Taser cops feared stapler-holding Robert Dziekanski

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      Cops have an expression they use when they're about to zap somebody with a 50,000-volt Taser.

      "Well, let's go and light him up," they say, according to Doug MacKay-Dunn, a 30-year veteran of the Vancouver Police Department.

      Now in his third term as councillor of the District of North Vancouver, MacKay-Dunn is a vocal critic of Tasers and the indiscriminate use of the devices by police.

      More than two years ago, council approved his motion asking the local RCMP detachment to report on its use of Tasers. When it came in, "the report, quite frankly, was woefully inadequate," MacKay-Dunn recalled for the Georgia Straight.

      The motion was prompted by an incident in Deep Cove wherein four RCMP officers tasered a young man. He was already lying on the ground when he was jolted four times. He didn't die.

      MacKay-Dunn filed his motion—which also included supporting Amnesty International's call for a moratorium on Taser use—in October 2006.

      About a year later, an incident similar to that in Deep Cove occurred at the Vancouver International Airport. Four RCMP officers confronted Robert Dziekanski in the early morning of October 14, 2007. After falling to the ground following a first Taser blast, the 40-year-old newly arrived Polish immigrant was stunned three more times, according to the officer with his finger on the trigger. He died moments later. (A previous RCMP report stated that officers tasered Dziekanski five times.)

      "It is my belief and it's my strong belief, and I've said this publicly, that Taser International sold the RCMP and other police departments a bill of goods," MacKay-Dunn said. "They basically marketed that instrument to the point where in order to increase their sales volume, they convinced everyone that it's perfectly safe."

      Const. Kwesi Millington is the RCMP officer who shot Dziekanski with a Taser. Appearing for the first time before the Braidwood commission of inquiry on March 2, the 32-year-old former fitness trainer testified that he zapped the Polish man after the latter grabbed a stapler.

      Commission counsel Art Vertlieb asked why the four officers—who were all armed with pistols, batons, and pepper spray and were wearing body armour—didn't wait a second or two more. Millington said that with a stapler in Dziekanski's hand, he feared for his and his fellow officers' safety.

      Vertlieb pushed: what if Dziekanski didn't grab a stapler? At that point, commissioner Thomas Braidwood stepped in to tell Vertlieb that he was getting too deep into conjecture.

      When cops start getting scared of staplers, according to Vancouver lawyer Cameron Ward, it's time for the public to demand a better deal.

      "I'm not sure if I would say it's laughable, because it was such a tragic circumstance," Ward told the Straight. "And perhaps what we, as the public who are paying these police officers, should be doing is to ensure that we get braver individuals to act as our law-enforcement officials."

      Ward has represented several clients in cases involving alleged police wrongdoing, and he says he is familiar with a common line when police justify their use of force.

      "It's entirely predictable that the police officers would say that they were in fear," he said. "However, in my view, it's rather embarrassing to the RCMP that each of these four armed, young, fit male police officers would be afraid of a man with a stapler."

      Former Vancouver police inspector Dave Jones has seen the video of the incident, and he asserted that it's easy for many to suggest now that the officers should have done otherwise.

      "I have the same reaction," Jones told the Straight. "I saw quick, sudden movement that the individual who died made, which I now guess is the grabbing of the stapler."

      Crown counsel announced last year that no criminal charges will be laid against the four RCMP officers involved in the Dziekanski incident.

      "None of those officers went to that ever expecting that somebody is going to die," Jones said. "They were trusting, perhaps, in the safety of the Taser."

      The Braidwood inquiry takes a break starting March 9 and resumes hearings on March 23.

      Taser International still making a killing

      > Fourth-quarter 2008 revenues: $26.4 million

      > Total 2008 revenues: $92.8 million

      > Debt by year end: zero

      > International sales' share of total net sales: 28 percent

      > Tasers shipped to the U.K. government in fourth quarter 2008: 5,000

      > Tasers ordered by the Korean National Police Agency: 550

      > Tasers shipped to the Brazilian National Guard: 4,000

      Source: Taser International's fourth-quarter 2008 financial statement and Web site

      Comments

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      11 Comments

      Stephen

      Mar 5, 2009 at 8:30am

      "When cops start getting scared of staplers, according to Vancouver lawyer Cameron Ward, it's time for the public to demand a better deal."

