Tag Archives: taser

Woman Tased by Victoria Police, Dies (Sept. 29, 2018)

The Independent Investigations Office (IIO), the agency that examines cases of police harm to civilians in British Columbia, is investigating the death of a woman who was tased by an officer or officers of the Victoria Police Department  on September 29, 2018. The IIO reports that at 2:17 AM officers attended the area of Songhees in Victoria in response to reports of a disturbance. At about 2:28 AM police located a female near the water and deployed a conducted energy weapon (CEW). Emergency Health Services (EHS) attended and the woman was transported to hospital with serious injuries. She later died there.

Police claim they were trying to prevent self harm. Tasing is itself, of course, a form of harm. No other details have been released publicly. The claims presented by police via the IIO have not been independently confirmed publicly.

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Barrie Police Tase, Kill Olando Brown (32) (June 22, 2018) (Black Lives Matter)

Black lives matter. In Canada as in the United States Black people are disproportionately killed by police, though less attention is given to lethal police violence in Canada compared with the US. On June 22, 2018, Olando Brown, a thirty-two-year-old Black man, a father with an 11-year-old daughter, died during an arrest by police in the town of Barrie, Ontario.

The arrest took place around 2:30 PM near the Tim Hortons donut shop at the Five Points hotel in downtown Barrie. According to witnesses Brown was tased multiple times by Barrie police officers. Questions are being asked why he was not given immediate medical attention rather than being processed by Barrie police. Brown went into medical distress while being booked by police at the police station. He was pronounced dead at hospital. The Special Investigations Unit (SIU), the agency that investigates cases of police harm to civilians in Ontario, is examining Brown’s killing.

The violence inflicted by police against Black people in Canada has long been disproportionate. The killing of Olando Brown, a Black man, must be placed within this context. Olando Brown’s aunt, Barbara South, says her nephew was known as someone who would always lend a helping hand and suggests that he would have never died in custody if he was white. She is very clear in her assessment of what police did to Olando Brown:  “My nephew was murdered. There’s no doubt about that” (quoted in CTV 2018).

A cellphone video taken by a witness shows officers physically confronting Brown and using tasers to take him down. The person holding the camera says Brown was trying to lay down and had already been hit with a taser. Brown is seen getting off the ground, where he appears to be punched and hit with a taser again. Witness Lance Freeman reports: “They asked him to see his ID and before he even had a chance to pull his ID out, the one guy just kicked him, (and) the other guy just starting Tasing him,” said Lance Freeman, who witnessed the arrest” (quoted in CTV 2018).

A man, who identifies himself only as a longtime friend of Olando Brown is among those asking questions about police actions. In his words:

 

“I knew him personally and he was a very kind person, like he would give the shirt off his back. It’s an unfortunate situation and he didn’t deserve it. To be honest with you, I don’t know the incident. All I know is apparently the cops came down on him when he was over there (behind the bushes behind Tim Hortons) and that’s the story. From that it was just Taser after Taser after Taser. I kind of had faith in the police here because this was supposed to only happen in America, not here. It shouldn’t happen anywhere, but you only see things like that on the U.S. news, but here especially in small-town, nice Canada, it’s not right.” (quoted in Gibson 2018)

 

Brown’s friend asks why medical attention was not given following the multiple deployments of taser:  “What is the protocol when you Taser someone and especially after that many? Why wasn’t he just taken to hospital for a check-up? He would have been in handcuffs, he wasn’t going anywhere and the police could have seen if he was OK and then processed him” (quoted in Gibson 2018).

He also noted the over-policing of people in that area of Barrie. There is no way for people to trust police given their actions he concludes. In his words: “But, now how we are supposed to feel when the cops come around and try to talk to us, how we supposed to trust them? It’s unfortunate all around because a man died who didn’t deserve it and now people may start to feel uneasy” (quoted in Gibson 2018).

The reason for the arrest has not been disclosed by Barrie police and has not been confirmed publicly.

 

The Video (Warning: Disturbing Content)

 

Further Reading

CTV. 2018. “Ontario Police Watchdog Investigating After Man Dies in Custody.” CTV News June 25. https://www.ctvnews.ca/canada/watchdog-investigating-after-man-dies-in-custody-1.3987769

Gibson, Shawn. 2018. “Friends of Man Who Died After Being Tasered on Friday Shocked, Upset.” Barrie Today June 24. https://www.barrietoday.com/police-beat/friends-of-man-who-died-after-being-tasered-on-friday-shocked-upset-964787


Man Dies After Being Tased by RCMP in Chilliwack, BC (Feb. 24, 2018)

The Independent Investigations Office (IIO) is investigating the death of a man in Chilliwack after he was shot by a taser by RCMP on the afternoon of Saturday, February 24, 2018. According to the IIO the RCMP were responding to reports of a parental abduction. According to the IIO, RCMP say that a stun gun was deployed during an “interaction” with the man who then went into “medical distress.” The IIO says emergency medical services were called to the scene, but the man did not survive. No further details have been provided and there has been no independent confirmation publicly of RCMP claims.


