Tag Archives: police

Big Brother IS Watching, You and You and Me

George Orwell, like a fair number of science fiction  writers (Clarke, Heinlein, Asimov, Dick and others), visualized some aspect of a future world, perhaps an alternate world but created a story nonetheless that had some essence of things to come.

As Wikipedia says: The novel has become famous for its portrayal of pervasive government surveillance and control, and government’s increasing encroachment on the rights of the individual. Since its publication, many of its terms and concepts, such as “Big Brother“, “doublethink“, and “Newspeak” have entered the popular vernacular.

Indeed, the phrase “Big Brother is watching” is synonymous with too much government control, or the totalitarianism that Orwell feared. After 9/11 and the right-wing paranoia of the Bush administration we saw the rise of Homeland Security, where people’s rights were taken away. Some disappeared into Guantanamo without anyone knowing where they went, without any legal aid or advice. Others, while flying through the US, were shipped off to other countries for torture, regardless of what their citizenship was.  The phrase “Homeland Security” is reminiscent of the Fatherland (Hitler’s Third Reich) and the Motherland (Communist Russia). Though these last two are examples of extreme right wing and extreme left wing governments, they both encompass a totalitarianism and the circumventing of the rights of the individual, for the greater good, for the country.

It used to be that a camera trained on you and watching your every move was considered an invasion of privacy. Many years ago, before Homeland Security, my boyfriend had a friend in Calgary that worked for the local telecommunications company (at that time AGT–Alberta Government Telephones). He could not say what he did but it involved hidden cameras trained onto the streets outside the buildings. Every war commander knows that the way to break the enemy, to overcome them, is to either hinder or monitor their communications.  So every wise nation protects its communications and every ambitious or suspicious nation spies on its perceived enemies and communicates what it sees.

There are numerous instances of spy planes and spies. We accept that that is what countries do. There are cameras on you at the border or at your bank machine, to protect you. There are cameras on the roads now, webcams we call them, that show us the line-up at ferries, or freeways, or intersections, or borders. These are all informative pictures that we can use to plan around daily obstacles. But that is not their main purpose. They are surveillance methods to watch and control people, and to identify someone should there have been an accident, a murder, an escape.

There are those that argue that we need the greater security. We need protection from the evil terrorist/mugger/alien/your favorite bad guy. And yes, we do need some form of security, but there comes a time when government or police forces are also watching too much and our individual freedom is curtailed. I would say there is not one person who has not committed a small crime or infringement, whether it’s lying, cheating, jaywalking, running a yellow light, or drinking too much. Which means, that we’re all human and if allowed our little indiscretions, will most likely not make the bigger ones.

When I worked for Nokia, there were cameras everywhere. Corporate espionage is high. However, with all those cameras in the halls and the reception area, they were not allowed to train cameras on our workspaces, nor in the bathrooms. I’m not sure what the exact law it but watching someone 24/7 is not allowed. The head of security also told us that though they viewed all video footage they could not report on such things as two people having sex in the office. This video footage was only for such crimes as theft and breaking and entering.

Sarnia, Ontario is upset over a US surveillance balloon that watches over the river. The company claims it can be used for disaster planning, and other situations that arise. However, the mayor of Sarnia says that when the balloon (with camera inside that can see for 5 miles) first went up the company said it was for Homeland Security, but now they sing another song and say it’s not trained on Sarnia and it’s just research.

Google Earth has already heard concerns about their filming of much of the world, down to vans with cameras driving on the streets. And that many of these cameras take a picture of everything on the street, including you getting into your car, coming and going, and in some cases right into your windows to see what you’re up to. Sure, they claim it’s inadvertent but the pictures of us are showing up everywhere, even if we eliminate You Tube.

The 2010 Olympics will see a gigantic increase in security forces in and around Vancouver. They will be putting up many more cameras than are already up, by government and private businesses. After the Athens Olympics all extra cameras were supposed to come down. Instead the police turned them into citizen surveillance systems. Hello, Big Brother. BC’s privacy commissioner has promised that we won’t have the same situation.

Taken from A Report on Camera Surveillance in Canada: “Despite the growth in CCTV, there is not convincing  research evidence that it aids in deterring, responding to and investigating crime.” That’s just one study but the Big Brother security folks want to sell cameras and keep their jobs and probably think we should live in a society that watches your every move and therefore you must behave. http://www.surveillanceproject.org/files/SCAN_Report_Phase1_Final_Jan_30_2009.pdf

There is a group counting the cameras in Greater Vancouver before the Olympics so that people can, in general be aware of how much surveillance there always is. But if you plan to come to the Olympics and actually venture anywhere public in Vancouver, you can bet that you’ll be filmed. In fact, there is probably not a street in any commercial area that doesn’t have one camera or another. It’s pretty impossible to remain invisible these days unless you’re in the boonies. Big Brother is here, and is watching all of us right now.  And maybe, just maybe, Big Brother likes to watch.

