Monday, November 19, 2007

Don't tase me, bro!

I've had it with electroshock weapons. Members of my family have served the public as police officers, and I know that policing is a demanding, difficult, and dangerous job. But let's not kid ourselves: this is not Star Trek technology, and a Taser® is not a phaser set on stun. (And Dr. Crusher isn't beaming distance away, waiting to offer the services of sickbay.)

Since October 14 2007, I have been following the story of Robert Dziekanski with great sadness. Dziekanski was killed when RCMP officers shot him with a Taser at Vancouver International Airport. The government of British Columbia has announced a public inquiry into the events. Amnesty International is concerned about these weapons, and would like their use to be suspended while they are studied more closely.

Heather Mallick hits it out of the park on cbc.ca today:
He was Robert Dziekanski, who had just made the first plane flight of his life. Unable to speak a word of English, sleepless, dehydrated, stranded for 10 hours in the airport, unable to talk to his mother who — if he only knew — was 100 metres away on the other side of a door, had a massive panic attack.

He stood beneath a sign that read "WELCOME. Airport Greeting Centre." When the RCMP arrived, they calmly — and it is their calmness that condemns them — marched up to Dziekanski, who was pitifully relieved to see them. The video shows that they electrocuted him repeatedly from a distance and landed on him, crushing his neck, as he writhed and screamed in pain. And then he stopped, dead. On the video, the RCMP made no effort to revive him.
I know many people in law enforcement might disagree with Amnesty International, Heather, and me. To them, I pose this question: Dziekanski was acting unruly and creating a disturbance. Did he deserve to die for that?


notes

- don't get too excited about the "excited delirium" theory... the jury's still out on that one
- the title of this post references the now infamous University of Florida incident from September 2007

17 comments:

fatrobot said...

cops come and try and grab my crotch

Dead Robot said...

I'd rather they taser someone than shoot them. Were they excessive? Yes. Are cops too quick to use them? Yes. But if used properly, they're a better alternative.

St.Nölff,Ph.D said...

They got some new toys on their bat man belt that they want to play with. If not the taser, they would have used pepper spray, which would have been more suitable.

Dead Robot said...

Not sure if you saw my post about it but Google has a great Channel 4 documentary on where these non-lethal weapons come from. It's called The Men Who Stare at Goats. Pretty wild stuff about how an army general hung out with hippies back in the late 70s and created The First Earth Battalion.

Phronk said...

Yeah, I guess getting tasered is bettered than getting shot. The thing is, they never would have shot the guy, but they did taser him. If they only used it in situations where they would have otherwise used a gun, I'm cool with that. When they whip it out every time they don't feel like calming someone down with words, that's criminal.

madamerouge said...

word

Jason said...

Initially I was completely onside with the majority of Canadians in their outrage with what happened to this man -- and more or less, still am. I will say, however, that I have a feeling (which I know is not worth much) that his death was not a result of the taser but with the physical force they used, specifically the knee to his neck. The only reason I've changed my initial position from complete outrage to a "wait and see" position is from this podcast I heard today. Have a listen.
As It Happens(November 19th, 2007)

toobusyliving said...

I think that Mme Mallick, as you know, is a national treasure. This is my first foray into the "Blogosphere" in about a year...maybe I miss it. Anyone miss me?

madamerouge said...

I did. I'm not on FaceCrack.

Jason said...

And yes, I checked Fatrobot MR. It was clever and full of animated gifs and "vintage" LOLCATS. Hilarious.

madamerouge said...

Do I detect a whiff of détente?

tornwordo said...

I've been horrified at the video. Especially the lax way they stood around once he was "subdued". And I miss Peter.

Snooze said...

I haven't kept up with the controversy and I couldn't bring myself to watch the video. However, now I'll do that and listen to the Podcast that Jason provided.

Miss Thistle said...

Imagine the outrage if the victim had been white and English-speaking? Oh, wait. That would never have happened.

sirbarrett said...

The other frustrating part was seeing how after not knowing what language he was speaking they assumed he spoke Russian (he spoke Polish) so the RCMP ordered a Russian interpreter but then didn't even wait around for them to show up. It's like: oh well, we're not sure what to do. I guess we'll just tase him to death.

Meanwhile, Rob Davis, the police chief in Guelph is still gung-ho on tasers (he likes billy clubs as well) as his argument is that they're the best non-leathal weapon police have and that clubs sometimes break bones or leave permanent damage while tasers only kill you sometimes, so they're not that bad. There is pepper spray too but apparently it's easier just to skip out on using that and jump right into using tasers. Also, pepper spray can't be used in "crowded" airports like the one featured in the Dziekanski video for fear of hitting someone else (who is on the other side of the glass).

Mitzzee said...

he did not deserve that at all.

car@ said...

was thinking so much about you in Berlin...you are right....i love Berlin! :-)