Mike Webster Nails It at the Braidwood Inquiry

by matttbastard

I’m glad to see that someone involved in law enforcement is rightly disturbed by widespread TASER misuse:

A police psychologist blasted Taser International at the public inquiry probing the controversial use of Tasers, claiming Tuesday that Canadian police have been “brainwashed” by the manufacturer to justify “ridiculously inappropriate” use of the electronic weapon.

Mike Webster accused the company that makes Tasers of instructing police in Canada that when they encounter a person suffering from a “mythical” condition that Taser calls “excited delirium,” police have few options other than jolting the person with the controversial electrical weapon, which delivers a five-second shock that incapacitates a person.

“When you think the only tool you have is a hammer, then the whole world begins looking like a nail,” Webster told the inquiry in Vancouver.

[…]

“It may be that police and medical examiners are using the term [excited delirium] as a convenient excuse for what could be excessive use of force or inappropriate control techniques during an arrest,” Webster said.

“My own opinion on this is that Canadian law enforcement, and its American brothers and sisters, have been brainwashed by companies like Taser International and the Institute for the Prevention of In-custody Deaths,” he added.

“These organizations have created a virtual world replete with avatars that wander about with the potential to manifest a horrific condition characterized by profuse sweating, superhuman strength and a penchant for smashing glass that appeals to well-meaning but psychologically unsophisticated police personnel,” Webster said.

The chair of Taser, Tom Smith, told the inquiry Monday that Tasers save lives and reduce injuries to police and suspects.

Webster, however, said he has been shocked and embarrassed by recent “ridiculously inappropriate applications of the Taser” in low-risk situations involving people who are mentally imbalanced, likely suffering from “plain old delirium.”

Please make sure to read the entire article, which includes some examples of incidents in which Webster contends a stun gun should never have been deployed.  Transcripts of the Brainwood Inquiry are available here (note: as of today, archive only includes transcripts sessions on or before 05/09).

h/t Alison, who also provides an extensive list detailing more intances of “embarrassing” TASER misuse.

Flashback (originally posted here): The Lede has more on…‘excited delirium’, which, as noted earlier this year by an NPR report, “is not recognized by professional medical associations, and [is not] listed in the chief psychiatric reference book.” Part 2 of the report is also entirely relevant, focusing on the vested interest law enforcement officials and Taser International have in marketing the dubious disorder and includes the following abridged list of individuals who have died in police custody after being [stunned], with the cause of death listed as ‘excited delirium’:

  • June 13, 2005 – Shawn C. Pirolozzi, 30, of Canton, Ohio, dies after police tried to subdue him with a Taser. His death certificate listed excited delirium as the cause of death. The Taser was not listed as a contributing factor.
  • April 21, 2006 — Alvin Itula, 35, dies after a struggle with Salt Lake City police. Itula led officers on a foot chase, then fought with them when the officers caught up, according to police. Officers tased Itula and also used pepper spray and a baton. Itula stopped breathing soon after. The medical examiner found that Itula died of excited delirium brought on by methamphetamine and cocaine.
  • April 24, 2006 — Jose Romero, 23, dies in Dallas police custody. He was in his underwear, screaming and holding a knife on his neighbor’s porch. Police tased him multiple times. He died shortly thereafter. The Dallas County medical examiner ruled Romero died of excited delirium.
  • Sept. 5, 2006 — Larry Noles, 52, dies in Louisville, Ky., after a struggle with police. Noles, an ex-Marine, was standing naked in the middle of a street when police were called. Police said he was agitated. They tased him two or three times. He died a few minutes later. The Jefferson County medical examiner ruled Noles died because of excited delirium and not the Taser.
  • Oct. 29, 2006 — Roger Holyfield, 17, dies after police in Jerseyville, Ill., shocked him twice with a Taser. Holyfield had been walking down a street, holding a phone in one hand and a Bible in the other, yelling that he wanted Jesus. After policed shot him with the stun gun, Holyfield went into a coma; he died the following day. A medical examiner ruled the death was probably a result of excited delirium.
  • Dec. 17, 2006 — Terill Enard, 29, dies following a disturbance at a Waffle house in Lafayette, La. He was naked and yelling, with a broken leg bone piercing his skin. Police stunned Enard with a Taser; he died several hours later. Police said the forensic report from the Lafayette Parish coroner’s office found Enard died as a result of “cocaine-induced excited delirium.”

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A Stunning Incident In The UK

by matttbastard

“International” isn’t just corporate hyperbole:

Police fired a 50,000-volt Taser into the head of a 45-year-old company director who later proved to be unarmed and innocent. Daniel Sylvester, the owner of an east London security firm employing 65 staff to guard council offices, pubs and nightclubs, was driving home on October 20 when he was stopped by armed police because of “firearms related intelligence”.

According to Sylvester, he got out of his car and was surrounded by officers, at least two of whom were carrying automatic weapons. Without warning, one officer fired a Taser into the back of his head which made him drop to his knees, he said. A second shock caused him to fall on his face, breaking a front tooth. A further six shocks made him wet himself and left him lying in the road in pain while the officers and sniffer dogs searched the car and found nothing.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission has started an investigation and David Lammy, Sylvester’s MP in Tottenham, north London, has written to Sir Ian Blair, the Metropolitan police commissioner, to say he is “deeply concerned”.

[…]

“Armed police jumped out and opened my car door,” he said. “I said OK, I’m coming. I asked what was going on and as soon as I stepped out of the car I felt something touch me on the back of the head and then I was on my knees. Then it happened again and I was on my face and I felt somebody pressing my head down with their foot. By the fifth time I realised officers were pinning my arms together. It was like they were trying to break my arms and I was in pain, screaming out.

“I was shocked eight times altogether and I had urinated on the floor. It was like being tortured. It went on and on and I felt they were going to kill me.”

Wait–I left out the best part:

Sylvester said the incident had left him traumatised and he now suffered from short-term memory loss. He doubts the police would have stopped him had he not been black.

[…]

Tasers have been used 47 times in London this year, with black people accounting for almost two-thirds of those stunned.

Sheesh–even in the mother country “driving while black” still applies.

Quoth stageleft:

Personally I hope that British law allows Sylvester to sue the living crap out of the cop who fired the weapon, the cops who assaulted him, the police force that obviously doesn’t police the use of their weapon, and the government that licensed their use.

Seconded.

h/t pale via IM.

Update: I wonder if this latest incident will be added to the pre-Christmas press blitz? (The purple model would totally match my mother’s curtains.)

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Junk Science and Spiritualism: Separated By Less Than Six Degrees

by matttbastard

Well, that explains why ‘excited delirium’ has always seemed about as legitimate as table rapping.

Recommend this post at Progressive Bloggers

Quote of the Day: Equal Opportunity Electrocution

by matttbastard

“Obviously, (law enforcement agencies) don’t want to use a Taser [sic] on young children, pregnant woman or elderly people… . But if in your policy you deliberately exclude a segment of the population, then you have potentially closed off a tool that could have ended a confrontation.

– Sgt. Donald Davis, King County sheriff’s dept (Washington), commenting after a 2005 incident in which an electronic control deviceSM®OMFGWTFBBQ!!!1 was used on a woman (of colour) who, at the time, was 8 months pregnant. She had refused to sign a traffic ticket (shades of Jared Massey). fern hill has more (much more, sigh) on how some law enforcement agencies have a strict non-discrimination policy regarding the (indiscriminate) use of stun guns.

“I have a dream”, indeed.

Related: Do electronic control devicesSM®OMFGWTFBBQ!!!1 actually save lives? There are at least six families this past week who would contend otherwise.

Recommend this post @ Progressive Bloggers