 

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Who Watches the Watchmen: Police Investigating Themselves

Canada’s police have been going through the ringer lately and rightfully so. We have both civic police and the RCMP. In some cities and jurisdictions the RCMP are the only police force where there is no other policing body. They are spawned from Canada’s oldest police unit, the NorthWest Mounted Police (NWMP). They began with the fur trade, the frontier and the Gold Rush. There are romantic images of Mounties on their horses, dressed in the traditional red serge uniform with the brown stetson hat. They were considered noble and strong, and the Mounties “always get their man” was a tagline for years.

Now, a cumulation of mismanagement, inferior training, bad judgment calls and arrogance have come back to smack the force in the face. Their reputation has deteriorated so much in recent years that they are becoming a laughing stock. It didn’t help that they sold the copyright to their image to Disney. Yes, perhaps Mickey Mouse could do better in red serge.

What has lead to this now lamentable record and public scorn? There are several very public cases, the most notorious, that of Robert Dziekanski who was tasered to death at the Vancouver airport by four RCMP officers. Dziekanski’s biggest fault: he didn’t speak English and was confused from hours of being lost in the airport with inept handling from airport staff. And he picked up a desk stapler. The ensuing inquiry that wrapped up recently showed a farce of statements by the supposedly well-trained Mounties who should be able to resolve many situations with communication and not escalated violence.

Besides statements that contradicted the video footage (and without it Dziekanski would be dead and we would never have come close to the truth) the big, strong and supposedly fit officers feared for their lives and that of their fellow officers, because Dziekanski picked up a desk stapler. As I’ve said before, if these guys get scared so easily then they have no right being a police officer. And this statement, them fearing for their lives, is a crucial phrase that probably every RCMP officer ever investigated for a death at their hand has uttered.

Other notable cases were that of Kevin St. Arnaud, shot dead after being chased through a field and surrendering. The officer, a rookie, said St. Arnaud looked threatening and was overtop of him where he fell, when he fired. Witnesses (including 24-year veteran officer) and forensic evidence indicated the officer was standing and five meters away when he fired, and that St. Arnaud had raised his hands in surrender. The outcome: the officer was not found to have committed any wrongdoing.

The other case was Ian Bush, shot in the back of the head while in police detention. Again, it took place in northern BC and a rooky copy said it was self-defense because he was being choked. Yet Bush was shot in the back of the head, not the side or front. Forensic evidence and character witnesses didn’t match up to what happened. Yet again, the officer feared for his life.

These are just three cases that took place in BC, and rookie cops were involved in two of them But in all three a man died and the officers feared for their lives in questionable circumstances. And in all three, charges were not laid, though the Dziekanski case could still see charges brought against the officers because of its high publicity if nothing else. And in all three cases the police investigated their own.

There have been outcries of biased investigation, which the RCMP adamantly deny. Of course they would but the evidence stacks against them. Questionable outcomes, officers never found in the wrong and a system that perpetuates itself in negligence and inefficient training have knocked the RCMP down to little better than some criminals. Still, this is not the majority of officers, but bad and very notorious publicity hurts their image as a whole.

Some areas in Alberta use retired police officers to investigate deaths involving officers but even so, there is still the possibility of the police protecting their own and staying loyal to an ethic that has been passed down through the years. Having different officers from other regions investigate an event has the same problem. Sometimes junior officers have investigated senior officers, where inexperience will lend itself to abuse or misjudgment.

The recently completed report on RCMP self-investigation recommends “that serious cases involving sexual assault, death or serious injury cases should, in some cases, be turned over to outside investigators to ensure independence.” Absolutely. And though the RCMP are balking at some of these recommendations, there shouldn’t be a problem if an investigative body was set up. These situations are still relatively rare and no matter where a death or sexual assault happened in the province investigators could fly there within two hours.

It will be extremely rare where there could be two cases at once. The RCMP should welcome a nopartial investigation. As well, as I’ve said before they need to look at themselves and their training all over again. New drivers in BC have to display an “N” for a year or two and have certain restrictions. Perhaps rookies in the RCMP should have the same and not be allowed out on their own or maybe even carry a gun until they know how to handle themselves. (Ireland actually runs with no police officers carrying guns.) And some retraining in nonagressive means needs to be carried out. A friend who was once a police officer said that officers are not given much training in martial arts or even negotiation, which means they’ll often go for weapons before negotiation.

I hope the RCMP will see this as a way to buff up their now very tarnished image (especially in BC) and accept the recommendations gracefully. I hope they’ll look at retraining and extended training in peaceful negotiations and in disarming someone without escalating violence. And I hope they will be able to live up to the former image of being Canada’s finest and noble security force.

