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"Police, stop or you will be hit with 50,000 volts of electricity!"
April 9, 2009 6:11 AM   Subscribe

Taser use in law enforcement has been under increased scrutiny in recent years, especially following the death of Robert Dziekanski in a Vancouver airport last year after being Tasered by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (previously). Now the CBC and Canadian Press have sifted through over 5,000 incident reports to create a RCMP Taser use database, tracking use of tasers by Canada's federal law enforcement by province, incident, year or stuns used.

This, for instance, shows the 116 times a Taser was used in relation to an impaired driving incident in 2006 through 2007. You can even click through for details on each specific incident, including officers present, whether the subject was aware of the Taser, and whether the subject him/herself was armed.

Also according to the CBC, Taser use by the RCMP has declined sharply in the last year. You can download the RCMP Operational Manual on Conducted Energy Weapons in either its newly amended (February '09) form or a original pre-amended flavour.
posted by Shepherd (36 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
Not that one couldn't scrape it all, but it would be nice if newspapers made a habit of providing the complete dataset for download in some easily mungable format so that interested readers could do further analysis. A simple CSV file would be sufficient.
posted by metaquarry at 6:24 AM on April 9, 2009


The widespread use of Tasers have left me stunned.
posted by flippant at 6:27 AM on April 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Has. Has.
posted by flippant at 6:27 AM on April 9, 2009


Holy cow, those CBC links are impressive. Is there any chance you Canadians can loan us a few journalists? We got a couple trillion dollars not to mention brutal police forces that could use some monitoring...
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 6:28 AM on April 9, 2009


Note to Obama administration: this is what accountability looks like.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 6:37 AM on April 9, 2009


I bet there's no record of the taser torture I was witness to in Taos last summer. Two Taos cops had a guy in between some buildings next to my place, right where they couldn't be seen from the highway. They tasered the shit out of the guy for 30 minutes while he screamed. There was not one thing I could do but close my windows. There was no way I could get involved but I was sure sick.

I really think those things are a menace. Cops are out control anyway and they've been tasering kids as young as 9.
posted by Tena at 6:46 AM on April 9, 2009


There was not one thing I could do but close my windows.

Call the police and hope they aren't as corrupt as the ones already on the scene? Call the FBI? Take photos/video?
posted by DU at 6:56 AM on April 9, 2009


Don't tase me, eh?
posted by ZenMasterThis at 6:59 AM on April 9, 2009


Holy cow, those CBC links are impressive. Is there any chance you Canadians can loan us a few journalists?

The CBC comes free with oppressive state socialism, choice and morals destroying quality secular public education and dictatorial universal health care. All you have to do is make regular payments of progressive taxes, chose pragmatism over idealism, turn over your handguns and endure ridiculous cold for at least 4 or 5 months of the year. The Canadian national motto could pretty much be the opposite of Vermont's: "Live or die free".

BTW: we do loan you our pseudo-journalists all the time. Some of your most empty headed prototypical masculine American news anchors are actually Canadian. This includes the women.
posted by srboisvert at 7:00 AM on April 9, 2009 [5 favorites]


Sheriff's deputy sues because he can't get a job without being tasered first. He says his doctors say it's too much of a risk given his medical history. But somehow I doubt most cops ask for medical histories before they Taser "perps"

Also Taser has a habit of suing medical examiners who blame deaths on the device. That's right, Taser is suing doctors and other forensic specialists who report that a Taser is a cause of death.

Also, while Googling for that I came across this article about Taser suing some newspapers (and having their lawsuits dismissed)

Pretty fucked up.
posted by delmoi at 7:04 AM on April 9, 2009


DU, you know better.

Call the FBI ... who will "look into it." Where would they even start? Even assuming the police officers in question were on duty, that's still probably a big roster, and the officers in question did not write down "tortured guy who dissed us" in their log. If there is a transponder in the car reporting their locale, I'm gonna guess that the information will go mysteriously missing.

Photos? Can always be dismissed. Take video? Let's assume everyone has a camcorder with a decent zoom on hand. Of course, she wouldn't have been able to tape the start of it — hit any police apologist thread here and there's always the "we don't know what that perp was doing beforehand" chant. And, aside from the screams, she probably couldn't get good audio, so then the guy is assumed to be resisting arrest or whatever will justify not sending these cops to jail.

