Up, Down, Also.
You will start out standing, proud to steal her anything she sees; but you will wind up peeking through a keyhole down upon your knees.
Bob Dylan, She Belongs To Me, 1965.
They smile in your face, but behind your back they hiss. What's a sweetheart like you doin' in a dump like this?
Sweetheart Like You, 1983.
Theme Time Radio Hour: at Wikipedia, and XM Satellite Radio Inc.
more in that than i imagined, maybe even more than i wanted :-) ... somewhere between Genesis & Revelations, between whatever it was Eliot said ... between the desire and the spasm (Hollow Men, V) ... or Pynchon's parabolic rocket arc - between the (Pavlovian) cue and the act, everything is what it is and nothing is what it seems ... there is a line which (i think) is from Baudelaire's Fleurs du Mal about 'the shadow behind the breast', but i can never find it no matter how i search ... maybe it was Mallarmé, whatever it was i read it long long ago
It's All Good
Talk about me babe, if you must.
Throw out the dirt, pile on the dust.
I'd do the same thing if I could.
You know what they say?
They say it's all good.
It's all good.
Big politician telling lies,
Restaurant kitchen all full of flies.
Don't make a bit of difference,
Don't see why it should.
But it's alright, cause its all good.
Its all good.
Its all good.
Wives are leavin' their husbands,
They're beginning to roam.
They leave the party and they never get home.
I wouldn't change it even if I could.
You know what they say, man, it's all good.
It's all good.
Brick by brick, they tear you down.
A teacup of water is enough to drown.
You oughta know, if they could, they would.
Whatever goin' down, it's all good.
Say it's all good.
People in the country, people on the land.
Some of 'em so sick they can hardly stand.
Everybody would move away if they could.
Its hard to believe but it's all good.
Well widows cry, the orphans plead.
Everywhere you look there's more misery.
Come along with me babe, I wish you would.
You know what I'm sayin', it's all good.
I said it's all good.
Cold blooded killer, stomp into town
Cop car's blinkin', something bad goin' down.
Buildings are crumblin' in the neighborhood,
But there's nothing to worry about
Cause it's all good.
It's all good.
I say it's all good.
I'm gonna pack up your deal (???)
And blow it in your face.
This time tomorrow I'll be rollin' in your place.
I wouldn't change a thing even if I could.
You know what they say?
They say it's all good.
It's all good.
It's all good.
Bob Dylan, It's All Good, last cut on Together Through Life, 2009.
Keir Dullea - Dr. Dave/David Bowman in 2001 & 2010 films ...
me, i took the streetcar down to the Saint Lawrence Market, early saturday morning, between rainfalls, hard to get out of bed when it is raining, eaves dripping, i wondered how long it had been? 50 years and more? used to go there with dad on the streetcar, raw oysters and hot peppers as a treat for later on the tin-top kitchen table
half gone, i'm sure there used to be two buildings ... anyway, he wasn't there
Open Letter to Zofia Cisowski, Mike Webster, May 15, 2009.
Letter a scathing indictment of RCMP, Gary Mason, May 15, 2009, and a very few Comments while they were permitted.
Braidwood Transcript, May 13 2008, including Mike Webster.
there is something about this that confuses me ... not that i disagree with Mike Webster, just that the format ... a letter to Robert's mother? and a letter which ... doesnt quite fit somehow ... maybe an open letter to William Elliott would have been more effective (?)
dunno, thinking about it all, tired of it all, i wish the damned Mounties would give up this stupid legal posturing and fess up and be done with it!!!!
And he just walked along, alone, with his guilt so well concealed, and muttered underneath his breath, "Nothing is revealed."
Bob Dylan, The Ballad Of Frankie Lee And Judas Priest, 1968.
She Belongs To Me
She's got everything she needs,
She's an artist, she don't look back.
She's got everything she needs,
She's an artist, she don't look back.
She can take the dark out of the nighttime
And paint the daytime black.
You will start out standing
Proud to steal her anything she sees.
You will start out standing
Proud to steal her anything she sees.
But you will wind up peeking through her keyhole
Down upon your knees.
She never stumbles,
She's got no place to fall.
She never stumbles,
She's got no place to fall.
She's nobody's child,
The Law can't touch her at all.
She wears an Egyptian ring
That sparkles before she speaks.
She wears an Egyptian ring
That sparkles before she speaks.
She's a hypnotist collector,
You are a walking antique.
Bow down to her on Sunday,
Salute her when her birthday comes.
Bow down to her on Sunday,
Salute her when her birthday comes.
For Halloween give her a trumpet
And for Christmas, buy her a drum.
when he sings, "she's got everything she needs," and my mind twists that into, "well, she certainly & obviously don't need me ..." or when he sings, "she don't look back," and I go, "never looked at me in the first place, no,"
well, that is when the urge hits, wedge gets in ... today is day 20, hangin' by a thread, just like Lennie Cone's, "her body is a golden string that your body is hanging from"
Open Letter to Zofia Cisowski, Mike Webster, May 15, 2009.
This is probably as close as you will come to a genuine apology from the RCMP. Unfortunately, the long history and rich tradition of the Force manifests itself today as arrogance and defensiveness. As you may know, I am the psychologist who was associated with the RCMP for over 30 years and testified at the Braidwood Commission. I have tried several times over the last few months to put what I want to say to you, about Robert's death, in the form of a letter. I want to strike the right balance and have my remarks reflect my displeasure with the RCMP executive and not the generally well meaning and hard working members. I think I have it right this time.
