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Today's Big Story

Taser Questions Still Unanswered

Inquest into Surrey man's death probes police tactics.

By Richard Warnica 15 Nov 2006 | TheTyee.ca

Richard Warnica is a senior editor at The Tyee.

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A series of crime stories got big play in a couple spots today. The Globe led with the sentencing of a pair of brutal child rapists in Ontario. And went below the fold in the BC section with jail times for some lower mainland kidnappers.

Stories on crime-stoppers were also big. CBC, among others, follows on a VPD internal investigation. Police are investigating four officers for “possible assault, assault causing bodily harm, abuse of authority and conduct unbecoming an officer” after another officer tipped his superiors to a photo of the alleged posing with their victim.

Meanwhile, in Burnaby, a coroner’s inquest into the death in custody of a 40-year-old father continued with testimony from his wife of 20-years. Gurmit Singh Sundhu was hit with a Taser, pepper spray and even police boots before losing consciousness and dying in his Surrey home last June.

Crime stories like these hinge on events - sentencing, investigations, inquests – but they raise questions too. Questions about police procedure, sentence length and other core justice issues.

The problem is, when there is no event to hook a news story on, those questions, once asked, often stay unanswered. 

More than two years ago Dee Hon reported in these pages on the death of Roman Andreichikov. Andreichikov, a 25 year old Vancouver man, died after 50,000 volts of electricity were shot through his body by way a policeman’s Taser.

We don’t know what killed Andreichikov. He was on the wrong end of a days long crack cocaine binge when he died and appeared to be in the midst of drug induced psychotic episode. 

But the story raised an important question: In a city with large populations of hard drug users and the mentally ill, do we know enough about the effects of police takedowns on the highly agitated?

Thanks to Hon’s reporting, both in the initial story and a follow-up six weeks later, it was pretty clear back then that we didn’t. And, thanks todays eerily similar story on Gurmit Singh Sundhu, it's equally clear we still don't.  [Tyee]

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