Monthly Archives: November 2016

Calgary Police Kill Again: Woman is Fifth Civilian Killed in 2016

Stop them before they kill again. Over the course of 2016 the Calgary police have been on a veritable killing spree. Only a week after they claimed their fourth victim (and ninth shooting) of the year, Terrence Weinmeyer (49), officers of the Calgary Police Service (CPS) killed again. This time the victim was a woman (said to be 27-years-old). With more than a month left in the year CPS officers have now shot 10 people and killed five. This is outrageous behavior even for police and suggests that this particular force, in a mid-sized city, is confident that members will face no consequences for use of extreme, lethal, violence. That the fifth victim of the killing rampage by Calgary Police Service is a woman is somewhat startling given that most civilian victims of police killings are male, predominantly so.

 

Executed for “Acting Erratically”

The woman was engaged by police in the early morning of Tuesday, November 29 in Sunalta around the 1700 block of 11the Avenue S.W. Police claim they were called to the neighborhood around 2:30 AM. At some point they claim they observed the victim banging on building doors and car windows. They claim she was acting erratically and for this it seems they took the action of killing her.

In the view of one neighbor of the victim, Raine McLeod, the police clearly overreacted. According to McLeod:

“I was appalled and disgusted and absolutely shocked that they would have to use that kind of force, or they would determine that kind of force was required. She was always really nice in the hallway. We knew each others’ names. Our dogs liked each other. She was pleasant. She never seemed threatening or scary or anything like that. She seemed like a nice, normal girl.” (quoted in CBC News 2016)

An image of the supposed weapons said to be held by the victim show a poor facsimile of a broken steak knife and a bent piece of tin. Clearly these are not the “weapons” to panic a trained, professional as Chief Roger Chaffin would claim his officers to be.

The Calgary force has taken to issuing and carrying out extrajudicial death sentences for very low level activities. And the threshold appears to be getting lower. Terrence Weinmeyer was executed for being in a possibly stolen vehicle. The woman killed on November 29 was executed for supposedly acting erratically. The executing officer has been on the force for one year. She has apparently been a quick learner.

 

Lacking Credibility

Incredibly, the chief of the Calgary police, the by now rather notorious Roger Chaffin, once again jumped to conclusions and offered the by now ready-made, and unsubstantiated, pat answer to explain away and justify his force’s seemingly murderous activities. Claimed Chaffin the fault lies not with an out of control force that has apparently gotten a taste for blood, but with general opioid use (in the city?; the province?; the country?). This has become too simple, and too simplistic. The chief cannot be taken seriously at this point. Not further that Chief Chaffin has offered public warnings, not so thinly veiled threats really, to whistleblowers within the force.

His pat answer about social drug use cannot explain why someone banging on windows and doors would be shot and killed so quickly and without pursuit of alternatives by CPS officers. This really calls into question the basic capability, competence, and judgement of officers as well as the general mindset of the force more broadly.

The Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT), the agency that examines killings of civilians in the province is investigating this most recent killing by Calgary police. ASIRT does not have a great record (or any record) of holding killer police in Alberta to any accountability for their actions.

 

Further Reading

CBC News. 2016. “Woman Shot Dead by Calgary Police Was Armed with 2 Knives, Officials Say.” CBC News. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/calgary/woman-shot-dead-police-sunalta-1.3872286

 

 

 


Calgary Police Kill Fourth Civilian in 2016, Terrence Weinmeyer, (November 22, 2016)

Calgary police have become among the most deadly city forces in the country. The police war on drugs in Calgary has claimed yet another victim among these as a 49-year-old man, Terrence Weinmeyer, was shot and killed by police in a strip mall in the northwest part of the city on November 22, 2016. Weinmeyer is the fourth person killed and ninth person shot by Calgary police in 2016 alone. Weinmeyer’s brother described his loved one as: “He was a very good man with a big heart. He was a good father” (quoted in Grant 2016). Police tried to smear their victim by reporting his criminal record.

