Just great. The Toronto Star is reporting today that a consultant has been hired to examine whether TTC special constables should be better armed. As TTC spokesperson Brad Roth so eloquently puts it, “be armed with firearms, tasers, that kind of thing.” You know, those mildly lethal little gadgets cops just love to whip out at the slightest provocation.
It’s been well documented how I feel about Tasers in the hands of trained police officers, let alone “special” constables (see here and here). So I won’t go on a full scale rant. As usual, I recognize that being a special constable is a dangerous job (as the recent shooting on a subway car highlights). That said, I have to agree with the chair of the TTC, Adam Giambrone:
Giambrone said he is not personally in favour of arming constables with either Tasers or guns. “No evidence has been provided to me so far that indicates our special constables have to be armed any further than they are today,” he said in an interview. “In my opinion they don’t need to be armed any further. They have the backup of the Toronto police.”
By the way, Giambrone is quickly showing himself to be quite a politically savvy cat, keep an eye on him.
Anyway, to sum up. Cops + Tasers = Bad; Lil’ Cops + Tasers = Worse.
Being a good American and with access to a blog (see new year’s resolutions #1, “me, me, me”) I feel like it is my civic duty to be blogging about Obama and Huckabee in a state known for its smiley faced water towers
But instead we’re going to hit two issues and loves of my life at once:
2) Taser related deaths
I give you the latest and greatest (and arguably most distaste-est) in the Vancouver Taser Incident:
The Globe and Mail is reporting today on close ties between James Cairns, Deputy Chief Coroner for Ontario, and Taser International.
Cairns has become one of Canada’s top Taser “experts,” and questions from Canadian media directed to Taser International are passed on to Cairns for a response. Over the past two years Cairns has attended two conferences hosted by Taser International, as well as spoken at a closely affiliated organization. Cairns was also scheduled to give a talk at another event yesterday, but withdrew.
Taser International has both times paid for Cairns hotel and travel expenses. While this in itself is not unusual, this whole relationship becomes suspect when one considers that Cairns has been a vocal supporter of the use of Tasers in Canada.
Furthermore, Cairns has supported the concept of ” ‘excited delirium, a medically unrecognized term that the company often cites as a reason people die after being tasered.”
Taken together, one begins to question the objectivity of someone with such obvious ties to the Taser Corporation. And if Taser is involved with Ontario’s Deputy Chief Coroner, who else might they be “hosting” at conferences? The researchers who claim there is no link between Tasers and deaths? The police forces who purchase Tasers?
As an aside, Cairns also raised this “Taser or gun” concept, in that the only viable option to a Taser for police is their gun: “I am absolutely convinced tasers will save lives instead of taking lives. And I hope some day, if I am in the position, please taser me before you shoot me.”
See the original posts here.
Also, check out Sassifier’s petition.
I’m beginning to experience some “taser fatigue” from following this, but…
Various news sources have been reporting on an incident in Nova Scotia that saw a man die in police custody 30 hours after being tasered. Howard Hyde was tasered after struggling with police during his booking. Diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic, Hyde struggled with officers and jumped a counter before being tasered.
As my prior posts here, here, and here show, the frequency of these incidents is increasing (the “Perfect Storm” of taser-related incidents?) and is giving police forces and government officials fits as they struggle with how to deal with this. And don’t fool yourself – I’m sure the people at TASER Intl. are cooking up some wicked propaganda on this issue, as well.
What remains to be seen is if police forces across Canada will continue to unequivocally back the use of Taser’s, or if some meaningful debate and regulations will emerge.
TASER-RELATED DEATHS IN CANADA
Amnesty International says 17 people have died in Canada since 2001 after stun-guns were used by police. Besides the death Thursday of Howard Hyde, 45, in Dartmouth, N.S., the case of Claudio Castagnetta, 32, is also being reviewed. Castagnetta died in Quebec on Sept. 20 two days after being hit with a Taser.
Robert Dziekanski, 40, in the Vancouver Airport in October.
Quilem Registre, 39, in Montreal after being stopped by police on suspicion of drunk driving, also in October.
Jason Dean, 28, in Red Deer while running from police in August. 2005
Alesandro Fiacco, 33, in Edmonton, arrested while wandering into traffic in December.
James Foldi, 39, of Beamsville, Ont. while being arrested for breaking and entering in July.
Paul Sheldon Saulnier, 42, while being restrained by police in Digby, N.S. in July.
Gurmeet Sandhu, 41, of Surrey, B.C., while being restrained during a domestic dispute in June.
Kevin Geldart, 34, in Moncton, N.B. in May during an altercation with police in a bar.
Samuel Truscott, 43, of Kingston, Ont. was Tasered by police during arrest. His death was ruled a drug overdose. Jerry Knight, 29, a semi-pro boxer was Tasered by police at a Mississauga motel in July after complaints he had become violent.