Calling the police and hoping they aren't as corrupt? C'mon, if the police are comfy enough not to use an abandoned warehouse or a station bathroom for their torture, it's an ongoing, pervasive issue.

Police are damn near invulnerable when it comes to repercussions of their actions, at least to the degree mere mortals would receive jail time, etc.
posted by adipocere at 7:09 AM on April 9, 2009


The CBC comes free with oppressive state socialism, choice and morals destroying quality secular public education and dictatorial universal health care. All you have to do is make regular payments of progressive taxes, chose pragmatism over idealism, turn over your handguns and endure ridiculous cold for at least 4 or 5 months of the year. The Canadian national motto could pretty much be the opposite of Vermont's: "Live or die free".

As a Canadian, I think I've just been tasered, not physically, but 'ouch' nevertheless.
posted by BozoBurgerBonanza at 7:12 AM on April 9, 2009


Some of the details are miniature dramas. In PEI, a domestic dispute with a busted up kitchen chair:
First deployment __ holding a piece of a wooden kitchen chair __ two members on scene at this time __ threw an object in members direction and then began coming towards members and writer began to provide CEW command __ holding the chair while still coming slowly towards members __
and a bad trip gone worse:
Substances: LSD

Call received reporting __ Cst. XXXXXXXXX requested Island EMS to attend with him __ XXXXXXXXX had the only CEW on scene and was holding it in the off position by his right side. Pointing towards the ground. __ turned around and lunged towards XXXXXXXXX and XXXXXXXXX only had enough time to arm the CEW and deploy it in its probes mode. __
posted by pracowity at 7:14 AM on April 9, 2009


The CBC comes free with oppressive state socialism, choice and morals destroying quality secular public education and dictatorial universal health care. All you have to do is make regular payments of progressive taxes, chose pragmatism over idealism, turn over your handguns and endure ridiculous cold for at least 4 or 5 months of the year. The Canadian national motto could pretty much be the opposite of Vermont's: "Live or die free".

In my advanced years it is getting harder and harder to distinguish sarcasm from idiocy.

And dude: hyphens. I'm still not sure what "choice and morals destroying quality secular public education and dictatorial universal health care" means.
posted by Shepherd at 7:17 AM on April 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


The CBC's coverage of this has been remarkable. They've funded independent research on this, developed a new way of calibrating the devices, and done what amounts to a primary literature review, deducing that it's multiple hits that are highly implicated in Taser-use deaths. This reporting is in the process of completely overturning Canadian police policy on CEWs. The RCNP are just the most visible example.

Here are some of their other highlights:
Database of RCMP Taser-related deaths
A theory of 'Excited Delerium' being linked to taser-use mortality
Wide-scale Taser tests show the CEWs produce over-voltages about 10% of the time.
posted by bonehead at 7:17 AM on April 9, 2009 [4 favorites]


I don't completely blame the RCMP; I think all police forces were deceived into believing that the Taser was some sort of safe effective hands-off immobilization device that would forever free law enforcement from the physical risks of a take-down. Nonetheless, they were a bit too enthusiastic about trying out their new toys.

It saddens me that they could have more effectively subdued Mr Dziekanski with a coffee, a tuna sandwich and a kind word.

Despite Taser Inc sandbagging and lawsuits, I think there's finally a widespread appreciation of just how lethal tasers can be, and police policies are finally being reviewed.

It's important to know that the only reason the Dziekanski inquiry went forward was because there was independent video evidence that contradicted the testimonies of the officers involved. It seems a camera is currently the best defender of freedom.
posted by Artful Codger at 7:22 AM on April 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


> The Canadian national motto could pretty much be the opposite of Vermont's: "Live or die free".

Yep, every day is an unending nightmare up here in Soviet Canuckistan, as the constant flow of desparate refugees risking death to flee across the border to the sweet bosom of Lady Liberty would attest. Every day I go to bed praying that the next day an American gun owner will put me out of my socialist-bred misery.
posted by The Card Cheat at 7:30 AM on April 9, 2009 [7 favorites]


Tangentially-related: Dr. John Jones, ethics advisor to the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, resigns over concerns that the integrity of the CACP is being compromised by conference sponsorships by corporations including Taser International. Interview on CBC Radio's As It Happens.