Calgary police have killed an inordinate number of people over the last year in protecting motor vehicles against being stolen. Extrajudicial execution seems a steep penalty for theft. And while police claim to be restricted in what they can say about such killings they have not held back in linking supposed vehicle thefts to drugs. Specifically they have played on growing public fears over fentanyl to justify police actions and explain away police killings of civilians. Even when there is no independently confirmed link to fentanyl.

This killing occurred, according to police, as officers in the break-and-enter unit were supposedly moving to make an arrest of someone in a vehicle. Police claim the vehicle reversed and police opened fire killing one person inside. Another person was apparently taken into custody, but no charges have been laid against her as of yet. The truck in question had been boxed in by police so it is not clear why police decided to shoot Weinmeyer when it seems the vehicle was not able to leave the scene. Witnesses reported having to swerve to avoid police and noted that they had been traumatized by police actions (Tucker 2016). The Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT), the agency that investigates police killings of civilians, is investigating this case.

Calgary police superintendent James Hardy claimed he could not provide any details of the incident and possible threats posed to the public because of the ASIRT investigation. Yet he felt that it was alright to attribute the victim’s actions to opiate use, which should have been similarly subject to ASIRT conditions, and which was not independently confirmed at the time the statement was made publicly. According to Hardy (despite claims that he cannot provide details): “As you are well aware, in what seems to be a nightly occurrence, the high frequency of crimes like stolen vehicles gives rise to serious officer and public safety concerns. You have these stolen vehicles and when these individuals are on opiates, they press hard” (quoted in Anderson 2016). Yet there is nothing in this case to suggest the public faced any direct safety concerns.

The contradiction in police speaking while saying they could not speak was hinted at by ASIRT executive director Susan Hughson. She acknowledged: “From time to time there may be a disagreement from CPS (Calgary Police Service) needs compared to our needs” (quoted in Grant 2016).

Clearly this was an opportunistic statement from Calgary police provided first to justify the killing by police, and secondly to stoke public fears and prejudices in a manner favorable to police drug war activities.

Violence by Calgary Police Service officers has kept ASIRT busy the last two years. In 2015 they had 78 files which represented a 100 percent increase over what had been the recorded average over the period 2008 to 2013. In 2016, with a month left in the year, they are at 74 files (Tucker 2016).

 

Further Reading

Anderson, Drew. 2016. “Man Shot Dead by Calgary Police Investigating Suspected Drug-Related Truck Theft.” CBC News. November 22. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/calgary/officer-involved-shooting-northwest-calgary-1.3863104

Grant, Meghan. 2016. “Victim of This Year’s 9th Police Shooting Had Lengthy Criminal History.” CBC News. November 23. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/calgary/calgary-police-officer-involved-shooting-terrence-weinmeyer-1.3864127

Tucker, Erika. 2016. “Victim Identified in Calgary’s 9th Police Shooting of 2016; ASIRT Releases Few Details.” Global News. November 23. http://globalnews.ca/news/3084514/victim-identified-in-calgarys-9th-officer-involved-shooting-of-2016/


Dubious Diagnosis: Phony “Excited Delirium” Findings Get Killer Cops Off in Burnaby and Edmonton

Police agencies and their ideological supporters, often located in criminology and psychology departments in universities and colleges, have developed entire cottage industries producing pseudo-science and pseudo-forensics, phony analyses, concepts, and terms, to justify and excuse police killings of civilians. These pseudo-scientific projects have constructed their own literatures, bodies of ideas, and “expert” witnesses supporting dubious “diagnoses” used to “explain” how it is that victims of police violence came to be responsible (biologically or psychologically) for their own murders.

Among the most pernicious and extensively developed and deployed of these pseudo-scientific diagnoses are the notorious notions of excited delirium and so-called suicide by cop. Neither of these has any scientific basis or legitimate supporting evidence to back them. They offer little, in fact, beyond the statements of police “researchers” (cops and former cops who have used such work not only to support their colleagues and former colleagues but to claim positions in academia) and some compliant criminologists and psychologists and others supportive of police on ideological or opportunistic grounds (i.e. funding).

