Tag Archives: police

oh geez, the olympics

here is something a friend of mine wrote. i’m reprinting it because, well, i’m not a big fan of the olympics here. (yet? maybe i’ll change my mind? there’s a few days yet to go …)

right now the city is in the midst of preparations, and deep collective angst, for the games that will be descending upon us in less than three weeks. things are already getting interesting. on my way back to work after lunch yesterday when i was walking over the cambie street bridge (which, for those who are not familiar with our fair city, is near both the police station and the olympic village) i saw myriad upon myriad of white cars parked below the bridge. on closer inspection i saw that they were all police cars. i have never in my life seen so many cop cars in one place! there were hundreds and hundreds of them. i guess our men and women in blue want us (some of us anyway!) to feel real extra safe during these games.

in other news i attended my first anti-olympic demonstration in the downtown eastside which is our poorest neibghbourhood and canada’s poorest postal code. the theme of this demonstration was against police brutality and oppression against anyone in this city who is against the olympics. as many of you will know many many individuals here have been targeted, visited, harassed and interrogated by the police and by border officials over their alleged opposition to the games and a lot of us are getting pretty sick of this.

it was quite an angry protest and while i can’t say that i endorse everything that was said (for example i am not about to do my part to help smash the state or overthrow the capitalist system, much as i also disapprove of them), i understand and empathize with the anger and the emotion being expressed. of course the games are being held on unceded native land and no matter how much spin we are getting from the media it appears that our first nations peoples are still getting a very raw deal, particularly with the environmental degradation, lack of respect and policies of exclusion that the games are going to foist on all of us who don’t have the money to pay for these events nor to participate in many of the celebrations.

frank paul: guilt, truth and reconciliation

there have been times when i’ve pointed out the sometimes not-so-stellar record of our police. this post here about the sad story of frank paul could be another one. frank paul was a first nations man who lived here in vancouver. “lived” not in the sense that most of us do; he didn’t have a home. one cold night he was found drunk (or sick, or both), he ended up in the police station, wasn’t allowed in the drunk tank and got put back on an alley. he died of hypothermia.

this was 9 years ago. on thursday, the police officer who put him in that alley apologized for what he did.

and that’s what i want to write about.

we all make mistakes. many of us make serious mistakes, and not even “honest” ones – mistakes grounded in stupidity, timidity, selfishness, thoughtlessness. often we’re lucky and these mistakes have no serious consequences. i think of the time, for example, when i drove wrong-way down a busy downtown street. that could have caused a terrible accident, with years-long suffering for all involved. here but for the grace of god go i – nothing happened, and the incidence just seems like one more unimportant occurrence in my life.

here, officer david instant’s actions didn’t go unpunished. a rookie police officer, he listened to a senior officer instead of to his own gut instinct – something that happens as frequently, maybe even more often, than driving wrong-way down a one-way street – and exposed an unconscious man to the elements. the man died.

yes, it took him a long time to apologize. but he did. and he said he wanted to apologize to the family in person. i’m glad he wants to do that.

again, taking a long time to deal with our mistakes is not unusual. sometimes we carry something in our hearts for a long time and we just can’t bring ourselves to act on our desire to make things right. we’re afraid that it’ll expose us, that we’ll be ridiculed, that the person to whom we’re wanting to apologize will be angry, that it’ll be awkward. in instant’s case, there were probably also legal reasons, and he may not have been allowed to say anything.

but here it is. he did something inhumane, a horrible thing happened, and he apologized.

frank paul’s cousin peggy clement gave a moving interview at CBC radio.

i’m not holding grudges against anybody because sometimes we make decisions that don’t coincide with what we’re supposed to be doing but if you take responsibility that’s a step towards making things better.

in this tragedy, then, there is peace and hope.

may he rest in peace, frank paul, and may we be inspired by david instant and peggy clement. what transpired is almost like a mini truth and reconciliation commission. it’s not the typical whitewash where no one admits responsibility, everyone passes the buck, and the wounds of the families affected by such tragedies keep on festering.

here, i believe we can move on.

p.s. it occurs to me that this post fits into the series on guilt – here’s the last post, if you’re interested.

p.p.s. one year later: here are the latest developments on this matter.

p.p.p.s.  this post was included in the carnival of healing with the focus on authenticity.

robert dziekanski’s death: excessive force or excited delirium?

police officer mo cho used to hope paramedics arrived at some scenes before he did.

those were the “M-1s,” the calls involving mentally ill people.

