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Monday, December 31, 2007

Canadian police chiefs starting taser research soon

December 31, 2007

The Canadian Police Research Centre is about to begin a yearlong study of Conducted Energy Devices, aka Tasers, at the request of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police. Some 4,400 law enforcement and corrections agencies in North America, including the vast majority of Canadian agencies, use Conducted Energy Devices, estimates CACP, whose president, Steven Chabot, announced the project in November.

CED technology is continuously evolving, and several development in less lethal and directed energy technologies soon will be available to Canada's police services, the association says. The RESTRAINT study (Risk of death in subjects that resist: assessment of the incidence and nature of fatal outcomes) will begin early in 2008, with a final report made available in 2009 after a year of data collection.

"A large body of research already exists on Conducted Energy Devices," Chabot said, "and while CEDs have a solid track record for safety, CED-related incidents that involve injury or death are an obvious concern for law enforcement personnel and the public alike. We have asked the CPRC to update its comprehensive 2005 report to reflect any new findings regarding CEDs and CED-related issues, to proceed with a study of individuals resisting arrest as recommended in that 2005 report, and to look at ways of establishing a more national approach to evaluating evolving CED technology and encouraging CED information-sharing."

Saturday, December 29, 2007

New Mexico man died after police fired tasers 23 times

December 29, 2007

Two Tasers were fired 23 times in the case of a Raton man who died after city police used the Tasers to subdue him, state investigators said. An autopsy found that Jesse Saenz was hit three times by Tasers. The exact cause of his death has not been determined. The officers using the Tasers said the devices malfunctioned. Saenz was struggling and fighting with police Nov. 18 as they attempted to take him into custody, authorities have said. Raton police Capt. Mike Galardi has said that officers had no choice but to use force to get Saenz under control. Saenz died after being transported to the Colfax County jail.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Some taser plans on hold

December 26, 2007
Chris Purdy, Saskatchewan News Network; CanWest News Service

SASKATOON -- In light of several ongoing reviews into the controversial use of Tasers, officials with Saskatoon Police Service and Saskatchewan jails have temporarily put off plans to expand their use.

Chief Clive Weighill said the Saskatoon Police Service has enough money in its capital budget to buy about 30 new Tasers, and he was planning to ask the board of police commissioners to approve their purchase this spring.

Currently, the force only owns two of the conducted energy devices, and they are strictly used by officers with the emergency response team. Since the pair of Tasers were put into use three years ago, one was deployed one time to help gain control over a man barricaded in his bathroom, said Weighill. He said patrol members would use the new Tasers, which include a small video camera and cost about $4,500 each.

But the plan is on hold until he sees the results of several national Taser reviews. "It's mainly because of the recent controversy," said Weighill. "We just want to wait and see what the research shows."

Police in Regina have said they have no intention of limiting their Taser use, despite the recent deaths. About two-thirds of each shift has access to a Taser, and it's expected all Regina officers will be equipped with Tasers by the end of 2008.

Judy Orthner, spokeswoman with Saskatchewan Corrections, Public Safety and Policing, said emergency response teams at jails in Saskatoon and Regina were in the middle of a Taser training course when the Dziekanski incident happened.

Training was also set to begin in Prince Albert, and two Tasers had been purchased for use at each of the three correctional facilities.

Orthner said the weapons are now locked in secure storage while senior officials wait for the many reviews to finish so they can determine whether the plan should go ahead. "We're paying close attention to the use of this type of equipment by other jurisdictions," she said.

Saskatchewan RCMP spokesman Staff Sgt. Doug Hardy said there are currently 278 Tasers in use at detachments throughout the province. In 2004, the year they came into use, the Tasers were deployed 130 times. Hardy explained the RCMP define a deployment as the weapon being removed from its holster to warn a suspect, whether its trigger is pulled or not. Taser deployments then declined to 114 times in 2005, 125 in 2006 and 88 so far this year, he said. Of a total 16 complaints about Taser use, 15 investigations found the weapons were properly deployed according to policy, said Hardy. An investigation is ongoing into the remaining complaint out of Langenburg.

He said more thorough statistics are being compiled as part of national RCMP Taser review. Earlier this month, the RCMP's public complaints commission published an interim report recommending Tasers only be used on people who are combative or pose a risk of death of grievous bodily harm. In response, RCMP Commission William Elliot said that the force would agree to the policy change and would create an enhanced database on Taser use. The commission was also critical of the RCMP for not having accurate and meaningful data on when and why officers are using the weapons.

The commission's final report is expected by next summer. The B.C. government is also expected to hold a public inquiry into Dziekanski's death next year.

Ottawa police taser teenager behaving erratically in traffic

December 26, 2007
The Canadian Press

OTTAWA - Ottawa police are defending the use of a Taser last week to subdue a teenager who was acting strangely in traffic.

Ottawa police were called last Thursday after a 17-year-old boy was found "acting in a strange manner" on a busy street near his east-end high school, said Staff Sgt. Peter Couillard. Police incapacitated the teen with a stun gun and took him into custody where he received "the attention that he required" before being released, Couillard said. "It's a very zero incident to us," he said. "From the police standpoint, it's just an average everyday call." Couillard added that if Ottawa police issued a news release every time a Taser was used, "we'd be writing them 10 times a day."

Every time an officer uses a Taser, a report is made to the force's Professional Development Centre, which monitors use of force options. When asked if it was necessary to use the stun gun on the teen, Couillard defended the move. "There's a lot of factors that come into play. You have to be acting in an aggressive manner and from there we figure it out as to what's the best method to take control of the subject in everybody's best interest," he said. "What he was doing was incorrect, and he was taken into custody with the appropriate manners, and he was provided the attention that he required."

The use of the stun guns has been under growing public scrutiny since the case of Robert Dziekanski, the Polish immigrant who died shortly after being shocked with a Taser and then manhandled by police.

The company that manufactures Tasers stresses the devices have never been directly blamed for a death and it has defended them in several lawsuits.

On December 27th, an article in the Ottawa Citizen, entitled "Taser remark taken out of context", said the following: An Ottawa police sergeant says his remark that the force's use of Tasers is very common -- as frequent as 10 times a day -- was taken out of context. The Canadian Press yesterday quoted Sgt. Peter Couillard as saying if Ottawa police issued a news release every time a Taser was used in the city, "we'd be writing them 10 times a day." Speaking to the Citizen yesterday afternoon, Sgt. Couillard didn't deny using the phrase, but said what he told the reporter was "more along the lines of, 'If we used it 10 times a day, we'd have to do press releases.'" The sergeant went on to say the Taser is "a tool that will be used, there's no doubt about it." He was responding to the news agency's inquiry regarding a story that appeared in yesterday's Citizen about the use of a Taser last week to subdue a teenager who was acting strangely in traffic. He said the use of the Taser was "similar to using pepper spray ... We go for a week and don't use it, then if we have a Saturday night in the Market that's stupid, we might use it a couple of times," he said.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

"Don't Tase Me, Bro" tops '07 memorable quote list

December 19, 2007

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - "Don't Tase Me, Bro," a phrase that swept the nation after a U.S. college student used it seeking to stop campus police from throwing him out of a speech by Sen. John Kerry, was named Wednesday as the most memorable quote of 2007.

Fred R. Shapiro, the editor of the Yale Book of Quotations, said the plea made by University of Florida student Andrew Meyer on September 17, accompanied by Meyer's screams as he was tased, beat out the racial slur that cost shock jock Don Imus his job and the Iranian president's declaration that his country does not have homosexuals.

Shapiro said Meyer's quote was a symbol of pop culture success. Within two days it was one of the most popular phrases on Google and one of the most viewed videos. It also showed up on ringtones and T-shirts.

Canadians see Dziekanski at airport not Dudley Do-Right as RCMP image, say experts

December 21, 2007
The Canadian Press

VICTORIA - It used to be the image of Dudley Do-Right, the squeaky-clean Mountie, that was etched into the minds of Canadians when they considered the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

But what's more likely to come to mind now are the chilling last screams of Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski as he lay dying on the floor of Vancouver's airport.

He had been Tasered twice by four RCMP officers who confronted him in the international arrivals area.

Canadians see Grey Cup parades, musical rides and colourful uniforms when they think of the RCMP, but those images are blurred as the names of Ian Bush, Maher Arar and Dziekanski creep like nightmares into the national consciousness.

Even RCMP brass admit to image issues and the need for a top-to-bottom overhaul.

A government-ordered report by Toronto lawyer Peter Brown recently concluded that the 133-year-old force requires massive structural changes that include blowing up its fortress mentality by moving towards greater civilian oversight, independent criticism and giving the force the authority to manage its own staff and budget.

But that may not be enough to save the RCMP as Canadians are troubled by doubts about a once-treasured icon, say police experts and critics who believe the Mounties have become outsiders in their own towns and strangers in their country.

"A reconstituted RCMP would probably be a good way of going," said Prof. Robert Gordon, director of the School of Criminology at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, B.C.

A name change may also in order, he said.

"Whether you continue to call it the RCMP or not, that remains to be seen," he said. "I think that (the name) is a source of puzzlement to some because they don't seem to be riding horses anymore."

The hierarchical, almost paramilitary structure of the RCMP is at odds with modern policing in urban environments and the Mounties need to get with the times, Gordon said.

"They still are focused more on the need to have polished boots than they are to have polished brains," he said.

"They are an anachronism. But they are a very powerful Canadian icon and disengaging them from things that they should no longer be doing is going to be tough."

Simon Fraser University is planning a major policing forum in the new year that will examine calls for a metro police force in the Vancouver area to take over the duties of the RCMP in many suburban communities, Gordon said.

The forum comes as B.C.'s Solicitor General John Les plans to meet with local politicians to discuss joint policing initiatives as gang warfare grips Vancouver with shootings and beatings.

Les was essentially dragged kicking and screaming into a meeting on the subject with Vancouver-area politicians.

He had consistently rejected the need for joint policing, and at one point, berated a police chief who suggested joint policing was needed to fight gang murders in the Vancouver area.

Gordon and others say they are looking to governments to lead the charge to bring about change for the Mounties in the next year.