While the dubious claim of excited delirium has no psychological or medical basis it is routinely used to let police officers walk away from any accountability when they kill civilians. Despite the recognition that excited delirium has no basis in scientific, psychological or medical, reality, it is still used in investigative cases on police killings, often by coroners’ offices in the Canadian context, for example.

In Canada the excited delirium excuse was used to let killer cops off the hook in two cases within a three week period over October and November of 2016. These cases involved the police killing of Maurizio Facchin (50) in Burnaby, British Columbia, in 2014 and Simon Chung (34) in Edmonton, Alberta, in 2013. Both cases involved the use of tasers by police and the men went into fatal distress only after a taser was used on them. Chung was also subjected to attempts by two Edmonton police to restrain him forcefully. He was tased twice by an officer while restrained, including one blast that lasted 28 seconds (Parsons 2016). In both cases the role of the taser in the men’s deaths was acknowledged yet both deaths were ruled accidental.

Notably in the case of the police killing of Simon Chung one of the officers claimed to suspect that the victim was experiencing excited delirium yet chose to restrain and taser him anyway. This would suggest culpability in his death given the claims of police that excited delirium could lead to a fatal response to either restraint or tasing.

 

The Dubious Diagnosis of Excited Delirium

Excited delirium has come under growing public scrutiny in recent years given the overwhelming proportion of diagnoses related to deaths involving police use of compliance holds and/or use of tasers. Typically these diagnoses are provided only by medical examiners not by hospital or emergency room doctors. Furthermore, and as alarming, there is the fact that excited delirium is presently not a recognized medical or psychiatric diagnosis by either the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IVTR) of the American Psychiatric Association or the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-9) of the World Health Organization. Due to these troubling facts, it is widely considered that the real cause of death in cases identified after the fact as instances of excited delirium are actually caused by straightforward police violence and use if force. These are related to taser use and positional asphyxia.

Civil rights groups have argued that diagnoses of excited delirium are only applied after the fact to get police officers off the hook in cases in which excessive force has resulted in the death of a civilian. The NAACP reported in 2003 that excited delirium diagnoses are provided more often in explaining the deaths of minorities than they are in the deaths of white victims. In 2007, Eric Balaban of the American Civil Liberties Union noted that excited delirium was not recognized by the American Medical Association or the American Psychological Association and that the diagnosis simply served “as a means of white-washing what may be excessive use of force and inappropriate use of control techniques by officers during an arrest” (NPR 2007). Melissa Smith of the American Medical Association confirmed in 2007 that the association had “no official policy” on the supposed condition (ABC News 2007).

Excited delirium is not recognized in Australia by the Australasian College for Emergency Medicine, the Australian Medical Association or any other registered medical body. Neither is it recognized in law. A 2015 case, in which a man who had been declared to have died from excited delirium was overturned by a ruling in the Victorian Coroners Court. The presiding coroner in that case concluded that neither excited delirium nor so called excited delirium syndrome are appropriate or helpful in providing a legitimate medical cause of death (Coroner’s Court of Victoria at Melbourne 2015).

The Burnaby ruling in the Mauricio Facchin case is particularly stunning, and disappointing, given that Vancouver was site of the 2007 police killing of migrant Robert Dziekanski whose death police initially lied about publicly suggesting he suffered excited delirium. Video by a civilian witness showed this claim to be untrue as Dziekanski was following police instructions when he was tased and jumped by police causing his death. During the inquiry into police actions that police psychologist Mike Webster that police have been “brainwashed” by Taser International to justify “ridiculously inappropriate” use of the weapon. Webster referred to excited delirium as a “dubious disorder” pushed by Taser International during its police training (Hall 2008). A 2008 report on taser use by the RCMP, An Independent Review of the Adoption and Use of Conducted Energy Weapons by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, concluded that excited delirium should not be included in the operational manual for the Mounties in the absence of formal approval following consultation with a mental-health-policy advisory body (Kiedrowski 2008). Justice Thomas Braidwood concluded the inquiry finding that excited delirium should not be used as part of police use of force training as it is not a legitimate medical condition.

 

Recommendations Based On What?