The way your son was treated on October 14, 2007 was in my opinion, the absolute worst of Canadian policing. Then to compound this, the British Columbia Criminal Justice Branch rendered its charge assessment (December 12, 2008) of the 4 RCM policemen who were involved in Robert's death. The Branch stated that it would not be “approving any charges” and that the force the policemen used was “reasonable and necessary in all the circumstances”. This statement reflects a profound misunderstanding and lack of respect for the application of force to vulnerable groups and those in crisis. How could this happen in Canada?
I want to assure you that it shouldn't be happening in a country like Canada and that there are mechanisms in place to prevent such travesties. Please be patient with me as I first provide some context to our search for answers.
As in all democratic societies, the police in Canada are given the authority to use force to ensure that the laws of the country are upheld and public safety and security are maintained. This, of course, carries the expectation that police persons and their organizations will be accountable to the public for any use of force. However, even though the community provides the police with the ability to employ legitimate force, several questions arise:
i. What is a reasonable use of force?
ii. Why and under what circumstances is one type of force chosen over another?; and,
iii. What standards are in place to ensure that there is consistency in addressing use of force situations?
The police, in Canada, have attempted to address these questions by developing use of force models. No matter whether it is the RCMP's Incident Management Intervention Model (IMIM) or the more widely used National Use of Force Framework (NUFF), these are attempts to integrate force options (e.g. presence, communication…etc.) with a generic decision making model (e.g. assess-plan-act). There are some key principles underlying these models:
i. The primary responsibility of a police person is to preserve and protect life;
ii. The primary objective of any use of force is to ensure public safety;
iii. The safety of the police person is essential to public safety; and,
iv. The use of force model does not replace the law
So far, so good. It sounds like the RCMP has ethical (and legal) guidelines that it must follow. So how could such a tragedy happen? The short answer is, an inept, insular, and archaic group of RCMP executives has let the Force fall out of step with 21st Century policing. Let me try to explain, using what many of us may only have been minimally aware of.
You may have noticed that all four of the RCMP members who confronted Robert were wearing black leather gloves. These are not part of the regulation RCMP working uniform. Why were they wearing them? They are called “slash” gloves and are designed to protect the wearer from sharp objects. In my considerable interactions with general duty (patrol) personnel I have come to understand there are two answers to the question. Yes, they are worn for protection but they are also worn for psychological effect. They are worn, by some, to intimidate (without giving much thought to how they could be perceived by the general public). Unfortunately the idea of intimidating people is entirely consistent with the RCMP management's way of managing conflict not only with the public but also with its own membership. The idea of protection is reflective of the RCMP executive's view of the public they police. We have become the “enemy” and they go to “war” with us each day, rather than collaborating with us to form a cohesive and consistent approach to policing our communities. The gloves are a symbol of the RCMP executive's relationship with the public. So in a perverse way we can understand the climate in which the Taser was so warmly embraced by the RCMP decision makers and is so enthusiastically deployed by its loyal members. What better way to terrify or stay at arm's length from the “great unwashed” than at the end of two 35 foot electrical wires?
Let me be clear, I hold the RCMP executive responsible for this attitude and indirectly responsible for Robert's death. Tragically, the four policemen were doing what they had been trained to do. They actually believed the incredible testimony they gave at the Inquiry. (Some law enforcement training materials actually suggest the use of a conducted energy weapon for people in an agitated state!). The RCMP executive is out of touch with their constituency and their own membership, content to pad around in their various national and regional headquarters. They have forgotten what Sir Robert Peel told us 180 years ago as he began the first professional police service (i.e. London's “Bobbies”). Among a list of principles fundamental to democratic policing he noted that the relationship of the police to the community must always reflect the historic tradition that “we are them and they are us”. To be specific, the RCMP must accept that they are not an elite group above and separate from the community. They are quite simply paid to do a job full-time that we should all be doing in our various neighbourhoods. They are only in uniform so that we can identify them when we need them. Unfortunately, the RCMP executive has forgotten this and become more interested in positive impression management than in maintaining public approval. (And if they knew their Peel they would realize that it is that approval that allows them to function at all). They view themselves as somehow apart from the rest of us, an elite group whose safety is more important than that of the most unfortunate among us, whose decisions are the preserve of only themselves and so called public safety “experts” (e.g. Taser International), and who devalue force options like “presence” and “communication” as naive and ineffective in today's world.
The RCMP decision makers made a fundamental and far reaching error when they based their decision to bring the Taser into Canada upon anecdotal reports from their own members and information from Taser International. They refused then and continue to refuse to recognize that this issue and issues like this are public policy. They live too close to the forest to see the trees and would benefit from public input. They don't have all the requisite expertise to make these kinds of decisions. A public advisory board comprised of policy analysts, those trained in research, scientific specialists, retired lawyers, judges, and police persons could add much to the decision making process regarding such important issues.
