I'd like Canadians to compare the recent video of a man holding a knife to a hostage in Berlin and the actions of the police in that circumstance to the actions of the RCMP in the airport incident....Quote has been trimmed
If you can't train a man to (two or three or four) to take charge of a situation without resorting to lethal force, why is that impossible for the RCMP?
HINT: The actions that resulted in the death of the Polish fellow were the result of hysteria and phobias built around the "safety" of new technology that promised non-lethal force was as easy as squeezing a trigger....
We gave ill-trained unexperienced morons tazer guns and told them that this was the alternative to both lethal force and intervention strategies that required more training and skill.
We've made the decision for the RCMP in this case because we the people decided that it wasn't necessarily the most prudent course of action to simply shoot the perp with a nine-milly, and we handed a bunch of goons the simple alternative of not having to decide what is or was appropriate in the given circumstances. It's far easier to tazer someone than it is to demand rationale thought balanced with compassion and sound judgment from a testosterone junkie....
Taser stun guns may not be as safe as their manufacturer claims, according to a study carried out by Chicago researchers, CBC News has learned.
The team of doctors and scientists at the trauma centre in Chicago's Cook County hospital stunned 11 pigs with Taser guns in 2006, hitting their chests with 40-second jolts of electricity, pausing for 10 to 15 seconds, then hitting them for 40 more seconds.
When the jolts ended, every animal was left with heart rhythm problems, the researchers said. Two of the animals died from cardiac arrest, one three minutes after receiving a shock.
The findings call into question safety claims made by Taser International, the Arizona company that makes the stun guns, which are used by dozens of police departments across Canada.
According to Taser International's website, "independent medical and scientific experts have determined Taser devices to be among the safest use-of-force options available."
Taser director Mark Kroll has also published a paper called Safety of Taser Electronic Devices, in which he says when electricity kills, it is an immediate death that occurs within four seconds because electricity can't linger in a living being's body "like a poison."
But Bob Walker, one of the lead researchers on the Chicago study, said the fact that one of the pigs died three minutes after being stunned is significant.
"It says that the effect of the Taser shot can last beyond the time when it's being delivered," he said. "So, after the Taser shock ends, there can still be effects that can be evoked and you can still see cardiac effects."
Thomas Smith, the co-founder of Taser International, is set to testify before the parliamentary committee on public safety and national security in Ottawa on Wednesday, where he'll face questions on the safety and use of the weapons.
Officers need to ask questions: researcher
Dr. Andrew Dennis, a Chicago-based trauma surgeon and police officer who worked on the study, said if Tasers can affect pigs, more research needs to be done to study how safe the stun guns are. In the meantime, police should question when, and on whom, they use the devices, he said.
"The officers need to question themselves and ask themselves, 'Is this the appropriate situation for this device?' " Dennis said. "They need to have the understanding that this is not a truly benign device.
"What I would not want to see is an individual police officer thinking that this device can [be] used with impunity, because I think there are certain risks to this device."
Stun gun safety was called into question after Robert Dziekanski, a 40-year-old Polish man, died at Vancouver International Airport after being shocked with a Taser by police on Oct. 14, 2007. Dziekanski's death renewed calls for a moratorium on Taser use.
'The human studies are clearly much more relevant'
Other Taser studies have been done on pigs and humans in the past — some finding medical problems with the stun guns, and others not — but the Chicago researchers said they wanted to do a study where subjects were exposed to longer bouts of the guns' electrical currents.
Because the researchers opted for 40-second jolts, their ethics board wouldn't allow them to use human subjects.
Rick Smith, the CEO of Taser International and company co-founder, doesn't think much can be concluded from the Chicago study because it focused on pigs that weigh less than 100 pounds and have a very different physiology from humans.
Smith said studies done on humans have shown Tasers don't pose a serious health threat.
"The human studies are clearly much more relevant to policy-makers, and to people that are interested in the science of how Tasers affect people," he said.
