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Mother of man who died makes tearful appearance at Taser inquiry

VANCOUVER - Her faith in the RCMP "shattered" following the death of her son at the Vancouver airport, the mother of Robert Dziekanski called for a moratorium on the use of the weapon Thursday at public inquiry into the use of Tasers.

VANCOUVER - Her faith in the RCMP "shattered" following the death of her son at the Vancouver airport, the mother of Robert Dziekanski called for a moratorium on the use of the weapon Thursday at public inquiry into the use of Tasers.

Zofia Cisowski made a brief and tearful appearance before the inquiry.

"Mr. commissioner, my confidence and faith in the RCMP and Canadian authorities are shattered," she said, dabbing at tears with a handkerchief.

"I was shocked and distressed to learn how my son died after the tape held by police was released to the public, and the story was very different than I was told by the authorities."

She said her son would still be alive had he not been hit twice with an RCMP Taser when, appearing confused and agitated after spending many hours at the airport, he was confronted by four officers.

"I know that my son would not die if he would not be Tasered. And I know that he did not deserve the treatment he encountered at the Vancouver airport," Cisowski said.

The current phase of the public inquiry is looking into Taser use by law enforcement in general. Later, the commission will look specifically into Dziekanski's death.

Cisowski said she is eagerly awaiting that second phase.

"I want justice, truth and accountability," she said in a halting voice in the crowded hearing room.

In her final plea to the inquiry before her tears returned, Cisowski said she hoped the recommendations that emerge from the inquiry are such "that another mother will not experience so much suffering like I do."

Cisowski's lawyer, Walter Kosteckyj, reiterated his call for a complete moratorium on conducted energy weapons, including Tasers and stun guns.

"The conducted energy weapon has become an easy answer to deal with any stressful situation," he told commissioner Thomas Braidwood, a retired B.C. Supreme Court judge.

"Taser seems to reduce thinking time."

In Dziekanski's case, he said "officers didn't take their time and they embarrassed the country."

Others at the inquiry have called for the Taser to be repositioned on the police use-of-force scale, but Kosteckyj said that's not enough.

"A complete moratorium must be put in place until safety concerns are answered," he said.

Kosteckyj said comprehensive data on the effects of the use of Taser are hard to come by, pointing an accusing finger at police agencies.

"One of the reasons there is no data is that police themselves have either neglected or refused to keep it," he said.

He also took aim at Taser International, which was described by a psychologist earlier in the week as "brainwashing" police forces into buying the Taser.

Both he and a psychiatrist have told the inquiry that the so-called "excited delirium" sometimes blamed for deaths following a Taser incident is not a recognized medical condition.

"There is essentially one manufacturer who sets the standards," said Kosteckyj.

That manufacturer trains the police and those trainers return to their forces and train other officers.

Hilary Homes, of Amnesty International, also called for a moratorium.

She said the group's main recommendation is to suspend all use of Tasers and other electro-shock weapons "pending a rigorous, independent and impartial study into their use and effects."

"Amnesty International is not opposed to the use of force by police. What we are concerned about is the misuse of force," Homes told the inquiry.

 
 
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