Saturday, June 20, 2009
The RCMP Taser Inquiry
The RCMP have taken a lot of bad press over the taser incident at the airport resulting in the death of Robert Dziekanski. I'd like to make a few observations. It would appear to be pretty obvious the police screwed up. They made a mistake. Compounding that mistake with conflicting statements in court having the appearance of perjury doesn't help.
The latest scandal involves an e-mail that states they talked about using a taser on him before they arrived at the scene. Personally I don't see that as a scandal. The police get a call about a guy freaking out disturbing the peace. On the way they discuss the situation and say if the guy gets out of hand we'll taser him. That is not a conspiracy. That is perfectly logical. What makes it problematic is that it contradicted previous testimony.
Regardless, let's try and look at the situation objectively. Obviously it was a tragedy. The RCMP did not want to kill him. The fact that his life was lost is without question a tragedy. However, let's look at the facts. We're at an airport. A call has been made about someone freaking out and causing a disturbance.
In this video he is seen as very calm yet very agitated. You can see him pant as though there had just been an episode. In the background you can hear a witness declare he almost tried to throw a chair threw a window.
This is an airport. After 911 there is heightened security fears over any kind of disturbance. The background of the situation is indeed tragic. He didn't speak English. He was on his first plane flight and was waiting for his mother to meet him at the airport. She told him to wait in the baggage area but she wasn't permitted in the baggage area. She was told he didn't show up and left. He had been waiting 10 hours and got scared.
Not having a translator was the ultimate tragedy. This is an airport. People from countries all over the world coming and going regularly. Some attempt at finding a translator during those ten hours of waiting should have been made. A similar scene was portrayed in the movie The Terminal with a much happier ending.
This news video is the actual taser incident. He wasn't even armed with a stapler as erroneously claimed in court. Upon arrival the news report claims one officer said may I taser him and another said yes. They speak to him, he shrugs and takes a few steps away and they surround him. They didn't have to taser him at that point. Yet tasering him at that point was not in my opinion misconduct. I believe they should have taken him down without tasering him and handcuff him.
Yes they could have spent some time on conflict resolution and talk to him. Yes they should have waited for an interpreter but they could have done that after he was cuffed and sitting down not posing a threat to any person or property.
To me the problem rises in the type of tasers used. I was under the impression the type of tasers used were like the ones on the plane in the movie Anger Management. One of those one shot cattle prong devices. However, this video shows the type of tasers being used in Canada. It's a video of a nudist at a public gathering. He was in no way being violent. There were several police officers present who could have taken him down and cuffed him without tasering him.
Personally I think the taser is over used in our electronic society. Hitting someone in the fleshy part of the leg or arm with a nightstick is much more humane and effective. Nevertheless, this video shows that the taser used fires an electrode into the body at which point the voltage is turned up on a dial and the victim basically has a seizure. If you fast forward the video to the taser incident at the end you will see them fire the electrode into the person and crank the electricity through his body.
As he is having a seizure doing the fish out of water they shout at him to roll over. He is physically unable to do so with that much electricity running through his body. They take that as noncompliance and all dive on him while the guy with the taser keeps tasering him over and over again in the chest. That was insane and a complete misuse of the device. Those officers were way more negligent that in the airport incident and were lucky that person didn't die.
I have personally come to the conclusion that tasers should be banned. Especially the type that fires and electrode into the body. Anyone who knows anything about shock treatment in the old mental institutions can attest to the fact that these type of tasers should not be used. My Airport Taser inquiry conclusion: Discipline in this case is not warranted but a province wide ban on the use of tasers is which I understand has been proposed and considered.