Sunday, November 18, 2007

Jumping On The Taser Bandwagon

And I have oh, so many questions.

This edited version of the video (check the sidebar of the page for the link; and yes, it's edited from the original, despite the fact that the little banner claims that it is unedited) gives a little bit of detail of the incident after the cops arrived.

When people -- most people -- claim that Robert Dziekanski was killed by the tasering, they're not paying attention. Check the clock and the audio background of this particular video. At 3:32, someone says that he's still fighting them off. Not dead...fighting them off. You can see, right up to the four-minute mark, that he's still breathing. There are a couple of the cops leaning on his body, and he's probably trying to get them off him so he can breath more easily. I know that's what I'd be doing. I'd also be trying to yell at them to back off and let me up. But he couldn't do that because he didn't speak English.

After the four-minute mark, there's a break in the video. And just before that, for several seconds, the visual field is obscured by a couple of security guards and a civilian. They made better doors than windows, and I could not see what went on through them. How does anyone else have that ability? Guesswork? Oh, goody...

If the electrical shock from the taser had killed him, he would not still be breathing a couple minutes after the fact. Electricity kills instantly, not by delayed reaction. But don't believe me, ask an electrician. I did.

The story on that link also says: "In the video, Dziekanski backs away from police and raises his arms, as if to capitulate to the officers." That's not what I saw. I saw him partially raise his hands and wave them off, then turn his back on them and walk away. Does that make a difference? I don't know. But at that moment, they could not see his body language well enough to discern his possible intentions.

I also saw them surround him, with his back to the glass. It's possible that they were trying to tell him to raise his hands and turn around prior to pat down. He didn't, of course, because he could not understand them. They had been told three times by one of the security guards that he spoke Russian. If they spoke to him in Russian, and if he could not understand it, he could not comply. If they took his non-compliance to be deliberate, they may have construed that as menacing.

It was at that point that the first taser went off. It made him stagger, but it did not put him on the ground. He tried to get away from it. Wouldn't you? But the whole point of the taser is to force compliance, and he wasn't complying with what he could not understand. So it looks like they did it again. And that put him on the ground. I don't know if he was shot a third time. I could hear a snap, but I could not see what caused it. It very well could have been a piece of hard plastic breaking.

Now, here's what's important: I'm not exhonerating the cops. I'm not making excuses. And I'm not blaming the victim. I'm asking questions. I don't understand what happened here any more than anyone else does. But I refuse to jump to conclusions without having all the facts just because everyone else is doing it, okay? I want to know a whole lot more before I grab a rope and march the cops off to the nearest tall tree. Or issue blindfolds and line them up against the nearest wall.

Robert Dziekanski's death is a tragedy. It should not have happened. I want to know why it did. And I'm not satisfied with the glib and easy answers that a lot of people seem to think adequate. I want clear and correct answers before we have yet another tragedy on our hands.

15 Comments:

Blogger Tim said...

I am with you. I want answers to the many questions that should be put to both sides of this affair...

What was the reason that Robert Dziekanski was on "a two year leave from work"? Was it medical and exactly what was the condition? Why would someone raised in a communist regime, where there is little tolerance for any defiance of anyone in a uniform try to ignore 4 uniformed officers?

Why did 4 officers feel the need to tazer the guy at all? He did not seem to be an immediate threat to anyone.

I understand that the "tazer" is considered a "non lethal" weapon just as is pepper spray. Both have been proven to be otherwise in certain situations. There are always exceptions to any rule...

Too many people are acting as if the 4 officers intended to kill this man from the get go. I rather doubt that. They used the tools given to them in hopes that they would work as they should. The question is why did they use this tool so quickly under these circumstances? What did they see that we can't in the video?

Too many questions that need answers before anyone can point fingers in any direction here.

Sunday, November 18, 2007 5:16:00 PM  
Blogger Chimera said...