Finally, I would like to attempt to shed some light on the disappointing British Columbia Criminal Justice Department's recommendation regarding charges in Robert's case. In our system the Justice Department relies on the police to provide it with evidence upon which it offers a legal opinion. To be more specific, in this case the Justice Department was dependent upon the RCMP's IHIT to provide it with comprehensive evidence so that it could make the best decision.
It is a psychologically unsophisticated idea to believe that the RCMP can investigate itself. When I say this I am not questioning anyone's integrity. I am stating a fundamental principle of human behaviour. Human beings are highly subjective organisms; we see (hear, smell etc.) what we want to see, and we don't like to see things that make us look bad. (Recall the RCMP's original explanation of the incident, for which not a shred of evidence was found, or the meticulous unraveling of the IHIT's case). This is why medical doctors shouldn't be diagnosing themselves, researchers should be at arm's length from their own research, and I make a lousy psychologist for my own family. Didn't you find it interesting that one of the (supposed) finest police forces in the world reported that “no information was available to investigators regarding Mr. Dziekanski's emotional state during his flight to Vancouver from Frankfurt”? Then those intrepid sleuths from the Braidwood Commission (lawyers Art Vertlieb and Pat McGowan) without ever flying off to Poland, invited some of Robert's co-passengers and flight attendants to the hearing and found out that he was just fine. This is sometimes called selective perception; we look for and find only those things that would confirm our own perspective. I believe it was this faulty notion that the RCMP is the best judge of its own behaviour that resulted in the incredible ruling of the Criminal Justice Branch.
As someone who worked inside the organization for several decades I am deeply sorry for the RCMP's behaviour that contributed to Robert's death. I wish I could tell you that the issues I raised here, and many others, that are rotting the RCMP from the top down, will soon be changing. I won't do that as the RCMP is in need of significant transformational change in order to genuinely re-connect with the public and its own membership. Changing bits and pieces of its infrastructure, as outlined by its “change management team” will not suffice. The changes required need to go much deeper and challenge the Force's archaic self image and corporate culture. These kinds of changes focus on the outdated core values and culture that are most resistant to change; and most of the resistance comes from the top…the very people who make up the “change management team”. Massive organizational changes like this usually involve sweeping changes in senior management. Very few at the executive level who have had anything to do with shaping the recent history of the RCMP should be allowed anywhere near the room where genuine, and painful, transformation is being undertaken. I have little faith that anything of significance will change until the cabal in charge is gone; however, I want to assure you that I will continue to do everything in my power to shine a critical light on the role played by RCMP decision makers in Robert's death.
In closing, you may be aware that my testimony at the Braidwood Commission was challenged as “biased” by the RCMP members' lawyers. (And I'm sure they will try again in their final submissions). I am not biased, in a negative direction toward the RCMP. I have the deepest respect for the institution of the RCMP but very little respect for most members of the RCMP responsible for its present position and course. The executive level of the RCMP from one end of the country to the other is out of touch with both the public and its' own membership. It's time for someone to say “the emperor wears no clothes”.
Sincerely, Dr. Mike Webster, Police Psychologist
Comments are closed.
Letter a scathing indictment of RCMP, Gary Mason, May 15, 2009.
It started out as an apology for the role Canada's national police force played in the death of her son, Robert. But in its writing, police psychologist Mike Webster's open letter to Zofia Cisowski became a scathing indictment of the force's leadership.
“So how could this happen?” Mr. Webster writes in his letter to Ms. Cisowski. “The short answer is an inept, insular and archaic group of RCMP executives has let the Force fall out of step with 21st Century policing.”
Mr. Webster has a perspective on the RCMP that few do.
He's been associated with the force for more than 30 years. He's been a consultant on undercover operations, hostage-takings and kidnappings. He is recognized as a leader in his field. And this past week, he took the stand at the Braidwood inquiry into the death of Robert Dziekanski and suggested the four RCMP officers involved in the incident panicked and abandoned their basic training.
Mr. Webster was in the news in the spring of last year when it became public that the RCMP had cut off all his contract work over the fairly mild criticisms he had levelled at the force over the Dziekanski affair. He told me that the letter to Ms. Cisowski is not about sour grapes, but rather an attempt to educate a grieving mother, and an angry public, about how something like this could happen.
It is written by someone who has had an insider's perspective on the cultural evolution that has occurred over the last few decades within the RCMP.
“I thought this would be the closest she would get to a genuine apology from anyone associated with the RCMP,” Mr. Webster said in an interview this week. “I mean a genuine apology. If I didn't say anything nobody would. But I also thought she needed to hear someone speak the truth about what's really going on inside the force.
“I thought that might help her explain how things ever got to the point they did on that night at the airport.”
In his letter, made available exclusively to The Globe and Mail, Mr. Webster said he holds RCMP management responsible for the decision-making by the four officers in the short minutes leading to Mr. Dziekanski's death.
“Unfortunately,” Mr. Webster writes in his letter, “the idea of intimidating people is entirely consistent with the RCMP management's way of managing conflict, not only with the public, but also with its own membership.
“The idea of protection is reflective of the RCMP executive's view of the public they police. We have become the ‘enemy' and they go to ‘war' with us each day, rather than collaborating with us to form a cohesive and consistent approach to policing our communities.”
Mr. Webster, who holds a doctorate in psychology, also takes aim at the Criminal Justice Branch's decision not to press charges in connection with Mr. Dziekanski's death. A decision based on an investigation of the incident conducted by the RCMP itself.