Dr. Jeffrey Ho, a researcher who has studied stun guns in the past, but was not involved in the Chicago study, stressed that the guns may not have the same effect on people as they did on the pigs in Chicago.
"I think animals are good surrogates for research models in some situations," said Ho, an associate professor of emergency medicine at the University of Minnesota. "In my modelling, I prefer to use humans."
However, pig studies have been used as evidence in arguments for and against stun guns in the past. Even the Taser International website points to studies on pigs in which the outcomes suggest the stun guns aren't a serious safety risk.
OTTAWA — The RCMP is stripping crucial details about Taser firings from public reports as use of the controversial stun guns skyrockets across the country.
A joint investigation by The Canadian Press and CBC found the Mounties are now refusing to divulge key information that must be recorded each time they draw their electronic weapons.
As a result, Canadians will know much less about who is being hit with the 50,000-volt guns, whether they were armed, why they were fired on and whether they were injured.
Taser report forms obtained under the Access to Information Act show the Mounties have used the powerful weapons more than 4,000 times since introducing them seven years ago.
Incidents have increased dramatically, topping 1,000 annually in each of the last two years compared with about 600 in 2005. The overwhelming majority of firings took place in Western Canada, where the national force often leads front-line policing.
As Taser use escalates, however, the RCMP has tightened the lid of secrecy.
Information stripped from the forms includes details of several Taser cases the Mounties previously made public under the access law. In effect, the RCMP are reclassifying details of Taser use — including some telling facts that raised pointed questions about how often the stun guns are fired and why.
A Canadian Press analysis last November of 563 incidents from 2002 to 2005 found three in four suspects Tasered by the RCMP were unarmed. Several of those reports suggested a pattern of stun-gun use as a handy tool to keep drunk or rowdy suspects in line, rather than to defuse major threats.
But the Mounties are now censoring Taser report forms to conceal related injuries, duration of shocks, whether the individual was armed, what police tried before resorting to the stun gun, and precise dates of firings.
In fact, Canadians now know more about the Tasering of dogs than humans. One of the most detailed new reports describes how a pooch named Princess was zapped with a stun gun in Maple Ridge, B.C., as five officers carried out a search warrant.
Princess was not given the standard warning: "Police! Stop or you will be hit with 50,000 volts of electricity!"
There was little point, the report goes on to note: "Subject would not have understood the command, as subject was a dog."
The RCMP cites the need to protect privacy and continuing investigations to justify why it removed such basic details from other reports.
Liberal public safety critic Ujjal Dosanjh scoffed at the explanation.
"That’s hogwash. That’s absolute nonsense," the former attorney general for British Columbia said in an interview. "Whether or not someone was armed . . . how does that violate privacy?"
Dosanjh noted that names and addresses are already removed from the forms.
"The RCMP is a public police force. They are accountable to Canadians."
"They have to provide that information so that people can judge for themselves whether or not their police force is acting appropriately."
Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day was travelling Monday and was not immediately available for comment.
Insp. Troy Lightfoot, who helps oversee RCMP Taser use, would not speculate on why the reporting changes were made. But he stressed there are still ways to monitor stun guns and other uses of force.
"I can tell you that there are many accountability systems in place with regards to police actions. You have the courts, you have coroners’ inquests, you have a multitude of oversight bodies," he said. "There is a complaints process that can be followed."
Paul Kennedy, head of the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP, said the decision to withhold details of Taser firings amounts to a self-defeating lack of transparency that bucks widespread calls for more — not less — public reporting.
"There seems to be something that is touching a chord with Canadians when they see the Taser."
"Now, it may be because the person is just reduced to a squirming ball of flesh on the ground, that it seems to be used against men and women, it is used against young people, it is used against old people. There is the issue as to whether or not deaths are associated with it."
The RCMP should be making public as much Taser data as possible, Kennedy said.
"There is nothing more important to the police than maintaining and restoring public confidence. How do you do that? You do that by getting your story out."
