Thursday, November 15, 2007

Canada to Review Taser Use After Shocking Video of B.C. Taser Death Released

Graphic and disturbing footage was made public today of the B.C., taser-related death of Robert Dziekansk.

Dziekansk, a Polish immigrant, died on October 14, 2007 after police shot him with a taser gun at Vancouver International Airport:

A CBC report decribes the video's contents:

The 10-minute video recording clearly shows four RCMP officers talking to Robert Dziekanski while he is standing with his back to a counter and with his arms lowered by his sides, but his hands are not visible.

About 25 seconds after police enter the secure area where he is, there is a loud crack that sounds like a Taser shot, followed by Dziekanski screaming and convulsing as he stumbles and falls to the floor.

Another loud crack can be heard as an officer appears to fire one more Taser shot into Dziekanski.

As the officers kneel on top of Dziekanski and handcuff him, he continues to scream and convulse on the floor.

One officer is heard to say, "Hit him again. Hit him again," and there is another loud cracking sound.

Police have said only two Taser shots were fired, but a witness said she heard up to four Taser shots.

Robert Dziekanski falls to the floor as an RCMP officer looks on.(Paul Pritchard)
A minute and half after the first Taser shot was fired Dziekanski stops moaning and convulsing and becomes still and silent.

After viewing this video, one can not help but wonder why in the world this lethal weapon was used by police in a situation that clearly posed no risk to anyone?

Is taser use the new refuge of the laziest of police authorities - those too inept, dispassionate and ill-inclined to use good, old-fashioned human skills to diffuse a minor nuisance and maintain order?

What would police have done in this circumstance before the invention of this lethal device?

I see no legitimate use whatsoever for tasers in Canada in day-to-day police dealings. We must take a hard look at immediate regulation to eliminate or, at least, severely constrain their use.

According to Supreme Court of Canada reference librarian, Michel-Adrien Sheppard, such a review of taser-use will now occur:

Public Security Minister Stockwell Day told the federal Parliament today that he is ordering a review relating to the use of Tasers, weapons that paralyze subjects by administering shocks of 50,000 volts.

...Taser-related deaths in Canada: "In Canada, at least 18 people have died shortly after police officers shocked them with a Taser."

More on this story from CNN and City News.

- Garry J. Wise, Toronto

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