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.”

http://www.cbc.ca/canada/story/2007/12/12/rcmp-watchdog.html

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.

25 Comments on “RCMP Watchdog Calling for Force to Restrict it’s Use of Tasers

  1. Run the numbers. How many times used Canada wide, how many deaths/injuries. How may times used in the US, how many deaths/injuries. Run a comparison to the sidearms carried.

    Maybe we should make the Complaints commission totalitarian in its jurisdiction. Implementation of recommendations period, no matter how costly, effective, or realistic.

    Re-classify the zapper to the level of death or grievous bodily harm. Same level as the firearm. Better still, replace the firearm with the zapper.

  2. Laila, there is so much wrong with your post, where do I begin…

    Well, some of it is not your fault. The CBC article is severely lacking in detail and is factually incorrect. I suggest that you read the actual report:

    http://www.cpc-cpp.gc.ca/DefaultSite/NewsRoom/index_e.aspx?articleid=1635#execsummary

    Okay, first, the CPC report recommends that the Taser be classified as an “impact weapon”, which can be used on subjects who are combative OR pose a threat of death or grievous bodily harm. The CBC article (and your post) in incorrect in stating that the report says they should only be used for Death / Grievous bodily harm).

    A combative person is someone who directs, or threatens to direct, some physical force towards the police (from adopting a fighting stance, pushing the police, or throwing punches, etc).

    Currently, the police can use the Taser on people who are “Resistant”, which means the person is actively resisting arrest – they are pulling away from the police, holding onto someone or something next to them, or just walking away from the police, etc but no physical threat is directed TOWARDS the officer. In those cases clearly some force is necessary, for the police have a duty to take the person into custody, but what is the right tool for the job? The report says that Tasers should not be the right tool.

    But, if you expect the police to be able to subdue resistant persons and take them into custody (can’t just let them walk away), then you have to be willing to invest money to train the police in the use of other tools or tactics.

    You can’t just take a tool away without putting another one in it’s place. And that costs money.

    Secondly, at the very least, Dziekanski was displaying combative behaviour. He was smashing things and when the police approached he armed himself with the only weapon at hand; a stapler, and assumed a fighting stance (watch the video closely). That’s not resistant; it’s combative.

    So, even by the CPC Taser report’s recommendations, the police acted appropriately. I would bet money that in a few years, when all the inquiries etc have finished, the CPC will come to that conclusion.

    Third, Laila, you assert that the CPC should be able to impose its recommendations on the RCMP.
    Well, if the CPC had the power to dictate police policy, then the police would be run by the CPC – an unelected arm of the government!! Don’t we want our ELECTED officials to do that kind of thing? (this is a big point; you need to respond to this one)

    No, the role of the CPC is to review and recommend, full stop. It’s then up to the politicians to ensure implementation / funding of recommendations. You want a recommendation imposed on the police; call your MP / MLA.

    You also talk about the RCMP “refusing” to adopt the recommendations from the Bush case. Have you read those recommendations and the report? Or do you just go off of what the media says and take it as gospel (as evidenced above). I would suggest that doing so is very dangerous; the media is quite unreliable.

    The RCMP cannot just implement sweeping changes that quickly; it’s impossible. Let’s take the example of one of few serious recommendations from the Bush case; installing cameras in all RCMP detachments. Do you know how expensive that is? You have to find the proper equipment, put out a contract for bidding, install the equipment, then you have to maintain it, then you have to keep the tapes or DVD’s for an appropriate time.

    And what does this do to client service – imagine being a mother coming in to report that her child was sexually assaulted by a relative – is that going to be all on tape? Is that a sensitive way to deal with someone? Okay, so you also need to develop some appropriate policy, and that is quite difficult. What privacy issues are there? What human resources issues are there (imagine being video taped every minute of every day in your place of work; might not go over so well, eh?)? When can the tapes be disclosed to the court or other parties?

    We’re not talking about a gas station here; we’re talking about every RCMP police station in the country! Do you have any appreciation for how complex and expensive that is? So, just because it’s not done right away, doesn’t mean it’s a refusal. Again, sometimes you can’t satisfy your desire for immediate gratification.