Stun guns have swiftly become the go-to weapon for scores of police and correctional officers across Canada. The RCMP have more than 2,800 Tasers, and some 9,100 Mounties are trained to use them.
They can be fired from a distance, laying suspects low with high-voltage bursts that override the central nervous system. They can also be used up close in touch-stun mode, which has been likened to leaning on a hot stove.
The potent devices are hugely popular with officers who say they’re a safer, more efficient option than pepper spray or batons. But a rash of recent headlines has raised questions about the extent to which painful Taser jolts are used much like cattle prods on unarmed, non-violent suspects.
RCMP reports previously released to The Canadian Press also detailed several head injuries when suspects struck the floor, along with burns caused by stuns and lacerations from sharp Taser probes.
Public wariness about the weapons turned to full-blown anger last fall when amateur video showing the death of Robert Dziekanski was released. RCMP were called last October when the Polish immigrant became agitated at Vancouver International Airport after spending hours in a secure section while his mother tried in vain to contact him from the public side.
Although Dziekanski appears more confused than threatening on the video, the officers waited less than 30 seconds before they zapped the 40-year-old with a Taser and pinned him to the floor as he wailed in pain. Within minutes, he was dead.
It took 15 months and an official complaint before the RCMP would release thousands of pages recording more than 4,000 Taser incidents.
In Nova Scotia, two people have died after being shocked with a stun gun while in police custody.
Last November, Howard Hyde, a 45-year-old schizophrenic from Dartmouth, died about 30 hours after Halifax Regional Police subdued him with a Taser, the brand of stun gun used in Nova Scotia.
A provincial Justice Department report said there was no "causal connection" between Taser use and Hyde’s death.
The medical examiner’s office is investigating his death.
In 2005, Paul Saulnier, 42, died while in RCMP custody in Digby. Saulnier had suffered from mental illness for about four years. He was facing charges relating to a domestic dispute involving harassment. On the day of his arrest, officers tried to keep him from leaving the Digby detachment by using pepper spray, batons and a Taser.
He died on the ground outside the detachment.
In the wake of recent publicity about police use of Tasers across the province, new statistics show RCMP officers drew those weapons 132 times between 2005 and 2007.
Earlier this month, RCMP Sgt. Mark Gallagher said the figures show that in 85 per cent of those cases, police were dealing with a person who was either drunk or high on drugs.
In 40 per cent of cases, the person was armed.
There are stark differences between the newly released forms and earlier versions filed about the same confrontations.
For example, the original report on a March 7, 2004, case in northern Manitoba revealed that an unarmed detainee in a Pukatawagan RCMP cell was Tasered after only oral intervention. There was no attempt to subdue the inmate through physical force before the officer warned: "Let me introduce you to the Taser. It is able to produce 50,000 volts of electricity. Co-operate with us and you will not be stunned."
The new form says only that the confrontation occurred in 2004, with no precise date. The section entitled Weapons Carried or Immediately Available by Subject is blank.
And there is no longer any description of verbal commands or other police response before the Taser was fired.
"It certainly isn’t helpful to be in the midst of greater debate with less and less information," says Hilary Homes of Amnesty International Canada. "In general, it’s a problem across Canada that we don’t have the same accountability system throughout the many forces that use the Taser."
Amnesty International wants the devices suspended pending an independent, comprehensive study of risks and benefits.
Dziekanski was recorded as the 18th person in Canada to die after being hit by a Taser since police started carrying them in 2001. The tally has since risen to 19. Amnesty says at least 280 people have died in the United States following a Taser zap in the last seven years.
Arizona-based manufacturer Taser International stresses the device has never been directly blamed for a death. It has, however, been cited repeatedly as a contributing factor.
Kennedy referred to "usage creep" in an interim report on Tasers last December that urged the Mounties to drastically restrict reliance on the stun guns. The weapons should only be used in touch-stun or full firing mode when suspects are "combative" or pose a risk of "death or grievous bodily harm," he said.
