Announcement coming shortly on charges recommended against off-duty mountie in death of Orion Hutchinson

 A decision whether to approve  or decline the charges recommended against  RCMP Corporal Benjamin “Monty” Robinson,( in the death of  21-year-old Orion Hutchinson,) is expected shortly.

  ” Certainly, we are not talking about a matter of months, nor are we even talking about a matter of weeks at this point,” said Robin Baird, A/Communications Counsel for the Criminal Justice Branch, when I interviewed him by phone this afternoon in Victoria. ” The public can expect an announcement shortly.”

When asked why there has been such a delay in the decision, Baird went on to say that Crown received material disclosure  in the case as recently as this week, and added:  ” The time is ripe for a decision.”

” We are nearing completion, but we need to be deliberate and complete in considering the information.”

When asked if the public could expect an announcement before Christmas, he replied: ” I would say most certainly.”

 On october 25th,2008, Orion Hutchinson was riding his motorcycle  in Delta when he was struck by an off-duty RCMP officer – Corporal Benjamin ‘Monty’ Robinson.Hutchinson died at the scene, but  Delta police said the driver of the vehicle that struck him left the scene, and returned later where he failed a breathalyzer test.

 Following a lengthy, 7 month-long investigation, Delta police  finally announced in June, of this year, that they were recommending  charges of dangerous driving causing death, and impaired driving causing death.

Since then,Crown has been the subject of  public scrutiny for the length of time it has taken to make a decision to proceed on those charges or not, in light of the fact one year has passed since the death of Orion.

Baird said that Crown is always mindful of the family’s emotions – as well as the public’s – with regards to justice, but that it is important every bit of material is thoroughly examined before proceeding.

When asked if the delay had anything to do with the charges being recommended against a member of the RCMP, Baird said:

 ” Absolutely not. ”  Baird repeated that Crown is always mindful of the need for public confidence in the system.

Corporal Robinson was the senior officer among the four  RCMP members involved in the tasering of Robert Dziekanski at YVR .

How far have we come since November 2007?

November 16th, 2007.

That is the day I blogged about my feelings regarding the  RCMP’s response to Robert Dziekanski’s tasering death at Vancouver airport.  Here we are, a year and a half  after this post and we are only now getting some understanding into what happened that day. How interesting to note the events since 2007 leading us to Benjamin Monty Robinsons testimony yesterday.

Mountie involved in Dziekanski taser incident to make first appearance January 15th in Surrey provincial court.

A local RCMP officer will make his first appearance in Surrey Provincial Court on January 15th, where it is expected formal charges will be laid in relation to his involvement in a collision dating back to October 2008 where a young man dies at the scene – and the officer  in question was allegedly impaired.

Corporal Benjamin Monty Robinson  was released on a promise to appear, and is facing charges of impaired driving causing death following the accident  in Tsawassen that left 21 year old Orion Hutchison dead.

He is also one of the 4 officers involved in the tasering of polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski, that did not result in criminal charges being laid.

All I can say, is that  sometimes justice works in funny ways.

Time for the RCMP to do the right thing: Pull tasers out of service pending further independent testing.

Forgive me, but I’m opening the door to ‘taser talk’ again. ( The last time I did this it initiated an ongoing debate in the comments section that lasted for several months.) Last night I watched an excellent documentary on The National, regarding tasers. More specifically, the older x26 model manufactured prior to 2005, of which thousands are in active service all over Canada. 

CBC News and Radio Canada commissioned an independent study of these tasers, testing them using scientific standards and protocols designed   by Pierre Savard, a biomedical engineer at the University of Montreal, using Taser International’s specifications. Of the 41 tasers tested, 4 delivered significantly more current than Taser International says is possible – in some cases, up to 50% more than stated. The findings are particularly significant in part because police officers are trained to aim the Taser at a suspects chest, increasing the chances of  cardiac arrest if a larger current is delivered.