    And finally, you talk about the eroding of public confidence. Can’t you see the RCMP is just the media punching bag right now; any story that is anti-police is sure to get good ratings!

    Granted, the RCMP has some issues, especially at the managerial level (stay tuned tomorrow for the Brown Task Force report – exciting stuff!). But, the RCMP is not as bad as the media makes it out to be. Look at the College of Physicians website and their disciplinary ratings, or the Law Society. Not nice stuff there either, but that doesn’t get any press. Why not?

    The media sensationalizes stories for their own ends and there is a lot of bad reporting out there. For example, I heard Christy Clark asking Linda Bush questions about the CPC report on the Ian Bush shooting and it was the most pathetic journalism I have ever heard / seen. She was feeding Linda answers and failed to address the issues.

    For example, they talked about how Paul Kennedy disregarded Joe Slemko’s expert blood spatter evidence for “no apparent reason”. Simply not true. Read the actual report, and you’ll see that Slemko was a defence witness hired gun and not an “independent seeker of the truth”.

    Kennedy says of Slemko, “Mr. Slemko’s reluctance to accept the overwhelming and obvious evidence of a violent struggle and his adherence to a factual framework that supports his opinion to the exclusion of other reasonable explanations undermines any weight to be given to his opinion.” and “In making his speculative assumption about positioning, Mr. Slemko has gone beyond his area of expertise. ”

    Ouch. Wouldn’t a good journalist have brought that to Linda Bush’s attention and got her reaction to it? Yeah, a good journalist would have. Christy Clark is not a good journalist, in my opinion.

    So, Laila, maybe your hero Christy Clark should brush up on her research skills and maybe you shouldn’t rely on her program to form all of your opinions of the police.

  3. Christy Clark my hero? Do you ever read anything I write, or ony just peek in here and there? Go back and look through my posts- I cant stand Christy Clark, as a talk show host, as a politician or as a woman. I find her repugnant for so many reasons, really…lol…. everyone who knows me is laughing very hard at you right now…lol… Listen to her show? Only when I want a good laugh. If you hate her as much as I do, email me and I will fill you in on little Mrs. Marissen….

    As far as your assesment of my opinion…

    Really, are elected officials so much better at running the country than appointed or volunteer citizens? Have you ever read the list of MP’s who have criminal records, criminal proceedings, horrible credit, bankruptcies, etc etc? You know how to google, go at it. At least when someon isnt elected, its easier to get rid of them if they arent doing their jobs.

    how many politicians campaign the good talk, we love you blah blah blah, we want to lower taxes, etc, kissing babies……. andthen, when they are elected, its all about them amd their career aspirations…..

    Oh, you are very humorous “Simon”.

  4. Okay, I take back the Christy Clark comments; I made some assumptions based on your radio thing and filling in for her on New Years. Mea culpa. Very embarrassing – after I chastise you for jumping to conclusions I go and do the same. Tisk tisk.

    An error to your argument, if I may; the “appointed” citizens are appointed by the elected officials. So, if they do a good job, it’s only by the grace of the elected official who put them in that place to begin with.

    Why do we want an elected official in charge of the RCMP (ie the minister of public safety) instead of an appointed official? Well, if we started handing out huge amounts of unchecked power and authority to appointed officials then we may find the appointees someday have more power than the people who appointed them…not good. Dictatorships start that way.

    I agree with your assessment of politicians. Their motivation is the pursuit of power, nothing more. Even if the Conservatives came up with the best plan ever, the NDP would say it was stupid only to score political points so that they stand a better chance to come to power. I’m sure it would be vice-versa if the NDP were in power.

    The Greens are interesting; did you know they appointed Elizabeth May by consensus? Too bad they are seen as a one issue party and quite left wing.

    Back on topic, are elected officials more competent than appointed officials? No, but we have the option of not re-electing them. Firing people is not as easy as you may think, especially in high level government posts where there are a lot of politics at play and some unelected people can have enormous influence on campaigns, policy, etc.