“It is a psychologically unsophisticated idea to believe that the RCMP can investigate itself,” writes Mr. Webster. “When I say this, I'm not questioning anyone's integrity. I am stating a fundamental principle of human behaviour. Human beings are highly subjective organisms … we don't like to see things that make us look bad.
“This is why medical doctors shouldn't be diagnosing themselves, researchers should be at arm's length from their own research and I make a lousy psychologist for my own family.”
Mr. Webster concludes his letter by saying that he's “deeply sorry for the RCMP's behaviour that contributed to Robert's death.”
“I wish I could tell you that the issues … that are rotting the RCMP from the top down will soon be changing. I won't do that as the RCMP is in need of significant transformational change in order to genuinely re-connect with the public and its own membership.”
While he admits to having little faith that anything much will change until the current leadership group in charge of the RCMP is changed, Mr. Webster promises Ms. Cisowski he will continue to “shine a critical light” on the role played by management of the Mounties in her son's death.
That, he says, is the least he can do.
SY GIL from Canada writes: BRAVO to the psychologist! Finally someone affiliated with the Mounties doing the right thing. Given the many incidents involving the Mounties in the last few years, it is really time that there is an independent review of the force. Perhaps this inquiry is the beginning but we need to take major steps to restore confidence in what was a symbol of Canada.
Steve St-Laurent from Vancouver, Canada writes: He's worked with the Mounties extensively. His perspective is relevant, helpful and damning. What a breath of fresh air after so much testimony by sociopaths in uniforms.
Dick Garneau from Canada writes: The Royal Canadian Mounted Police is a discrase to Canada.
All aspects of the force should be rationalized. Heads should roll. Murder charges should be laid. Only then can integrity be restored.
PROUDCANADIAN2008 B from RCMP IS A JOKE, Canada writes: RCMP is a Joke, they're never wrong, nor can they admit any type of fault. It's a surprise they haven't been completely reorganized following all the disasters that are publically embarrassing our great nation. I am sure there are FAR MORE abuses that never get exposed in the RCMP's world of secrets and protectionism.
john smith from Canada writes: he just repeats what we all know already.
and we also know why they fired him.
and by all means, we should drop 'royal' from their name.
North Star from Canada writes: Mr. Webster sums it up neatly: the RCMP believe intimidation is their primary policing technique. The RCMP should serve the public and stop trying to intimidate it into submission.
Binding civilian oversight of police forces now.
Tinfoil Hatt from A single green shoot of justice in a cesspool of lies, Canada writes: This man deserves a medal. I suggest anyone who hasn't already done so click the link and read the full letter. I hope we hear much, much more from this brave, articulate, and insightful individual.
Jonn White from Canada writes: Finally, an unbiased yet informed diagnosis of the rot that befallen RCMP. Thank you Dr. Webster.
The Pender Dude from Lotusland, Canada writes: It takes an enormous amount of personal strength to write a letter of condemnation about the RCMP. I congratulate Dr. Webster for his bravery and his courage. The corporate cultural of the RCMP is toxic. A nation-state has the authority to permit the use of force for public protection. As Webster points out so clearly, the RCMP protect themselves before protecting the public.
Is it time to insist that politicians demand truthful accountability of this police force?
Building an Ark from Eastern Slopes, Canada writes: Wow, Dr. Webster does something the RCMP is incapable of - admitting they are sorry for actions resulting in death. Too bad mere days after they were only concerned about managing their message that a combative (arms raised with a stapler) person couldn't be talked down by four proffessional - highly trained mounties. That he continued on the ground to resist them. Too bad the truth takes time to come out...Thank goodness the video was not buried by their efforts to do so.
nelson gabert from United States Outlying writes: Webster should be in charge of the no standards, low-life RCMP. A real expert, honest, which is unusual for anyone associated with cops and also has sound judgement. He is right nothing will change. I have seen this sick mentality with U.S. cops for years; no standards, excessive force, never any punishment amd all lying to cover for each other. The RCMP used to stand out as the world class force but since Trudeau took hold they deteriorated into the farce they now are. No doubt many new recruits had the right ideals when they joined but none would be able to maintain them in the environment that exists.
Angry West Coast Canuck from Canada writes: Well done sir! Now he's going to spend the rest of his career waiting to get the metaphorical shot in the back of the head from the RCMP.
The only thing that happened here was that a member of the public filmed the altercation and they weren't able to bury the evidence, although not for lack of trying! How many other such events have been completely rolled over by the RCMP with impunity? We'll never know. I for one don't trust them at all anymore. Even in our local town they've gone out of control.
Mason Wright from Canada writes: Editor's Note: We have closed comments on this story for legal reasons. We appreciate your understanding.
Evening News Editor
Posted 15/05/09 at 9:38 PM EDT
Comments are closed
Braidwood Transcript, May 13 2008, including Mike Webster.
[Note: all of these transcripts are done up in pdf which is just ... shitty! ao I am trying to put it back into some kind of readable format, as time permits - people who love pdf's are lawyers eh?]
MR. McGOWAN: We can, Mr. Commissioner. The next presenter is Dr. Mike Webster. Dr. Webster is a psychologist and he has some expertise in the areas of crisis intervention and police procedures.