RCMP have now pulled random sampling of tasers in the field and say preliminary reports indicate no problems. They will not say how many tasers have been tested or where/how  the testing was conducted, but in a surprising move, Quebec justice minister Jacques Dupuis announced Friday the province was pulling older weapons off the streets to test them. They are also pulling samples of newer models to check the current output as well.

Taser International has issued an official statement here:

Taser usage in Canada has been a contentious issue since its addition into the arsenal of weapons used by the RCMP. Clearly, the safety of officers who serve the public is important, but just as important is the certainly that this weapon performs in a consistent and reliable manner.

Currently, there are more international safety standards for cell phones than there are for tasers and there have been no independent or government initiated controls or standards by which the force can rely on – the only testing and standards have all been done by the manufacturer, Taser International. The CBC test clearly shows that their information cannot be relied upon as being  100% accurate in some cases. In addition, no method has been developed for RCMP divisions ( or other police forces) to test the ongoing performance of the Taser in the field,leaving them powerless to monitor reliability or find weapons that may not be performing to specifications.

I question why this weapon has been able to be used on an international basis without such safety standards in place ? It would seem almost negligent to me  that police forces have so hastily laid claim to a weapon whose  manufacturers claims  have not been ascertained by anyone other than themselves.

Yes, Tasers have assisted officers in subduing suspects. Yes, Tasers can and do prevent on the job injuries – in some cases. And while I do believe there is a place for a weapon such as this within policing, the number of deaths related to taser usage is significant enough that combined with the outcome of this test, the only option would seem to be to pull all weapons and call for immediate government regulation and testing. At least, that’s how I see it.

View the entire episode, read the reports and responses through this link:

Background stories on Robert Dziekanski and other taser related  stories can be viewed here:

Taser Talk – Too Many Questions, Not Enough Answers.

Here we are, 6 months after the taser- related death of Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski, and still no answers.

In fact, more questions have arisen regarding the safety of the newest weapon in police officers arsenals, with little resolution on any. Most disturbing- although not surprising- is the continued defense of the safety of the questionable weapon by creator and manufacturer, Taser International. Of course, do they have any other alternative? No. At this point, any admission of any kind of failure to ensure complete and appropriate taser testing would probably result in a class-action lawsuit.

Enough already.The last straw for me was seeing a TV report investigating irregularities in the amount of electricity a taser discharge contained. To be more precise, the report highlighted the fact the every single discharge was different, with an extremely wide variance in electrical charge- some discharges clearly and vastly exceeding the stated discharge amount. 

As if that weren’t bad enough, there is no way for an officer to determine if his taser is working properly, or discharging the “appropriate” electrical charge.  Sounds like a liability to me.

Can you imagine ? Maybe it shoots the right charge once, but four times the proper amount on the next use.  No consistency, no testing method for the officer in charge of the weapon, and therefore, a complete wild card in my eyes. The admission that there is absolutely no way for an officer to know how much electricity will be discharged when he or she uses that weapon, opens the door for all sorts of  new legal liabilities within law enforcement.

Would the public stand for police handguns that unpredictable? What if there was no way to tell if an officers gun was working properly or not, if it might backfire, or release more than one bullet with each pull of the trigger? Do you really think that would be acceptable?

Pull tasers from all police, security and private use , in Canada, until we have some absolutes – some REAL guidelines, more regulated and independent testing, and development of after-market product safety and consistency testing. Right now , there are still too many questions and not enough answers or solutions, and to me , that’s completely unacceptable.

RCMP “Horribly Broken”- Must Change.

Much to the chagrin of some I know, whose opinons are that the RCMP is a steadfast, honourable institution, with no, or little corruption, protection for whistleblowers etc…….. it appears that whistleblowers who did come forward to report wrongdoing, were in fact , punished for doing so. Cover-ups continued, mis-management  at every level, and scandal- over fabricated testimony –  these are the core elements of the RCMP that need to be torn apart and built again.

The task force, headed under Toronto lawyer David Brown, had been asked by the federal government to look into the structure and dealings of the RCMP. Their  objective? To determine the numerous fault’s within the organization and  the best action to repair the obviously ineffective and ” horribly broken” institution.