Gordon said he would like to see the RCMP become a truly federal police force - like the FBI in the United States - which means getting out of the provinces and starting to look after federal issues like national security, organized crime and protection of the treasury.

"It's obvious that the image has taken a bit of a beating over the last year," he said. "I would imagine that it's a little tarnished at the moment and I would suspect that this is high priority for the new commissioner."

William Elliott, appointed this summer, is the first civilian to be appointed RCMP commissioner.

Gordon wonders if he was given a mandate for change and will deliver those changes in the coming months.

The RCMP said Elliott was not available to be interviewed and Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day could not be reached for comment.

Halifax-area author Paul Palango is convinced the Dziekanski Taser incident last October and others has primed the federal government to make changes.

The bad press dogging the RCMP this year included the death of Bush, who was shot in the back of the head by an RCMP officer in Houston, B.C. The police complaints commissioner cleared the officer, though recommended some changes to police protocol.

Palango, who has written books critical of the RCMP, said he believes Prime Minister Stephen Harper leans toward dropping the RCMP from provincial policing in favour of a federal police force.

He pointed to a 2001 letter to former Alberta premier Ralph Klein that called for an Alberta provincial police.

The so-called Alberta firewall letter called on the province to let its contract with the RCMP run out in 2012, and then replace the Mounties with an Alberta police force.

Harper was president of the National Citizens' Coalition when he signed the letter.

"I still think that Harper has an agenda, and I think his agenda basically is to squeeze the RCMP out of provincial policing," Palango said.

"All that has happened has worked to his beliefs. All that has happened has basically supported him. He hasn't had to say a thing. People have been able to come to that conclusion on their own without Harper initiating anything."

Harper now is in the position where he can say his government is moving toward change within the RCMP because the public mood demands it, he said.

"It looks like he's responsive to what people want," said Palango.

Dziekanski's death at Vancouver airport in October and the public's ability to view much of the incident through a video filmed by a witness appears to have embedded in Canadians the need for change within the RCMP, say Palango and Gordon.

The video shows four RCMP officers approaching Dziekanski, who had been at Vancouver airport for about 10 hours and almost immediately zapping him twice with jolts from their Tasers.

He is heard screaming in fear and pain and dies shortly afterwards.

Dziekanski's death has resulted in at least eight Canadian investigations. Poland is also investigating and there has been a national debate about policing and the use of Tasers as a police weapon of force.

"It's the catalyst because it's allowed people to focus on the problems," Palango said.

The RCMP recently announced it ordered officers to limit Taser use to people displaying combative behaviours.

Last month, high-ranking RCMP officers in B.C. attended a news conference in Victoria to discuss the arrest of a Vancouver-area man who police Tasered, pepper-sprayed and hit with their batons.

Pacific region deputy commissioner Gary Bass, the top Mountie in British Columbia, said the RCMP wanted to comment publicly about the incident "in light of recent events with respect to the use of conducted energy weapons, commonly referred to as Tasers."

Bass said the RCMP wants to provide information as quickly as it can about incidents even though an investigation may not be complete. He said he wanted to dispel public concerns the RCMP does not provide information in a "timely fashion."

Assistant RCMP commander Peter German went even further, offering condolences to the victim's family and the officers involved in the tough arrest.

"The nature of police work is unpredictable," he said.

"This incident proves just that. No one ever wishes to see an outcome where someone is injured. Our thoughts are with his family, as well as the responding officers during this difficult time."

Robert Knipstrom, 36, died several days later.

Palango and Gordon say the RCMP would likely win back the public's respect if they more often responded quickly and in a forthright manner to incidents, no matter how difficult.

They point to an incident in an aboriginal village on B.C.'s coast near Vancouver last summer that signals the divide between the RCMP and the people they serve.

RCMP officers broke up a community parade to celebrate a village victory at an aboriginal soccer tournament, and six months later people are still angry and still waiting for answers, said band councillor Garry Feschuk.

"I've never seen our community so outraged when this happened," said the former elected chief.

The coach was handcuffed, people became angry, and in the melee, a baby was pepper-sprayed, said Feschuk.

"These are all kids with their parents," he said.

"I really have a hard time coming to grips with why this happened, especially when they endangered our children by pepper spraying. They never even took into account the safety of our children. Even that baby getting pepper sprayed."

Victory parades, including putting the winners into the back of pickup trucks, is a community tradition, Feschuk said. But the two RCMP officers on duty that day were not the village's regular officers and the celebration turned ugly, he said.

"There was even times when the RCMP even led the parade," Feschuk said. "They were at the front of the parade with their lights on."

Key dates in 2007 for the RCMP:

June 15: A special investigator's report into the RCMP pension scandal slams former commissioner Giuliano Zaccardelli and concludes the force's corporate culture and management structure need drastic reform.

July 5: Bureaucrat William Elliott is appointed the new RCMP commissioner, the first outsider to lead the Mounties since the force was created in 1873.

July 6: A coroner's inquest into the death of Ian Bush, shot at an RCMP detachment in B.C. in 2005, recommends mandatory electronic monitoring in detachments and calls for Mounties not to be left alone with suspects.

Sept. 9: More than 600 Mounties from across Western Canada gathered at Canada's national RCMP training centre in Regina to remember 218 officers who died in the line of duty since the creation of the North-West Mounted Police.

Oct. 6: RCMP officer Const. Christopher John Worden, 30, is shot and killed in Hay River, N.W.T.

Oct. 14: Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski dies after being stunned with a Taser by RCMP at Vancouver airport.

Nov. 5: RCMP officer Doug Scott, 20, is shot and killed in the Baffin Island hamlet of Kimmirut after responding to an impaired driving complaint.

Nov. 6: A truck driver is found guilty of dangerous driving causing death in Wetaskiwin, Alta., for smashing into the cruiser of an RCMP officer parked on the side of a busy Alberta highway. Const. Jose Agostinho was investigating another traffic accident when he was hit on July 4, 2005.

Nov. 19: B.C. government orders public inquiry into Dziekanski's death at Vancouver airport.

Nov. 29: The independent RCMP public complaints commissioner clears a Mountie in the death of Ian Bush, but Paul Kennedy launches his own probe into how Mounties across the country handle such cases because he said he's concerned about the "corrosive" rising public perception about police investigating themselves.

Dec. 19: The RCMP approves a new backup policy requiring that at least two officers respond to dangerous calls in remote areas.

Quebec adopts measures to supervise use of tasers

December 19, 2007
Marianne White, CanWest News Service

The more things change, the more they stay the same!

QUEBEC -- Quebec is implementing new measures to better supervise the use of Tasers in the province -- including giving immediate medical attention to a person hit by a Taser -- following the recommendations of a task force.

The Public Security ministry released a report Wednesday from a government committee calling for limits on the use of Tasers, which fire 50,000 volts of electricity. At the same time the department said it had sent new guidelines to police chiefs the day before to explain when and how the weapon should be used.

Before using a Taser, police officers will have to make sure the person refuses to comply and must assess the violence potential of the suspect, the risk of injuries and if the person is armed.

The ministry said that the use of a Taser is reasonable when trying to bring under control a person who is a significant threat to himself, to the police officer or to someone else. It's also reasonable when the police officer has to protect himself against an imminent threat of physical injury.

The new guidelines specify that an agitated person should be considered a medical emergency and therefore police officers should call for medical help before doing any physical intervention.

A person who has been hit by a Taser will also have to get a medical evaluation "as soon as possible" before being taken into custody.

Public Security Minister Jacques Dupuis didn't comment directly on the report but said only the most qualified police officers were allowed to use the Tasers.

"It's not the weapon itself that is dangerous, but rather the way it's used," Dupuis told the Quebec legislature Wednesday before the report was made public.

The report also suggests police officers receive more in-depth training on the use of the weapon, a recommendation the government says it will follow.

Across the country in the past year, there have been about a dozen investigations into the use of Tasers. In Canada, Tasers have been involved in as many as 20 deaths since 2001.

In Quebec, the cases of Claudio Castagnetta, who died in Sept. two days after being hit with a Taser, and Quilem Registre, who died in Montreal after being stopped by police on suspicion of drunk driving, are being reviewed.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Taser International now reporting Canadian police news

As if they weren't deeply entrenched enough within certain Canadian circles, it seems American stun gun manufacturer Taser International is now in the business of reporting Canadian police news for us too! That's very sweet - but I think we have enough qualified and unbiased reporters up here in Canada thank you very much.

Device to Stop Man Armed With a Knife
December 18, 2007: 01:52 PM EST

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz., Dec. 18, 2007 (PRIME NEWSWIRE) -- TASER International, Inc. (Nasdaq:TASR), a market leader in advanced electronic control devices released the following News Alert:

According to News 1130 AM New Westminster Police in British Columbia were, "called to a disturbance Friday night after a tenant used a pipe on the landlord and then armed himself with a kitchen knife."

"New West Police say the suspect taunted them, and after repeated commands to drop the knife, they used a TASER and then 'touch stunned' him again while attempting to handcuff him. Once back in the cellblock in the police station, police say he head-butted one of their officers while still-handcuffed."

The complete article is available at: http://www.news1130.com/news/local/article.jsp?content=20071217_184117_2640

TASER International, Inc. disclaims any responsibility for the accuracy of the media reports that are the sole responsibility of the attributed media source.

For more information on protecting life with TASER technology, please visit: www.TASER.com.

The TASER International logo is available at http://www.primenewswire.com/newsroom/prs/?pkgid=2931

CONTACT: TASER International, Inc.
Steve Tuttle
(480) 444-4000

The faces of death

I have never seen, nor would I want to, any of the series of movies called "Faces of Death." But, I know of them and, as I watched the video of Robert Dziekanski dying before my very eyes, the thought of those movies flashed through my mind.

What has haunted me since then is that, had the world been witness earlier to others dying in much the same way as Robert did, he might be alive today. Had Canadians, in particular, been witness to the circumstances of the other 19 people who have died in Canada, perhaps we would have been repulsed into meaningful action. And perhaps some of those who have died would still be alive today.