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From Police to Police State

You would think with the eye on the RCMP over the Dziekanski inquiry, that both RCMP and city police would be on better behavior in Greater Vancouver. Note that some municipalities use a local police force while others use the RCMP.

Now, granted there have been a helluva lot of gang shootings to date, with at least 18 dead so far, so probably the police are a little jumpy. And we already know based on testimony by the four very fit RCMP officers who taser Robert Dziekanski to death that they’ll take raised hands or a desk stapler as a threat of deadly force and use it in kind. Oh and that they didn’t panic. These guys might have looked better if they said they had panicked but that they were cool and calculating about taking down an unarmed man and tasering him four more times while he writhed in pain is even more scary.

So, just maybe everyone wants to use caution more. Police once upon a time used to be trained in ways to take a person down using just their hands. And if the criminal was carrying a dangerous weapon, well disarm them. Shoot to kill was the last resort. However, that’s now changed and shoot to kill, ask questions later is the order of the day.

In March a homeless man was approached by police for stealing from a car. Later it turns out he wasn’t the thief but he supposedly advanced on them wielding an X-acto knife. Now it could be the police havexacto1 misnamed it but many X-acto knives are tiny, with a wedge-shaped blade of about an inch. They are very sharp and potentially lethal at close range. You’d have to get very close and personal to inflict damage. This image of a range of X-acto blades was taken from www.dickblick.com with the most common being the triangular shape.

So the police shot the guy in the stomach and killed him. Sure it was two women police officers and maybe they were scared. But they could have backed up, I think. And why couldn’t they shoot the guy in the arm or the leg, thereby giving him a lot of pain and disabling him from advancing? There was no need to shoot him in the stomach. Were they bad aims. Or was the X-acto blade much larger and being hurled at them?

On April 5th the police shot a guy in a Ford F350 truck who was allegedly stealing it. It seems that when they tried to block the truck the guy gunned it at the police car. The police shot at him, one shot, and wounded him. The car thief is expected to recover. In this case most people agree the police had a right to shoot. I doubt they had time to react with more than that with the truck coming at them. And it’s pretty hard to shoot to disable when someone is sitting in a vehicle with tinted glass. They could have tried to shoot out the tires but at that point it was probably not obvious what the guy had planned. I should note here that in Vancouver, up until recently it’s extremely rare that a police officer would shoot anyone. Once a year is more often than normal.

So we’ve had two shootings in four months. Not to mention the three off-duty cops that beat up and robbed a delivery driver. Sure, they’re the exception and yahoos from three different cities. But what this all points to is that there is a perceived image that the police forces (municipal and RCMP) are out of control. Police departments need to take a proactive stance and see if their training is adequate. As well, training needs to start with immobilizing a threat in the safest way possible to everyone. That means trying to take down a person with minimal physical violence, moving from  hands to taser to guns only when lives are threatened. That means not a perceived threat as the RCMP somehow saw in an office stapler. A deadly threat means being shot at or run down.

These departments also need to look at who they’re hiring. Bigoted, snobby and racist police will be more likely to prejudice a situation with their perspectives. What suitability tests are run on these candidates to ensure they stay calm, level-headed, use reasoning to assess a situation and don’t let prejudices get in their way. (I won’t do more than mention the many women of the downtown East side who disappeared over the years withouth the police doing anything because the women were drug addicts and prostitutes.) They need to have some basic psychology and counselling courses and learn how to verbally diffuse a situation as well.

I’m not saying all police are bad and they have a tough job. Some are probably nervous with all the shootings. But I do think a reassessment of training procedures is in order. We’d like to know that the next time we lift up a piece of paper or even give a cop the finger that we won’t be shot for it. Otherwise, we’ll probably all tow the line as we move into a police state of mind.

An addendum to yesterday’s post: With all three incidences mentioned above, the police have confiscated video or film taken at the scene. At the shooting of the homeless man, the police went through the guy’s phone and he said they erased the footage of the shooting. We all know what happened with the footage from the Dziekanski tasering. With this last one, they manhandled and threatened to arrest a newspaper photographer if he didn’t relinguish his camera. There is a disturbing trend towards the erosion of our civil liberties and the police taking, tampering or trying to hide evidence of questionable investigations. Even if they haven’t tampered they are giving the impression by confiscating materials in such a way. And if we don’t have freedom of the press, we don’t have checks and balances. Again, retraining seems to be needed here.