Thanks, Tim. I was beginning to believe I was the only one with some doubts who was willing to say so. I've said pretty much the same things on other blogs, and from the feedback I get, some people think I'm some kind of monster for supporting the killing of a helpless immigrant, all my protests to the contrary.

I just heard this morning that he stood some six feet nine inches and weighed about 250 pounds. I didn't know that before, and I'm willing to bet that no one else did, either. I wonder how many people out there would be willing to tackle an unknown stranger that size without taking some kind of equalization measures, first.

I also heard from someone that he had been planning for four years to come to Canada. In all that time, why did he not make the effort to learn the most rudimentary English? Things like, "Please," "Thank you," "Can you help me?" would have gone over so well...

Monday, November 19, 2007 11:22:00 AM  
Blogger Howlin' Hobbit said...

"...why did he not make the effort to learn the most rudimentary English? Things like, "Please," "Thank you," "Can you help me?" would have gone over so well..."

You left out, "Don't tase me, bro!"

I hadn't heard of this incident until just now. While I'm pretty sure the cops weren't out to kill him, there's been a huge rise in "screw police work and training, let's just tase 'em" of late.

I'm sure that tasers are a useful tool in the proper situation but they're making for lazy cops and are being used way too often.

Kinda like SWAT teams in that regard.

Monday, November 19, 2007 11:34:00 AM  
Blogger Karen said...

I have no answers for this one.

Monday, November 19, 2007 6:39:00 PM  
Blogger Balbulican said...

"Electricity kills instantly, not by delayed reaction. But don't believe me, ask an electrician. I did."

When electrical shock is the cause of death (which is what your electrician is talking about) it kills instantly...or rather, it stops circulation immediately, and the brain dies within about four minutes.

However, smaller, non-lethal shocks can induce tachycardia, fibrillation, or other forms of potentially lethal arhythmia. While there has been no in depth study of the mechanism by which tasering kills (lack of volunteers, I would guess) there seems to be little doubt that it does.

As for your suggestion that the victim should have learned some English...yeah, that would probably have been prudent. But it's absolutely irrelevant to the question of whether or not the police responded with excessive force.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007 4:32:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Chimera,

This is a good post with many fair questions that you ask. I two have seen the movie several times and I do disagree with your interpretation of events quite significantly especially the moments that he was tasered and his reaction to the first shot.

Don't get me wrong, I am not blaming the RCMP officers as much as I blame the RCMP itself. There are many many people who have died after being zapped by these things and the company that makes them keeps absolving itself and the tasers from any responsibility in those deaths even though the one common fact to each case is that each person died after they were tasered.

The RCMP officers were (supposedly) following procedures although I do note at one point in the video before they had even confronted the man one of the officers can be heard to ask one of his colleagues, "can I taser him?" This was before they had even confronted him and assessed the situation. There is also some question as to whether they are supposed to taser someone more than once.

But I really question why these things are necessary in the first place. There were four officers and one disorderly person. They could have taken him down without the zapper.

TH

Tuesday, November 20, 2007 4:51:00 AM  
Blogger Chimera said...

"However, smaller, non-lethal shocks can induce tachycardia, fibrillation, or other forms of potentially lethal arhythmia."

That's a good point, Balb. It can act the same way a defib machine does, by affecting the sinus rhythm. It doesn't always do that, though. The use of a taser leads to death in such a small number of cases that it's not on the radar as a lethal weapon. The times when deaths occur have always been linked via post mortem to a pre-existing condition as a contributory cause that was exacerbated by the shock.

And that's why I was asking about food and hydration -- were his electrolytes out of whack? Was he already in an irregular rhythm because his blood sugar and gases were off balance? We'll know more after the inquest.

"I two have seen the movie several times and I do disagree with your interpretation of events quite significantly especially the moments that he was tasered and his reaction to the first shot."

I'm really glad you said that, TH. Both of us have been looking repeatedly at precisely the same thing, and we have different interpretations of what actually happened.