    Will you be watching for the Brown Task Force report tomorrow?

  5. It is easier to rant than analyze. Some people just love to tilt at windmills. I notice several excellent points not addressed nor rebutted.

    Even the most complex issues can be somewhat simplified by running the numbers. Simon alluded to a couple of issues with the cameras in every office. Just run the numbers on that one.

    One set of numbers that would interest me is how many times per day do the RCMP come in contact with people? How many times in a violent situation? How many of those result in unacceptable outcomes? You can start on their website with the actual number of police officers at approximately 17,000, in 750 detachments Canada wide.

  6. Getreal: “assumed a fighting stance (watch the video closely). That’s not resistant; it’s combative.”

    …umm, me thinks YOU should watch the video closely.

    He was not combative, if anything was glad the Polizi was there. He was standing with his arms by his side, again a non-violent stance when they zapped him.

  7. tomax,

    How do you know what the police saw from their perspective; your view is from behind them with a counter in the way.

    And, dude, “me thinks” sounds really retarded.

  8. ‘Me thinks’ isn’t retarded, but if that’s all you can drum up, well I won’t call you that.

    Too much class.

    Yes, I was watching from behind. but look at the heads of the cops where they are looking, at his face.

  9. Oh, Dziekanski was GLAD the police were there? Thank you for clearing that up. Are your mind reading abilities capable of any more insight; maybe you could tell us why he was smashing shit in the first place, or why he took off from the police, or why he picked up that stapler (he wanted to help with the paper work, right?). I’ll let the Coroner’s Inquest know of this development immediately, I’m sure they will be happy to know what the guy was thinking.

    You also have the amazing visual acuity to see what the police are looking at. Because in that shitty grainy Youtube video I couldn’t see that at all. Can you read lips, too, because that would also be helpful.

    Face it, you don’t know shit about what happened; you are making huge assumptions and filling in the blanks with your imagination.

    You were not there, you have no training or experience in arresting people who may not want to be arrested, you have no training or experience with people who are acting erratically, and you don’t know what information the police were acting on. You don’t know what the police said to the guy initially, or what his reaction was (because the camera man is moving). You don’t know what the police saw this guy do, or how they interpreted those actions.

    But the police decided this guy was a risk to the public so they took action.

    You sit at your computer, in the safety of your own home, and question the actions of those who are charged with keeping that home safe. You question the actions that were taken in the heat of the moment, with incomplete information, and with the best of intentions. You expect those officers to risk life and limb every day and maybe not come home to their families at the end of the shift; but how dare they taser some lunatic in an airport because he just wasn’t quite as violent as you think someone should be before they get tasered.

    The police get paid to take risks; a stapler in the head probably wouldn’t kill them, so what’s the problem, right? We don’t know with certainty that Dziekanski was going to throw the stapler at the police, so the police should not take action and risk injury if Dziekanski does throw it or attack them, right?

    You, sir, are forming opinions on things of which you have no direct knowledge of. That makes you an armchair quarterback.

    Your opinion would be more valuable if you examined all the facts (which you don’t have access to), gained some knowledge and experience in the subject matter (which you don’t have), and then gave a thoughtful analysis (which you seem incapable of doing). That is what will happen through all the inquiries and the police actions will be determined to have been reasonable.

  10. and how are you any different at armchair quarterbacking, unless you have an inside view. I viewed the video again, and you know what ? I never noticed it before, because really, its just so shocking, but he does look almost relieved, when he first sees the police. WE cant imagine what was going on in his head, but perhaps he thought that they might help him at first, then he REALLY saw their stern demeanor and stance, and realised these men werent about helping.

  11. You make my blood pressure go up.

    “stern demeanor and stance”:

    First of all, upon arrival the police say “how are you, sir?” and “what’s going on, bud?” That doesn’t sound very “stern” to me. Then you can’t hear any more or see anything because the camera goes out of view.

    And what does a “stern stance” look like? They didn’t square off and put up their dukes, so I’m not sure what you mean.