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Taser Inquiry–Dziekanski’s Death

The inquiry continues into the Tasering death of Robert Dziekanski, or the conducted energy weapon, as the police call it. One of the RCMP officers testified yesterday to conflicting admissions. Now, if you’ve seen the video the crucial moments are fuzzy, where Dziekanski is actually tasered. But even though he tossed a chair or two he was not in a high fury. You can see he is agitated or scared, by his fast breathing. Then you see there are security guards who don’t seem to be talking to him but keeping him penned in and it looks as if he’s barricading the doors.

What the guards and RCMP probably didn’t know was that he was there for hours and hours. He would have been dehydrated and confused, tired, maybe angry. What the guards did know is that he spoke a foreign language, pretty common for people coming in to an airport. It doesn’t look like anyone tried to communicate with him in his language.

The video shows four RCMP coming in and talking to him. He throws up his hands and walks away. What I thought, was that a taser needs to touch a person’s skin, but it fires dart-like electrodes. At the point that they fire the Taser Dziekanski smashes his fist into his hands and does look a bit combative but he’s just been zapped. Then they hit him again, and he rolls out to the floor, obviously in great pain. You see an officer fire a third time and I don’t know when the other two shots were fired.

Now the officer, Constable Gerry Rundel, testified yesterday saying that Dziekanski resisted and took a combative stance. If I throw my hands into the air, does that mean I’ll now get shot by the police, by Taser or gun? How does this gesture then differ between that of saying “I give up” or “I’m frustrated and can’t communicate” with uh, “Rarrr, I’m coming at you like a man-eating tiger”?

Rundel also said that he feared for his life at one point. Fear? For his life? Let’s see, there were three security guards just standing around before the police came. The four, count em, fourRCMP officers carrying weapons and wearing bullet proof vests somehow couldn’t talk to or restrain one man just standing there at the time. It used to be, before Tasers, that cops were trained on how to restrain a person without causing more damage. But they seem to just fire at him, and five times?

There’s much ado made about the stapler. Not a staple gun, not an industrial, electric staple gun. Just a stapler used for stapling a few papers together. I’ve put one through my finger before and somehow not only lived to talk about it but have borne no scars. But the RCMP who are supposedly trained in methods of restraint and oh, powers of observation, mistake the nasty office stapler as a weapon for which they fear for their lives? All you secretaries and aides of the world unite! Forget the pitchforks and scythes. Grab up those staplers and we will put fear in the hearts of those who oppose us.

If this is the state of our police force, then no wonder gangs are taking over. Sorry, but they’ve becoming pussies if a stapler scares them and if it takes four men armed with Tasers to take down an agitated man. If an officer fears for his life over such an action, then he should not be a police or RCMP officer. And if this is how they’re trained, I too fear for my life should I ever have to encounter the RCMP.

The police chiefs are now out in force today, defending the Taser and saying it saves lives (and it does seem to take a few too). Well,  if we go with the adage, guns don’t kill people, people kill people, then it stands that indeed Tasers don’t kill people, police kill people. I am critical here because there has been far too much abuse by those who are supposed to uphold the law. If their training makes them more fallible than the perpetrator, then they need new training, including how to minimize damage and physically restrain someone. How about some martial arts?

It used to be that a Taser was to be used if there was risk of injury to the individual or others. Serious risk of injury. Use as a last resort before pulling out the gun. But now, everyone better be on their best behavior because the next time you give someone the finger, swear, or turn your back on the RCMP they will Taser you as being combative and resistant. They won’t talk to you, they won’t find other ways to take you down. In fact, if you’re going to jump off a bridge and you turn your back, make sure you really mean to commit suicide because they’ll Taser you on the way down.

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Sucky Drivers & Yahoo Tracking

Yes, yes, I’m going to post some observations on the bad drivers in Greater Vancouver. I didn’t last week, because surprisingly I didn’t see anything overt.

The first winner this week was an unmarked police car (which I can always identify by the nubs on top of the roof, the very dark glass and the shade o’ grey paint) license # 657 KGV (BC). If you get right behind them you can also see the police lights inside the rear window. Not only did these guys turn left in an intersection where the light was well into red (usually two cars can get through a left turn who are already in the intersection) but they also decided to change lanes with no signalling.

Granted a lot of people don’t signal, that still doesn’t make it right. It’s one of my pet peeves. If you’re a good enough driver, you should be able to do all your road maneuvers AND still signal. And it does warn people of what you’re going to do. Usually a line creeper is an indication that someone is going to change lanes. Back to the cops. Even an unmarked, but still noticeable, police car should follow the rules and police are supposed to be examples of and uphold the law. Oh right, how could I be so stupid? They’re bigger on flaunting it these days, beating up innocent people and getting overzealous in tasering. Why would they do something as simple as obey road signs?

