RCMP drafts wide-rang­ing changes to Taser pol­icy fol­low­ing crit­i­cal re­ports

Cape Breton Post - - NATIONAL -

OTTAWA (CP) — The RCMP plans a sweep­ing over­haul of its Taser pol­icy fol­low­ing rec­om­men­da­tions from in­quiries prompted by the death of Pol­ish im­mi­grant Robert Dziekan­ski.

An in­ter­nal brief­ing note ob­tained by The Cana­dian Press says the Moun­ties’ pol­icy cen­tre on use of force rec­om­mends four dozen spe­cific changes on stun gun use.

The note pre­pared for RCMP Com­mis­sioner William El­liott states that the force’s re­view in­volved ex­am­i­na­tion of two re­ports sparked by the death of Dziekan­ski, re­cent changes to Taser pol­icy in Al­berta and dis­cus­sions within the na­tional po­lice force.

“Once the fi­nal (Taser) pol­icy is ap­proved, there will be an im­me­di­ate im­pact on op­er­a­tions and train­ing which will have to re­flect the pol­icy changes,” says the Novem­ber note, re­leased un­der the Ac­cess to In­for­ma­tion Act.

The brief­ing note states that al­though there has been pre­lim­i­nary con­sul­ta­tion within the force and with part­ner agen­cies, “fur­ther con­sul­ta­tions will be re­quired in or­der to fi­nal­ize the draft pol­icy be­fore be­ing sub­mit- ted to the com­mis­sioner for fi­nal ap­proval.”

Dziekan­ski, who hoped to join his mother in Bri­tish Columbia, died in Oc­to­ber 2007 af­ter be­ing hit with a Moun­tie Taser at the Van­cou­ver air­port. A video of the con­fronta­tion taken by a fel­low air passenger, in which a con­fused, sweaty Dziekan­ski is zapped re­peat­edly, was seen by mil­lions of peo­ple — trig­ger­ing pub­lic out­rage and a fun­da­men­tal re-ex­am­i­na­tion of stun gun use.

Over the last eight years, Tasers have be­come an in­creas­ingly com­mon tool in the arse­nal of po­lice ser­vices.

Law-en­force­ment agen­cies say the tools, which can be shot from a dis­tance or used in up-close touch-stun mode, are of­ten a prefer­able al­ter­na­tive to pep­per spray or ba­tons when deal­ing with vi­o­lent sus­pects.

Crit­ics say po­lice are us­ing the pow­er­ful de­vices to make merely unco-op­er­a­tive peo­ple com­ply with or­ders even when they don’t pose a threat to of­fi­cers or by­standers.

El­liott main­tains that the Taser is a use­ful tool for RCMP of­fi­cers when used prop­erly.

Af­ter looking into the Dziekan­ski case, Paul Kennedy, then-chair­man of the Com­mis­sion for Pub­lic Com­plaints Against the RCMP, said use of the Taser was “pre­ma­ture and in­ap­pro­pri­ate.” He called on the Moun­ties to fur­ther clar­ify for their mem­bers and the pub­lic when a stun gun should be fired.

For­mer judge Thomas Braid­wood, who led a B.C. pub­lic in­quiry on Taser use, said while the guns can kill or gravely in­jure peo­ple, they can also be a valu­able op­tion for of­fi­cers.

In an ini­tial re­port, Braid­wood said po­lice should use a Taser only when some­one is caus­ing harm to an­other or there’s a pos­si­bil­ity they will im­mi­nently do so.

The B.C. gov­ern­ment or­dered all po­lice in the prov­ince to se­verely re­strict stun gun use, but the RCMP said it needed time to re­view Braid­wood’s re­port.

The RCMP brief­ing note to El­liott says a pol­icy “re­vi­sion doc­u­ment is be­ing fi­nal­ized for re­view by the com­mis­sioner that con­tains 48 spe­cific rec­om­mended (Taser) pol­icy changes.”

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