    If their presence alone was too stern, well, it’s the police responding to a call of a guy smashing the place up; what do you expect, them to dress up as teddybears and give him a hug and a lollipop? Prudence demands they treat the situation as serious and prepare themselves to deal with the unknowns that may develop.

    “these men weren’t about helping”….yeah, they were. They were about helping the other passengers in the airport stay safe from this lunatic as well as helping Dzeikanski. I wonder what would have happened if Dzeikanski kept communicating with the police, instead of going to the counter and picking up the stapler (funny how your mind reading abilities can’t explain what he was thinking there).

    Can you think of any purpose for Dzeikanski to pick up the staple EXCEPT to use it as a weapon against the police? (that’s a direct question to Laila , which I know she doesn’t answer.)

    Look, you can’t see the whole situation, you can’t hear the whole thing, you certainly can’t know what either the police or Dzeikanski were thinking or how they were interpreting the situation. You watch a video frame by frame (which makes you cry, amazingly) and then you think you’re an expert on police use of force issues and that you know better than the police who were actually in the situation and assume you would have made a much better decision had you been there.

    Maybe you should get a badge, a gun, and go to work not knowing if you’ll come home, since you seem to know so much.

    Armchair quarterbacking is when you criticize the player’s decisions and say they should have done A instead of B. I, on the other hand, am merely a fan, who appreciates the complexity, subjectivity, and rapid development of the situation and respects the decisions made by those who were actually there. May not have been what I think would have done, but that doesn’t make their actions unreasonable or their decisions wrong.

  12. ” You make my blood pressure go up.”

    I hope you mean that in a good way 😉

    I do answer questions Simon, when I have the time. I do have a career, a husband and three kids between 16 and 3 , and that leaves little time for this site, let alone continually getting into the debate.

    My OPINION is that he was at his wits end, he was probably suffering the effects of withdrawal from nicotine, and was obviously in an anxious state. I don’t know what his intention was when he picked up the stapler,but anyone can see his frustration at not being able to understand or communicate.

    You are still an armchair quarterback Simon, by your own definition. Whats your background? Have you ever worked with someone in mental or physical distress? Have you ever been in a situation like Robert Dziekanski, where you were in distress and were unable to speak the language around you? if you have , you certainly havent shared that.

    I worked in a non-profit organisation for a long time, and worked face to face with convicts, mentally ill individuals, people in stressful situations and in distress. We were the one of the only non- governmental, non-subsidized housing agency around that WOULD work with ex-cons, and new releases from the Coquitlam Forensics Facility I have had many occassions where my boss and I- alone – were in the position of having to diffuse an unstable or criminally dangerous person while we waited for the police to arrive, and if a little old woman and myself can manage it without force, I think the cops could try a little harder too.
    Not all the time, but in this case- YES.

    My family and husband often didnt know what would happen , could happen at work, and it was the risk I took in trying to help the ones that truly needed it. No badge, no gun, no taser or baton.
    I did have a big old steel stapler from about 1970 though…lol.
    Front line social workers, probation officers and non-profit workers do it all the time, and they have to because its the nature of the job they are doing, which is often just as dangerous everyday as a police officers.
    Clients come in with needles, guns, bats, whatever they have- you never know. They are often mentally unstable, or ill or on meds of some sort.

    How do you justify people in this industry doing their jobs without weapons, and handling dangerous situations, and no ones getting killed or tasered?

  13. You said it yourself, you call the police when you need help; so does everybody. You can stall, talk, and negotiate, but the police have to take firm action. They have to resolve the situation, and that usually means arresting someone.

    Not everybody willingly goes to jail. People fight, and the police need to be armed. Are you seriously suggesting that the police do not need to be armed because social workers aren’t armed?

    Also, may I point out that an ex-con’s attitude towards you and your boss (two females who are in the social work type field) is likely to be far different than his attitude towards a uniformed police officer?

    And wasn’t there a probation officer in the Yukon who was killed by a client not too long ago. Maybe she said the wrong thing.

    Let’s not forget that the police deal with thousands of people across the province every day without incident, without the need for weapons or any use of force. It is a very small percentage of situations that go sideways. So we can’t conclude that the police are heavy handed or lacking in conversational skills based on this one incident.