What would we learn if we could see video of the last minutes of the lives of Terry Hanna, Clayton Willey, Clark Whitehouse, Ronald Perry, Roman Andreichikov, Peter Lamonday, Robert Bagnell, Jerry Knight, Samuel Truscott, Kevin Geldart, Gurmeet Sandhu, James Foldi, Paul Saulnier, Alesandro Fiacco, Jason Doan, Claudio Castagnetta, Quilem Registre, Howard Hyde and Robert Knipstrom?

Would we agree that taser use was justified during Clayton Willey's "altercation" at the mall? Were three taser jolts justified when Clark Whitehouse tried to flee from police on foot? What about when police arrived, tasers already drawn, to find Roman Andreichikov sitting on the couch, rocking back and forth mumbling to himself? Was it ok to shock Peter Lamonday several times when he was already on the ground? How about Alesandro Fiacco who "refused to cooperate with police?" These are only a few Canadian examples.

I know that if we could see the events leading to many of these deaths, we would finally learn precisely what happened - which may or may not jive with police accounts of the incidents. While I could not watch video of my brother's death, I do wish that others could. I know that most thinking Canadians would concur that the use of tasers was not only unjustified the night Bob died, but was likely unjustified in the majority of cases.

But seeing is believing and no one will ever get to see, for example, my brother on his back on a bathroom floor, unarmed and weighing 136 pounds - "resisting" police attempts to drag him out by holding onto inanimate objects for dear life. This while 11 trained police officers stood by as witnesses as two of their brothers in blue subdued Bob to death.

They say that after he was tasered, Bob continued to "resist." I contend that the "resistance" police often describe following taser shocks and which could be seen in the footage of Robert Dziekanski's death, is just the human body's way of resisting what it knows to be the final throes of death.

(I would not be surprised if, given the wide availability of the footage of Robert's death, it eventually ends up on a future installment of Faces of Death. I do hope that the lawyer for Robert's family pursues copyright protections on the video to prevent that from happening.)

Police need clear guidelines on taser use

December 18, 2007
National Post and Montreal Gazette

On Sept. 18, Claudio Castagnetta, 32, was a visibly disturbed man, wandering around in bare feet, obviously disoriented and refusing to leave a Quebec City store when asked to. Two days later, he was dead in a police cell.

At his arrest, Castagnetta, an immigrant from Italy, was hit three or four times by a 50,000-volt jolt from a police Taser. Witnesses do not agree on whether he resisted arrest. Castagnetta was jailed. Some time later, he was found unconscious. He was pronounced dead in hospital.

In prison, witnesses say he had shown clear signs of mental illness and distress. He was seen hitting his head several times and, according to an autopsy report, suffered a self-inflicted head injury. That report, according to Le Soleil, also found that at the time of his death Castagnetta was intoxicated with amphetamines.

A great deal went wrong in this case. An excessive and too-hasty use of a Taser on an obviously disturbed, non-violent man is an important part of what went wrong.

Across Canada this year, there have been at least 15 investigations into the use of Tasers, five of them in Quebec, including Castagnetta. In Canada, Tasers have been involved in as many as 20 deaths over the past four and a half years. It is time police forces, their civilian overseers and elected officials across the country took a hard look at why Tasers, which were supposed to be a weapons of second-last resort, have become a tool of almost casual use.

Police departments, generally permit the use of firearms only for self-defence or against imminent threat of death or life-threatening injury. Tasers were introduced as a safer alternative to guns, which they may well be, but that is not the same thing as saying they are safe. A recent study found no reduction in police firearm use where Tasers are introduced.

The idea that Tasers are a safer alternative to guns should include the message that Tasers, too, are to be used only in cases where there is a clear threat to human life and safety. Resisting arrest does not often meet that minimum requirement.

In Castagnetta's case, that is all that happened. He did not want to be placed in handcuffs. There is no indication that anyone tried to calm him down or talk him out of the store or call for medical help.

Police forces need to to set out strict guidelines around the use of Tasers, and to impress upon officers the risks inherent in their use.

Last week, the RCMP public complaints commission called for limits, but those suggested guidelines fall short of what is needed - they held the door open for Taser use when a suspect is "combative."

Combativeness is open to interpretation. Was Castagnetta combative? Was Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski, who died Oct. 14 at Vancouver International Airport? Too much police discretion is a bad thing when it comes to Tasers. Tight guidelines for their use should be an urgent priority - for public confidence as well as public safety.

RCMP probe of taser incident a whitewash, victim says

December 18, 2007
CBC News

A Kelowna, B.C., man and his wife say an RCMP investigation into why he was shocked by a Taser stun gun over a parking violation amounts to a whitewash.

John Peters, 68, was jolted twice with a Taser fired by a Kelowna Mountie following an incident in which he drove off after the officer tried to give him a ticket for double parking. Peters stopped his car a short distance later, and was subsequently hit twice with the stun gun.

The RCMP report released Friday found the officer acted improperly by using the Taser on Peters while he was still in his car. But it also said the officer was generally justified in using the Taser a second time after Peters got out of his car, because Peters was combative and lashing out with his arms.

That version of events is false, according to Peters and his wife. "I was trying to avoid his vicious attack, because he'd already punched me," Peters told CBC News on Monday. "I didn't know what to expect. I didn't hit him though. I never hit him." Peters's wife Ann, who was in the car at the time, said her husband only put his hands over his face after the officer punched him in the mouth, and that the officer used the Taser twice on her husband while he was still in the car.
"John never hit the officer. He was never tased outside the car. He was tased both times inside the car."

The finding of the RCMP investigation that her husband was combative is simply not true, she said. "I was shocked, because there was very little truth to most of what was said. It was a complete whitewash."

B.C. Civil Liberties president Jason Gratl said the case shows why the police should not investigate themselves. "The investigation easily raises as many questions as it answers, and it doesn't do much to restore the reputation of the RCMP to the public," said Gratl, who is now calling for an independent inquiry. John Peters said he is considering legal action.

Last week the RCMP apologized to Peters, and said the officer would be disciplined for using his Taser on Peters while he was in the car, which is not correct procedure.

EDITORIAL: Mounties need less independence

December 18, 2007
The Edmonton Journal

After recent years of scandal, you'd be hard-pressed to find many Canadians who think the national police force needs more independence and less governance. Yet that was the key recommendation of the federal task force on RCMP governance and culture released last week.

The task force is forthright in its call for a "major overhaul" of the RCMP. Commissioner Bill Elliott followed up with clear statements that also reflect what Canadians have felt for some time: "There is simply no other option. The RCMP must change."

But this report would take us down the wrong road: toward less accountability to a public shocked by incidents ranging from the recent Taser death of a Polish immigrant in Vancouver to leaks about a criminal investigation in the finance department that affected the outcome of the 2006 election.

The report recommends taking the RCMP out of the federal bureaucracy and making it an autonomous agency, with a civilian management board to oversee its financial affairs, resources, property and procurement.

But a more independent RCMP would have even less reason to listen to concerns of the community about Taser use or reluctance to release timely information to the public on serious crimes. The fact is, the public has no way to apply pressure to an appointed civilian oversight board if, for instance, another pension scandal emerged.

If anything, the force has suffered because its political masters have declined to heed warning signs of trouble. For instance, it was only when then-commissioner Giuliano Zaccardelli appeared before a Parliamentary committee that the public finally got a full accounting of the RCMP role in the case of the Maher Arar affair.

As Edmontonians know, civilian police commissions aren't known for feisty independence and tend to side with the police because, well, they don't report directly to the community. For that reason, Edmonton city council put two councillors back on the police commission a few years ago.

The RCMP report also calls for scrapping the independent Public Complaints Commission, which hears civilian complaints of police misconduct. That office would be rolled into one ombudsman-style office that would also handle internal employee grievances.

The new watchdog, the Independent Commission for Complaints and Oversight, would have the power to make decisions binding on the RCMP commission on discipline. That's potentially a step forward for accountability. Currently, the civilian watchdog has no power to order any remedy if a civilian complaint is upheld. The new office would report to the civilian management board, one step removed from the elected authorities. The commission would have to ensure its reports were made public.

Certainly, the relationship between police and politicians is a delicate one. No democracy can tolerate political meddling in policing. But such meddling is not the issue here. The problem is a police force with too much power held by the top brass and which operates as if it is law unto itself.

The remedy is to make sure the elected representatives who are currently responsible for RCMP oversight take their role seriously, and do it effectively.

RCMP falls short in limiting tasers

December 18, 2007
The Toronto Star

Today's Toronto Star editorial:

The recent death of Robert Dziekanski at Vancouver International Airport after Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers jolted him with a Taser has sparked a welcome reassessment of how and when the high-voltage stun guns should be used.

Yet Canada's problem-plagued national police force inexplicably responded last week with only a half-measure when faced with a critical report from RCMP public complaints commission chair Paul Kennedy. The report rightly urges the RCMP to restrict Taser use to instances where suspects are "combative" or pose a risk of "death or grievous bodily harm" to police, themselves or others.

RCMP Commissioner William Elliott has announced a policy change that would limit Taser use to cases where someone "is displaying combative behaviours or is being actively resistant." That means officers can no longer use a Taser against someone who passively resists, by lying down or being otherwise unco-operative.

But according to one expert, the policy potentially could still allow a Taser to be wielded against someone who makes as unmenacing a gesture as pulling their hand away when an officer reaches for it. By that standard, it is hard to say if Dziekanski, who was unarmed and appeared to pose no immediate danger to anyone, would still have been tasered. That very uncertainty means the new threshold the RCMP has set for the use of stun guns is still too low.

Kennedy's interim report, which Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day requested after Dziekanski's death, paints a troubling picture of a trigger-happy police force that has relaxed the rules around Taser use since it first adopted the weapons in 2001.

Citing "usage creep," the report says the RCMP authorizes Taser use "earlier than reasonable" by classifying it as an "intermediate" device, in the same category as pepper spray, rather than as "an option in cases where lethal force would otherwise have been considered."

Kennedy properly resists calls for an outright moratorium on Tasers. After all, the weapons can prevent death and serious injury in situations when the only alternative available to police is drawing a gun.