In the case of the coroner’s inquiry into the police killing of Maurizio Facchin, the coroner’s jury suggested that police receive training in identifying and properly responding to instances of excited delirium. It was also recommended that 911 dispatchers receive such training so that they might identify and inform police of potential excited delirium cases upon dispatch. Finally the jury suggested that officers contact emergency services when a taser is going to be deployed in such cases.

In the case of the police killing of Simon Chung, Provincial Court Judge Lloyd Malin provided two recommendations. In the first he suggested that while Edmonton Police Service mentions excited delirium syndrome in its policy and procedure manual on use of force, officers should also be trained to recognize the symptoms in all situations, not only during arrests. Malin also recommended that officers be trained to call for emergency medical services as soon as excited delirium is suspected. This call should be made regardless of the need for police to restrain an individual (Parsons 2016).

These recommendations are based on the dubious diagnosis of excited delirium and will do little to change police behavior, particularly violent behavior. They will not address police killings of civilians. The recommendations are based on treatment of a social fiction.

 

Note

  1. The notion of suicide-by-cop was first used in the early 1980s by a former California police officer working toward a PhD in Psychology. Virtually all of the research on the issue has been prepared by people with connections to police departments.

 

Further Reading

ABC News. 2007. “Excited Delirium: Police Brutality vs. Sheer Insanity.” ABC News. March 2.

Coroner’s Court of Victoria at Melbourne. 2015. Finding into Death with Inquest—Inquest into the Death of Odisseas Vekiaris.

Hall, Neil. 2008. “Police Are ‘Brainwashed’ by Taser Maker. Psychologist Blames Instructions.” Vancouver Sun. May 14. A1

Kiedrowski, John. 2008. An Independent Review of the Adoption and Use of Conducted Energy Weapons by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Ottawa: RCMP

NPR. 2007. “Death by Excited Delirium: Diagnosis or Cover Up?” NPR. February 26.

Parsons, Paige. 2016. “Fatality Inquiry Finds Man Tasered by Edmonton Police Died of Excited Delirium Linked to Meth Use.” Edmonton Sun. November 17. http://www.edmontonsun.com/2016/11/17/fatality-inquiry-finds-man-tasered-by-edmonton-police-died-of-excited-delirium-linked-to-meth-use

 


Man Dies in RCMP Custody in Prince George, BC (November 21, 2016)

In northern British Columbia a trip to the RCMP detachment can be a death sentence. Too many people taken into custody by RCMP, particularly in northern detachments do not leave again alive. Disconcertingly, many of the people arrested and detained in northern communities are targeted and picked up for nothing more than public intoxication. Disproportionately arrested and detention for public intoxication are imposed on poor people and Indigenous people at discretion of police. Unfortunately such a situation has happened once again in the norther city of Prince George as a man has died in custody during the early morning hours of November 21, 2016.

The victim was arrested earlier in the evening of the 20th for supposedly causing a disturbance while intoxicated. He arrested for public drunkenness and transported to the Prince George RCMP detachment. At around 2 AM the man was found unresponsive. Emergency Health Services were contacted and RCMP officers apparently initiated CPR. A bit before 3 AM the man was pronounced dead.

The Independent Investigations Office, the agency that investigates incidents of civilian harm involving police has sent investigators to Prince George to examine the death. The name and background of the deceased man have not been released publicly.


RCMP Killer of Indigenous Anonymous Activist James McIntyre Exonerated by IIO Despite Not Filing Report

There is little expectation that officers who kill civilians in Canada will be in any way held accountable (even minimally). This expectation is even further diminished in cases in which police have killed social activists in the course of upholding or defending the state capitalist status quo. Clearly in such cases the officers are carrying out their fundamental purpose of maintaining dominant structures of social stratification and hegemonic order. And in this they must be assured full protection and legitimation. Thus it is almost certain that they will not be taken to task under such circumstances for killing someone who challenges that order or threatens to make a public show of reasonable opposition to established order.

