Tag Archives: Excited Delirium

ASIRT Uses Bogus “Excited Delirium” Again To Excuse Edmonton Police Taser Killing

Excited delirium is one of the favored excuses used by police and their statist supporters when officers kill civilians. It is an explanation considered dubious based on medical evidence and research and has been largely promoted by the makers of tasers as a means of justifying deaths that result after taser deployment. The condition excited delirium is not found in DSM-5 or the ICD-10 (the current versions of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders and the International Classification of Diseases, respectively). Excited delirium has not been recognized by the American Medical Association or the American Psychological Association. Police psychologist Mike Webster called it a dubious diagnosis during the inquiry into the RCMP killing of Robert Dziekanski by taser at Vancouver International airport.

Yet coroners and supposed police oversight bodies in Canada continue to use the notion of excited delirium to excuse or legitimize police killings of civilians. The Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT) seems particularly fond of using these excuses to justify killings of civilians by police. On August 28, 2017, ASIRT again trotted out the excited delirium excuse to justify the police killing of a 49-year-old man, Marcel Henry Moisan, in the late evening/early morning of December 7-8, 2015, involving multiple taser deployments and physical restraint.

In a media release ASIRT executive director Susan Hughson claimed the victim died as a result of excited delirium syndrome brought on by drugs in his bloodstream (not the use of tasers and/or restraints). Incredibly Hughson congratulated the Edmonton police for their use of “less-than-lethal force.” In her words: “Indeed, the resort to less-than-lethal force should be commended.” But they killed the man. Their use of force was exactly, precisely, lethal. It was not less than lethal.

ASIRT noted that Moisan (not named in the report) was experiencing some mental distress, and police had a record of a Mental Health Act encounter with the man in October of the same year. Yet no mental health care givers were dispatched to the scene. According to Hughson the man was clearly exhibiting distress to officers present and appeared to be rehearsing self harm actions. In her words: “He brought the knife to his throat. He appeared agitated, distraught, and confused.” He made “overt suicidal motions” appearing to slash at his neck with a knife.

In response police tased him again and placed him in leg restraints. Notes Hughson, in her release: “Within approximately two minutes and 55 seconds, the man went into medical distress. The restraints were immediately removed and CPR was commenced.” The man was transported to hospital where he was pronounced dead.

The coroner who repeated the bogus excited delirium excuse said: “It is the opinion of the [medical examiner] that the man died as a result of excited delirium syndrome that was due to methamphetamine toxicity; struggle during police restraint was considered a significant contributory condition.” Yet the police were exonerated despite acknowledgement of the use and role of restraints (the excusing of taser use is right out of the company playbook).

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Killer Cop Brian Taylor Gives Questionable Testimony at Inquest into Michael MacIsaac Shooting

Killer cop Brian Taylor provided two days of questionable, even outright unbelievable, testimony during the coroner’s inquest into his 2013 killing of 47-year-old Michael MacIsaac. As witnesses and 911 call evidence contradicted much of his depiction of events, Constable Taylor turned to the bogus and obnoxious “excited delirium” excuse to blame the victim. Notably the inquest testimony was the first time he raised this baseless suggestion, a last refuge of killer cops.

 

Contradicted Testimony

Taylor claims he feared for his life when seeing MacIsaac, yet he was safely inside his police vehicle and decided to exit only after seeing the man he was supposedly threatened by near him. Taylor claimed in his testimony that he heard MacIsaac say “Come on, come on,” and claims that he issued the police challenge, “Police. Don’t move,” to MacIsaac and remembers hearing it.

Taykor testified at length:

“Somebody said ‘Drop it, get down on the ground.’ I thought that if I have to take a shot, don’t miss. There are a lot of people around. Then he moved off the curb. I fired the first round. I didn’t hear the gun go off. I felt it . . . . I didn’t know if I had hit him, because there was no effect. And he continued to move and I fired a second round and I know that one struck him.” (quoted in Gallant 2017a)

 

Roy Wellington, the MacIsaac family’s lawyer, used cross-examination to note that most of Constable Taylor’s claims about what was said are not captured on a 911 call made by Ron Nino the witness who stopped the arriving Taylor and told him MacIsaac was in the area. On that call a voice is heard telling Nino “get back, get back” (Gallant 2017a). Only seconds later shots are fired. No one is heard at any point either issuing commands to MacIsaac or saying “Come on, come on.” Nino said that Taylor fired almost immediately. The MacIsaac family had that call analyzed by a forensic scientist to see if there were cuts or absences. That report concluded that “there are no definite signs of alterations or breaks found on this recording” (quoted in Gallant 2017b).

