Taser Death in Vancouver – Canadian Official Criticizes Deadly Misuse
Another lesson we could learn from our neighbors to the North is how to investigate police misuse of Tasers:
Officers Used Taser Prematurely at Vancouver Airport,
reads the Star headline to an article by reporter Petti Fong. Commissioner Paul Kennedy spent two years investigating a police-involved death at Vancouver airport arrivals terminal in 2007. In his final report, Commissioner Kennedy harshly criticizes the conduct of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, with a frankness foreign to American public officials since at least 9/11 (emphasis mine):
The four RCMP officers involved in the Tasering of Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski failed to de-escalate the situation and used the Taser weapon prematurely and inappropriately….
Dziekanski was fired upon, within 24 seconds of four RCMP officers arriving at the scene, five times with the Taser weapon. He died minutes later on the floor of the international arrivals area at the Vancouver International Airport Oct. 14, 2007.
The RCMP failed to de-escalate…Failed to approach the situation with a measured, coordinated and appropriate response…Used the Taser weapon…Used the Taser weapon prematurely…an unnecessary death ensued.
Those findings are rare in the Taser world, even rarer in the United States, where the company that sells them has a reputation for personally intimidating coroners who seem inclined to associate use of their weapons with a killing. Here, police captains conducting investigations uniformly find that their officers used their Tasers appropriately, even against 10 year-old foster boys, 12 year-old girls bundled back and forth between divorced parents, and loquacious, speeding grandmothers. Even in friendly Canada, such frankness can be unwelcome:
"Overall I found that the conduct of the responding members fell short of that expected of members of the RCMP," wrote Kennedy in his report. Earlier this month, Kennedy’s contract as head of the commission, an oversight body, was not renewed.