Sunday, May 27, 2007

Tasers aren't the enemy

On June 23, 2004 Robert Wayne Bagnell died. According to a coroner's jury, he died of "restraint-associated cardiac arrest" due to acute cocaine intoxication and psychosis. And not, because Vancouver police officers used tasers to arrest and control the out-of-control man.

According to the report in the Vancouver Sun Bagnell's family were "disappointed" the coroner's jury didn't make any reccomendations. Such as . . .. . . what exactly?

Bagnell was the author of his own misfortune and nothing the family says will change that. He was on cocaine over-drive and destructive and violent. The police tried to just keep Bagnell contained until he came down and was more responsive. Circumstance forced their hand and the police opted to deploy tasers, considered non-lethal, to restrain and control Bagnell.

As happens sometimes when a taser is used on someone with a cocaine-fired heart, the electrical shock has an adverse effect on their cardio-vascular system. And sometimes when that happens, the already over-loaded heart shuts down. We can debate whether or not that is tragic in a different forum, but suffice to say that in all the cases of this type of thing happening, it was never a result of the taser use, but the result of what the people do to themselves.

But the hand-wringers seem to want to blame the police and force them to stop using tasers. The very thing they cry for when a cop under attack by some loser with a knife shoots the transgressor and the moaning starts: "why couldn't they have shot him in the leg? Boo-hoo-hoo . . .

The jury didn't quite say it as directly as I might have. But they were clear. Bagnall ingested way too much cocaine and it overloaded his system. That was why he died.


I'm sorry for the pain Bagnell put his family through and I sympathize with them. But, their anger is misplaced and the taser is a valuable weapon that allows the police to refrain from using the type of lethal force they would have previously had to use in so many instances.

The cops can't interview someone to determine if they are in the throes of cocaine psychosis prior to deploying a taser. Yet, the hand-wringers and the chattering class is too quick to blame the police instead of blaming the ones who are actually responsible and unfortunately, never accountable.

As a final thought, I picked up my weekend Vancouver Sun on Saturday. On the main break of the Westcoast (B) section there was a teaser in big bold print at the top saying: "Report condems tasers" pg. B11.

Yet, when one turned to page B11, one read the fair and balanced piece written by Neal Hall and linked above. What report? What condemnation of tasers? So, what was the editor reading when he placed that teaser on B1? Or, more accurately, was it more likely wishful thinking by a charter member of the chattering class that seems to be representative of the mainstream media these days?

Just asking.

Leo Knight

leo@primetimecrime.com


4 comments:

Anonymous said...

The title "Tasers aren't the enemy" is aptly named.

The true enemy is the left wing "lets make the news instead of reporting it" journalists and the mindless arm chair quarter backs that constitute the general public.

Firstly Tasers were invented to be an alternative to using deadly force such as the police sidearm or ASP baton for gaining control over violent, resistive subjects.

Secondly the Taser was extensively tested before deployment to police agencies. Medical experts consider the low current gives a margin of safety to subjects being Tasered.

As a matter of fact police recruits at the JIBC are voluntarily Tasered so that they know how it feels and how a person will react. NOT ONE recruit has been killed or suffered injury as a result. The Taser has been deployed thousands of times by police across Canada and the U.S on
resistive subjects without harm. It is the rare few that garner all the media attention.

Lets look at some facts from Phoenix PD. 73 cases of death involving the Taser. In 47 cases the major cause of death was lethal ingestion of cocaine, meth, and/or PCP. In 18 cases the Taser was not a factor. In 8 the Taser could not be ruled out.

Thirdly as a police officer I don't know the medical histories of people or what they have ingested before I deal with them and, to be honest, I don't care. I do care about my safety, the safety of my colleagues, and gaining immediate control over the subject (which ensures the safety of the public).

I shake my head in utter disbelief when friends/family members of a person who has been tasered piss and moan about about how cruel and inhumane it was. Like getting struck with a metal ASP baton is better??? Getting shot center mass with a 9mm Parabellum hollow point round is better?????? More humane?????

The Taser is an effective tool. Its not perfect but it is better than the alternatives I mentioned in the last paragraph.

To BAGNELL'S family his death was a tragedy. However get a grip on reality and place the blame where it belongs...on him. Your son/brother/husband CHOSE to make certain life decisions, CHOSE to ingest a lethal amount of cocaine on the night in question. His cocaine fueled actions FORCED police to use the Taser.

In conclusion place the blame where it belongs. If the Taser directly causes the death of a person, fine place the blame on it. However if a person dies because of their own actions, blame them. Once we start to take responsibility for ourselves we make just make some progress.

BC Mary said...

Leo,

Don't know how to find you these days, but wanted to be sure you don't miss the Toronto Star story today:

http://www.thestar.com/News/article/218715

New Scandals for RCMP. Sounds bad but it actually is a bit hopeful.

BC Mary

Reality Chick said...

The following was published today on MY blog at http://truthnottasers.blogspot.com

Last week, I happened upon this former Vancouver police officer's blog:

Tasers Aren't the Enemy

All week long, I've been thinking about how to respond to this man. I wanted to tell Leo that the cops were not under attack by some loser with a knife but rather they tasered my brother as he lay on his back on the floor in a medical emergency. I wanted to tell him that the police are *not* using the taser as an alternative to "refrain from using the type of lethal force they would have previously had to use in so many instances." The 13 police officers present when Bob died were not in any credible danger and would not have been justified in using lethal force on Bob. I wanted to tell him that tasers are no longer being referred to as "non-lethal" - the manufacturer would prefer we call them "less-lethal". I wanted to tell him that the report Neal Hall was referring to in his article in the Vancouver Sun was the Amnesty International report released in May 2007, entitled "CANADA: Inappropriate and Excessive Use of Tasers." I wanted him to know that we had hoped the jury at the coroner's inquest would agree on some reasonable recommendations which may have helped to prevent similar tragedies. There was so much I wanted to say to Leo Knight.

Instead, I think it's appropriate to share a quote from an article published in the Calgary Herald on September 24, 2006, entitled "The Shocking Truth About Tasers."

"Leo Knight, a former Vancouver police officer and securities expert who now runs a security company, agrees these cases suggest Tasers can lead to lazy policing, highlighting the fact some officers aren't being properly instructed. "Tasers can be too easy to fall back on -- especially if the proper training isn't there. They should only be used in serious incidents where officers are in danger . . . some of these cases would indicate that isn't happening." ... Knight says as hard as police departments try to train officers, there are members who shoot before they should. "It's just the law of averages. You're always going to get a few people who just don't follow the rules."

BINGO, Leo - you hit the nail on the head.

Jason said...

I understand this thread is old, however, Tasers keep appearing in the limelight. Yes, they have been proven safe. If you carry one, you should know how crippling it feels. After all, it is safe, and the reverse argument cannot be said for firearms.

When you are 'stunned' by such a device, you go prone and think "wow that hurts" as your muscles contract and spasm, all through your chest and back. When the current is disabled, your natural reaction is to sit up afterwards. This is different from picking yourself up off the ground and thus becoming a possible combatant again. Sitting up, with feet, buttocks and hands on the ground, and breath (finally) a sigh of relief that it is over.

But no, it isn't over. You are a combatant, and you are better off to stay prone, play dead, or lose consciousness due to asphyxiation.

I have witnessed police repeatedly shock somebody because they sat up to breath air and collect their wits, and make sense of the situation.

It is no wonder people are dying.