It is now recommended that the RCMP be split from the feds, and run under  the managment of a civilian board of directors.

 Yet another major recommendation is that a new independant commission be created to take the place of the two that already investigate and report on the RCMP’s complaints, but with enforcement power on findings.

    ” The new committee would hear complaints from RCMP members and the public, but it would also launch its own investigations and have the power to summon witnesses and compel testimony. Its findings would be made public and its rulings on discipline and grievance issues would be binding”

 Its obvious changes have needed for many years, and just now are we coming to resolution on the matters within the RCMP. Implementation will take time, and I have a feeling that there may be resistance within some levels who adhere to the brotherhood mentality that remains within the insititution.

Of course, the other major news for ” BAD NEWS FRIDAY” ( it is known that people have two days over the weekend to forget the”bad”  news released on a Friday, so if its something that they dont want a lot of discussion on ,thats when they release it- likewise, if its a good report, or the goverment wants some buzz about it, they hold the news until Monday, os people have all week to talk about it. )  – were the changes to taser usage by the RCMP, which to me, are merely a  token offering to soothe the public outcry regarding the weapon. The idea is that they will only be used when people are clearly combative and actively resisting arrest, as well as threatening grievous bodily harm, rather than whenever they feel like it.

Problem is, those terms are subjective to the individual holding that taser, and the commissioner will not share with the public how those terms are defined by the RCMP. Does holding your hand in the air mean you are combative? If you laugh at the cops, is that combative, or resisting arrest? You get the idea.  So, unless we see a little more definition on it, I expect we will still see the tasers around and in use.

A larger deterrent to inappropriate policing is the increasing event of the public taping police interactions with their own recording devices. Perhaps if the cops think their actions might be caught on tape more frequently, as they are, it will reduce the times when inappropriate actions are taken. The reports that have currently been released show that even the RCMP is not immune to corruption and abuse, and its about time the steps were taken to ensure both pubic safety and confidence, along with accountibility.

I’m Laila Yuile, and this is how I see it.

RCMP Watchdog Calling for Force to Restrict it’s Use of Tasers

 Surprise, surprise.

 The Commission for Public Complaints against the RCMP released an interim report today, that criticizes the force for “failing to manage the use of tasers and allowing usage to grow in the past six years, to include cases where people were clearly non-combative.” My interpretation? SOME officers are jumping the gun, and taking the easiest way to end a situation where, and when, it is NOT called for. Read : Lazy.

The report stops short of a moratorium, but goes on to recommend that the RCMP needs to limit its use of the taser, increase training for officers and conduct more research on the weapon’s effects. It is suggested that the weapon be re-classified from an “intermediate” tool such as pepper spray or a baton, to an “impact” weapon- meaning that it should only be used when there is “the threat of death or grievous bodily harm to officers or the public.”

Not one report has been done on the RCMP’s use of the taser since 2001, and the weapon has been used more than 3000 times.

Clearly, Robert Dziekanski was NOT threatening death OR grievous bodily harm to either the officers, or the public. 

This report, although satisfying to me in its content, will likely mean nothing in the end. Although the Commission investigates complaints against the RCMP, and makes recommendations, it is completely powerless to enforce  those changes.  Stockwell Day, Public Safety Minister, will not comment until the government reviews the report.

So why bother? What good is an agency that is powerless to make changes in and of itself?  Does it make us feel better when the RCMP refuses to implement its recommendations, such as in the Ian Bush case? Or does it just further erode what confidence we have left in what used to be construed as one of the most honourable of Canadian callings?

I’m Laila Yuile, and this is, how I see it.

Taser use worldwide controversial at best

I’m embarressed.
I’m embarressed by the RCMP’s handling of this entire Robert Dziekanski fiasco, and although I wish one could offer reassurances to visitors from around the world that this isnt indicative of what to expect, I can’t.
My faith is in the RCMP is tenuous, at best. Not because the 4 officers failed to handle the situation correctly, but because of the political spin now being spit out by RCMP media reps. They should have immediately come out and admitted the officers jumped the gun, and that a different course of action should have been taken – as if THAT would ever happen. They should have handed it over to another force to investigate, to at least attempt to make it look fair and impartial. They instead, make it seem like we, the public, dont understand what was shown on that video, as if there was something else going on there that we could not see.