Okay, well, they’re not alone in sucky driving. Yesterday was  a bonus crop with goldy and yet very dirty Mr. Chev Cavalier (licence #484 JSA) going 40 km in a 50 km zone and then speeding through the playground and school zones of 30 km and going 50 km. Nice going guy, inconsistent in all ways and irritating to everyone. Some cities have laws that if you go too slow you can be ticketed for obstructing traffic.

Then there was Mr. Key Food Equipment, white van #16 (licence # 6515 KA). Nice going as I was coming along at a good speed and you suddenly pulled out from the lane beside me, no signalling, no warning. I had to slam on my breaks. There is a law here too that says whether you signal or not you change lanes when SAFE to do so. There was nothing safe and I fell like calling your bosses. Hope you didn’t wreck any equipment with your race car driver tricks.

But…there was in fact a light in the highway to hell. Mr. Sporty Black Toyota with the sunroof,(licence # 365 HVV) hats off to you and kudos for excellent driving. We both were getting tired of the doddering traffic (and yes I speed a bit, like most Vancouver drivers–actually most speed a lot) and go about 10 km over the limit. At one point I got stuck behind a slow car and signalled (yes signalled) to move into the right lane. Mr. Toyota was coming up fast so I motioned for him to go by. He actually slowed down to let me in.

Since we were going about the same speed he also didn’t feel the need to zip in front of me and slow down and at times I was in the one lane and he in the other. He continued to signal and never cut anyone off and in fact caused no problems compared to the other annoyances and downright dangerous drivers. You cops could take a lesson from this guy. It just goes to show that there are some people who can drive well and still follow the rules of the road, and do it politely.

Other than that, the writing world, like everything else is rumbling as magazines fold or re-evaluate their structures with the current money crunches. I haven’t seen any anthologies folding yet. As always, www.ralan.com is the best place to find up to date info on speculative markets.

And for anyone who is on any yahoo group, you’ll want to read this and decide if you want yahoo snooping into your every move:

SFWA reported this and I feel it’s important enough to share. Yahoo is Tracking Group Members and basically being a spy and snooping where they don’t belong. Talk about Big Brother. Hey guys, didn’t you hear, George Bush is gone!

If you belong to ANY Yahoo Groups – be aware that Yahoo is now using “Web Beacons” to track every Yahoo Group user. It’s similar to cookies, but allows Yahoo to record every website and every group you visit, even when you’re not connected to Yahoo. Look at their updated privacy statement at http://info.yahoo.com/privacy/us/yahoo/details.html.

About half-way down the page, in the section on *cookies*, You will see a link that says *WEB BEACONS*. Click on the phrase “Web Beacons.” On the page that opens, on the left find a box entitled “Opt-Out.” In that section find “opt-out of interest-matched advertising” link that will
let you “opt-out” of their snooping. Click it and then click the opt-out button on the next page. Note that Yahoo’s invasion of your privacy – and your ability to opt-out of it – is not user-specific.
It is MACHINE specific. That means you will have to opt-out on every computer (and browser) you use. Nice, eh? More insidious than corn. Maybe the name yahoo is better suited than we thought.

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UBC Engineer Pranksters to Pay the Price

Well, every year the engineers at UBC pull some sort of magical engineering feat and suspend or put a vehicle or some other object in an odd place. When one goes looking it’s hard to get an accurate list of what was done and where. Even the engineers’ own site lists little. This is probably because the admission of specific pranks could garner infamy and charges.

Over the years they have done a variety of pranks, the most enduring being suspending or placing a VW Bug somewhere off a bridge or the first time, on top of the Ladner clock tower on UBC grounds. Other Beetles have been suspended off the Lions Gate bridge and the Golden Gate bridge, bringing some international notoriety to the merry band of pranksters. The ‘geers feel a strong need to prove their engineering prowess but they received a failing mark for last week’s prank on the Ironworkers’ Memorial bridge in which they may have damaged the cables to the bridge and the car plunged into the drink.

The five culprits were arrested and released (a local catch and release program for engineers), could face charges of mischief over $5000 as well as discipline through the university. The other third of all these pranks is that usually they ask for a donation of $100-$1000 to a hospital or other cause, which, from what I can find, has never been paid by mayors or members of parliament. So, good harmless fun right? The other third is that often the “ornaments” are left blocking traffic or the removal of such blocks traffic and costs Vancouver a good chunk of money.

There have been other pranks. Supposedly they once put a giant engineer’s jacket on the Inukshuk near Stanley Park and it was filled with clothing for the homeless, or they made a giant sculpture of tin cans (with food in them) that then went to the food bank. I can’t find record of these two but after this botched attempt and perhaps a hefty bill to pay back to the city, engineers will try more socially responsible pranks.

There are others that may not disrupt traffic but cause anger or consternation, such as the theft of the Speakers’ chair from the legislature. If nothing else, these pranks do point out security issues. There is a wiki entry of some of the pranks, obviously written by engineers, replete with misspellings and purple narratives.