BACKGROUND QUESTIONS BY MR. McGOWAN:
Q Dr. Webster, before we send you off on your presentation, I'm going to spend a few minutes with you just reviewing your background for the Commission. A Of course.
Q You were born in Victoria? A That's correct.
Q And you grew up primarily in the Vancouver area; is that correct? A I did, that's correct.
Q After completing your high school, you headed off to university, initially to the University of Notre Dame? A Correct.
Q Where you obtained a bachelor of arts majoring in psychology in 1966? A I did.
Q And then you proceeded on to Western Washington University? A Yes.
Q Please tell the Commissioner about the degree you obtained there. A I obtained my master's degree in psychology there.
Q And which area of psychology was that in? A Counselling psychology.
Q And you completed that in what year? A I think that was completed in 1973.
Q And you subsequently went on to obtain your doctorate degree in counselling psychology? A At UBC, correct.
Q And what year was that? A 1980.
Q Subsequent to your education, you've had quite a diverse career, I understand. A I have, yes.
Q You've done some work in the prison environment? A Yes. I was a psychologist both at the B.C. Pen, the old B.C. Pen in New Westminster, and at William Head on Vancouver Island.
Q And you were dealing with inmates there? A That's correct.
Q You've also had a fair amount of work experience in the area of addictions; is that correct? A I did work for a time, yes, with the British Columbia Addictions.
Q Describe your work in that area just briefly. A I was a clinician at one of the community clinics.
Q And through much of your career, I understand, you've also maintained a private practice? A Yes, I have.
Q Just tell the Commissioner a little bit about that area of your work. A That area of my work began in the mid-1970s after I had been a psychologist working at the B.C. Pen and was involved in two of the major hostage takings at the Pen. I had assisted the police, consulted with the RCMP when they attended to manage those incidents, and I made a connection with them at that time and became a member of their members' assistance program, a clinician in their employee assistance program. And I also began to consult with them in crisis situations, hostage-takings, barricaded persons incidents, kidnappings and incidents of public disorder, that type of thing.
Q You also had a private clinical practice where you saw patients in your counselling psychology area; is that correct? A That's correct. That was the members' assistance program, the RCMP's employee assistance program.
Q So your clients were primarily police officers -- A Correct.
Q -- or police personnel? A Correct.
Q I understand you also went on at some point in your career to receive basic police training. A I did.
Q Tell the Commissioner about that. A Yes. I had been a psychologist working with the police for close to 15 years and I thought that I could make a better contribution from inside the organization as a member of the RCMP. I had a particular goal in mind. The RCMP was opening their ViCLAS section in Ottawa at the time, their Violent Crime Analysis unit, and they were looking for criminal investigative analysts. And I thought with my psychological training and experience that I would fit well there, so I entered the RCMP. I went through training. But I soon found out that I would not be posted to that type of a position. I was going to be a general duty policeman. So I quickly lost interest as I was 43 years of age at the time. I quickly lost interest and returned to my private practice.
Q Subsequent to that, however, you have continued to do work with the police forces in British Columbia, both the RCMP and municipal forces in the areas of training and otherwise; is that correct? A I have. I work with police services internationally, in Europe and South America as well as here at home in Canada.
Q And tell us just briefly about your experience in the area of training. A Training police persons?
Q Yes, training police persons.A I for a number of years, since the early 1980s, have been involved at the Canadian Police College training police persons in the area of crisis negotiations and incident command. Presently I'm involved in instructing with the Organized Crime section out of Ottawa in the area of national security.
Q Do you have experience, Dr. Webster, with the application of force and how people respond to the application of force in the police context? A I have. I've been in attendance at many, many kidnappings, many, many hostage-takings, barricaded persons incidents, incidents of public disorder, the G8, the G20. I have what I would consider to be quite extensive experience with the applications of force and people's responses to them.
Q And have those scenarios you've discussed only been with Canadian police forces or do you also do work with other police forces? A Other polices forces, internationally.
Q And those include the FBI? A I work closely with the FBI, and Europol, South American police agencies, largely in Colombia. I've been in Peru, Iceland, Australia.
Q Thank you, Dr. Webster. And perhaps just before we finish up with your introduction, you could tell the Commissioner what it is you're doing today. What does your practice look like today? A My practice today is focused more on the area of national security than it is in the area of crisis intervention. Since September the 11th, 2001, the RCMP have placed an additional emphasis on the gathering of intelligence to assist them in national security matters, and I provide consultation in that area as well.
Q And are you still involved in providing training or assisting with training? A I am.
MR. McGOWAN: Thank you, Dr. Webster. I think at this point I'll invite you to commence your presentation to the Commissioner. A Okay, I will.
PRESENTATION BY DR. WEBSTER:
As I'm somewhat technologically impaired, I will just read you my presentation.
Mr. Commissioner, police patrol personnel during the course of their work are often faced with individuals exhibiting some of the following characteristics: bizarre and/or aggressive behaviours, shouting, elevated suspicion, anxiety or panic, violence, unexpected physical strength, profuse sweating.
In a growing number of cases, they appear to be reaching for their Tasers to assist them in gaining control of the uncooperative individual. In some of these cases, especially some of those resulting in death, the circumstances under which the weapon is deployed seem suspect even to the untrained eye.