Robert Bagnell, 54, while in custody of the Vancouver police in June. He had cocaine in his system.
Peter Lamonday, 33, while being restrained by police in London, Ont. in May.
Roman Andreichikov, 25, high on cocaine and being restrained by Vancouver police also in May.
Perry Ronald, 28, while being restrained by Edmonton police after jumping from a window in March.
Clark Whitehouse, 34, tried to flee the Whitehorse RCMP after being stopped in traffic in September.
Clayton Alvin Willey, 33, of Prince George was also high on cocaine when Tasered by police while trespassing in July.
Terry Hanna, 51, was Tasered by Burnaby RCMP in April during a break-and-enter. Cocaine was also involved.
Well, well, well…perhaps the Conservative government of Canada is figuring it out.
It appears that in a move to both calm public outrage over the recent tasering death of Robert Dziekanski as well as send a notice that the government is watching the RCMP, Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day has said that an investigation of the actions of RCMP officers in the death of Dziekanski would include criminal charges if necessary.
What remains to be seen is if this will truly be a meaningful and transparent, or if the RCMP will call the shots.
Here’s an update to my previous post on taser deaths in Canada.
In the video we see a clearly distraught Robert Dizekanski moving furniture, throwing a computer, and apparently having a panic attack. This goes on for a several minutes until the RCMP arrive.
Upon their arrival Dizekanski appears to calm down and seems to cooperate with their instructions. When moved with his back against the counter we can not see Dizekanski’s hands, but there appears to be no movement on his part.
It is at this time that he is tasered for the first time. This is quickly followed by two more shots from tasers. At this point Dizekanski is screaming and convulsion on the ground.
You can view the video here.
CBC’s take is here.
The interesting thing is that the RCMP originally claimed to have tasered Dizekanski only twice. In the video you can clearly hear three distinct cracks as each taser is fired, and possibly a fourth.
So you have four large, armed RCMP members, once suspect who is not physically threatening the officers, and you’re telling me there is not a peaceful way to resolve this situation?
Here’s what I think happened. It’s late, these RCMP officers would rather be someplace else, and they get a call about “some crazy foreign guy” at the airport. They show up, this guy doesn’t speak any English (or French, because as federal employees I’m sure they’re bilingual, right?) and they think “Aw, another stupid immigrant invading our country – let’s waste him rather than take the time to solve this.”
Or maybe the four RCMP are technophiles and were so distraught at seeing a $100 monitor destroyed that they decided to balance the score-sheet with this guys life?
Basically, anyway you cut it the RCMP ends up looking like trigger happy sadists who were all too eager to try out their toys.
I mean, how much meaningful dialogue took place (even hand gestures would have helped!) in the 30 seconds it took the RCMP to pull their tasers? Exactly – none. So, after watching this video, I’d like to hear from all the defenders of the RCMP and tasers now.
UPDATE: This post has been garnering lots of interest, so I thought I’d move it up to the top again and provide a link to a story from the Edmonton Journal. Another “cop said/tasered guy said” case. This time someone is tasered for jaywalking and getting a little uppity. Apparently, “Have you ever heard of a crosswalk?” is Edmonton Police code for “You are breaking the law and I will taser you if you don’t stop walking.”
So, as usual, Jimsey is ahead of the curve on the news. Check out his post on Taser’s from Oct. 9th.
Now, in the span of one week, two people have died as a result of being tasered. One man at Vancouver’s airport died shortly after being tasered by police. Vancouver Police continue to maintain that his death was in no way related to the two blasts from a police Taser.
While police are working hard to deduce what possibly could have killed the man in Vancouver, Montreal Police are now linked to the death of Quilem Registre. Quilem was apparently stopped by police, was unarmed, but must have been enough of a threat that police felt the need to shock him not once, not twice, but SIX times. Yes, that’s approximately 300,000 volts the police felt was required to subdue this man. I think 300,000 volts would stop an elephant, let alone a man.
There are two very revealing statements that came out of this most recent death:
- “If you don’t have that Taser gun, you’re going to have to use your handgun,” said the Quebec municipal police federation’s president Denis Cote.
- When the issue of a possible lawsuit was raised, here is what Taser V.P. Steve Tuttle had to say:
- “We’re 59 and 0 in court. That’s a great record right there because we can get rid of the junk science in a courtroom setting,” Steve Tuttle, vice-president of TASER International Inc. told CTV Newsnet.
There are a couple of things that spring to mind immediately. First, the only option for Quebec police to subdue a person beside the Taser is to shoot them? Remind me not to steal any poutine the next time I’m in Montreal.
Also, that V.P. sounds like a giant ass. You know, the kind who’s mother even wants to take a tire-iron to his head. And junk science? How much money do you think Taser has poured into various “research” projects in order to establish that there is no connection between these and the 14 other deaths and the use of a Taser in the last 5 years?
Is anyone else prepared to get a little pissed about this?