Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Fun with Tasers, Part 2

TASER International is behaving a bit like a combination of doomed religious leaders when they're first accused of wrongdoing (like the exciting case of Big Gay Ted, for example), and entertainment industry cryptographers when their "advanced" schemes to punish their own paying customers go awry. TASER is disturbed by the fact that its weapons, along with a few troglodytes in the RCMP, are being blamed for the execution of Dziekanski at Vancouver airport. Perhaps it's even more concerned that the killing of Dziekanski has given people who've been suggesting tasers are routinely abused by police a public forum for their concerns. I suspect if the man recently shot in Chilliwack also ends up dying (he's now in critical condition in hospital), that may be it for the taser in Canadian law enforcement. Imagine the lost profits!

According to TASER, there's no evidence that their weapons kill people. They blame the mainstream media for "irresponsible" reporting. They're upset by the media attention and so they're now sending legal threats to the "sensationalistic media" for tarnishing the glorious name of TASER. According to chairman Tom Smith, the media is "mislead[ing] the public and could adversely influence public policy." I'll take that risk, if the benefit is not running the risk of being shot and killed by police in Vancouver airport. (One of the official explanation in this case was that tasers had to be used because beating him the old-fashioned way would upset watching witnesses, which, given the circumstances in the video, says a lot about how aggressive the police have become.)

TASER goes on to say that people die after being shot not because of electrical current but because of "excited delirium." They add that "excited delirium" is a "potentially fatal condition" and that Dziekanski showed "the earmark symptoms." That's interesting, because "excited delirium" doesn't appear in my copy of the DSM-IV, and it's not recognized by the American Psychological Association or the American Medical Association, either. In fact, it's a medical-sounding condition that police in Canada and the U.S. have invented to "explain" why extremely agitated prisoners sometimes die of heart problems after being subjected to repeated shocks from a taser.

It's also interesting that the first instinct of every "responsible" political leader in Canada thus far has been to run for cover. If the incident had never been filmed, the RCMP probably would have succeeded in sweeping the incident under the carpet. In fact, they might even have succeeded regardless - the owner of the video, Paul Pritchard, had his video camera confiscated by the police under apparently false pretenses after the execution, and he had to resort to court action in order to get his belongings back. That's why the video appeared in public a week or so ago, even though Dziekanski was killed over a month ago.

This is the latest in a series of incidents where Canadian police forces have proven willing to break the law, harm, or kill Canadians with virtual impunity, then routinely cover up the incident with bald lies. For example, there was the Quebec police's hamfisted attempt to incite riots in Montebello in August, the execution of Ian Bush in a Houston, BC interrogation room in 2005, and police attempts to cover up their assistance to American intelligence services in "deporting" Canadian citizens to Middle Eastern dictatorships in the two years following September 11. Good thing they're here to enforce the law, or I'd be worried.