But in light of Dziekanski's death and persistent questions surrounding police use of Tasers, the tighter restrictions the complaints commission has recommended seem reasonable.

The RCMP has agreed to comply with other recommendations, such as beefing up reporting on Taser use and appointing a national co-ordinator to oversee policies on the use of force. But on the critical issue of reining in Taser use, a complaints commission spokesperson was right last week to criticize the force for not going far enough.

This is not the final word on police use of Tasers. Kennedy will release his final report sometime next summer. A public inquiry into Dziekanski's death ordered by the B.C. government, as well as several other probes, may also shed light on the issue. Meanwhile, a coroner's jury into the 2004 police shooting of a mentally ill man last week recommended front-line officers in Toronto be equipped with Tasers.

Whatever the outcome of these proceedings, the complaints commission has already proposed an appropriately high bar for Taser use that should set the standard for police forces across the country. The RCMP should fall into line.

Misuse of tasers poses too many risks to the public

December 18, 2007

A Letter to the Editor of a Sudbury newspaper at northernlife.ca:

I am writing this letter to express my concerns regarding the increasing reports of misuse of the taser weapon in a growing number of policing services within Canada. This weapon is intimidating, cruel, capable of inflicting torturous pain and is potentially lethal.

For those who disagree with the assertion the taser is deadly, dispute this with the families of the victims who have mysteriously died shortly after being tasered.

Unless anyone of these victims was a direct and imminent threat to the life of a police officer, none of their alleged offences deserved a circumvention of their Canadian and human rights resulting in either cruel and unusual punishment or the risk of termination of their lives.

A growing number of reports are indicating that the taser is increasingly being used as a “weapon to threaten” and a “pain compliance tool” within our citizenry, while often ignoring other safer, less harmful and dignified methods of intervention or apprehension. Unfortunately, this is a position we are quickly finding ourselves in and is certainly inconsistent with Canadian values and United Nations standards.

I do recognize our police officers often place their lives at risk when dealing with truly dangerous situations. I completely support the use of firearms as their ultimate defence in the event their lives are directly threatened. However, since the issuance of the taser as an alternative to their firearm, documented reports and resultant lawsuits are now clearly indicating its alleged indiscriminate misuse including torture, cruelty, degradation and electrocution of ordinary citizens.

Being educated in the electrical engineering field, I am well versed on the dangers of electricity and how differently it affects every person who comes into contact with it. Electrical current flows through every individual differently as each one of us has a different “resistance” to the flow of electrical current. The location on the body and how the shock is applied, often determines why some survive electrocution and others die.

A dose of electricity may paralyze the respiratory organs and damage the central nervous system in even the healthiest of victims. The immediate or eventual cause of death, however, is usually an interruption of heart action. This potential for lethal damage is exacerbated when the victim has a pre-existing medical or respiratory condition.

According to the Canada Safety Council, “Even a relatively small shock can cause cardiac arrest in someone with a weak heart.” Make no mistake; if you are being “tasered”, you are being exposed to “electricity” with 415 times the electrical force of your typical 120-volt GFCI household electrical outlet. Tasering is intense “electric shock.” Any form of non-medically controlled and administered electrical shock always has the real potential for electrocution.

To put it into perspective, the GFCI protected electrical outlets that we all have in our homes is deemed necessary by our government regulated Canadian Electrical Code in order to prevent any possibility of electrocution and damage to the human body. These “ground fault circuit interrupter” devices are designed to stop the flow of electrical current at a threshold of five milli-amps at 120-volts of electricity. They work very well and protect us from electrical shock, and as such are the law.

Yet, other government agencies we employ to “serve and protect” are given the right to legally impale the flesh of another human being with a device that delivers an excruciating 50,000 volts (415 times higher) and 150 milli-amps (30 times higher) of dangerous electrical current.

The taser’s original justification was accepted by the public under the premise that it was to be used as a “last alternative non-lethal option” to the police revolver. In many jurisdictions this is obviously no longer the case as they have escalated taser use way beyond its original intent with plans to further equip more officers, thus increasing the risk of it’s misuse within the general public.

The taser is frequently being misapplied and as such, shortcutting accepted “continuum of force” guidelines for routine interventions. And since it’s a potentially lethal weapon, contrary to what the so-called manufacturer’s sponsored experts will have you believe, it is now playing a part in both unnecessary “cruelty to humans” and a contributing role in taking the lives of our fellow Canadians who might otherwise be alive today.

This weapon, if used only as a substitute to deadly force, could be an acceptable alternative choice as originally intended, but it’s obvious well documented misuse poses far too many risks to the public’s health, dignity and life and as such should be banned until independent thorough studies have been completed.

According to the international standards set out under the United Nations code of conduct for law enforcement officials and the basic principles on the use of force and firearms by law enforcement officials, force should only be used as a last resort and that officers must apply only the minimum amount of force necessary to obtain a lawful objective.

Increasingly, Amnesty International reports are showing the misuse of tasers being used to secure compliance in routine arrest and non-life threatening situations, including use against persons not actively resisting arrest, and against non-violent protestors.

In a number of these cases, the treatment by police officers is in clear violation of international standards prohibiting torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. How many more people need to be mistreated worse than animals, to such cruel, inhuman, invasive and punitive treatment for the sake of expedient compliance?

How many more lives unnecessarily need to be lost before we wake up and accept the fact that the so-called non-lethal tasers are directly or indirectly mysteriously killing our fellow human beings?

G. Fleury

Monday, December 17, 2007

NZ government, not police, should make taser decision

December 17, 2007
Press Release: Green Party

Green MP Keith Locke has written to the Prime Minister urging the Government, not the police, to make the decision over whether Tasers should be brought into the police armoury.

Police Minister Annette King has said it is an operational matter, which she need not be involved in. The police are currently reviewing the year-long Taser trial, which finished at the end of August.

"There are two main reasons why the decision should not be left to the police," Mr Locke, Green Party Police Spokesperson says. "Firstly, the Taser is a dangerous weapon, which has been associated with the death of close to 300 people in North America between 2001 and 2007, as Amnesty International reported last week. "Secondly, there are major questions of international law to be resolved. Taser use could breach New Zealand's adherence to the United Nations Convention against Torture. Last month the UN Committee against Torture determined that the Taser 'constituted a form of torture'.

"The weapon certainly inspires fear, but the Government should consider whether this is good for police/community relations. There is a temptation for police to threaten disorderly offenders with a Taser even when they present no physical danger. Last week the Campaign Against the Taser reported many such cases in the year-long Taser trial.

"Taser use remains controversial in countries where it has been introduced. There is currently huge debate in Canada following the death of a man at Vancouver Airport after he was tasered. As a result the Canadian police complaints authority has urged police to sharply curtail the use of Tasers.

"The Government should not be intimidated by the Police Association, which is lambasting all Taser critics and insisting that a decision on its introduction should be made by police alone. This is not an operational matter, akin to what sort of cars they should drive or the look of their uniforms, and the Government cannot stand aside," Mr Locke says.

Despite what some police and politicians say, tasers don't reduce shootings

December 17, 2007
The Canadian Press

WINNIPEG - Despite claims by politicians and some police officers that Tasers would save lives by preventing shootings, the devices that are being used by a growing number of police forces were never meant as an alternative to guns, experts say.

Statistics obtained by The Canadian Press bear out that idea, showing that in some of the cities that have recently adopted Tasers, the number of police shootings has remained fairly consistent and low, while Tasers are being used exponentially more often.

In Winnipeg, for example, police shootings of suspects are rare. There was one in 2003, and none in 2004. In 2006, the Winnipeg Police Service fired guns on suspects twice. They also started using Tasers in September of that year, firing them at individuals 37 times before the year was out.

"Tasers are not meant to replace firearms," Cst. Adam Cheadle, the service's use of force co-ordinator, said in a recent interview. "The Taser is on the same playing field as a baton or (pepper) spray."

Taser is the trade name for what police usually call a "conductive energy device." The weapon fires a probe that delivers an electrical shock for five seconds, stunning the target's neuro-muscular system and usually causing him to fall from severe pain and muscle contractions. Its U.S.-based manufacturer boasts that the Taser "saves lives every day."

In Calgary, there was only one officer-involved shooting in 2003 - two years before Tasers were introduced - and none in 2007. So far this year, Calgary police have "deployed" (a term that includes any incident where the machine is unholstered and its laser is activated, even if it ends up not being fired) their Tasers 133 times.

In Montreal, police were involved in three shooting incidents in 2003, before they had Tasers. They also used their firearms three times last year, while firing Tasers 28 times.

Numbers in many other jurisdictions are hard to come by. The RCMP, whose members have fired Tasers more than 3,000 times since 2001, said it doesn't keep track of how often firearms are used across the country. Police spokespersons in Toronto, Vancouver and Halifax were unable to provide comparable statistics on Taser and gun usage.

The numbers that have been released counter the idea promoted by some politicians and police officials in the early 2000s, when the stun guns were being introduced, that officers would be able to use Tasers instead of their guns and that could save lives.

When the RCMP unveiled plans to equip its Alberta detachments with Tasers in 2002, Sgt. Steve Gleboff told reporters "what we're trying to do is eliminate the necessity to shoot somebody."

Two years later, when controversy erupted over Taser usage in Ontario, then-community safety minister Monte Kwinter said the devices were a better alternative to firearms.

Even the man currently probing the RCMP's use of Tasers, Paul Kennedy, head of the RCMP Public Complaints Commission, told a police oversight convention last year that being hit by a Taser was better than being hit by a bullet.

That expectation was wrong, according to the man who trains Calgary police officers to use Tasers. "Use of force experts across Canada right now, we're kind of shaking our heads going, 'How did we give the impression to the lay public or the media that Tasers were ever supposed to be a replacement for lethal force?"' said Staff Sgt. Chris Butler. "They were another use of force tool in the same regard as the baton, the O.C. spray. Just another tool."