I remember one year when Sophie’s cafe on 4th Avenue in Kitsilano found the giant fork and knife that adorned the entry to their restaurant gone. It was accredited to the geers and the five-foot utensils were returned. Overall it wasn’t a technically hard mission. Someone loosened the bolts when inside the restaurant and then they just came back later and pulled them off of the outside wall. They’ve stolen the Rose Bow trophy from Washington U and the nine o’clock gun in Stanley Park. Always these items have been “found” by engineers and returned.

A rites of passage for upcoming graduates, the geers try to show their wit, creativity and prowess with such stunts. It would be nice if they now start putting a bit more thought into their antics and see if they can benefit some cause more than just asking for a ransom. After all, perhaps these pranks show the shortcomings of many engineered roadways and systems that often have great flaws in them. I think of our Alex Fraser bridge (yet to have a VW Beetle suspended from it) where three arteries lead to the main bridge and merge all at the same point, causing long traffic jams and slow moving traffic. Another piece of engineering brilliance. So I challenge the engineers to try and take their stunts to a new level and add some meat to the bones.

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Police Recruitment: Beat a Brownie

Here’s a new recruitment poster for police forces in BC. Something that more fits the bill.

XYPD (fill in your favorite force here)  is looking for a few good white men. You must be in great physical condition and have good coercion skills. A narrow-minded attitude is an asset. You should have failed your degree in criminology or have no education beyond high school. Blind obedience, anger and a need for power are why you want to join the force.

 Considered an asset:

  • bigotry
  • beating innocent people
  • racism
  • drunk and disorderly behavior while off duty
  • stupidity
  • bullying
  • prolonged and unprovoked use of a Taser
  • able to swear more colorfully than a sailor
  • will dump drunk people in cold and inhospitable places
  • creative excuses
  • a criminal record (physical violence, bribes, blackmail, drugrunning)
  • will shoot instead of subduing
  • will shoot and ask questions later

If you think you have the wrong stuff and know you can prove you’re a tough rookie, join XYPD today. Going places with power. Judge Dredd is our hero.

Who is Judge Dredd? A British comic book character in the future Britain who is strict, harsh and follows the letter of the law. In this future world police are also judge, jury and executioner. Though in fact I believe Dredd does have some scruples. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Judge_Dredd

Police in BC are fighting a marred image that has come after such cases as the drunk Native man dumped in an alley and found frozen to death, the highly publicized death of Robert Dziekański (5 Tasers to the chest) Cases of corruption and now the latest public relations nightmare hasn’t helped the sinking ship of a police force that is supposed to uphold the law, not abuse it and use it for their own means.

Last Tuesday, January 20, three off-duty policemen took it upon themselves to beat up a man who delivered papers to the hotels. Phil Khan had been delivering papers for seven years, was well known on his regular route and was only doing his job, when  a guy started asking for directions, verbally abusing him. Khan is a Muslim and of brown skin.

The guy proceeded to beat him and when a cab driver dropped of two other guys, they joined in on kicking and beating the man who was crying out for help. When the cab driver and others told them to stop, they said they were the police and told the guy they were beating that they had a Taser and would use it on him. One of them said that they didn’t like “brown people.”

Obviously they’d been drinking but three off-duty cops, one from Delta, one from New Westminster and one from West Vancouver who were stupid enough to beat a person and then tell everyone that they were cops really shouldn’t be on the force. Let’s not mention a racist hate crime here. And this is the police force. Whether on or off-duty they’re supposed to uphold the law, not abuse it.

It used to be that you couldn’t get a job on the police force if you had a record. These days it’s becoming par for the course. Two of these cops are now on desk jobs awaiting word of the investigation while a third still patrols the beat, (and perhaps threatens other people). The investigation by the Vancouver police department has yet to net charges but there were witnesses: two city workers, a MacDonald’s worker, a cab driver who tried to stop it until the guys said they were cops.

But someone did call 911 and when the police came they handcuffed Phil Khan. Of course, if in doubt as to who to incarcerate, go for the colored guy. Now probably these three stooges who decided to boot the guy about also told the cops that they were cops, which went well until the witnesses said, no you’ve cuffed the victim. Then the three were arrested. All I can say is with the rep the cops have it almost makes more sense to trust the criminals these days. But then they’ll soon be hired to be the new police force.

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Brutal Indifference to Child’s Plight

I’m sure if I talked about sex or the Moonlite Bunny Ranch, then more people would read this as it seems to be what titillates humanity most. But unfortunately this is more important, sadder and tragic than some woman selling her virginity. Oh, I know. I should just title this Virgin Sells Body for Charity. Now that would be something to talk about.