In my advanced years it is getting harder and harder to distinguish sarcasm from idiocy.

I read a boatload of Dave Sim editorials this week, it has the same effect.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 7:37 AM on April 9, 2009


And dude: hyphens. I'm still not sure what "choice and morals destroying quality secular public education and dictatorial universal health care" means.

You just prove my point. You choose to harper on about the sissy grammar regulation of words being forced into collective relations over the free market of individual words competing to provide meaning. Your education and health care has made you weak. There are no hyphens in the global battle of ideas.
posted by srboisvert at 7:52 AM on April 9, 2009 [6 favorites]


There are no hyphens in the global battle of ideas.

Typical crypto-industrialist-authoritarianism, masquerading as free-thought capitalism. Division makes the proles weak---the union makes us strong!
posted by bonehead at 8:14 AM on April 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


adipocere : Calling the police and hoping they aren't as corrupt? C'mon, if the police are comfy enough not to use an abandoned warehouse or a station bathroom for their torture, it's an ongoing, pervasive issue.

The 911 call transcript I really want to read one day:

"911 emergency..."

"Hi, could you please send some police units over to 123 Springfield Drive? We've arrested a couple of your officers for assault and were hopping you could take possession of them."

"You arrested someone? What department are you with?"

"Oh, no department. I just live in this building. These two cops were torturing some guy in the alley with a taser, and since it had been going on for about a half an hour and they hadn't called for any kind of backup, we sort of figured that they weren't acting in your department's best interests. So we performed a citizens arrest."

"We?"

"Me and the other tenants. There are about 20 of us. We videotaped the whole thing, and we are uploading it to youtube now, so if you want you can watch the clip and get all the answers you need."

"Ok, uh, we'll send someone over now."

"Great. We've just called Channel 4, 6, and 12s news teams, so hopefully there will be lots of coverage of you arresting the officers. You know, just to make certain that the public sees that you are taking the thread of dirty cops seriously..."
posted by quin at 8:26 AM on April 9, 2009 [4 favorites]


I don't get the "meh, you can't take on the system so just give up" attitude. If you don't do anything, you are complicit. Period. If you do something, even if the next person doesn't pick it up, at least your conscience is clean.
posted by DU at 8:29 AM on April 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


If you do something, even if the next person doesn't pick it up, at least your conscience is clean.

Pick up what? Your lifeless corpse to be carried off to Martyr's Field?
posted by Bobby Bittman at 8:38 AM on April 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


More links, direct results of the CBC initial investigations:

BC police recall tasers for testing
Alberta, skeptical of problems tests some of their CEWs, then more as problems are found.
Ontario police follow suit (quietly).
Quebec, the most pro-active of the bunch, tests, then announces destruction of malfunctioning units. All taser use is halted in Quebec for now.

That's all of the large police organizations in Canada, saving a few municipal forces (not checked) and the RCMP.
posted by bonehead at 9:03 AM on April 9, 2009


As an aside to the (excellent) documentation and assessment of Taser use, the specifics of the Robert Dziekanski case are really dismal.

1) The officers were acquitted of all wrongdoing before any public inquiry even started
2) The police statements for the event contradict video evidence and eye-witnesses
a) The RCMP confiscated the video evidence at the scene and had to be sued before they gave it back
3) All four officers' testimony contradicts the police statements they filed, and they have admitted that
4) The officers' testimony contradicts themselves.

On top of this gong show of cops lying on the stand,

5) The senior officer on the team that killed Dziekanski recently drove drunk and ran over and killed a motorcyclist. To explain why he failed two breathalyzers on the scene, he is trying to claim that he was sober while driving, then after hitting the motorcyclist ran home distraught, drank two shots of vodka, then returned before the local cops arrived.
6) The RCMP's lawyers have spent most of the past few days asking Dziekanski's neighbors back in Poland if he was an alcoholic and when he stopped beating his wife
7) Canada's just unilaterally canceled its legal co-operation agreement with Poland that permitted the RCMP to travel there and dig up character assassination material, in order to try and prevent the Poles from extraditing the RCMP officers to stand trial there.
posted by anthill at 9:05 AM on April 9, 2009 [5 favorites]


The Canadian national motto could pretty much be the opposite of Vermont's: "Live or die free".