While Tasers may not reduce the number of police shootings, Butler said they have succeeded in reducing the number of injuries that can result from an officer having to use a baton or pepper spray on a suspect, or wrestle with him. "In 99.7 per cent of Taser uses, there are no injuries. When you compare that to a baton use, the statistical likelihood of injuries from a Taser deployment are much less."

The growing use of Tasers was highlighted in an interim report by the RCMP complaints commissioner last week, which said Taser use "has expanded to include subduing resistant subjects who do not pose a threat of grievous bodily harm or death and on whom the use of lethal force would not be an option."

In response, the Mounties issued new guidelines limiting Taser use to situations where "a subject is displaying combative behaviours or is being actively resistant."

Eighteen people in Canada have died in recent years after being hit by a Taser, although the company that manufactures the weapons stresses they have never been directly blamed for a death.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Taser protest in Montreal

December 16, 2007
Michelle Lalonde , CanWest News Service; Montreal Gazette

About 100 people marched here Saturday to protest what they called the abusive use of Taser guns by police, and to demand justice for a man who died in October after he was tasered. The demonstration was organized by the family of Quilem Registre, 38, who died after police allegedly tasered him five or six times while trying to arrest him.

Police have said Registre was suspected of drunk driving when he was stopped Oct. 18. He was pronounced dead four days later after suffering multiple heart attacks.

Family members called on politicians to take a closer look at the use of Tasers by police, considering 19 people have died after being tasered by Canadian police officers in the past five years. "We want people to realize there is a real danger with the use of Taser guns," said Francine Registre, sister of the dead man. "It doesn't just save lives. It kills. We want (the government) to do real studies and not just take the word of police," she said. "I can understand using one Taser charge on a person to subdue him, but when they are using six charges on one person, I wonder if we are really trying to save a life there," Registre's cousin Evans Sanelus said.

The Registre family moved to Montreal from Haiti when Quilem was seven-years-old. Many at Saturday's march claimed race was a factor in his death.

Marchers stopped in front of Montreal police Station 30 and chanted: "Down with police racism!" and "Down with Ku Klux Klan police," in reference to the outlawed organization in the United States that advocates white supremacy. Mandeep Dhillon, of No One Is Illegal Montreal, a group that works with immigrants and refugees, said racial profiling - where police make assumptions based on a person's race - is a growing problem in Montreal. "I wasn't there (when Registre was tasered), but for me, there is no question that racial profiling happens. If you are black, brown, indigenous in Canada, the levels of incarceration, police brutality and violence you face are quite heightened," she said.

Dan Philip, who heads the Black Coalition of Quebec, said Registre's death again raises the issue of procedures for investigating civilian deaths at the hands of police in Quebec. When someone is killed or seriously injured by a police officer, investigators from a different Quebec force are called in to investigate. In the Registre case, the Surete du Quebec is investigating.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

New Zealand taser trial cops broke rules 40% of time

December 15, 2007
MARTIN KAY - The Dominion Post

Police breached procedures for Tasers on 40 per cent of occasions when they were used in the first six months of their trial, a group opposed to use of the stun-guns claims.

Campaign Against the Taser, headed by prominent Auckland barrister Marie Dyhrberg, said police regularly presented or fired the weapons at people below the authorised threat threshold.

A study of police statistics shows 27 of the 69 people were not assaultive, the lowest category allowed. Eleven were classed as compliant, 11 passive-resistant (not obeying instructions) and five active resistant (pushing officers away or running off). Two were not classified. In three of the 27 cases Tasers were fired.

Police say Tasers, which deliver a 50,000-volt shock that briefly paralyses the target, are a vital alternative to deadly force.

But opponents say they can kill - and could be used when a non-violent method was appropriate. Last month a United Nations committee said they were a form of torture.

Ms Dyhrberg said the fact that only three of the 27 people were shot did not mean the other cases were not misused. "It's an abuse of force even for the police to threaten somebody when they do not have the power to do so. It's a very short step then to an unlawful situation becoming accepted routine."

The Catt study also claims police twice presented Tasers at petrol stations - against procedures because of the potential to spark an explosion. In another case, an officer accidentally fired a Taser into the floor while using its laser sight as a torch during a warehouse search. Another report from the New Zealand College of Mental Health Nurses said Tasers were used disproportionately on the mentally ill. Half those with a mental illness presented with a Taser were shot. The reports are designed to pressure Police Commissioner Howard Broad as he considers a report on the Taser trial, held in Auckland and Wellington for a year from September 2006. He will decide whether to introduce them next month.

A spokeswoman said police did not accept Tasers were misused 40 per cent of the time. Police had consulted the mental health sector, and its views would be considered. The Catt report also highlights publicised cases of accidents, including one in which a 16-year-old boy was hit as his father was fired at. Catt wants the trial independently reviewed and any decision on introduction made by the Government. Police Minister Annette King has said it is an operational decision for police.

RCMP to restrict taser use

December 15, 2007
IAN BAILEY, Globe and Mail

VANCOUVER -- The RCMP yesterday announced new limits to police taser use, declaring that the stun guns can only be employed on people displaying "combative behaviours" or actively resisting officers.

Commissioner William Elliott, announcing the new policy in the same week the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP called for related limits and reforms in taser policy, said he was open to additional reforms.

"I certainly do not rule out the possibility we will make further changes to our policies, training and practices as time goes on," Mr. Elliott told a news conference in Ottawa.

Mr. Elliott's announcement, the commission recommendations and an array of other reviews and reflections on police use of tasers come in the wake of the Oct. 14 death of Robert Dziekanski, a Polish immigrant who died after Mounties tasered him during a confrontation in the international-arrivals area of Vancouver airport.

Elsewhere in Canada, the PEI government has called for a review on the use of tasers, and New Brunswick will have a new policy on police taser use by the end of January. In Alberta, the government has issued new guidelines for taser use to "provide a consistent standard" for all officers, a government official said.

In British Columbia, where the RCMP polices most of the province on a contract basis, Solicitor-General John Les said he welcomed the RCMP's response to Mr. Kennedy's "balanced and reasonable" recommendations, and said his ministry would be working to harmonize the approach across municipal forces, such as in Vancouver and Victoria.

Some critics have called for a moratorium on taser use, but Mr. Elliott, despite his enthusiasm for new policies on managing tasers, yesterday continued to defend the devices as legitimate police tools.

"I would say the measures we are putting in place are significant and will have an impact with respect to what it is our officers do and don't do, but it's not a total rewrite of our policy nor is it anything akin [to] suggesting tasers are not an appropriate tool ... a very useful tool that promotes officer safety and public safety," he said.

"They should continue to be tools available for use of members of the RCMP in appropriate circumstances."

Other new RCMP policies announced yesterday include an enhanced data base on taser use, and a commitment to "establish more robust reporting and analytical processes" plus providing quarterly and annual reports on incidents involving tasers.

Paul Kennedy, head of the complaints commission, offered mixed reviews of Mr. Elliott's announcement.

"[It] is clearly less than we had recommended with respect to our first recommendation in our interim report that the taser be classified as an impact weapon for combative situations," Mr. Kennedy said in a statement.

"But we're encouraged by the fact that they recognize the inappropriate use of the taser in instances of passive resistance. We look forward to further clarification of active resistance."

Mr. Kennedy, who launched a review at the request of federal Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day, had recommended the Mounties restrict their increasing use of tasers. A total of 2,800 tasers are being used by about 9,100 Mounties across Canada.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Nunavut RCMP used tasers at least 25 times this year, legal aid lawyers say

December 14, 2007
CHRIS WINDEYER, Nunatsiaq News

RCMP used tasers on at least 25 Nunavut residents in the Baffin region this year, say legal aid lawyers. That's more than three times the rate of taser use reported by the Nunavut RCMP between March 2002 and March 2005, according to numbers obtained by the Canadian Press.

Christian Lyons, a lawyer with Maliiganik Tukisiiniakvik in Iqaluit, estimates legal aid has dealt with "at least 25" clients from the Baffin region who were tasered, "this year alone." "In our experience it seems to be a regular occurrence."

Recent statistics on taser use by Nunavut Mounties exist, but the RCMP isn't sharing them. RCMP headquarters in Ottawa did not release information on taser use by Nunavut Mounties more recent than March 2005 to Canadian Press, which obtained the earlier figures through an access to information request. Nunavut's V Division has recent statistics on taser use, said Sgt. Mike Toohey, but they won't release these numbers, other than through an access to information request sent to Ottawa.

Tasers work in two ways. The pistol-shaped weapon can be held directly against a suspect, giving a painful jolt. Or a gas-powered charge can shoot two barbs, attached to the taser with wires, into a suspect. Both methods shoot 50,000 volts of electricity though the suspect's body, causing their muscles to seize up and sending them, usually, crashing to the ground.

Toohey said there haven't been any deaths resulting from taser use in Nunavut. As for injuries, he said he wouldn't discuss specific cases, but said people who are shot with taser barbs typically need medical attention to have them removed.

According to a report by the U.S. National Commission on Correctional Health Care, most injuries from the barbs "can be cared for in a manner similar to simple fishhook injuries." The report says most injuries resulting from taser use are scrapes and bruises resulting from falls.

Lyons said four of his clients during a recent circuit court trip to Pond Inlet reported being tasered. Like Toohey, he was hesitant to discuss specific cases, but said tasers typically get used in situations where someone is resisting arrest, especially if they try to strike a police officer.

David Qamaniq, the outgoing mayor of Pond Inlet, said he knows of two recent cases of residents being tasered. "There have been a couple of incidents in Pond Inlet where tasers had to be used and I'm not sure whether (the RCMP) had no choice but to use it or not," he said. Toohey said the use of tasers is governed by the need to use force in dealing with a suspect, beginning with verbal commands and ending, if necessary, with guns. The use of force depends on the threat to both Mounties and bystanders, he said. "If we use force we have to be able to articulate, not only in court but [within the RCMP] the force that we used was appropriate," he said.

Tasers were adopted by the RCMP as an alternative to guns. But the RCMP's public complaints commission notes in its most recent annual report the stun guns are at times used as a replacement for pepper spray and batons to subdue people considered "combative" or "resistant."