I will look at the weapon from the perspective of a police psychologist. The appropriate use of the Taser cannot be addressed without a discussion of the controversial phenomenon, excited delirium. The police, in an attempt to justify their use of the weapon, in many cases have taken to citing this hypothetical disorder.
Opinion as to its validity falls on both sides of the issue. Some argue that the condition is not only valid but responsible for a large majority of in-custody deaths, including those in which the deceased has been stunned with a Taser. On the other side, it is noted with great concern that no reputable medical, psychiatric or psychological association recognizes excited delirium as a medical or mental health condition. Nearly all cases of the phenomenon involve people fighting with or being restrained by the police. Even with an extensive autopsy, there is no definitive way to prove that someone died of excited delirium. And it may be that police and medical examiners are using the term as a convenient excuse for what could be excessive use of force or inappropriate control techniques during an arrest.
My own opinion on this is that Canadian law enforcement and its American brothers and sisters have been brainwashed by companies like TASER International and the Institute for the Prevention of In-Custody Deaths. These companies have identified a need within police work and created a product that basically sells itself. How can you argue against something that purports to save life? Moreover, these organizations have created a virtual world replete with avatars that wander about with the potential to manifest a horrific condition characterized by profuse sweating, superhuman strength and a penchant for smashing glass that appeals to well-meaning but psychologically unsophisticated police personnel.
The phenomenon of excited delirium has been of great assistance to TASER International in the recent past. The company has successfully defended itself against at least eight lawsuits in which it was alleged that the victims died of Taser shocks. The company argued that the cause of death was excited delirium and not the Taser.
TASER International spokesman Steve Tuttle has acknowledged that the company sends thousands of pamphlets to medical examiners explaining how to detect excited delirium. The company also holds training seminars around the North American continent attended by thousands of law enforcement personnel, including Canadians.
TASER International makes a concerted effort to educate both the law enforcement and medical communities with regard to excited delirium. TASER International business associate John Peters heads up a company called the Institute for the Prevention of In-Custody Deaths. It specializes in training police persons, coroners, emergency room physicians and other medical professionals in sudden death from excited delirium. Mr. Peters is also one of TASER International's star witnesses when the company has to defend itself in court against charges that its weapon has killed. In addition, he and his company have been on TASER International's payroll to provide instruction at their training academy.
TASER International and the Institute for the Prevention of In-Custody Deaths, complete with supportive physicians and researchers, all on the payroll, have through a brilliant marketing scheme created an extremely lucrative business built largely on a dubious disorder.
In my opinion, these two companies have revitalized an old and mythical condition and influenced law enforcement's conceptions of crisis and its management. Genuinely motivated Canadian police persons have, in at attempt to manage crises, explain the tragedy of in-custody deaths and ridiculously inappropriate applications of the Taser, embraced the controversial concept of excited delirium. It is these misperceptions that have influenced police persons to deploy the Taser in some situations that fall well outside the acceptable usage scenarios provided for in policy.
Canadian law enforcement's own National Use of Force Framework states that an officer's perception is his or her reality. In other words, if every person in crisis is perceived as experiencing this unmanageable and non-responsive condition and the only way to handle it is with a Taser, then the Taser will be deployed. When you think the only tool you have is a hammer, then the whole world begins to look like a nail.
As perception lies at the heart of the Canadian Use of Force Framework, we need to be more critical of what or who influences the perceptions of our police services. Physicians, psychiatrists and psychologists working in hospital emergency rooms and psychiatric emergency services readily relate how individuals who are exhibiting the symptoms of hyperarousal can be managed in a variety of ways ranging from medication to communication. Staff is trained to handle agitated patients by speaking in calm, non confrontational tones and adopting neutral body postures.
Excited delirium does not appear in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. As Dr. Lu pointed out for us this morning, plain old delirium does. It can be brought on as a direct physiological consequence of a general medical condition, substance abuse, intoxication or withdrawal, use of a medication, exposure to a toxin, stress, or a combination of these factors.
Mr. Frank Lasser, the 82-year-old man hospitalized in Kamloops, who received several jolts from an RCMP Taser last week, may be an example of a case of delirium brought on by a general medical condition. He was in hospital fighting pneumonia.
Delirium can be of the active variety and resemble the behaviour of Robert Dziekanski, or it can be of the less active variety where people become muted and withdrawn. Properly trained mental health professionals are aware that the more active variety increases the risks associated with physical restraints. Death from delirium is extremely rare.
Determining the cause of death of someone who was suffering from delirium is always a challenge. Was it the disorder, the restraint, the Taser, or a complex interplay of all the foregoing? In my opinion, well-meaning police services are creating a potentially libellous situation for themselves by recognizing the convenient fiction of excited delirium as a medical condition with symptoms that include common street behaviours. They are forcing a higher standard of diagnostic acuity and standard of care upon themselves for which they are neither trained to make or manage. Moreover, they provide the basis for a charge of legal negligence if they fail to provide a standard of care for a person who dies in their custody and had exhibited one or more of the published symptoms of excited delirium, as in the case of Robert Dziekanski.
