Three cheers for Yukon taser moratorium
Most people would have a certain image of the mainsteet in Whitehorse, Yukon. Dirt road, country store, place to buy your gold pan, a tavern perhaps. Quaint postcard images aside, the Yukon Department of Justice has put a moratorium on the use of Tasers (TASR:NASDAQ) in that territory. Now we know that the Yukon is the beacon of civilization!
The follow-up piece in the Globe and Mail today gave Canadians insight into the spin doctoring that is coming from the RCMP, following the unnecessary death-by-Taser of Robert Dziekanski at the Vancouver Airport.
According to the Globe, Mr. Dziekanski was tasered under a new “change in force protocol that allows officers to fire multiple shocks to control people under certain circumstances.”
You may recall a police officer was commenting on a prior Taser post here (see “Is it the Taser or the mindset?“, October 24-07) that the Taser was the only way for police to deal with something called “excited delirium.” The RCMP spokesman told the Globe and Mail that the recent change of force meant that RCMP officers were no longer prevented from giving more than one shock. As you may recall from that horrible yet eye-opening video of Mr. Dziekanski’s unnecessary death, his cries only became noticeable after the second jolt was administered. Unfortunately for the Mr. Dziekanski, he travelled after the change was put into effect:
Until August, officers trained to use stun guns were cautioned to avoid using them more than once because of concerns about health effects.
As you’ll recall from the video, four RCMP officers felt threatened and feared they couldn’t bring Mr. Dziekanski under control as he stood near a counter in the arrivals level. Even after the first jolt dropped him to the ground, they still feared for their safety, and his, based upon his reaction on the ground to the first Taser jolt.
Is anyone surprised that people roll around on the floor – uncontrollably – after being conducted with 200,000 volts of electricity?
If the reaction to the first jolt is “uh oh, they’re out of control, better jolt them a second time”, perhaps the RCMP were wise to worry about the health effects of the Taser’s use in the first place.
The most depressing part of the news story is the insight into the spin doctoring that can be expected to come our way during the various inquiries in Ottawa and Victoria. The RCMP will testify that their officers were concerned that Mr. Dziekanski was suffering from something they’ll refer to as “excited delirium”, which they say is a potentially fatal “state of extreme mental and physiological excitement that is characterized by extreme agitation, hyperthermia, hostility, exceptional strength and endurance without apparent fatigue.”
“However, the force’s belief that excited-delirium symptoms can escalate and cause death outweighed their worries about the impact of multiple shocks. It is not known if Mr. Dziekanski was suffering from a so-called excited delirium episode when he was tasered twice while surrounded by four RCMP officers last month at Vancouver’s International Airport. But RCMP familiar with the incident have hinted that the officers who responded believed him to fit that category.”
Showing a tin ear for the public’s mood and the fact that their government masters are holding hearings on the use of tasers, “Cpl. Gilles said the RCMP’s policy could change again once the investigations into Mr. Dziekanski’s death are concluded. But he said it’s unlikely the force, which was one of the first in the country to adopt tasers, will drop the weapon.”
Our parliamentarians will be very displeased to read that the RCMP feels it’s unlikely they’ll drop the Taser’s use, regardless of the upcoming hearings.
What’s more, there is no such thing as “excited delirium”, according to the World Health Organization and the American Medical Association. Neither recognize it as “an actual psychological or medical condition.” The RCMP call it a “syndrome”. Says who?
Coroners, however, are busy recasting “custody deaths” as “excited delirium.” Makes sense, right? Wrong:
“…the condition is being used increasingly by coroners tasked with attributing causes of death among victims in police custody. David Evans, Ontario’s regional supervising coroner for investigations, described it as a ‘forensic term’ not a medical one.
‘I think previous to the description of excited delirium, [it] was sometimes called custody death,’ he said.”
So, the RCMP are assessing subjects using the professional sounding phrase of “excited delirium”, even though, as far as Coroners as concerned, it refers to what happens (“custody death”) to the subject AFTER encountering a Taser.
If the Chairs of the various upcoming government hearings ban the use of any faux-medical phrases or pop-psychological assessments that are not recognized by the AMA or the CMA, the RCMP will have little to defend their use of these murderous Taser devices.
It’d be no different that using words that aren’t found in the Oxford Dictionary. Talk babble or slang to a government inquiry, and they’ll assume you aren’t a credible witness. And your testimony will be discarded accordingly.
In the meantime, civilized people from across Canada can toast the wisdom of the Klondike.
(prior Taser blogs include “Taser gun sets man aflame“, June 23-07)