Queried Wellington: “I’m having a hard time understanding how we can hear someone further away from Mr. Nino, but we don’t actually hear you issuing any commands at all” (quoted in Gallant 2017a).

Wellington continued: ““Regardless of who shouted commands, there wasn’t much of an opportunity for Mr. MacIsaac to respond. Would you agree with that?” (quoted in Gallant 2017a).

Constable Taylor offered the rather desperate response that perhaps the cell phone malfunctioned. This despite the forensic tests. Taylor’s lawyer, Bill MacKenzie tried to suggest that 911 called Nino back and thus interfered with the call, which, frankly, makes no sense.

Questions are also being asked why Taylor shot MacIsaac twice and how he could not see if the first shot hit the man, since he was naked and there were no clothes to obscure a bullet strike and wound. Incredibly, Taylor believed the victim was “still a threat” even after he saw black-red blood streaming out of the stricken man’s abdomen. Two other officers took time to handcuff the dying man rather than giving him any medical attention.

 

Constable Taylor Proposes Phoney “Excited Delirium”

Taylor, desperately and pathetically, tried to introduce the phony notion of “excited delirium” to describe MacIsaac and justify the killing. Excited delirium is a bogus claim produced by police and police associations after the fact when they kill someone. Incredibly Taylor suggested this was his first thought when hearing over police that the person he was seeking might be suffering mental health issues. The family suggests that MacIsaac was in crisis as a result of an epileptic seizure but did not have mental health issues.

Anita Szigeti, a lawyer for the Empowerment Council, an advocacy group for people with lived experiences of mental health and addiction issues noted that organizations including the World Health Organization and American Medical Association do not recognize it as an actual condition (Gallant 2017b). Szigeti rightly pointed out that the only ones who maintain that it is a condition are the “maker of Tasers” and law enforcement members (Gallant 2017b). We might add pro-police criminologists or copagandists.

Szigeti posed this to Constable Taylor. In her words: “But, do you know ‘excited delirium’ is extremely controversial, over whether it’s even a condition at all?” (quoted in Gallant 2017b). Taylor answered simply, “Yes.”

Szigeti said that she was puzzled because Taylor promoted the notion of excited delirium at the inquest but the term does not appear anywhere in his notes on the shooting. Neither does it appear in his interviews with the Special Investigations Unit or the Office of the Independent Police Review Director (Gallant 2017b).

This led Szigeti to conclude: “I’m going to suggest to you that you never thought about ‘excited delirium’ at all until long after the events when you shot Mr. MacIsaac” (quoted in Gallant 2017b). This at base the nature of this phony claim. It is an after the fact justification for killer cops desperate for an answer when all reasonable explanations are absent.

 

Conclusion

Joanne MacIsaac, Michael MacIsaac’s sister, is also asking if the SIU bothered to listen to the Nino 911 call in its investigation into the killing which resulted in a decision not to bring criminal charges against Constable Taylor.

Taylor ended his testimony, on its second day, with the admission, in response to a question from a juror: “With hindsight being 20/20, yes, there probably could have been a better way to resolve it” (quoted in Gallant 2017b).

 

Further Reading

Gallant, Jacques. 2017a. “Durham Cop Who Shot and Killed Michael MacIsaac, Testifies at Inquest into MacIsaac’s Death.” Toronto Star. July 20. https://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2017/07/20/durham-cop-who-shot-and-killed-michael-macisaac-testifies-at-inquest-into-macisaacs-death.html

 

Gallant, Jacques. 2017b. “At Inquest into Death of Michael MacIsaac, Cop Concedes there was a Better Way to Resolve Issue.” The Toronto Star. July 21. https://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2017/07/21/at-inquest-into-death-of-michael-macisaac-cop-concedes-there-was-a-better-way-to-resolve-incident.html


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