There is a way to avoid all of this. There is an alternate view of the symptom picture that TASER International describes as excited delirium and an alternate method of management. Most medical and mental health professionals would agree that people manifesting this symptom picture are in a state of hyperarousal. That is, they are in crisis. They are experiencing a temporary state of disorganization in which they are unable to cope with an immediately stressful situation using their day-to-day coping mechanisms. In these states, people are affected on several levels. Cognitively, their ability to process information is disrupted and disorganized. They don't use good judgment, they don't make good decisions, and they're not very good problem solvers. Their emotions are labile and their behaviour is random and unpredictable. It is neither humane nor logical to inflict crippling pain upon someone who has lost his mental balance.
Crisis intervention is designed to assist people in lowering their arousal level and regaining their mental balance, enabling them to use better judgment, make decisions and become better problem solvers.
There are several well accepted ways that this can be accomplished. The one most amenable to police first responders is the creation of a safe, non-threatening environment. The first rule of crisis intervention is: no more crisis.
During a review of Taser tragedies, it is not difficult to see numerous violations of this rule. This type of training is not offered routinely by all police training academies nor as an in-service course in Canada. Locally it is provided by the Vancouver Police Department to its patrol personnel. It is my understanding that the RCMP, following the death of Robert Dziekanski, has undertaken this type of training in the Lower Mainland.
The training usually entails five to seven days and covers a broad array of topics, including drug awareness, mental health issues, conflict and crisis theory, crisis intervention, verbal and non-verbal communication techniques, and experiential exercises.
It is my recommendation that, if the Taser proves to be safe, its use in Canada be restricted to only those situations involving a significant risk of death or grievous bodily harm and that Canadian law enforcement be provided with crisis intervention training during their basic police training.
Thank you, Mr. Commissioner. I'll conclude there.
THE COMMISSIONER: Thank you very much, sir. Does counsel have any comments or questions?
Q Dr. Webster, thank you for your presentation. I just have a few questions to clarify a few matters and perhaps get a little more helpful information for the Commission. You told us of this crisis intervention training, and you're personally involved in delivering this training to police forces? A I am.
Q Which police forces in British Columbia have you been involved in delivering this training to? A To my knowledge, there's only one and I'm involved with that one, and that's the Vancouver Police Department. Now I understand the RCMP has undertaken this since the death of Robert Dziekanski.
Q And how long have you been involved in providing the crisis intervention training to the Vancouver Police Department? A It's a week long course and there are other people who come to visit them, other instructors. I play a small part in that. I've been doing it since -- I think they began in 2001, around that time.
Q Have you been approached by any other police forces in British Columbia and asked to be involved in similar training? A I have not. But they wouldn't approach me to organize the thing. It would be something that they would organize on their own, and again, I would come and provide that small psychological communication component.
Q Tell us a little bit about the course, Dr. Webster. How long does it run? How long do we have a police officer out of service on the street to attend this course? A A week.
Q And in your view, is that sufficient time? A It is. If the time is used judiciously and there is an active component to the training, that is they get an opportunity to actually try on the skills and practise them rather than just sit and talk about them, yes, it is.
Q What specific skills are taught in the crisis intervention training course? A There's a lot of theory presented in the area of drugs and mental health, crisis and conflict. The specific skills taught are communication skills. In general they would be the non-confrontational, speaking to people in calm, non-confrontational tones and adopting neutral body postures. There's non-verbal communication techniques that are offered to address those situations, like where Mr. Dziekanski couldn't speak English so we need to use some other means of communicating with him. And then they have an opportunity to engage in some experiential exercises and actually apply the skills.
Q You told us in your presentation about some of the aspects of crisis intervention that you think are important. You spoke of creating a safe environment and encouraging officers to adopt a neutral body posture. A Mm-hmm.
Q Could you tell the Commissioner a little bit more about that, please. A Well, there are several ways that you could deal with a person in crisis. You can mitigate them, you can hospitalize them, you could get them involved in some sort of outpatient therapy. But those are not really appropriate to a street police person. There's one way left that is very appropriate to the street police person and that is the creation of a safe, non-threatening environment. If we can do that, now what happens is that individuals tend to regain their mental balance. They tend to regain their ability to use good judgment - use better judgment - to make some decent decisions and to assist the police person in solving whatever the immediate problem happens to be. The crucial thing is no more crisis. You can't expect a person who is hyperaroused, their cognitive process is disrupted and disorganized, you can't expect them to contend with commands or even wonderful solutions to whatever the present problem is. Those are going to go right over their heads until we get that arousal level down. So the whole skill package, the whole communication technique package, is designed to bring the arousal level down so now we can begin to do some problem-solving.
Q What about the neutral body posture? What would that look like? A A neutral body posture for Dr. Lu in the hospital would be very different than the neutral body posture for a street police person. A street police person has to take into consideration officer safety. Therefore it will be somewhat modified. But you can imagine in the hospital you would face a person straight on and you would perhaps have your hands at your sides or you may clasp them in front of you like this (gesturing). You look like a non-threatening person. A police person -- police people because they're wearing weapons often like to blade themselves, turn themselves away from the people -- to get their weapon, put themselves between their weapon and the person they're dealing with. So there's some modification of these things on the street, but it can still be done.
