International has received numerous reports that the taser is being used not only in situations which do not warrant such an extreme level of force but as a routine force option to subdue non-compliant or disturbed individuals who do not present a danger to themselves or others. In some of the cases reported, Canadian police subjected individuals to multiple force options, deploying the taser in combination with pepper spray and/or dangerous restraint holds. Agencies deploying tasers claim they reduce injuries and save lives by providing officers with an alternative to using their firearms or batons. However, Amnesty International’s research shows that, in both the USA and Canada, tasers are being used in situations where police use of lethal force – or even batons – would never be justified."
  • Canadian Government Response About Tasers (Response to UN Human Rights Committee during its review of Canada’s fifth report on the implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, October 2005): contains a synopsis of investigations into the deaths of individuals who died after being tasered, an overview of regulations for the use of taser guns by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, as well the policies and procedures in place for the use of tasers in certain provinces
  • Nationwide Independent Taser Study Results Suggest Devices are Safe (Wake Forest University School of Medicine, Winston-Salem, North Carolina, October 2007): " 'This study is the first large, independent study of injuries associated with Tasers. It is the first injury epidemiology study to review every Taser deployment and to reliably assess the overall risk and severity of injuries in real world conditions,' said William Bozeman, M.D., the lead investigator and an emergency medicine specialist at Wake Forest University School of Medicine. 'The injury rate is low and most injuries appear to be minor. These results support the safety of the devices.' Bozeman will present the study results at the American College of Emergency Physicians’ Research Forum in Seattle, Wash., Oct. 8. In a review of nearly 1,000 cases, 99.7 per cent of those subjected to a Taser had mild injuries, such as scrapes and bruises, or none at all. Only three subjects (0.3%) suffered injuries severe enough to need hospital admission. Two had head injuries suffered in falls after Taser use. A third subject was admitted to a hospital two days after arrest with a medical condition of unclear relationship to the Taser. Two subjects died, but autopsy reports indicate that neither death was related to the Taser. Earlier partial results involving 597 cases were published in the September issue of Annals of Emergency Medicine."

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 5:15 pm

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