    COULD the police have talked to Dziekanski longer? I guess so. But understand that every passing moment increases the chances of getting a stapler in the head, and I just don’t see how we should expect the police to submit themselves to those kinds of risks.

    Hypothetically, let’s assume the police in this case were thinking:

    “I got a call of a guy smashing things in the airport, that’s not normal so this could be a dangerous call. Okay, there’s the guy, he’s pretty big but I have some back up. Let’s go talk to him. Oh, he doesn’t speak English. Why did he barricade himself in here like this? Shit, he’s walking away. Oh shit, he’s grabbing that stapler. What’s he going to do with it? He was smashing things before so I think he could be violent. Is he going to throw it at me or my partner? That would probably knock me out, and then he’d have access to my gun. I can’t tackle him; same problem. I gotta do something here, this guy is unpredictable, this could go downhill very quickly. Okay, I’ll taser him and we’ll sort out why he’s acting like this once I’m sure it’s safe.”

    Is that an unreasonable train of thought? Doesn’t have to be what you would do, it just has to make sense.

    How about:

    “Oh, I got a call of a guy smashing things in the airport. Poor fellow, probably hasn’t had a cigarette. Maybe he’s lost or something. Okay, there he is. Well, he doesn’t look like a bad guy. Looks like a middle aged pudgy fellow. This shouldn’t be so bad. I’ll go talk to him. Dont’ want to be too stern looking, though, I might scare the poor chap. Oh, he doesn’t speak English. He must be just frustrated. I better find a translator. Maybe offer the guy a glass of water and a chair. Oh, he’s picking up a stapler. Well, maybe I should try to calm him down. Not sure how to do that since he doesn’t speak english, but let’s try sign language or something. I got all the time in the world here, because this situation is totally under control and nothing could go wrong. This poor guy is just lost. Let’s forget about him breaking things; must be the Polish way to ask for help.”

    I would think that officer may wake up with a stapler sticking out of his skull.

    “A burning passion for social justice is never a substitute for knowing what you’re talking about.” -Thomas Sowell

  14. The number of times people in the industry have to call the police is very small, because of their ability to deal with conflict and explosive situations – they receive training in how to deal with unstable people,aggressive behavior etc. They know thay cant just call a cop everytime some guy gets angry in the office, only when its absolutely clear that he has assualted someone or is holding a gun, and even then I know of times when a guy has been talked into putting the gun down – and Simon, when was the last time you talked with an ex-con, or had the pleasure of seeing how they act in front of police?

    You don’t seem to be answering my questions Simon. What is your background? where does your opinion come from on how offenders act, and think? Personal experience or what? There’s a reason why so many are multiple repeat offenders. They have no respect for ANY authority figure.

    Yes a probation officer was killed , but so have two cops recently. They had guns, the probation officer didnt. Whats your point?

    Like you said Simon, ” A burning passion for social justice is never a substitute for knowing what you’re talking about”….

  15. Hey, no stealing my quote to turn it around on me. Find your own quote.

    “Criminals thrive on the indulgence of society’s understanding.” Henry Ducard

  16. “Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.”
    Carl Gustav Jung

  17. lailayuile, there’s an old saying:

    “can’t see the forest for the trees”.

    I admire your attempt to help someone stuck in circle talk.

    cheers
    tom

  18. Yes, Laila, thank you for trying to help me. Maybe some day if I try really really hard I will be as clever as Tomax and see the world for what it really is; full of conspiracies and murderers masquerading as police officers.

    Until then, I guess I’ll just have to keep talking circles….around Tomax’s arguments that is.

  19. I am sure that police officers have talked people into putting guns down and defused violent situations. Probably 99.99% never publicized. Your limited exposure doesn’t allow much. The top RCMP officer in BC recently said that there are about 3 million contacts with the approx 9500 RCMP employees every year in that province.

    There I go with the numbers again. Another item I found interesting was the web site for the RCMP in BC.

    http://bc.rcmp.ca

    Its chock full of fodder for tomax7.