An interim report by the commission, released Wednesday, recommends tougher rules governing the use of tasers, so that the weapons would only be used by RCMP if someone is "combative" or posing the risk of "death or grievous bodily harm" to police, themselves or the public.

Lyons is quick to point out he doesn't think Mounties in Nunavut are trying to hide anything. He simply wants to see greater public scrutiny of taser use. He also agrees police are sometimes justified in using the weapons. "Some [clients] have it coming, some of them, it's a bit excessive, but I wasn't there," he said. "The clients were expressing concern it wasn't entirely necessary. There's always two sides to the story, but I take their concerns seriously."

Use of the tasers has come under scrutiny since early November when Robert Dziekanski, a Polish immigrant who became involved in a standoff with authorities at the Vancouver airport that was caught on videotape, died after being hit twice with a taser.

Kelowna RCMP apologize to man hit by Taser in car after parking violation

December 14, 2007
The Canadian Press

KELOWNA, B.C. - Kelowna RCMP have apologized to a 68-year-old man who was hit twice with a Taser as he sat in his car in downtown Kelowna last month. The officer who hit John Peters made a tactical error, RCMP Supt. Bill McKinnon said Friday after an administrative review of the incident. "We determined that the use of the conducted energy weapon or CEW while Mr. Peters remained seated in the driver's seat of his vehicle was in fact inappropriate," he told a news conference. "We in turn regret this particular action and have apologized to Mr. Peters for this tactical error in judgment."

The review found Peters was combative with the officer trying to arrest him. "I won't go into great detail other than to say that it was a heated moment between both the officer and Mr. Peters and he was combative in the actions in fighting off the arrest by the constable involved." McKinnon says a code of conduct investigation is underway and the officer, a four-year veteran, could face disciplinary action.

"Would the general public find the actions of this member to be disgraceful and that's why I've ordered the code of conduct because I believe that the general public would find the actions of this member to be disgraceful, causing embarrassment to our organization."

Peters filed a complaint after he was jolted twice by a stun gun during a verbal confrontation with a Mountie over a double parking violation. Peters, who suffers from a neurological disorder, admits he drove away as the officer was trying to ticket him, but pulled over a short distance later.

RCMP say they will restrict their use of Tasers to situations where something is being combative or actively resistant after a report criticized them for firing the stun guns too often. The review came after a Polish immigrant died at Vancouver International Airport after he was hit with a Taser fired by an RCMP officer.

Former adviser to Prime Minister Harper and Public Safety Minister Day lobbies for Taser International

December 19, 2007
Winnipeg Free Press

... [Stephen] Harper fulminated against Liberal partisans earning big bucks for touching up who they knew in the Prime Minister's Office. Now, one of Harper's oldest and closest political allies, Ken Boessenkool, a co-signer with Harper of the 2000 Alberta "firewall" letter, has become Taser International's lobbyist in Ottawa.

Close to Harper, Boessenkool is even closer to Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day, having worked for him when Day was Alberta finance minister. Day is in charge of the RCMP -- and its Tasers.

As CanWest Ottawa columnist Don Martin penned last Saturday: "(Boessenkool) has only been severed from Mr. Harper's office since 2004 ... and he'll be peddling Taser's influence down two corridors of power (Harper's and Day's) where he commanded considerable influence as a policy wonk."

December 14, 2007
The Canadian Press

OTTAWA - A Tory election strategist and former adviser to both the prime minister and public safety minister became a lobbyist for Taser International soon after use of its stun guns came under intense scrutiny. Consultant Ken Boessenkool registered the Arizona-based Taser maker as a client on Nov. 28, two weeks after the videotaped death of Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski unleashed international outrage. "I'm not authorized to speak on behalf of my client to the media," Boessenkool said when reached Friday. "I'd refer you to the Taser media line." No comment from Taser International was immediately available.

Boessenkool, of the public relations firm Hill & Knowlton, was a senior adviser in opposition to now Prime Minister Stephen Harper. He played key strategic roles in the 2004 and 2006 Conservative election campaigns, and was a policy adviser to Stockwell Day - now public safety minister - when Day was treasurer of Alberta. Boessenkool lists Day's department and the RCMP as potential points of contact in his filing with the Registrar of Lobbyists.

Liberal public safety critic Ujjal Dosanjh pounced on Boessenkool's past links to the current government. "It explains all sorts of things. If you look at the approach Day has taken, he's essentially been absent from the debate about Tasers and related concerns." Dosanjh has assailed Day for brushing off demands for a national public inquiry into Taser use. Instead, the minister called for an internal RCMP review along with a report from its watchdog commission.

Dosanjh also cited Boessenkool's lobbying links to pharmaceutical firm Merck Frosst, which benefited from a surprise $300-million fund in the last federal budget to vaccinate girls against cervical cancer. "Obviously his lobbying is very effective," Dosanjh said in an interview. "This is a clear case of Taser being able to exercise influence behind the scene so that we really don't have a government that's on the up and up in terms of addressing the issues around Tasers."

A spokeswoman for Day said Boessenkool "is entitled to seek employment in any capacity he chooses. "Minister Day has not met with Mr. Boessenkool nor any representative of Taser International," Melisa Leclerc said in an e-mailed response.

The RCMP watchdog recommended this week that Tasers be classified as impact weapons and drastically restricted to the most threatening combative situations. Such changes are needed, said the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP, to curb what it called "usage creep." It has, for example, criticized the RCMP for zapping a drunken woman with a 50,000-volt Taser even after she was handcuffed.

The Mounties stopped short of the watchdog's recommendations, however. They announced Friday they'll more clearly define use-of-force terminology and limit Tasers to cases where "a subject is displaying combative behaviours or is being actively resistant." Critics said that still leaves Taser use open to broad interpretation and possible abuse.

RCMP Commissioner William Elliott conceded at a news conference that the stun guns haven't always been wielded appropriately. About 2,800 of the electronic weapons are being used by more than 9,100 RCMP members across the country.

Dziekanski was recorded as the 18th person in Canada to die in recent years after being Tasered. The Mounties have been embroiled in controversy since Nov. 14 when amateur video was released of officers repeatedly zapping the man and pinning him to the floor at Vancouver International Airport.

Taser International stresses that its devices have never been directly blamed for a death. It has vigorously and successfully defended them in several lawsuits. The stun guns are also popular with police, who say they're a safer alternative to batons or pepper spray. Amnesty International cites at least 280 deaths in the United States after suspects were Tasered. It says the weapons should be suspended pending an independent, comprehensive study of their effects.

Duff Conacher of Democracy Watch is waging a court challenge of how federal lobbying rules are interpreted and enforced. "You wouldn't have Boessenkool going into the Conservative war room for their election campaign and then coming out and being a lobbyist if the (Registrar of Lobbyists) was properly enforcing the Lobbyist's Code of Conduct. But you do have it. And it's going on and on and on. The revolving door of lobbyists moving in and out of government is spinning as much as it ever has with this government."

When Harper first introduced the idea of accountability legislation just before the last election, he warned candidates, their workers and party staff alike that "politics will no longer be a stepping stone to a lucrative career lobbying government." "This exercise will be meaningless unless our government is different," Harper said at the time.

The lobbyist regulations in the Federal Accountability Act still haven't been posted, however, more than a year after Harper's showpiece legislation was passed. A five-year cooling off period for public officials who want to lobby government is already in force under federal conflict-of-interest rules but exemptions abound, says Conacher.

A parade of well-connected Tories continues to join various lobbying and government relations firms - including some who made the leap directly from senior positions in ministers' offices.

TASER International Appoints Peter Holran as Vice President of Public Relations and Government Affairs

December 14, 2007
CNN Money

Taser International needs all the spin help it can get these days ...

TASER International, Inc. (Nasdaq:TASR), a market leader in advanced electronic control devices, today announced that it has hired Peter T. Holran effective December 2007 to serve as its Vice President of Public Relations and Government Affairs. Before joining TASER International, Mr. Holran was Vice President for Public Affairs at Dittus Communications, where he worked on public affairs and crisis management for TASER International and other prominent clients. Prior to his work at Dittus, Mr. Holran spent nearly a decade at Wexler and Walker Public Policy Associates, a Washington D.C. based lobbying firm where he led the team that managed both Federal and state lobbying efforts for TASER International.

"Mr. Holran brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to the Company, and is an important addition to the management team that will lead TASER International into the future," commented Thomas Smith, Chairman of TASER International's Board of Directors. "We have worked closely with Mr. Holran as an external consultant for almost six years and believe that adding his full-time dedication, experience and expertise to our team will expand the capabilities of the organization."

Thomas Smith currently serves both as Chairman of TASER International's Board of Directors and as the executive officer who oversees public relations and government affairs. Over the next 6 months, Mr. Smith will transition these executive duties fully to Mr. Holran. Mr. Smith will assume a more traditional role as Chairman of the Board of Directors on May 30, 2008. Mr. Smith will continue to serve on the Strategic Leadership Team and, together with Co-Founder and CEO Rick Smith, will continue his role as public spokesperson for the Company indefinitely.

"This is a very exciting time, both for the Company and for me personally. This transition will build important capabilities for the company and will allow me to focus more on issues related to long term strategy and corporate governance as Chairman of the Board. It will also allow me to focus more time on family and personal matters going forward," concluded Mr. Smith.

In conjunction with this career transition, Mr. Smith has adopted a stock trading plan in accordance with Rule 10b5-1. The plan is a component of his overall tax and financial planning strategy that is designed to provide enhanced diversification and liquidity as Mr. Smith transitions from a day-to-day operational role to a more traditional Chairman role for the Company.

Rule 10b5-1 enables corporate officers and directors to establish stock trading plans for the orderly sale of predetermined amounts of securities. Such plans may be initiated only when the officers and directors are not in possession of material and non-public information. The rule allows individuals adopting such plans to sell shares over a specified amount of time at specific prices in the future, even if subsequent material and non-public information becomes available to them.

Under the provisions of Mr. Smith's 10b5-1 plan, up to 830,000 shares may be sold over the next two years, representing approximately 50% of the 1,654,218 shares he controls (665,088 shares owned and 989,130 remaining vested stock options). Any transactions executed under the provisions of the plan, which is effective for approximately 24 months starting in February of 2008, will be reported on Form 4 filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission. There are no assurances that any shares will be sold during the duration of the plan.