The official investigation into the RCMP officers who killed Indigenous Anonymous activist James McIntyre while he was protesting the Site C dam megaproject in British Columbia and the conclusions drawn by the Independent Investigations Office (IIO) is in no way surprising then. The IIO exonerated the officers involved including the cop who fired the shot that killed James McIntyre despite the fact that the officer failed even to file an internal report on the killing which is required under law. The IIO could only state with futility:

“As of the time this decision is being issued, it does not appear that the subject officer has completed any reports or notes of his recollection of the incident. The IIO has, and continues to engage with the RCMP on the necessity of officers completing timely reports.” (IIO 2016)

Adds the IIO spokesperson Marten Youssef: “They are required to write timely reports, timely accounts, detailing their account of what happened. It appears as of the time of writing this case that the subject officer in this investigation did not comply with that policy.” (quoted in Kurjata 2016)

And there is nothing to suggest that the killer cop received so much as a stern word or cross look for this violation, let alone any sort of actual punishment. Yet the IIO concludes that the officer did nothing wrong despite the absence of any report.

The failure of officers involved in the killing of civilians to file reports of to file reports in a timely manner is notorious in British Columbia, a fact the IIO has raised repeatedly. Indeed officers often watch media coverage before filing a report in those cases where a report is actually provided. Clearly police in the province view the legal requirements under which they are supposed to operate as something of a joke or at most a matter of personal convenience rather than a legal requirement of their job. As in other cases the officers view themselves as above the law—they are a law unto themselves.

Furthermore there is no mechanism to compel officers to interview with the IIO in the course of its investigation. That is, officers choose whether or not they will interview with the supposedly independent investigation. One can well guess the choice killer cops tend to make. So in the case of the RCMP killing of James McIntyre the IIO had no interview testimony from the officer responsible for killing McIntyre.

Notably witnesses interviewed by the IIO varied in their accounts of how James McIntyre responded to police (approached, lunged, jabbing, coming towards, etc.). They were inconsistent in portraying the threat, if any, that the victim posed. There is no sense that James McIntyre posed a threat beyond police to the public. In addition the witnesses do make clear that James McIntyre was shot almost immediately as police told him to drop his knife (which some witnesses suggested was described as a “weapon” rather than a knife by police). Some witnesses noted having unreliable sight lines. One witness noted not being able to see after being hit by pepper spray from police (and before the fatal shot was fired). A witness officer admits that McIntyre only became agitated after being pepper sprayed. Yet the IIO somehow concluded that the officers did nothing to provoke McIntyre. Despite all of this the IIO wrapped their investigation and exonerated the officer, who remains unnamed.

Police did not even know until afterwards that McIntyre was not the man they had received a call about a protester at an event promoting the Site C project. That man was local farmer Terry Hadland. Hadland described his reasons for ripping up maps and turning over tables at the event: “I triggered the whole darn thing because I didn’t want Hydro to get away with smooching up to the public” (quoted in Kurjata 2016). He was deeply impacted by the police actions that killed James McIntyre. In his words:  “Oh, I was devastated. I felt awfully guilty. I could hardly believe that…it was surreal, especially as I began to realize it was me they were out for” (quoted in Kurjata 2016).

It remains to be seen what response Anonymous might have to the conclusion of the IIO investigation. The National Post reports their interview with an Anonymous activist previously. The activist is quoted as saying there would be retaliation in the event of a cover up:

“Our message to whoever will be making those kind of decisions (is) that we are a very talented and patient and courageous crew and even if it takes us many months or many years to figure out what went wrong, we will sniff out your dirtiest laundry, procure it from wherever it’s hiding and find the highest flagpole in the windiest part of the public square and hang it up for everyone to smell and everyone to see.” (quoted in Humphreys 2016)

 

If not a cover up, the IIO investigation certainly leaves important questions unanswered. While raising many others.