I have a friend who works ECOMM, emergency 911 calls. On January 10, the following occurred here in Vancouver, leaving me appalled and horror-stricken.

At 10:30 pm a woman and her child were walking home in the pouring rain and slush when  a barefoot, 12-year-old Asian boy (I mention the race because maybe it’s important, maybe it’s not) in pajamas came running out, pleading for help. His parents were fighting. The woman refused to help and didn’t even guide the boy to some phone or another place but just pointed to the care home nearby. Fifteen minutes later when she got home, perhaps guilt gnawed at her because she called 911.

When the police came, they checked at the care home where no one had answered the phone. The duty nurse, someone who is supposed to care for people, had said yes, the boy, soaking wet, crying and begging had come to the door. But they didn’t help or let him in because it was against their policy. They told the police that yes, they had called 911 but in fact the dispatchers confirmed that they had not. They left the boy, late at night, soaking and cold, to fend for himself.

The police then sent units up and down all the streets, including canine units but there were too many people who had come and gone by then. My friend, along with the call taker, checked houses within a radius to see if any had past histories of disturbances/abuse. Nothing showed up.

When the duty officer arrived on the scene, he sent the police door to door from the care home. In fifteen minutes they found six witnesses who had seen this boy trying to stop traffic in the street pleading for help. All the cars swerved around him. No one stopped. Not one of those six witnesses helped or called 911.

The police searched for three hours that night. They never found the boy.

Who knows what happened. Did the boy go home to a resolved fight? Or did he go home and get beaten for trying to involve others? Did he get frostbite, hypothermia, pneumonia? Is he dead somewhere? Worst of all, this boy, should he survive this will have lost all faith in humanity and will probably grow up to prey on others as he has seen nothing but a cold and uncaring world. It makes me cry just thinking of this. All these coldhearted people should consider the child abuse that they perpetrated.

We like to think the big cities in the US have this problem but it’s right here, on your doorstep and it will get worse if no one cares. The police should commended for trying their all. The rest of us should wonder if we live in a civilized society.

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Portable Defibrillators Save Lives

I’m down with a cold so here’s a Technocopia article I wrote back in 1999.

Easy enough for a child to use, defibrillators may become as common as fire extinguishers.

With only seven per cent of people who suffer sudden cardiac arrest outside of hospitals surviving, the American Heart Association is championing the use of portable automatic external defibrillators (AED). There is only a ten-minute window in which a cardiac victim’s heart can be restarted usually by using a defibrillator. After that, if the person can be revived, he or she will sustain brain damage.

The statistics are frightening. Heart disease is the number one killer, and cardiac arrest is at the top. About 250,000 (some reports say 350,000) people in the U.S., and 80,000 in Canada, die of cardiac arrest every year. Eighty per cent of those happen at home (Los Angeles Times 7/16/98). In only ten per cent of cardiac arrest cases do ambulance attendants arrive in time to save a patient.

Health professionals, first responders (police, ambulances) and lay people are lobbying for automatic defibrillators to be made more accessible. They argue that more lives than seven per cent would be saved if a defibrillator were available in time.

An automatic external defibrillator is a heart-starting device that can be carried by one person. By placing electrodes on the patient’s chest it monitors, then instructs the person to deliver an electrical shock to the patient’s heart. This shock starts the heart pumping again in a regular rhythm. Sometimes additional shocks are needed to start the heart. Chances of survival decrease seven to ten per cent for each minute that passes before the hearts resumes pumping.

Cardiac arrest differs from heart attack (or stroke). A stroke is caused by blood deprivation and arterial blockage. The person remains conscious and usually has warning symptoms leading up to the stroke. Sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) can happen at any time to someone with no previous history of heart disease. The most common SCA is ventricular fibrillation, when the heart begins to contract chaotically. The person stops breathing and loses consciousness because the heart cannot pump oxygenated blood to parts of the body, especially the brain.

The American Heart Association states that there are four factors that contribute to ventricular tachycardia, or sudden cardiac arrest.

· Pre-diagnosed heart disease.
· Degeneration of the heart muscle.
· Enlargement of the heart due to high blood pressure.
· Hardening of the arteries.

SurvivaLink Corporation, Minneapolis, Physio-Control Corp., Redmond, and Heartstream, Inc. Seattle (division of Hewlett-Packard) designed the AEDs for use by paramedics and for situations when a plane is in-flight. These companies widened the scope, making these devices accessible to the public. The Food and Drug Administration approves AEDs for home use. They are easy to understand and use, perform self-checkups and have protective failsafes.

The company websites give instructions on what to do if someone suddenly passes out and stops breathing.

· Have someone call 911 or local emergency access number.
· Check airway.
· Check breathing.
· Check pulse.