Mounties say they will restrict use of Tasers

December 14, 2007

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada's national police force, criticized for excessive use of Tasers, said on Friday that, from now on, officers would only fire the electric stun guns at suspects who are combative or resisting arrest.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police policy change was prompted by outrage over the death of a Polish immigrant at the Vancouver, British Columbia, airport in October.

Robert Dziekanski died after police used Tasers and then restrained him -- an incident captured on film and broadcast around the world. He had been slowly moving away from police when hit by the Taser blasts.

The Taser stun gun incapacitates people through a 50,000-volt jolt of electricity. Police say they are a needed nonlethal alternative to firearms.

"The changes ... make it clear that, in certain instances, including instances where the Taser has been used in the past, it's not appropriate to use a Taser," RCMP Commissioner William Elliott told a news conference.

"It's not a total rewrite of our policy, nor is it anything akin to suggesting that Tasers are not an appropriate tool. They are and continue to be ... a very useful tool," he added, saying further changes in policy were possible.

The Mounties said police would only use Tasers when a subject was "displaying combative behaviors or is being actively resistant". Elliott said he could not define what constituted combative behavior.

Earlier this week, the RCMP complaints commission said Tasers should be reclassified as an "impact weapon" that would allow their use only when the target was an immediate threat.

"Front line staff ... will be held accountable for the actions that they take, including the actions with respect to the deployment of Tasers," Elliott said.

Double-parked senior says RCMP officer to be disciplined for using taser on him

December 14, 2007
CBC News

An RCMP officer in Kelowna, B.C., will be disciplined for using a Taser on a 68-year-old stroke victim over a parking violation, CBC News has learned. John Peters admitted he first drove away when a police officer tried to give him a ticket for double parking. John Peters, 68, says he raised his arm trying to protect himself before the RCMP officer shot him with the Taser. (CBC) Peters told CBC News he then stopped a short distance away and was stunned twice with a Taser by the RCMP officer while still sitting in his car.

The man suffers from a neurological disorder that makes it difficult for him to speak when he is stressed.

RCMP Supt. Bill McKinnon apologized Thursday and said the officer will be disciplined, Peter's told CBC News on Friday morning.

RCMP 'changes' to taser policy represents little change at all: watchdog

December 14, 2007
The Canadian Press

OTTAWA - The RCMP says it will restrict its use of Tasers after a report criticized the national police force for firing the stun guns too often, but the report's author says the "new" policy represents little change at all. The Mounties say they will more clearly define use-of-force terminology and limit Taser use to situations where "a subject is displaying combative behaviours or is being actively resistant."

RCMP bosses issued an operational bulletin outlining what they trumpeted as policy changes. They plan to include them in future Taser training. But a spokesman for the report's author says the measures are no different than what have always guided RCMP Taser use and will do little to curb what the report described as "usage creep." "We are less than happy with the (new policy) because they don't deal with the fact that we wanted to classify it as an impact weapon for combative situations," said Nelson Kalil, spokesman for the RCMP Commission of Complaints. "It's encouraging that they recognize that it's inappropriate to use in passive resistance, that's one step. But the matter of where it is on the force continuum . . . we don't think they go far enough. "We're disappointed with the (measures) because they don't follow our recommendations."

RCMP Commissioner William Elliott told a news conference Friday the changes "more clearly define the use of force terminology and make it clearer that in certain instances - including, I would say, instances where the Taser has been used in the past - it's not appropriate to use." "The reality is," he added, "that assessing situations on the ground do include a certain amount of subjectivity."

The RCMP watchdog recommended the Mounties drastically curb their increasing reliance on electronic stun guns. Paul Kennedy's 53-page report said the 50,000-volt Tasers should only be used when suspects are "combative" or pose a risk of "death or grievous bodily harm. The RCMP recognizes the need to take action on the issues raised in the report and is committed to making immediate improvements in a number of areas," Elliott said in a statement.

But police definitions of the behaviours cited in the policy announced Friday suggest little change from those Kennedy cited as problematic:

-Combative behaviour is when a person threatens force by punching, kicking, clenching fists or otherwise intends to hurt or resist arrest, or verbally or physically threatens assault. A person who physically attacks an officer or tries by other means to injure them is considered combative.

-Resistant behaviour is when, for example, a person pulls away, pushes away or runs away. A person who continues to drive away, or drives evasively after an officer has activated the police vehicle's emergency equipment is displaying resistant behaviour.

"It is important to note that a police officer's judgment plays an important role," said RCMP Sgt. Sylvie Tremblay.

Tom Engel, an Edmonton lawyer who represents Taser victims, says the policy represents no significant change. Active resistance can be as little as a suspect pulling back their hand when a police officer reaches for it, he said. "The RCMP have decided to do absolutely nothing," said Engel, chairman of the policing committee for the Criminal Trial Lawyers Association of Alberta. He said he doubts most Canadians realize just how low the threshold is for a police officer to use a Taser. "I'm sure that if the average person knew that just simply moving to avoid physical control would justify the use of the Taser, they'd probably have grave concerns," he said.

Kennedy's report was commissioned amid an international furor surrounding the case of Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski, who died Oct. 14 after he was repeatedly Tasered and pinned to the floor by RCMP officers at Vancouver International Airport.

Taser use "has expanded to include subduing resistant subjects who do not pose a threat of grievous bodily harm or death and on whom the use of lethal force would not be an option," Kennedy said in an interim report released Wednesday. He said the Taser restrictions should apply in cases of so-called "excited delirium," in which suspects are in a heart-pounding state of agitation. Excited delirium has been repeatedly blamed for sudden deaths after Tasers were used.

Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day asked Kennedy last month to look at how RCMP use the electronic guns, which can be fired from a distance of several metres or applied at close range. The interim report stopped short of calling for a moratorium their use. Kennedy, whose full report is due next summer, said the RCMP should consider Tasers an "impact weapon" rather than an intermediate tool such as pepper spray or a baton.

Said Kalil: "We'll continue to work with them and hope that they will see things our way." Mounties have fired the electronic guns over 3,000 times since their introduction in December 2001. Yet Kennedy found no annual report has been produced, nor has the police force thoroughly examined statistical information on Taser use in developing policy. In keeping with Kennedy's recommendations, the Mounties will enhance their Taser data base, establish more robust reporting and analysis, and file quarterly and annual reports on all use-of-force incidents, including those involving Tasers. The force will continue working with medical experts and police organizations "to examine medical, legal, and social aspects of use-of-force issues, including (Tasers), and their impact on persons suffering from excited delirium syndrome."

Some 2,800 Tasers are being used by more than 9,100 RCMP members across the country. Dziekanski is recorded as the 18th person in Canada to die in recent years after being hit by a Taser. Taser International, makers of the device, stress that the weapons have never been directly blamed for a death.

Alberta cops get new taser policy

December 14, 2007
By The Canadian Press

EDMONTON — Alberta has issued new police guidelines on Tasers, but the changes appear timid compared to what’s being recommended by a national agency that oversees the RCMP. The RCMP public complaints commission issued a report this week that says the Mounties should curb the use of Tasers to the point where they’re used only if there’s a threat of death or serious injury.

But Alberta’s new Taser policy, which takes effect immediately, allows police to use Tasers when suspects resist being arrested or even threaten to resist arrest.

Lawyer Tom Engel, who has several clients who were zapped by police Tasers, says Alberta is sending the wrong message to police about the use of Tasers, which can be deadly in some cases. “I think the public is getting the impression, and rightly so, that officers are resorting to the use of Tasers in circumstances where it’s not justified,” Engel said in an interview. Engel points to the case of Randy Fryingpan, who was Tasered six times by Edmonton police in 2002. The judge in the case later stayed a minor charge against Fryingpan and accused police of cruel and unusual treatment.

Solicitor General Fred Lindsay is aware of the Fryingpan case and other public complaints about Taser use, but says he doesn’t think police in Alberta are using Tasers too often. “Without a hard policy, then that’s when you start getting these incidents where someone is Tasered 13 times and perhaps they should only have been Tasered four times,” Lindsay said Thursday in an interview. Lindsay says up until now, police forces across Alberta had a myriad of Taser policies. But he says all police in the province will now follow the new policy, including the RCMP.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Edmonton Police Service reacts to RCMP report on tasers

December 13, 2007
CHED Radio

Constable Tassone, answer me this: why were a jaywalker, a sleeping man and a passed out teenager, to name a few, tasered by Edmonton Police if the recommendations made by the RCMP are already EPS policy??

EDMONTON/630 CHED - Constable Joe Tassone is a Taser instructor with the Police Safety Unit. He has taken a look at the report says most of the recommendations are already EPS policy. For that reason he says the report will not likely have an impact on the way officers deploy the weapons. "As far as incorporating any of those measures, we are going to stick with what we have currently," Tassone said. "It's very similar." With all the recent negative attention the Taser has received -- Tassone says he has fielded more questions from officers but for the most part it has had little impact.

New Brunswick to have new policy on Taser use by end of January

December 13, 2007
The Canadian Press

FREDERICTON - New Brunswick's public safety minister says the province will have a new policy on Taser use by the end of January. John Foran says his department is now looking at suggestions submitted earlier this week by the New Brunswick Association of Chiefs of Police. The association's president, Barry MacKnight of Fredericton, says the generic policy will provide a guideline, but each police department can adapt it for their own use. He says current policies for Taser use are already quite consistent across the province. MacKnight says the association and the department meet on a regular basis to review policy, and are not reacting specifically to recent deaths that have followed the use of the stun gun. MacKnight admits he's concerned his officers might question their use of a Taser during a confrontation, but has told them to trust their training and instincts.