Q Do you see or are you familiar with settings where the skills taught in the crisis intervention training are put into practice and have been effective? A Yes, I have. I had occasion just two weeks ago to visit three of the B.C. Corrections Branch centres here in British Columbia, and you have corrections officers in these centres who are dealing with belligerent, combative, uncooperative, threatening individuals all day long, and they are not armed. Yes, they have access to a Taser but the Taser is in a weapons locker way back in the bowels of the institution somewhere. They have to deal with these situations on a constant basis, and they manage to do it.
Q Dr. Webster, during your presentation you made reference to, I think it was the Institute for the Prevention of In-Custody Deaths? A Yes.
Q We heard about that for the first time the other day and it's been mentioned by you again. What can you tell us about that institute? A I can tell you that they've -- again, this is a company, and I must admire their entrepreneurial spirit. They've identified a need within the law enforcement community, and this need now is -- it's distasteful to the community to see people die in the custody of the police. The police are given the job now when someone is put in their custody -- they take someone into their custody, they have to ensure their safety and their survival. When someone dies, the community doesn't like that. The institute has come along now and they have focused on this particular area and they go about the country teaching police services how to prevent in-custody deaths. The one thing that they seem to spend a lot of time on is educating police personnel and medical personnel about excited delirium, and they teach, or have taught - I don't know if they still do; I must be fair to them - they have taught at TASER's training academy, and Mr. Peters, the president of the institute, often appears -- when TASER is on trial trying to defend their weapon, he will often appear to support TASER and excited delirium.
Q Now, I take it there are circumstances where the crisis intervention techniques aren't effective. They just don't get through. A Yes.
Q What do you suggest to police officers in those circumstances? A Well, I think it's important to consider the Use of Force Framework. At the centre of the Use of Force Framework that all police services in Canada subscribe to, there is the officer's perception and the component -- they call it assess, plan, act. So police persons are supposed to be continually assessing the situation that they are in. They need to have a variety of skills that they can use to apply to whatever the assessment is that they make of the particular situation. Of course, if communicating with someone, attempting to bring someone's arousal level down, is not going to be effective, then they need to have the freedom or the option to escalate to a different option of force. And before you get to intermediate weapons in the framework, there are soft hand techniques and hard hand techniques that could be used. And if none of those are effective, then one could graduate to intermediate weapons. And of course, if an intermediate weapon isn't going to do the job, then lethal force. But the key for me, the issue for me is that police persons need to have realistic perceptions. They need to understand -- I'm not suggesting that they need to go step by step by step; they need to first appear, then verbally interact with the subject and then try soft hand and then try hard hand and then go to intermediate. I'm not suggesting that because sometimes situations can escalate quite quickly and you don't have an opportunity to go through all of those and you need to protect yourself or protect the public. But what I am suggesting is that I think they have some misperceptions and they are too quick to jump to the use of a conducted energy weapon, thinking that this individual is suffering from this horrific disorder and there's no other way to deal with him than to apply my Taser.
Q You're not against the use of the Taser in principle? Am I right about that? A No, I think there's a place for the Taser.
Q In your view, what is that place on the use of force continuum? A Well, that would be the last thing before you have to shoot somebody. If there is a threat to life or grievous bodily harm and you can avoid shooting someone by using a Taser, then I would agree with the use of a Taser.
Q Dr. Webster, we've had some medical and scientific experts here talking about the Taser itself and the safety of the Taser, and we'll have some more. And I take it you're not an expert and don't offer an opinion on the safety of the device itself? A I'm not an expert and I don't have an opinion on the safety of it.
Q Now, given your psychological background, I wonder if you're able to help the Commission with an opinion on whether there's a potential for lasting psychological effects from being Tasered to somebody with a mental illness, say for example. A Yes. Yes, I think there is a potential for someone to have a chronic response to being the victim of a Taser. That would depend upon how now the victim views the incident of being Tasered. If a victim views this as a life-threatening event, if they in going through their convulsions and what not as they're being pulsed with the Taser, they view this as they could lose their lives, then yeah, this could go through -- I'm sure they would have an acute anxiety response immediately thereafter, and if that's not resolved, this could graduate into a more chronic post-traumatic response.
Q Thank you. Dr. Webster, during your presentation you were critical of police forces for taking their information directly from the manufacturer about excited delirium and about circumstances when it may or may not be appropriate to use a Taser and when it may or may not be the best option. Where do you say they should be getting their information from? What sort of a framework would you like to see? A Well, I would like us as a country to take a look at conducted energy weapons and their safety and where and when they should be applied. I don't think we should swallow this whole hog from south of the border. Some of these incidents that we see in the media of people being Tasered are frankly embarrassing. This is not the best of Canadian policing. This is not what we as Canadians would like our police services -- how we would like our police services to behave.
Q And just finally, Dr. Webster, what's your motivation for being here today and sharing your thoughts with us? What's underlying your concern and what's the reason you've come here today? A I'm not anti-police. I've worked with the police for over 30 years, and as I said a moment ago, I'm embarrassed to be associated with organizations that Taser sick old men in hospital beds and confused individuals, immigrants arriving to the country. Frankly I find it embarrassing. And again, it's not the best of Canadian policing. I don't think it's what we as Canadians want our police services to look like.
Q Do you have anything else which you wish to add, Dr. Webster? A I don't think so, no.
THE COMMISSIONER: Dr. Webster, thank you very much for taking the trouble and the time to both prepare your presentation and to come here. Thank you so much. A Thank you, Mr. Commissioner.