SIU Lets Off OPP Cop Who Killed 45-Year-Old Man in Nipigon in 2016

On January 11, 2018, the Special Investigations Unit (SIU), the agency that examines cases of police harm to civilians in Ontario, released the decision of its investigation into the fatal police shooting of a 45-year-old Nipigon man by a Ontario Provincial Police officer in November of 2016. The SIU has concluded that no charges be laid. This is the too typical outcome of SIU investigations.

According to the SIU report, police were called to a Nipigon residence at around 6:59 PM on November 26, 2016. They report that a woman wanted a man removed from her home as he had allegedly been drinking and was being verbally aggressive with neighbors.

Two OPP officers attended the residence and met the woman on the street. The SIU reports that police claim that when they arrived on the front lawn of the Nipigon home, the 45-year-old man allegedly came out of the house holding a kitchen knife in his right hand down by his side (not in a threatening manner). An OPP officer took the decision to deploy a taser on the man.

Once the man was tasered, officers allege he “winced in pain and stepped back into the house” before stepping outside again. This time it is claimed that the man held the knife pointed forward but parallel to the ground. An OPP officer then shot and killed the man.

According to the SIU, officers called Emergency Medical Services at about 7:17 PM. EMS officials recorded that the victim had no heart beat or heart activity during his transport to the hospital. He was pronounced dead soon after. The SIU report listed the cause of death as a single gunshot wound to the abdomen.


Toronto Police Report Claims None Died from Tasers in 2016, Despite Killing of Rui Nabico

A 2017 Toronto police report on Taser use in 2016 claims that no one died from Tasers in 2016 despite the fact that the Special Investigations Unit, the agency that examines police harm to civilians, is still investigating the death of 31-year-old Rui Nabico. On November 4, 2016, Nabico went into medical distress after Toronto police fired a stun gun at him. He was taken to hospital where he was pronounced dead. The young man only went into medical distress after being Tasered so the Toronto police report is clearly false. A piece of copaganda.


Inquest into Police Killing of Craig McDougall Sees No Racism Despite Mistreatment of Family, Eight Year Delay

Racism and policing have gone hand and hand in the Canadian context. From the settler colonial violence of the RCMP through contemporary practices from carding to assaults upon racialized people and communities. The settler colonial character of the Canadian state continues in the current context in the disproportionate arrest and incarceration of Indigenous people and the exertion of violence, often lethal violence, against them.

Not surprisingly the Canadian state and the various institutions of criminal justice have stridently denied claims of racism. Inquiries into police violence typically offer findings that diminish or deny the part of racism in police actions. Such an outcome was delivered again on May 12, 2017 with the results of the inquiry into the killing of Craig McDougall, a young Indigenous man, by Winnipeg police, a force with a long and notorious history of racist violence.

Twenty-six-year-old Craig Vincent McDougall was shot and killed by police outside his father’s home on Simcoe Street in Winnipeg on August 2, 2008. Police claimed to be responding to a 911 call when they arrived at the home in the early hours of August 2.  They suggest that found McDougall outside the house holding a cell phone and a knife. One officer shot him with a taser. He was then shot with a firearm which killed him. A private investigator who examined the case has cast doubt on the assertion that Craig McDougall held a knife at the moment he was shot.

Incredibly, the victim’s family members were immediately arrested and put in handcuffs on the front lawn, an act of what criminologists term the dramatization of evil, designed to denigrate and humiliate people targeted by the system. Jonathan Rudin, an expert witness on Indigenous people, policing, and the criminal justice system, testified that the treatment of McDougall’s family after the young man was shot exemplified systemic racism as the victims were assumed by police to be criminals and were treated as such.

Still, despite the actions of police, the inquest concluded that there was no evidence of racism in the police actions. It offered the typical statist finding that police were justified in their actions. In the inquest report, Associate Chief Judge Anne Krahn wrote there was “no evidence of racism direct or systemic in the moments leading to the shooting of Craig McDougall.” The judge found the arrest of McDougall’s father and uncle to be a simple misstep. In her words: “there were missteps in the immediate aftermath of the shooting when Craig McDougall’s uncle and father were left handcuffed and detained without lawful authority.” Such is the normalization of racism in the Canadian criminal justice system. Atrocious actions become mere missteps.

Critics point out that treating the family members in such disrespectful and accusatory fashion exemplifies racism. One might add the little regard shown for the family or the community in the eight year delay between the killing and the inquest report. It could be suggested that such an egregious delay would never be accepted in the case of a killing (by anyone) of a white, privileged victim. Of course police, and police associations, seek to delay and divert inquests to benefit their own interests.

The inquest report even contradicts its own conclusions by making recommendations that imply racism by police. Among these recommendations are that the police service should consider delivery of implicit bias training for its members at regular intervals (a recognition of racist assumptions) and work with Indigenous organizations to develop programs.


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