Lightfoot, however, said the cases he has recently analyzed indicate the Taser was used acceptably. "It is an appropriate device for law enforcement use, and it does enhance police and public safety. And it is one of the least injurious means that we have available to take people into police custody."
Kennedy devoted a whole section of his report to the need for more and better documentation of Taser use. He recommended the RCMP produce quarterly and annual reports detailing the number and nature of firings, how often medical care was needed, and the number of Mounties and instructors who passed or failed related training.
Lightfoot said the force plans to produce regular reports on Taser use, but could not say whether they would be made public.
Britain’s Home Office publishes statistics quarterly on Taser firings in England and Wales, citing a need for a "rigorous and measured approach" to introducing the weapons in the United Kingdom.
Dosanjh says revelations of an RCMP clampdown on Taser data are another blow to the national police force’s battered reputation.
It comes as the federal government moves to overhaul an iconic institution that has seen more than its share of major gaffes in recent years — from the Maher Arar torture affair to claims by rank-and-file Mounties of high-level meddling in RCMP pension and insurance plans.
"I’m actually embarrassed," said Dosanjh. "I dealt with the RCMP . . . in British Columbia when I was the attorney general. I was proud of that. But the more I look at how they function, the more I see the lack of transparency and accountability, I am flabbergasted."
"I don’t know whether the red serge is anymore a symbol that we should be so proud of."
The RCMP is re-examining its decision to strip crucial information from the Taser reports it recently made public.
RCMP Commissioner William Elliott said late Wednesday that he's ordered a review that will determine whether more details should have been released.
"It is anticipated that this review can be completed within two weeks," Elliott said in a statement.
The reports, released to the CBC and the Canadian Press last week through the Access to Information Act, chronicled details about how often RCMP officers are using their stun guns, known as Tasers.
But the documents did not include details about whether the people police were stunning were armed or suffering from mental illness. The records were also stripped of information about the precise date of each incident, the actions the officer took before using the Taser, and whether the stun gun caused any injuries.
RCMP forms released between 2002 and 2005 included those details.
The RCMP announced the review of the censoring only hours after it insisted the decision to censor was the right one. Sgt. Sylvie Tremblay said early Wednesday that the Mounties had released all the information they could.
"The RCMP is committed to respecting the public's right to know while upholding the law and protecting the privacy rights of individuals," Tremblay said in an interview.
The decision to censor the information had critics accusing the RCMP of secrecy all week. Even Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day asked for a review and was assured one was coming, a spokesman for Day said Wednesday.
Advocates for more openness say that revealing more information won't violate people's rights, as the RCMP already blocks the names and addresses of the people hit by Taser guns.
"I think the RCMP, by doing this, is losing a lot of credibility on the way they handle the Taser," said Bloc Québécois MP Serge Ménard. "It makes us more suspicious."
The reports released by the RCMP last week show that Mounties across the country drew or threatened to draw their Tasers more than 1,400 times last year, compared with 597 times in 2005.
Since 2003, at least 20 people died in Canada after being hit by a police officer's Taser.
Manufacturer Taser International says its device has never been directly blamed for a death, although it has been cited as a contributing factor in several cases.
Amnesty International is among observers who have called for a suspension of Taser use pending an independent, comprehensive study of risks and benefits.
The weapon is hugely popular with police who say it's a much safer and efficient alternative to the handgun, baton or pepper spray.
OTTAWA -- The RCMP continues to withhold crucial details of injuries to the people they stun with Tasers after coming under fire for being too secretive.
The national police force released a new batch of information Monday following a second look at what they tell Canadians about Taser use. The records contain more data on whether people hit with RCMP stun guns were carrying a weapon, and whether they had taken drugs or alcohol.
But the Mounties still refuse to release details of cuts, burns and bruises suffered by subjects in the more than 4,000 officer reports released under the Access to Information Act.