Whats next from the old RCMP spin machine – he had weapons of mass destruction in his pocket? He was sending them telepathic threats?

The media reps for the RCMP, and those within the RCMP handling the investigation, have done -and are continuing to do – a great disservice to their own members. The ones who do their job well, and with pride ; the officers who go out daily to keep us safe, and sometimes lose their lives in the process of doing so. They are the ones who will suffer the lack of respect and trust from the general public based on their superiors response and handling of the questions surrounding Roberts Dziekanski’s death.

And this does not exclude the airports part in this series of errors. Why wasnt airport medical staff called? Why did he remain in that area un-noticed for so long? Where was a translator, or signage in different languages ? How many other visitors with no english skills have had difficulty, but perhaps luckily found their way around?

Up until this, my knowledge of tasers was really very small, so I’ve done a little fact finding.

Taser use seems to have originated- surprise, surprise- in the United States. In fact, Taser International , the biggest producer of tasers, is an American company.
Because tasers aren’t considered firearms, there are no government regulations to control and govern their use in most countries.
Although extensively used in the US by police forces, some forces have recented halted use due to concerns of deaths following Taser use, until further studies are done.

According to Arizona-based Taser International’s website :

“A Taser temporarily immobilizes a person by using pulsing electricity to over-stimulate the nervous system, which locks up muscles while the current is flowing.

The guns shoot two fishhook-like electric darts about 25 feet. Each time the trigger is pulled, the darts deliver a 50,000-volt jolt for 5 full seconds. The triggers can be activated as many times as needed for the life of the gun’s battery.

Following each 5-second jolt, people who are shocked generally regain all muscle control.

Tasers can also be used like cattle prods, but the effect is more isolated and less painful.”

Well, it all sounds so….. barbaric. There can be a time and a place for this weapon, and it has been used effectively thousands of times.

The International Association of Chiefs of Police says Tasers are effective if used properly but that more studies are needed.

The group’s Taser policy urges officers to use it only to subdue suspects who are violent or about to injure someone; not to use it on a handcuffed person unless he is “overtly assaultive”; to use it the least number of times; and to seek medical attention for anyone who has been shocked. So, in the right situation, it can be an approriate tool.

The problem is, there have been no real concrete studies on how the device affects people with heart conditions, and most deaths due to tasering have been in those individuals that had some medical conditions. Taser International does not seem to have done studies on those with medical conditions, or those who are taking medications or recreational drugs – only healthy individuals were tested.

People who take stimulant drugs, have heart conditions or are highly agitated because of psychological problems are already more likely to die from heart problems – so a Taser’s effect on these people is more likely to have a fatal result.

And what about pregnant women, or minors? Can tasering cause a miscarriage or fetal death? Can minors or smaller individuals handle the electrical shock? What about elderly people?

There seem to be more questions than answers, and with no concrete information, taser use by the police should be suspended,and reviewed, until federal authorities can determine the safety and usage of the device. An immediate halt to usage, pending further studies and regulations.

We, as Canadian’s, need to speak up, and speak loudly, and demand accountibility.

Enough is enough.

 Stockwell Day refuses to call for a national review? Well, Stockwell Day, you represent the people, or did you forget?  Do not forget that we, the people, elected the politicians in, that you are in public positions of trust, and as such, must respond to public consideration when it is demanded of you..  And we, the people,  can speak loudly at the polls – and our memories are long when it comes to bad politics….

I am asking everyone who read this to let the world know that we  Canadians find this situation with tasers and the RCMP deplorable. Canada is still a democracy, last time I checked. Contact your local MLA, your MP, your mayor. Put it in writing. 

Take a stand for someone who can no longer do so- Robert Dzienkanski .

 Someone needs to set a standard here, to prevent deaths like Robert Dziekankski’s from happening again.

I’m Laila Yuile, and this is how I see it.