PEI Premier wants review of taser usage

December 13, 2007

HALIFAX — Premier Robert Ghiz has asked his attorney general to review the use of Tasers in Prince Edward Island. Ghiz made the comments during a closing news conference at the Council of Atlantic Premiers meeting in Halifax Wednesday.
That comes as the RCMP’s watchdog is recommending the force restrict the use of Taser stun guns. The Commission for Complaints Against the RCMP says the 50,000-volt Taser should only be used when suspects are “combative’’ or pose a risk of “death or grievous bodily harm’’ to an officer, themselves or the public. The commission’s interim report on Tasers, released Wednesday, stops short of calling for a moratorium on the widely used stun guns. The RCMP and Charlottetown City Police use Tasers in Prince Edward Island. The Summerside Police Department does not have Tasers. “Our attorney general is following the situation, obviously,’’ said Ghiz. The premier said he will not go as far as Newfoundland and call for a moratorium on their use — at least not yet.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Recommendations from the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP

December 12, 2007

In today's Interim Taser Report to the Canadian Government, the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP recommends, for immediate implementation, the following:

Recommendation 1: The RCMP immediately restrict the use of the conducted energy weapon by classifying it as an "impact weapon" in the use of force model and allow its use only in those situations where an individual is behaving in a manner classified as being "combative" or posing a risk of "death or grievous bodily harm" to the officer, themselves or the general public. This includes use of the device in both push stun and probe modes.

Recommendation 2: The RCMP only use the conducted energy weapon in situations where an individual appears to be experiencing the condition(s) of excited delirium when the behaviour is combative or poses a risk of death or grievous bodily harm to the officer, the individual or the general public.

Recommendation 3: The RCMP immediately communicate this change in use of force classification to all members.

Recommendation 4: The RCMP immediately redesign the conducted energy weapon training members receive to reflect the classification of the device as an "impact weapon".

Recommendation 5: The RCMP immediately amend the conducted energy weapon policy by instituting the requirement that re-certification occur every two years.

Recommendation 6: The RCMP immediately appoint a National Use of Force Coordinator responsible at a minimum for the following:

National direction and coordination of all use of force techniques and equipment;
Development of national policies, procedures and training for all use of force techniques and equipment;

Implementation of national policies, procedures and training for all use of force techniques and equipment;

Monitoring of compliance with national policies, procedures and training for all use of force techniques and equipment;

Creation, maintenance and population of data bases related to the deployment of use of force techniques and equipment; and

Analyses of trends in the use of all use of force techniques and equipment.

Recommendation 7: The RCMP immediately institute and enforce stricter reporting requirements on conducted energy weapon use to ensure that appropriate records are completed and forwarded to the national data base after every use of the weapon.

Recommendation 8: The RCMP produce a Quarterly Report on the use of the conducted energy weapon that will be distributed to the Minister of Public Safety, the Commissioner of the RCMP, the Chair of the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP and all Commanding Officers in each Division that details at a minimum:

Number and nature of incidents in which the conducted energy weapon is used;

Type of use (i.e. push stun, probe, threat of use, de-holster, etc.);

Number of instances medical care was required after use;

Nature of medical concerns or conditions after use;

Number of members and instructors trained;

Number of members and instructors that successfully passed training and number that were unsuccessful at training; and

Number of members and instructors that successfully re-certified and number that were unsuccessful at re-certification.

The Quarterly Report will be produced for a period of three years effective immediately.

Recommendation 9: The RCMP produce an Annual Report on the use of the conducted energy weapon that will be distributed to the Minister of Public Safety, the Commissioner of the RCMP, the Chair of the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP and all Commanding Officers in each Division that is comprehensive of all Quarterly Reports for that year, and at a minimum details:

All data required and analyzed in the Quarterly Report;

Justifications for suggested or actual changes in policy;

Justification for suggested or actual changes in training;

An analysis of trends of use;

An analysis of the relationship between use and officer/public safety; and

An analysis of the relationship between use and suggested changes in policy and training.

The Annual Report will continue to be produced after the time period for the Quarterly Report has expired.

Recommendation 10: The RCMP continue to be engaged in conducted energy weapon related research looking at medical, legal and social aspects of the weapon's use. This includes focusing at a minimum on:

CEW use, the infliction of pain and the measurement of such pain;

Appropriateness of CEW application in contrast to other forms of use of force interventions;

CEW use against vulnerable or at-risk populations;

Alternate use of force/intervention options when dealing with people who present with symptoms of excited delirium;

CEW use, excited delirium and sudden or unexpected death within the context of a rural setting or Northern policing; and

Connections between CEW use, excited delirium and the possibility of death.

Curb use of tasers to dangerous situations only, says RCMP watchdog

December 12, 2007
The Canadian Press

Had the Vancouver police only been allowed to use the taser on "combative" people, they would NOT have been allowed to taser my brother who was - at most - "resistant" and I believe he would still be alive today. The THIRTEEN police officers who were there might have been able to come up with other alternatives. Nor, I suspect, would many of the other police have used tasers on people who subsequently died.

OTTAWA - The RCMP watchdog says Mounties should drastically curb their increasing reliance on Taser stun guns to guard against "usage creep."

The Commission for Complaints Against the RCMP says the 50,000-volt Taser should only be used in touch-stun or firing mode when suspects are "combative" or pose a risk of "death or grievous bodily harm." Paul Kennedy, head of the commission, cited "usage creep" as a major concern warranting immediate action.

Taser use "has expanded to include subduing resistant subjects who do not pose a threat of grievous bodily harm or death and on whom the use of lethal force would not be an option," he said in an interim report released Wednesday. His 53-page report says the Taser restrictions should apply in cases of so-called "excited delirium" in which suspects are in a heart-pounding state of agitation. Excited delirium has been repeatedly blamed to explain the sudden deaths of several people soon after being zapped.

Kennedy's interim report stops short of calling for a moratorium on the widely used stun guns. But it recommends revamped Taser training, stricter reporting requirements and more research on the controversial devices.

It follows an international furor over the death of Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski. The 40-year-old man died Oct. 14 after he was repeatedly Tasered and pinned to the floor by RCMP officers at Vancouver International Airport. Dziekanski is recorded as the 18th person in Canada to die in recent years after being hit by a Taser. Amnesty International says at least 280 people have died since July 2001 in the United States.

Taser International, makers of the device, stress that the weapons have never been directly blamed for a death.

Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day asked Kennedy last month to look at how RCMP use the electronic guns, which can be fired from a distance of several metres or applied at close range. "I will review this interim report before commenting further," Day said Wednesday. "Our government takes this matter seriously and recognizes that Canadians must have full confidence in their national police force."

Kennedy, whose full report is due next summer, says Tasers should be considered an "impact weapon" rather than an intermediate tool such as pepper spray or a baton. The six-level police force protocol currently begins with officer presence and builds in intensity to: verbal commands; empty-hand control techniques; use of pepper spray, batons or Tasers; less-lethal force such as weapons that fire bean bags or rubber bullets; and finally deadly force.

Some 2,800 Tasers are being used by more than 9,100 RCMP members across the country. Mounties have wielded the electronic guns over 3,000 times since their introduction in December 2001. Yet Kennedy found no annual report has been produced, nor has the police force thoroughly examined its statistical information on Taser use in developing related policy.

"So clearly from my perspective more can be done," Kennedy said in an interview. "I'd rather see things done yesterday, but if they're done today I'm happy. "We live in a very dynamic situation and it's never too late to do something. And I think this is a window of opportunity for the police to look at this and say, 'OK, these are solid recommendations and let's do it."'

Tony Cannavino, head of the Canadian Police Association representing 57,000 members, isn't so sure. He wondered how Kennedy can substantiate his "usage creep" claims when RCMP Taser data have not been fully assessed. He also suggested Kennedy's recommendations are too vague and could wind up putting police officers and suspects more at risk. "If you use a baton (instead of a Taser) you're going to injure the person," he said. "How do you define 'combative?' What is 'grievous bodily harm?' That needs more explanation."

An analysis of 563 incidents by The Canadian Press found that three in four suspects Tasered by the RCMP between 2002 and 2005 were unarmed. Several reports suggest a pattern of stun-gun use as a handy tool to keep drunk or rowdy suspects in line rather than to handle major threats.

RCMP Sgt. Sylvie Tremblay, a force spokeswoman, said Wednesday the Mounties will study the report "in order to prepare a response and appropriate action."

On Tuesday, the head of the RCMP said preliminary reviews suggest training and policy are adequate. RCMP Commissioner William Elliott said a force-wide order to stop using the electronic guns could compromise the safety of both officers and the public. Elliott noted the Taser is just one method of controlling a suspect, but he made it clear he considers the stun gun a potentially valuable option. "And if that tool's not available then that in and of itself could result in a situation where the individual being apprehended, or the officer, might well be injured."

Kennedy's report also calls for:

- Recertifying officers who use Tasers every two years instead of three.

- Creation of an RCMP national "use-of-force" co-ordinator to oversee policies, techniques and equipment.

- Stricter reporting requirements to ensure complete records of Taser use.

- Quarterly and annual RCMP reports on use of the electronic guns.

Since 2000, Amnesty International Canada has called for a suspension of Taser use pending a full independent study of its effects. But spokesman Alex Neve was still pleased with much of what Kennedy recommended.

"Tightening up where the Taser fits on the use-of-force continuum is vital," he said. "We are not against use of force. And we're not necessarily against the Taser. We've said, at the very least, if governments aren't prepared to go ahead with a moratorium, they should ensure that the Taser is the second-last stop on the use-of-force continuum - that officers are only reaching for it when their next choice would be to reach for the gun."

B.C. Civil Liberties Association president Jason Gratl, who advocates a moratorium on Tasers, said the RCMP must craft a policy for at-risk groups who are more prone to be jolted by police before they continue using the devices. "The mentally ill, drug addicts, people with significant health problems are more likely to be Tasered. Those groups are at risk. And we don't know enough about how the Taser works on those groups to design a policy that keeps them safe."

B.C. Solicitor General John Les said the Kennedy report is in line with his own thinking that "Tasers are a useful addition to enforcement tools . . . but that they should be used correctly and in the right circumstances." Les said the commissioner of a public inquiry into the Dziekanski death will decide whether to use the Kennedy report in the probe that gets underway in the New Year.

Read the Executive Summary.