Tag Archives: privacy

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).


Privacy Commissioner Calls for Release of Body Cam Footage of Police Killing of William McCaffrey

Police in Rothesay, New Brunswick have fought to keep body camera footage of the killing of William David McCaffrey by an officer of the Kennebecasis Regional Police Force from the public. On July 27, 2017, the access to information and privacy commissioner for the province called for release of the tape.

The 26-year-old youth was shot and killed by police in his home on February 28, 2014, while experiencing mental health distress. McCaffrey was shot twice while harming himself. The force was not investigated by a civilian oversight unit but only by another police force, the RCMP. The finding for release of the tape comes after a 15-month battle over access to information by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC).

Commissioner Anne Bertrand in deciding the case determined that public interest in police use of force cases supercedes privacy, including for police. This ruling could have something to say about who is able to see police body camera footage in the future. In an interview Bertrand clarified: “In special circumstances, there may be a public interest in the public knowing about what happened, despite there being personal information involved” (quoted in Donkin 2017).

The Kennebecasis Regional Police Force had denied a request from CBC News of information of footage from a police body camera in 2016. They cited privacy concerns.

CBC News appealed the police decision to Bertrand. The news station argued that body-worn camera footage should be treated the same way as any other record showing how police make a decision (2017). According to the CBC News claim: “Having access to those records is necessary to ensure public safety and accountability” (quoted in Donkin 2017).

In her decision, Bertrand invoked a little used public interest section of the Right to Information and Protection of Privacy Act. It says that in cases where there is “a risk of significant harm,” which could include a danger to public safety, that section can override other parts of the law that protect privacy (Donkin 2017).

This would be the first case of release of police body camera footage in the Canadian context, unlike the situation in the United States in which such footage has been released numerous times. As is too often the case in public body decisions involving police conduct, the police force is not required to adhere to Bertrand’s decision and is already pursuing legal advice. Once again the police assume the powers of a law unto themselves.

 

Further Reading

Donkin, Karissa. 2017. “Video of Fatal Police Shooting Should Be Made Public, Commissioner Says.” CBC News. July 27. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/new-brunswick/rothesay-shooting-commissioner-1.4223274