Edmonton officer's Taser use excessive, review finds
Review board orders police chief to charge officer with unlawful use of authority
Alberta's Law Enforcement Review Board has ordered Edmonton's police chief to charge an officer with using excessive force for deploying a stun gun on a man four times during an arrest in December 2003.
The ruling, released Tuesday, directs Chief Mike Boyd to charge Const. Aubrey Zalaski with unlawful or unnecessary exercise of authority under the Police Service Regulation.
The ruling came after the board heard a complaint from Timothy Ferguson filed after a 2008 internal police investigation found there wasn't enough evidence to convict any of the officers involved in his arrest.
According to the ruling, police were called to Ferguson's apartment early on Dec. 24, 2003, because he was fighting loudly with his girlfriend and had just thrown a barbecue off his 10th-floor balcony.
When police arrived, they found Ferguson to be "angry and aggressive" and "intoxicated and enraged," the ruling said.
The two officers radioed for backup because they were worried their lives might be in danger. The first officer to arrive used a baton on Ferguson to subdue him. More officers arrived, and one of them fired darts using a Taser.
Taser use not reasonable, board finds
It didn't work very well, and the officers ended up handcuffing Ferguson and physically holding him down. They put a spit mask on him moments later.
But Zalaski testified that when he arrived, he found that Ferguson was not subdued, which prompted him to use the Taser. However, the board rejected Zalaski's interpretation of events.
"In the board's view, respondent Zalaski should have realized that the situation was no longer that of a ... life or death situation," the ruling says. "Instead, he chose to deploy the Taser four times against the appellant.
"His justification for Tasering the appellant was the appellant being an active resistor and his belief the violence was escalating. However, the collective testimony of the other respondent officers involved in the restraint of the appellant effectively said the situation was 'manageable' prior to the Tasering by respondent Zalaski ...
"The board finds that an objectively reasonable person might not consider the Tasering of the appellant reasonable given that it was deployed four times while the appellant was being held down by several large male officers, was handcuffed, was wearing a spit mask and was displaying symptoms of excited delirium."
The board cleared the other officers accused of excessive force because their actions under the circumstances were found to be "objectively reasonable."
The board also found the police internal investigation into the matter to be inadequate.
Edmonton police can appeal the ruling in court. A spokesman said the ruling is now under review.