"Live Free or Die" is the official state motto of New Hampshire
posted by mlis at 9:15 AM on April 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


If you don't do anything, you are complicit, period? C'mon. The world is chock full of things going on that aren't so hot, so you're automatically complicit? If I were to accept that as true, I'd have to accept that I would never be able to fix everything, so I am guilty one way or another. Bam, I either care and kill myself out of despair, or I realize nothing I do matters, since I'll be complicit anyway, and give up.

It's about picking your battles.

Which is why I'd push for the aforementioned PanCopticon Helmet, that all police officers must don during duty, seamlessly recording, encrypting, and uploading their every move. Or building a device that citizens can carry which does the same. That at least has a chance of succeeding. Random intervention on a police action is almost guaranteed not to go well. It's low reward and high risk.

What will get rid of random tasering? Probably an expose on how they're trying to shut down people who investigate taser deaths. Regulation of the industry. Perhaps some kind of tracking built into the taser ("This taser fired for 2 seconds on 2009-04-10-11-35-55, at the following GPS coordinates: ...") Post-taser tracking of the health of those tased. An investigation for each taser discharge.

Tasers are viewed as this sort of magic, repercussionless compliance mechanism; no followup like when you discharge a firearm, hurts a lot, you can shock the monkey all day. Dismantling all of these perceptions is more powerful and has a higher payoff than just trying to videotape Officer Brute and Rookie Atality doin' their zap thing in an alley.
posted by adipocere at 9:39 AM on April 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Note to Obama administration: this is what accountability looks like.

Which is why out gov is constantly trying to kill the CBC in its sleep. That's not a hard sell to much of the public, unfortunately.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 10:03 AM on April 9, 2009


There are so many things that could have save Robert Dziekanski's life.That's way too many bullet points.
posted by oaf at 11:24 AM on April 9, 2009


I was going to go off on "When the **** did this happen?" but a better question is "How the **** did this not make national news?". Did I just miss it? The CBC is on at my place as long as I'm conscious. That, plus this: posted by Decimask at 3:02 PM on April 9, 2009


"if, while restraining him, one of the officers hadn't knelt on Dziekanski's neck until he turned blue"

After watching the video, I wonder if that's not the main issue - and the cause of Mr. Dziekanski's death. Never mind the lying and the tasering and the covering up.

But hey, as long as the chiefs of police say that the taser is a useful tool in police work, who am I to argue. That big chunk of cash they got from Taser International was for snacks, ok?
posted by sneebler at 5:22 PM on April 9, 2009


I bet there's no record of the taser torture I was witness to in Taos last summer.

Huh. I can't imagine why the Royal Canadian Mounted Police would not have kept a record of that tasering you witnessed in Colorado. Typical shoddy behaviour on their part. I swear, I was once proud of our RCMP, but it's things like this that have made me very cynical about their methods and motives.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:50 PM on April 9, 2009


If you don't do anything, you are complicit, period? C'mon. The world is chock full of things going on that aren't so hot, so you're automatically complicit? If I were to accept that as true, I'd have to accept that I would never be able to fix everything, so I am guilty one way or another. Bam, I either care and kill myself out of despair, or I realize nothing I do matters, since I'll be complicit anyway, and give up.

It is one thing to no do anything about police violence that is happening three countries over.

It is an entirely different thing to do nothing about something that is happening outside your kitchen window.

Kitty Genovese died because of twisted thoughts like yours.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:58 PM on April 9, 2009


I am not disagreeing with your first two points, fff, but The Witnesses That Didn't (audio) from On The Media had an interesting story about Kitty Genovese recently that presented a different take on what happened.
posted by mlis at 8:48 PM on April 9, 2009


Cool, I'll bookmark that.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:39 PM on April 9, 2009


I think the Kitty Genovese analogy works:
But in this particular case, you didn't have a group of people. You had individuals. You know, I think there were probably a number of people who knew that there was something more than just a, you know, a lovers’ quarrel at stake, and they may not have taken any action. You can justly criticize them for that.

My point is that we didn't have what The Herald Tribune, I think, described at the time as being a scene reminiscent of the Roman Colosseum with the Romans watching the Christians being slaughtered while they cheered them on. It’s that scenario that didn't happen, not that the witnesses were not blameless.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:09 AM on April 10, 2009


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