CANADA – Ontario: Peel cop who used Taser on 80-year-old with dementia won’t be charged (2013-10-09)

Published on October 9 2013 by admin

[[SUMMARY / COMMENTS : A case-study for taser-training discussion? Would be good …  OK to taser 80 yr-old woman with dementia? The Ontario Special Investigations Unit (SIU) has just cleared a Peel Regional Police supervisor who used his stun gun twice on the confused, elderly widow, Iole Pasquale, causing her to fall and break her hip. She was holding a knife outside her home at 3:30 am. A first officer asked her to put the knife down. She didn’t. The third was a supervisor with a taser. They said they didn’t want to wrestle her to the ground because they were worried about officer safety. He tasered her twice. The SIU daid this was not unlawful, although Peel Police guidelines say avoid tasering the elderly where possible.]]

Toronto Sun, by Michele Mandel

TORONTO – This can’t be right.

It cannot be okay to Taser an 80-year-old woman suffering from dementia — even if she is carrying a bread knife. It cannot be acceptable to use such force on a wisp of an old lady who posed no threat to anyone.

Yes, we know the police are not mental health workers. But there must have been a gentler, smarter way to contain and disarm Iole Pasquale.

And yet the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) has just cleared a Peel Regional Police supervisor who used his stun gun not once, but twice, on the confused, elderly widow.

Is this the best our police can do in dealing with the old and mentally ill?

In a decision released Wednesday afternoon, SIU director Ian Scott found no reasonable grounds to charge the officer with a criminal offence after he twice Tasered the frail octogenarian, causing her to fall and break her hip.

Pasquale lived alone in the Mississauga home she once shared with her late husband, with her two children visiting often to help until a long-term bed could be found for her. It was about 3:30 a.m. on Aug. 28 when the disoriented widow inexplicably got dressed and went out for a walk, an eight-inch knife in her hand.

Two drivers, who spotted her wandering aimlessly on Thomas St., called 911. Three uniformed officers would eventually show up to deal with the “armed” and non-threatening grandma.

The first to arrive did what you would hope: he spoke gently to the old lady as he drove beside her, asking her if she was OK and if she wanted a ride. When he got no answer, he asked her to put the knife down. But Pasquale was lost in her own world.

Then the second officer arrived and made what would appear to be a key observation. To quote the SIU release: “She was not threatening anyone with the knife and did not appear suicidal.”

So again, where was the need for such force?

The second officer yelled at her to drop the knife but she didn’t respond. The third on the scene was a supervisor allowed to carry the Taser. He, too, screamed at Pasquale to no avail. He decided to apprehend her under the Mental Health Act because he thought she was suffering from a mental disorder and could cause serious bodily harm to herself or others. No argument there.

The argument is why three strong, fit officers decided that their best option to take down a fragile and demented 80-year-old was by firing twice at her with an electric current.

They said they didn’t want to wrestle her to the ground because they were worried about officer safety. What about pepper spray or simply knocking the knife out of her hand with a baton? The police supervisor told the SIU he worried those approaches might injure her.

But jolting her twice with volts of electricity was better? After falling to the ground and fracturing her hip, Pasquale required emergency surgery and a lengthy hospital stay. Her family, not surprisingly, was furious.

“The only other reasonable option not explored was to continue to track her and attempt to convince her to disarm herself. On reflection, that would seem to have been a preferred option,” Scott said in remarkable understatement. “The subject officer can be criticized for not waiting longer and perhaps he should have. But in my view, the fact that he used a (Taser) without waiting longer does not make its deployment unreasonable in a criminal law context.”

But in clearing the supervisor, the police watchdog was hardly condoning what happened to Pasquale. “This decision does not mean that it was the preferred option, particularly in light of Peel Police’s internal directive that (Tasers) are to be avoided on elderly persons where possible; it simply means that the decision to use a (Taser) in these circumstances should not engage the criminal law.”

Their own guidelines advised these cops not to use Tasers on the elderly. So what is Peel Police going to do now to ensure that no other poor old lady faces a similar fate?


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