 

Further Reading

Humphreys, Adrian. 2016. “RCMP Officer Cleared in Shooting Death of B.C. Activist that Sparked Anonymous Revenge Campaign.” National Post. November 16. http://news.nationalpost.com/news/canada/rcmp-officer-cleared-in-shooting-death-of-b-c-activist-that-sparked-anonymous-revenge-campaign

IIO. 2016. Public Report of the Chief Civilian Director: Regarding a Fatal Officer-Involved Shooting on July 16, 2015 Involving the Dawson Creek RCMP. http://iiobc.ca/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/07-16-2015-Dawson-Creek-Firearm-Death-2015-000104.pdf

Kurjata, Andrew. 2016. “Police ‘Begged’ Site C Activist to Put Down Knife before Shooting Him, Witness Says.” CBC News. November 16. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/police-begged-site-c-activist-to-put-down-knife-before-shooting-him-witness-says-1.3853759


Vancouver Police Kill Man in East Vancouver (November 10, 2016)

Vancouver Police Department officers have killed a man at a Canadian Tire store in East Vancouver on the afternoon of November 10, 2016. A police officer shot and killed the man after two officers responded to a call at the Canadian Tire at Grandview Highway and Bentall Street. Police claim a robbery was in process when they arrived. A second man was taken into custody. Few details have yet been released.


RCMP Officers Who Killed Felix Taqqaugaq Identified as Constable Jason Trites (Shooter) and Sergeant Peter Marshall (Partner)

It is rare in the Canadian context that police officers who kill civilians are ever named publicly. This generally only happens in the few cases that result in charges laid against police or in case of a public inquiry or inquest. With the coroner’s inquest onto the police killing of Felix Taqqaugaq on March 20, 2012, mandatory in cases of police harm to civilians in Nunavut, the RCMP officers who killed him have been identified publicly as Constable Jason Trites and Sergeant Peter Marshall.

Constable Trites knew that Taqqaugaq was dealing with mental health issues, which the officer understood to be schizophrenia, yet he still moved quickly to arrest the man for supposedly uttering threats and fired a taser at him only moments into the encounter (and before the man had done anything more than speak to officers). The taser fire may have upset Taqqaugaq who was then chased back into his house by Sergeant Marshall. In response to this police chase Taqqaugaq may have returned brandishing a knife.

By Trite’s own admission he tripped (apparently in a panic) while backing away from Taqqaugaq and firing his handgun. This left Trites with a self-inflicted wound to his hand. This injury was initially reported publicly but it was not clarified that Trites had shot himself. Such early reports of officer injuries, without the information that the injuries are self-inflicted, can give the impression that police were physically threatened or harmed and thus justified in using lethal force. A similarly deceptive mention of injury to an officer (that later was identified as officer-inflicted) was given in the RCMP killing of Hudson Brooks in Surrey, British Columbia. While on his back Trites shot Taqqaugaq three times. The man was taken to hospital where he was pronounced dead.

According to Mary Ijjangiaq, Taqqaugaq’s partner of 13 years the police instigated the situation that led to the killing. In her words to the inquest: “They ganged up on him. He was deliberately provoked. I think [the officer] deliberately made sure he died” (quoted in Murray 2016a). She says the victim held a knife at his chest not over his head in a threatening manner as police claim.

Police audio from the incident raise further questions and ppint to a very quick escalation to lethal force by police. From the moment that officers radioed in to the Iqaluit command centre reporting they had located the suspect only 60 seconds passed before one officer called out “Shots fired; suspect down” (Murray 2016a).

As cops typically do in such cases officer Trites has attempted to present himself as the victim requiring sympathy. In his pitch to the inquiry he attempts to make the family feel sorry for himself: “I just hope the family knows that they’re not the only ones that were hurt by this. The things that I deal with, do affect my personal life. I’m definitely not the same person as I used to be before this incident” (quoted in Murray 2016b).

Incredibly both Constable Trites and Sergeant Marshall were flown out of the northern community (where the RCMP is a still colonial force) the very next day after the killing of Felix Taqqaugaq. Trites has testified at the inquest by video from Halifax.

 

Further Reading

Murray, Nick. 2016a. “‘They Ganged Up on Him’: Wife of Igloolik Man Killed by Police Heard Shots Fired.” CBC News. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/north/felix-taqqaugaq-inquest-wife-witness-testimony-1.3842011

Murray, Nick. 2016b. “‘I Was Trying to Stop Him’: RCMP Officer Apologizes for Shooting Felix Taqqaugaq.” CBC News. November 9. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/north/felix-taqqaugaq-inqest-officer-narrative-1.3842623