Tag Archives: psychology

Public Inquest Called Into Vancouver Police Killing of Tony Du in 2014

It has been announced that the BC Coroners Service will hold a public inquest into the fatal shooting of 51-year-old Phuong Na (Tony) Du by Vancouver police in 2014. Du was killed by Vancouver Police Department (VPD) officers in public while in some psychological distress on Knight Street near 41st Avenue in Vancouver.

Two officers responded to calls about DU with one firing a been bag gun at him  and the other shooting him with a firearm. Du was taken to hospital where he died from the injuries inflicted by police. Du experienced mental illness.

The Independent Investigations Office (IIO), the agency that examines cases of police harm to civilians in British Columbia investigated the killing but charges were not recommended by the Criminal Justice Branch (CJB) for the two officers responsible. The CJB claimed the use of a firearm by one of the officers was justifiable on the basis of his belief that his partner’s life was in danger, despite the fact that the other officer was armed.

In February 2017, Tony Du’s family launched a civil suit against the City of Vancouver and the police officer who fired the fatal shot in the killing. Lawyers representing the victim’s family note that Tony Du was killed between only 18 and 25 seconds after police arrived on the scene. This time was no where near long enough for police to begin a conversation with Du let alone establish his mental condition.

The public inquest into the police killing of Tony Du will commence on February 5, 2018, at the Burnaby Coroners Court. As per usual, the coroner’s jury will be able to make recommendations that might prevent deaths under similar circumstances but which police are under no obligation at all to follow. The jury cannot make any finding of legal responsibility or blame and can not recommend charges against any killer cop.

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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).


Repeat Killer Cop, Other Officers Cleared in Killing David McQueen, Quadriplegic in Wheelchair

The Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT), the unit that investigates police harm to civilians, has cleared the repeat killer cop and the other Calgary police officers who shot and killed David McQueen, a 53-year-old quadriplegic man in a wheelchair, on January 24, 2016. ASIRT reported that several officers opened fire on McQueen with the last round fired , a bullet from a sniper, striking him in the head and killing him, but said the officers involved were fully justified in the killing. Police had reportedly responded to reports of McQueen firing a round from inside his house. Police fired tear gas into McQueen’s house driving him outside where they shot and killed him.

The killing of McQueen, quadriplegic with limited use of hands, in a wheelchair in his home, experiencing some mental distress has raised many disturbing questions. One of these relates to the fact that a officer who shot at McQueen was a killer cop who had committed a fatal shooting only a year before. That officer shot 27-year-old Anthony Heffernan four times, with three shots to the head and neck, on March 16, 2015. Heffernan had also been in some distress but was alone and confined to his hotel room and posed no threat to anyone, police or public, when police broke into his room and shot and killed him there.

The ASIRT investigation into Heffernan’s killing actually found evidence that an offense had been committed by police. The Crown claimed that there was not enough evidence to gain a conviction against the officer and did not pursue charges. The state certainly protects the state. The Heffernan family is suing Calgary police over the killing of their loved one.

In the ASIRT release on the McQueen killing, Susan Hughson, executive director of ASIRT, suggested that the killer cop’s involvement in the Heffernan case has no bearing on his right to use his firearm in another case. According to Hughson:

 

“You have to look at the incidents independently and look at the circumstances surrounding them to determine whether the steps taken or the actions taken were justified. And, just because the officer has been involved in another officer-involved shooting, he does not lose the protection of the law.”

 

Protection to kill civilians? Others might ask why the officer was still on the force and being deployed in such situations of a person in distress.

Director Hughson, noted McQueen’s distress: “There’s no doubt that this man was in crisis on this date.” Hughson noted that McQueen had been “struggling physically, emotionally and financially” in the days prior to his being killed by police. He has been particularly upset by the death of his beloved dog only the week before. Disturbingly ASIRT appeared to use this fact to make reference to a bogus “suicide by cop” defense for the police killing of David McQueen.

