In the Blog
Some viewers may find the images disturbing.
Because I listen to CBC radio at night and in the morning, in a less than 12 hour stretch last Wednesday night to Thursday morning, I heard Robert Dziekanski die four times.
CBC played the audio of Paul Pritchard’s recording of Mr Dziekanski dying on all the hourly news, as well as on some of the shows in between. At least on The Current Thursday morning Kevin Sylvester did a decent job of prefacing the clip with how potentially disturbing it was.
Dziekanski’s mother is in seclusion “because she knows the images are explosive and she doesn’t want to see the final moments of her son’s life repeated on newscasts” (CBC News).
I have posted before my thoughts on Tasers. And how I feel about them stands. And then some.
For instance, in 2003, the US Department of Homeland Security’s law enforcement agencies, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) rejected use of Tasers by their officers “out of an abundance of caution related to safety” (p17). That’s right, the Mounties are using a weapon rejected by the Department of Homeland Security.
While Tasers are allowed by the RCMP, there are apparently no rules of engagement for their use. RCMP officers determine Taser use on a case-by-case basis:
“What we generally suggest is if it’s a situation where O.C. spray, or pepper spray, would be appropriate for use, and that usually means I’m demonstrating some sort of combative or assault-like behaviour … that might be an appropriate choice for a Taser.”
The RCMP has “rules of thumb” but no rules of engagement? For a weapon which, according to Taser International: “uses electrical impulses to interfere with a subject’s neuron-muscular system, causing substantial incapacitation”.
An RCMP representative describes Tasers as “less-lethal alternative”. Not “non-lethal”. So what does that mean? It will kill you less? Less of the time? How murky when we discuss lethality in degrees.
Taser International’s own submission to the US Securities and Exchange Commission for the quarter ending in September 2005 states that:
“Our products are often used in aggressive confrontations that may result in serious, permanent bodily injury or death to those involved. A person injured in a confrontation or otherwise in connection with the use of our products may bring legal action against us to recover damages on the basis of theories including personal injury, wrongful death, negligent design, dangerous product or inadequate warning. We are currently subject to a number of such lawsuits. We may also be subject to lawsuits involving allegations of misuse of our products. We have seen and expect to continue to see an increased number of complaints filed against the Company alleging injuries resulting from the use of a TASER device.”
The report goes on to note that Taser International “as a result of on-going negative press coverage and increased litigation” was experiencing a 9-month decline in sales.
However, two years later, their quarterly SEC report from September 2007, while including almost verbatim the section quoted above, also stated that:
“Net sales increased $10.2 million, or 56%, to $28.5 million for the third quarter of 2007 compared to $18.3 million for the third quarter of 2006. The growth in the third quarter of 2007 was primarily the result of increased sales to our core law enforcement market with new agencies deploying TASER technology following extensive test and evaluation periods and from agencies continuing to expand the use of TASER devices to their first responders.”
I won’t link here to the video which records Mr Dziekanski’s death, because it is already omnipresent, and I don’t know that I think that’s right. But here is the link to The Current from last Thursday. Interestingly, during the interview Mr Pritchard says that he started taping the incident because it was like entertainment. Bored in the airport and someone is making a scene. Future YouTube post. It wasn’t until the man was screaming in pain did the seriousness of the situation have impact.
By all accounts I have seen, the RCMP very obviously did exactly what groups like Amnesty International have warned: they opted to use a Taser as their first response in a situation which clearly didn’t warrant it. Within seconds of arriving, they ran 50,000 volts multiple times through one agitated, unarmed man who was trying to communicate, and who was using no force against them.
If you would like to read what the RCMP have to say for themselves, here is the link to the RCMP Commissioner’s November 17th statement on the “Incident at Vancouver Airport”.