When incidents involved a mental health crisis, that was also stripped from the records.
The national police force was attacked by critics last month for deciding to stop disclosing such information.
Liberal public safety critic Ujjal Dosanjh said Monday he's "delighted" the RCMP has relented on some points but said the force is still deleting too many details that people have a right to know.
"I fail to see any rational reason for them to exclude those two items of information - mental health issues or injuries," he said.
"I believe that we need to know whether or not in the continuing use of the Taser, people are being injured excessively. I think that's the core issue."
Controversy flared after a joint investigation by The Canadian Press and CBC found the Mounties were censoring key elements that must be recorded each time officers draw their electronic weapons.
RCMP Commissioner William Elliott then ordered "a further review" of the records "to determine if additional information" should be released.
Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day had sought and received assurances the RCMP would review the matter. The Mounties denied their hand was forced by the minister, saying they had already decided to re-examine the Taser forms.
No comment from Day on the latest release of reports was immediately available.
Dosanjh said Monday the force has more work to do.
"The RCMP first of all tried to withhold information, and I believe they were caught," he said.
"People were rightly concerned, and they've now coughed up more information. I believe they've not gone far enough."
RCMP officers are supposed to fill out a form every time they fire - or even threaten to use - a Taser.
In a 2004 Alberta case in which a Mountie fired a stun gun, the officer noted the subject was later examined at a medical facility, one record released Monday shows. But the section of the form where a description of any injuries should be recorded is blank.
The prongs fired by a Taser can cause cuts. In up-close stun mode, the weapon may burn the subject's skin. And people sometimes hit their heads when jolted by a Taser.
The electronic guns are dangerous weapons that the RCMP should have, Dosanjh said Monday.
"But they should be able to only have that weapon if they're using it appropriately. And a very important way of distinguishing appropriate use from inappropriate use is whether or not a person is seriously injured."
The RCMP is also keeping secret the precise dates of incidents, revealing only the year they happened.
The force has now disclosed some fragmentary information about what happened in each incident, but continues to leave out key parts of the story.
The summary of a 2003 Kamloops, B.C., case in which the RCMP stunned a person indicates only that he or she was "extremely intoxicated and combative."
In a letter accompanying the data released Monday, the RCMP said it invoked exemptions under the access law to protect the privacy of people hit with Tasers and to guard confidences about their investigations.
Edmonton lawyer Tom Engel, who has represented dozens of people who've been shocked by the devices, says the Mounties are still hiding behind so-called privacy concerns.
"They continue to hide information from the public with no possible legal justification. They just refuse to give the public any meaningful information about how they use this weapon. ...I still have serious concerns about what is being withheld and what possible rationale there could be for withholding it."
Insp. Troy Lightfoot, an RCMP spokesman, said last month that internal analysis of the forms concluded the painful weapons were being used correctly.
Scathing newspaper editorials and opposition critics said Canadians were being asked to blindly trust the Mounties.
Last November, a Canadian Press analysis of 563 cases between 2002 and 2005 found three in four suspects Tasered by the RCMP were unarmed.
Several of those reports suggested a pattern of stun-gun use as a convenient means of keeping drunk or rowdy people in line, rather than to defuse major clashes.
Twenty people in Canada have died soon after being Tasered.
Manufacturer Taser International stresses that its device has never been directly blamed for a death, although it has been cited as a contributing factor in several cases.
SANTA ANA, Calif. (AP) — The scandal-plagued Orange County Sheriff’s Department is investigating whether jail staff used a Taser stun gun on a cat that was found dead on facility grounds.
The investigation comes after a scathing criminal grand jury report last week that found deputies at Theo Lacy Jail sent personal text messages and watched TV while inmates beat a fellow inmate to death.
Sheriff’s spokesman John McDonald says a tipster told the department Monday that jail personnel used a Taser on the cat. The animal was later found dead on jail grounds.
It had been dead several weeks and a necropsy is pending. McDonald declined to say who reported the allegations.