Friday, September 6, 2013

Tasering coming to you?

In the Toronto Star this morning I read this account:

Speaking Italian and alone on a Mississauga City Streets on August 28 th at 3 in the morning, while failing to “relinquish” a knife, police tasered a relative of Angela Pasquale….her 80 year old mother with dementia.  Angela’s mother has been waiting for long term care for the past 3 years…now she’s in the hospital as a result of the police confrontation.
Tasers can be used when a person is exhibiting “threatening or assaultive behaviour”. As of August 29th, all front-line officers in Ontario have the right to bear and employ tasers.
The number of people with dementia, Alzheimers and the like is growing rapidly and becoming a real concern.  We are learning more and more about how scary these illnesses are for the person’s suffering from life impacting confusion, and no cure is yet to be found.
At least Angela’s mom wasn’t shot. 
This reminds me of last year’s incident with mental health patient Michael Eligon who was shot to death by Toronto police after leaving a hospital psychiatric ward wearing a hospital gown, socks and a toque...and apparently carrying scissors.  Maybe we’ve learned from the confusion around the 2007 tasered-to-death of Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski on the floor of Vancouver's airport? He was so upset he picked up a paper stapler to defend himself from police.  And then there’s this summer’s killing of Sammy Yatim outside of a Toronto street car…shot nine times by police….and then tasered.
Compassion?  An attempt at understanding…perhaps speaking calmly and slowly to a person who is disoriented?  Calling in other supports?
Really, an 80 year old woman….out in the dark world, alone, confused and resorting to her mother tongue.   Tell me, was she “defending” herself with her kitchen paring knife to peel apples or something bigger to cut bread?   Who’s next?   

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