      I share Ward's incredulity that officers would regard a stapler as a lethal weapon. Besides being trained to deal with the not-so-humble stapler, maybe they should also be instructed on how to defend themselves against fresh fruit:

      <object width="425" height="344"><param name="movie" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/LBIiSZFuqvQ&hl=en&fs=1"></param><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"></param><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always"></param><embed src="http://www.youtube.com/v/LBIiSZFuqvQ&hl=en&fs=1" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true" width="425" height="344"></embed></object>

      After all, you never know when you'll be confronted by a homicidal maniac armed with a bunch of loganberries.

      human

      Mar 5, 2009 at 6:22pm

      I ADMIT THERE IS SOME GOOD COPS. BUT A LOT OF BAD , THINK THE POWER THEY HAVE HAS GONE TO THEIR HEAD. IVE SEEN THEM BULLY PEOPLE, HARASS PEOPLE AND DON'T TREAT THEM WITH RESPECT. SOME OF THEM THINK THEY ARE GODS.
      IF A COP IS FOUND GUILTY OF A CRIME WE SHOULD NOT PAY FOR LAWYER. IF FOUND NOT GUILTY THEN WE PAY.
      ASKED PEOPLE WHY THEY DON'T COMPLAIN WHEN HARASSED BY A COP. THEY SAID SCARED BECAUSE WILL GET IT WORSE DOWN THE ROAD.
      THANKS
      BUT ADMIT I WOULDN'T WANT TO BE A COP.

      RickW

      Mar 6, 2009 at 7:01pm

      I place part of the blame (perhaps even a big chunk of it) on the politicians who hold the purse strings. They see a way to save money on training (a minimum of 400 hours for RCMP I hear) by encouraging taser use instead of unarmed combat training.

      Also, most police forces (again due to budget constraints) have woefully inadequate pyschological testing, to see if an applicant is actually suitable to be a law enforcement officer.

      And for the good cops, given the money the "bad guys" have at their disposal nowadays, and the armament they can acquire with it, and (again laying it at the feet of the politicians) budgets that do not keep up with the times, how can we expect them to do what they were hired to do?

      thecossack

      Mar 6, 2009 at 9:57pm

      Well, lets see how we got here from there. Some say it started with the bail reform act and some say it started with the Charter. Some say it started with the conditional sentences. Some say it is as a result of judicial activism. Some say it started when the rehabilitation of the criminal became the mantra.

      If you examine "then" and now, there are some interesting highlights. At one time assaulting a police officer meant jail time. Albeit only 2 weeks or 30 days, but non the less, jail time. Cops did not carry spray or batons. Resisting arrest was actually a crime. Cops in the RCMP could be sent to some Arctic post or shown the door at the whim of the Commanding Officer. Instant discipline. You had the "bitch" laws that meant multiple repeat offenders could be put in jail for indeterminate time.

      Fast forward, some say due to the liberal 60's and 70's whose generation is now in charge. Judicial activism is a hot topic. Schools reward mediocrity. Society wants to be left alone by laws and regulations. The "its not my fault" refrain is heard constantly. Personal responsibility is a fading concept. You hire anybody, because they have the right, including former drug using people into your police establishment. You take away physical requirements, age requirements and expect cops to be able to handle large violent people. The RCMP is so proud that they even hired a 52 year old. Just the person I want coming to my rescue if I am accosted by hooligans. Or the 5' 40 year old female with a weight problem. So what do you do when these specimens that cannot grapple like the farm boys of yore? Well you find ways to give them an advantage. Batons, spray, tasers, and what next? Oh more training. Remember, no cops want to go home with any bruises, abrasions, injuries, or muscle strains from engaging violent people.