So... Howcum so many other people (and some that I know who haven't seen it even once) have identical interpretations to one another? And they don't want to tolerate a differing opinion, either; it happened the way they say it happened and that's all they want to know. Thinking not encouraged.

"...one of the officers can be heard to ask one of his colleagues, 'can I taser him?'"

I'll bet you that was a rookie asking his corporal for permission to be on the front line. I didn't hear it that clearly. But I know cops. They speak in abbreviations. They can have an entire conversation that a civilian will either not understand or misunderstand.

*****

This little bit just in this morning: The woman who was trying to talk to Robert at the airport was on the radio this morning, talking to Bill Good at CKNW. Her name is Simma.

She says that Robert was calling for the police, and that he calmed down immediately when he saw them. He had been trying to attract them by breaking things. When they showed up, he apparently thought they were there to help him.

That's when things went horribly wrong. The cops in this country do not act as interpreters at airports. They only respond to trouble calls, and they're now always on the lookout for security breaches, bombs, terrorists, and dangerous situations. The security guards and airport authorities are supposed to do the rest.

And when the cops do get the call, they rely on what they're being told by the caller for the best information on how to approach the situation.

So, who called the cops? And what did he tell them?

Tuesday, November 20, 2007 10:39:00 AM  
Blogger Chimera said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007 10:39:00 AM  
Blogger Chimera said...

The "comment deleted" was a duplicate of the one above. Stupid platform...

Tuesday, November 20, 2007 10:41:00 AM  
Blogger Dr.Dawg said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007 1:45:00 PM  
Blogger Dr.Dawg said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007 1:47:00 PM  
Blogger Dr.Dawg said...

Perhaps you might like to add to your questions, "Why did the cops, after Dziebanski stopped breathing, stand around with their thumbs in their asses instead of grabbing the nearest defibrillator?"

And in yet another of the layers of missed opportunity that surround Mr. Dziekanski's death, a different airport worker told the Post that one of the security workers who watched as RCMP Tasered, then subdued Mr. Dziekanski, was trained in the use of a defibrillator and might have been able to help revive him.

Paul Levy, the vice-president of operations with the Vancouver Airport Authority, confirmed that defibrillators are available in the international customs hall and at airport information desks. "A number of people around the airport are trained in first aid and the use of the automatic external defibrillator," he said.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007 1:49:00 PM  
Blogger Chimera said...

That is an excellent question, Doc.

I'm not asking it because other people are already asking. Most of the questions I have are ones that no one else seems to have thought of already.

I'd also like to know why the only known Polish-and-Russian-speaking worker at the airport was not asked to help. And when he spoke to the press, he was fired. The airport authorities said he was "not right for the job" or some such idiocy. But it took them more than seven years to find that out, and I want to know why.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007 2:37:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"So... Howcum so many other people (and some that I know who haven't seen it even once) have identical interpretations to one another? And they don't want to tolerate a differing opinion, either; it happened the way they say it happened and that's all they want to know. Thinking not encouraged."

Agreed, Chimera. My bet is that most people took the media's word for what happened, or friends and so on. Discussion, even disagreement is good. :)

"The cops in this country do not act as interpreters at airports. They only respond to trouble calls, and they're now always on the lookout for security breaches, bombs, terrorists, and dangerous situations."

The above point really gets to the heart of many police actions that go beyond the line IMHO. It's called paranoia. We have conditioned our police officers to shoot (or zap) first and ask questions later. It might be "a terrorist". That is fundamentally undemocratic and authoritarian. We are inching toward a police state when governments condone this kind of behaviour through training and equipping officers to respond in this fashion.

TH

Thursday, November 22, 2007 5:27:00 PM  
Blogger Chimera said...

Right you are, TH. Except that I think the governments don't just condone the behavior, they set it up in the first place. They are so jumping-outa-their-skins terrified that something bad might happen, they're spooking at shadows like skittish colts. And then they try to justify it in politically correct terms. Just in case, you know, the shadows have a religious lobby group.

Friday, November 23, 2007 8:09:00 AM  

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