 


BEI Investigating Police Killing of Distressed Man Near Quebec City (August 10, 2017)

Québec’s Independent Investigations Bureau (BEI), the unit that examines police harm to civilians in the province, is investigating the killing of a 25-year old man by an officer of the Sûreté du Québec (SQ) around 7 PM on August 10, 2017 in Saint-Georges-de-Beauce, southeast of Québec City. According to the BEI, police responded to a call regarding a man experiencing some distress in the center of a street. The BEI states that the responding officer activated the flashing lights of the cruiser which caused the man to panic and run. After a foot chase that ended in a parking lot the officer shot the man. The SQ claim the man had a knife. None of the details have been independently confirmed. Eight BEI investigators have been assigned to the case and will examine the SQ version of events. The BEI is not an independent unit though and Montreal police will assist them in this investigation, which leaves police investigating police.


Police Investigate Police in Saskatchewan Civilian Death (July 5, 2017)

Police in Saskatchewan investigate police. There is no independent civilian oversight body in the province despite ongoing calls from community advocates.

On July 5, 2017, officers of the Blaine Lake Saskatchewan RCMP allegedly responded to a call about a distraught man with a firearm in a rural area. Two officers encountered a man who they say discharged the weapon, resulting in a self-inflicted gunshot wound. The man was taken to hospital in Saskatoon and pronounced dead there. The Saskatchewan RCMP have requested an investigation into the death, which will be conducted by the Saskatoon Police Service.


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


Durham Officer Mark Brown Blames Michael MacIsaac for Dying by Resisting Help after Cop Shot Him

The 2017 coroner’s inquest into the police killing of Michael MacIsaac has already heard dubious testimony from the officer who shot him, Brian Taylor. As the inquest continues, on July 26, another police officer, Durham Regional Police Constable Mark Brown, has added to the questionable police testimony by suggesting that the dying victim played a part in his own death by actively resisting help.  Brown was the first to respond to a 911 call involving Michael MacIsaac on that morning on December 2, 2013. MacIsaac was shot by Taylor while he was experiencing effects of an epileptic seizure and was naked in the street near his home.

In Brown’s own testimony: “I remember him saying stuff, but I couldn’t understand what he was saying. The only thing I understood when performing first aid, was MacIsaac said ‘pain’ (quoted in McLaughlin 2017). That seems clear enough. But the cop wants the jury to believe the dying man did not want the pain to stop.

The MacIsaac family lawyer, Roy Wellington questioned Constable Brown about his claim that MacIsaac resisted help. Asked Wellington: “Does it strike you as odd that someone would not want to be touched after being shot by the same people” (quoted in McLaughlin 2017)? Brown could not offer such empathetic insight.

Family members in attendance at the inquest were dumbfounded at the officer’s testimony. Said Brian MacIsaac’s sister, Joanne:  “I can’t imagine what was going through Michael’s head, and know the pain must have been horrible. But to tell him after the fact, we are here to help you? It’s ridiculous, ridiculous to me. Why didn’t you help him before?” (quoted in McLaughlin 2017).  Joanne MacIsaac suggested that the officer’s testimony was not close to believable. She continued in frustration:

 

“His narrative of what happened has got to be, in my opinion, fabricated. To say Michael was actively resisting when he’s naked, cold on the ground and you’re pushing in on his abdomen after he has been shot, to use the phrase ‘he’s actively resisting,’ my god what is the matter with these people?” (quoted in McLaughlin 2017)

 

Under cross examination by Anita Szigeti, a lawyer with Toronto’s Empowerment Council for people with mental health issues, Constable Brown, an officer with 14 years of experience on the force had undertaken only one week of mental health training ever and that had occurred a decade before the killing of Michael MacIsaac. Brown had to admit on the stand that his training was not adequate.

 

 

Further Reading

McLaughlin, Amara. 2017. “Michael MacIsaac was ‘Actively Resisting’ Help after Police Shooting, Says Officer at Scene.” CBC News. July 26. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/michael-macisaac-inquest-mental-health-1.4223451