      "In December, Training magazine announced the finalists for its Training Top 125 list from thousands of companies and corporations. Ranking 81st, the RCMP placed ahead of such corporations as Mastercard Worldwide, Intel Corp, Qualcomm Inc., Pitney Bowes, and Naval Surface Warfare Centre. For over 30 years, U.S.-based Training magazine has been the leading business publication for innovative learning and development and Human Resources professionals." Guess they have to improve that figure.

      The courts have graduated from whether or not a person is guilty to a microscopic examination of how the police gathered their evidence, and whether or not the myriad of technicalities, brought on by the bottom feeders through case law, have been satisfied.

      It is little wonder why there is no respect for the police and the courts. Conditional sentence for murder? Good thing the police did not minutely violate his rights or he would not have got that.

      Is that how we got here?

      human says: "IF A COP IS FOUND GUILTY OF A CRIME WE SHOULD NOT PAY FOR LAWYER. IF FOUND NOT GUILTY THEN WE PAY." So human, you are alright with paying for the lawyer fees of the cop recently getting out of the impaired charge because the Crown screwed it up?

      RickW

      Mar 8, 2009 at 9:11am

      Cossack:

      I don't much care what the physical characteristics are for applicants. But as long as they can pass the training (especially the unarmed combat portion - Kung Fu Fighting, anyone?), they become cops. Having said that, EVERYONE (farm boys included) can expect to run up against an opponent bigger and better.

      If the four "hooligans" at YVR can prove their victim presented such a credible threat that their training would not suffice, so be it. But from what I have heard, such is not the case..................

      thecossack

      Mar 8, 2009 at 3:25pm

      Well that's just it. If they are wearing the uniform, it means they passed the training. The weight challenged female, the wispy male both can pass the training because it has been downgraded due to the whining of part of society that anybody can do any job. Remember the debate with firemen a few years back?

      You may not care about the physical attributes, and I would not either, except that when the police try to do their job there is no court system to back them up. So what do they do, give them some new toys. Read my previous. Size and strength play a big role in physical altercations, a fact you would know if you have every had any, unless you believe in the fantasy of a quick move and a karate chop subdues anybody. Try a little mock fight with someone with a stapler ans see if you get hurt.

      It would be more acceptable if they would have dog piled the guy at the airport, but is that what the training says? In a dog pile, first man in usually takes the first shots. Junior man step up?

      RickW

      Mar 8, 2009 at 8:17pm

      I have to agree with you for the most part, cossack. But I still lay the blame to a great extent at the doorstep of the mealy politicians, for restricting the funding needed to maintain a modern police force..........

      thecossack

      Mar 12, 2009 at 1:30pm

      No argument from me on that RW. Just run the numbers on that one for a clear picture. Procedural steps for major crimes has increased over 300 percent in the past 20 years. the time and workload required to investigate something to the point where it is before the courts has exponentially increased. Nowhere do you find a comparable increase in funding that remotely resembles the need.

      Estimates vary, but a UCFV criminology study shows that the costs of now reaching the same performance and levels of service to the public is close to a billion dollars. No politician can handle the truth so they fiddle while Dodge City returns to various communities. Here is an interesting link:
      http://www.primetimecrime.com/contributing/2005/20050801ICURS.htm

      It cites one of the studies I mentioned.

      Colleenc

      Apr 28, 2009 at 4:51pm

      And they will go on to kill and here is the real killer they are going to kill a loved one of someone very high up there before they make there way out of here. Its just a question of time. Who do they taser??? Read about it?? Because its another gurantee if you keep at it like this. So far you got the criminal next your going to get the loved one of someone very rich and very prominient. Call it justice.

      Colleenc

      Apr 28, 2009 at 5:37pm

      And why do I call it justice because before anything is done you got to have money to get any justice. Now if that isn't the truth? And the part about tasering criminals what I meant was tasering the poor which is a crime in this province as its where you find the police. Harassing the poor its what they are paid to do and they do it very well whle ciminals are left at large.