Sunday, December 9, 2007

Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Taser?

As a follow up to the Russian Roulette post, from the serious to the absurd.

From Not A Lawyer:
Donnell Williams was in his own home, and had been bathing. He is a hearing impaired man.

So, there Mr. Williams was, in a towel and without his hearing aid when police barged into his home and Tased him. /p>

Someone had falsely reported a shooting at his residence, so the cops forced their way into his home. When they began shouting orders at him, without his hearing aid he couldn’t hear them. As a result they shot him with the Taser gun.

When they realized their mistake, they apologized to Mr. Williams.
For once, I'm about as close to speechless as you will probably ever find me.

Okay, I think I've recovered...
As nutty as this is, I can only partially blame the individual officers. It goes back to what I have said before, namely, that the police need better training. I mentioned mental health issues previously and apparently I'm not the only who feels that way.

Although the executive director of the Schizophrenia Society of Nova Scotia welcomes the recently-called "ministerial review of conductive energy devise (Taser) use and policies" in this jurisdiction [fancy government-speak for a review of the police use of tasers] which was called following the death of a 45-year-old man 30 hours after officers used a stun gun to subdue him, he is encouraging demanding that the panel include expert representatives with mental illness.

And the sister of this latest victim might be forgiven for being somewhat skeptical of the investigation. She refers to it as "a diversion from the real question."

"I'm wondering if the Department of Justice is trying to get attention onto the Tasers to take away from attention on the judge, who made the decision to return my brother to the correctional centre (rather than sending him to a hospital)," she said.

As an aside, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police are also conducting a formal review of this same incident, which they won't release until medical examiners finalize their report. That report could take between four to six months.

Because you see, that's one thing us Canadians are good at ... reviews, enquiries, studies and reports. Nero fiddles while Rome burns perhaps?

In addition to issues surrounding mental illness, as the story of the deaf scantily-clad Mr. Williams and this tale of a taser being used on a mentally handicapped young woman only too well point out, the fact is that the police in many jurisdictions need training around recognizing and dealing with individuals with all types of disabilities.

Back to the deaf Mr. Williams. Even though we don’t know how hectic and chaotic things were at the moment that the decision was made to use the taser, you would think that the police at least would have heard the poor man screaming that he couldn't hear them.

Then again, on the other hand, deaf or not, Mr. Williams might have had the sense to put his hands up in that type of situation, no? Even if it meant losing his towel ...

Its moments like this that I have to remind myself about what I really think ...
  • we have to sit back and let those enquiries do their work
  • what needs to be happen is a weighing and balancing exercise which can only occur after all the evidence is gathered and all the stakeholders heard from and
  • we really need to be wary of jumping to quick, relatively 'easy' conclusions.

Other than that, don't ask me, I only work here.

H/T to Not A Lawyer and the SSNS

Update: When you're right, you're right...

1 comment:

absolutelytrue said...

Whenever I write about what I feel is police abuse of the Taser weapon, people always jump to the conclusion that I mean that police shouldn't have weapons or that they should just allow the "bad guys" to do whatever they wish and take the consequences.

I think you get what I am saying though, and you stated it well here. These things DO need to be worked through and investigated. Police DO need to have protection from criminals and violence. That protection should be used in appropriate circumstances ONLY.

My point with all the Taser posts is really about awareness and also the fact that without training and rigid guidelines for police to follow regarding the use of these weapons, this is going to go on and on.

So what's next? Tasering a baby? I think the youngest person I have read about being Tasered so far was a 6 year old.

So should cops be allowed to Taser any one at any time? I would think not. As we've both said, and I think we fully agree on this, there is need for Taser specific training. I don't think it's good enough to Tase a cop and say "Here's what it feels like" and then issue them their own.

Thanks for this post!