Only at this point would you use the portable, lightweight defibrillator the size of a laptop computer, and weighing between four to seven pounds. When open, there are clear readable instructions with icons as to where to place the two electrodes. A voice command guides the user.

Though each AED is slightly different, the process is similar for all. Once the responder places the two electrodes on the patient’s chest the AED uses an electrocardiogram (displayed on some models) to check for pulse. If there is a pulse the person may be suffering a stroke or from some other health problem and it will not advise a shock. (It is unclear at this point if the shock button would work if someone pressed it inadvertently.) If it detects no pulse it instructs the responder to stand clear of the victim and to push the button. The AED releases a charge into the patient’s chest. If there is still no pulse the AED will charge and repeat the shock with verbal instructions each time.

Researchers found that the cause of failure for many of the larger older defibrillators was improper testing and maintenance of batteries. The new defibrillators come in their own sturdy plastic cases, some with spaces for spare batteries. The lithium batteries hold a charge longer than other types of batteries. The AED performs a daily self-test checking the charge and if the batteries are low it indicates the need for replacement. In most AEDs, even when the batteries are low, there is usually enough energy to deliver five to nine shocks.

The self-checking program requires smart technology that consists of a memory chip. As well, the AEDs use biphasic wave technology though monophasic is available in some brands. Biphasic technology is the use of optimal current each time a shock is discharged. The electrical wave reverses direction part way through and delivers the right charge. There is an impedance variable caused by the difference in size and weight of people. This impedance is checked and analyzed by the two-way current. Results with the biphasic wave technology (as in Physio-Control’s LifePak 500) showed a 100% success rate on the first shock.

An AED on Every Corner

A nearly foolproof, portable defibrillator makes it easy for anybody to use one. Researcher Dr. Gust H. Bardy, at the University of Seattle, and his team instructed fifteen sixth-graders for about one minute on using the defibrillators. “On average, the researchers found, the children completed defibrillation in 90 seconds, compared with the professionals’ (paramedics) time of 67 seconds. Furthermore, all of the children properly placed the device’s pads on the chest and remained ‘clear’ of the mannequin as the shock was delivered…” (Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association 10/18/99) The American Heart Association recommends that everyone should first be trained on how to use a defibrillator.

Already many airlines have been carrying the AEDs, as well as resorts, casinos, and cruise ships. Advocates of the AED hope that it will be as accessible as fire extinguishers, available in gyms, shopping malls, sports arenas, theaters, seniors’ homes, restaurants and even in the homes of people diagnosed with heart disease. The defibrillators run between $2500-$4000 USD and still require a doctor’s signature to own, yet people as well as companies like FORD are buying them.

Some critics believe it is dangerous to put an AED into the hands of an untrained person who may forego calling a trained paramedic after the shock is administered. Others see it as infringing on the duties of police or firemen who already have other responsibilities. Yet, in many states police cars have been issued AEDs. In Rochester, Maine “survival after cardiac arrest jumped to 50 percent from 20 percent” after squad cars were issued AEDs (New York Times 04/15/99) Yet early studies (from 1998) in other states showed a negligible increase in survival.

Initially there was reluctance by police, airline attendants or even employees of large companies to use the portable defibrillators. Concern over machine malfunction or using an AED correctly led ultimately to concerns of who would be found liable. Some insurance agencies would not cover liability for such devices, and some airlines and companies did not want to carry them.

Thirty-one states have now passed limited Good Samaritan clauses for use of AEDs by laypersons. Airlines such as Lufthansa and United have been sued for not supplying timely medical care to victims of sudden cardiac arrest. “Two weeks after it was sued, United announced plans to place defibrillators on its planes. Other airlines followed suit.” (Gannett News Service 03/10/98). American Airlines has instituted the Golden Heart Club for those people whose lives have been saved on the airline, and those attendants and people who have used the devices to help them. (The Dallas Morning News 07/24/99)

Further lobbying continues for use of the portable automatic defibrillator. There are those that argue that to place so many portable defibrillators in every public access facility would be cost prohibitive. Many AEDs would never be used. Yet, fire extinguishers and sprinkler systems are required and fires do not happen in every building. Because an AED can also monitor heart signals and determine that a person is not having a cardiac arrest, they have saved money for airlines that are required to divert their paths when a cardiac arrest occurs.

When a portable defibrillator saves lives it will go beyond the naming of a price. Attitudes are changing with the ease of using an AED. It is now possible for even a child to be able to save someone from cardiac arrest: the number one killer of North Americans.

Automatic External Defibrillators: Medtronic Physio-Control LifePak 500 (there me other ones now and they are more common but you’ll need to Google to find them)

For more information:
Physio-Control http://www.physiocontrol.com
American Heart Association: Sudden Cardiac Death
http://www.amhrt.org/presenter.jhtml?identifier=3053

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