“i had no idea what to do,” cho said.

that’s the beginning of an article by deedee correlltraining helps cops deal with mentally ill“.

did the RCMP at vancouver airport have that training when they shot robert dziekanski? it’s hard to imagine. according to the video, they never engaged with him, never tried to talk him down.

the idea to train police in this area came out of memphis in 1988 after police fatally shot a mentally ill young man.

according to the article, police there are learning not to go into such an emergency situation with a confrontational attitude. “they’re already in that state,” says one of the officers. “you have to bring yourself down to their level, as opposed to being badge-heavy. you talk to them, let them know everything will be ok, instead of saying, ‘obey what i have to say!’ ”

traditionally, police first order a person to comply. when that does not happen, more force is used. that’s exactly what happened in the dziekanski case.

however, that approach has been found to be counterproductive when dealing with people who are mentally ill. it does not appear that robert dziekanski had a diagnosis of mental illness. however, the thought that a mental illness was involved must have crossed someone’s mind, and it is impossible to understand why the officers did not first attempt to deal with him in a calm manner.

he didn’t speak english? so what. you can’t tell me that a) police don’t receive training in non-verbal communication and b) in a highly multicultural city like vancouver, police don’t know how to interact with someone who doesn’t speak english.

the autopsy hasn’t revealed anything conclusive. now the idea of “excited delirium syndrome” as a cause of death is being bandied about. whether that’s a useful train of thought to follow seems to be questionable.

in case you’re interested, here are some links to this supposed syndrome.

this document is a grand jury report in miami on the use of tasers, including a lengthy report on excited delirium syndrome and related conditions.

from a book on death in custody: “excited delirium accounts for 1% of our EDP (emotionally disturbed persons) cases and 99% of our headaches.” this comment, made some years ago at a new york city conference of police chiefs captures the managerial and legal concerns of this entity.

an emergency room expert:

regarding prone position – beware of patients with an excited (agitated) delirium – the factors (per stratton – amer jour emerg med) always associated with sudden death of patients requiring restraint include the following:
1) excited delirium = 100%
2) hobble restraint (a.k.a. total appendage restraint procedure, &
hog-tying) = 100%
3) prone position = 100%
4) forceful struggle against restraint = 100%

from a brief on in-custody deaths:

experts contend that maximal, prone restraint techniques can have suddenlethal consequences. this potential is increased in intoxicated, delirious, and/or violent individuals. law enforcement personnel should employ alternative restraint methods …

and finally, wikipedia on excited delirium

excited delirium is a controversial term used to explain deaths of individuals in police custody, in which the person being arrested, detained, or restrained is highly agitated and may be under the influence of stimulants. the term is not recognized in DSM-IV, but has been listed as the cause of death by some medical examiners.some civil-rights groups argue that the term is being used to absolve police of guilt, in overly restraining people, during arrests. the cause of death only appears where police are involved in restraining individuals.

eric balaban of the american civil liberties union said: “i know of no reputable medical organization ” certainly not the ama american medical association or the american psychological association that recognizes excited delirium as a medical or mental-health condition.”

nathaniel jones: his death while in custody of cincinnati police was first attributed to excited delirium. in a lawsuit over the death of mr. jones, some facts related to excited delirium were disputed. the defendants in the trial court proceedings asserted that: 1) the decedent was resisting arrest; 2) that reasonable force was used in an attempt to restrain him; and 3) that excited delirium was the cause of death.

the plaintiffs claimed: 1) that the officers used excessive force; 2) that the decedent died from compressive asphyxia caused by police officers whose entire weight was on his body; 3) the decedent was not resisting but rather attempting to reposition his body so he could breathe. the trial court found that the plaintiffs sufficiently stated a claim of excessive force.

(this article can be found in the all women blogging and the 22nd brain blogging carnival)

hungry, thirsty, confused – and dead

last sunday, a man was killed at the vancouver airport. robert dziekanski died after he was tasered by police at vancouver international airport. police say he was agitated, screaming, shaking and throwing things. he had been at the airport for 10 hours.

i have no idea what exactly happened in this situation but it is reminiscent of other situations where an agitated individual who poses no real threat has been killed by police (like the death of paul boyd in august). in many of these cases, these people turn out to be people with a mental illness (and again, i do not know at all whether that was true for mr. dziekanski; i’m just taking this tragic event as an example for what i believe to be caused by underlying problems).

one thing that is often overlooked in understanding people with mental illness who behave in ways that seem threatening to bystanders is that mental health problems can be severely exacerbated by the kinds of stressors that others find unpleasant but can cope with.

a decrease in blood sugar levels is one. thirst is another (“he must have been thirsty,” said mr. dziekanski’s mother). add to that lack of sleep and the general stress that comes with a transatlantic flight – plus being in a foreign country for the first time and not speaking the language – and we already have a volatile cocktail that stretches the endurance of any healthy person.

if this cocktail is mixed with, say, the manic phase of bipolar disorder or acute symptoms of paranoid schizophrenia, we have a recipe for disaster.

one of the reasons is that the physical manifestations of stressors such as low blood sugar, an interruption of the cicadian rhythm, and lack of sleep can be similar to the bodily-felt experience of mental illness. for example, the slightly numb feeling in the extremities that can come with low blood sugar is not dissimilar to the physical manifestation of dissociation that can accompany depression.

since the person may already be slightly disoriented because of the stress they are under, it can be hard for them to distinguish – on both conscious and below conscious levels – what is going on. just like the physical mechanics of a smile can produce feelings of happiness, any physical sensation that feels like a symptom of a mental health condition can trigger that condition to come to the surface.