Curb use of Tasers, says RCMP watchdog
Published Wednesday, December 12, 2007 5:53PM EST
Last Updated Friday, May 18, 2012 7:20PM EDT
The RCMP should only use Tasers as an alternative to lethal force, not as an "intermediate" device such as pepper spray, according to an interim report.
"We have a fine police force, but we have to realize this is an instrument that has been used and we have to make sure the use is appropriate," Paul Kennedy, chair of the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP (CPC), told CTV's Mike Duffy Live.
The CPC makes 10 recommendations for immediate implementation, including that the RCMP "immediately restrict the use of the conducted energy weapon (CEW)" by classifying it as an "impact weapon."
The change would mean it would only be used when an individual is being "combative" or posing a risk of "death or grievous bodily harm" to the officer, themselves or the general public, says the report.
Currently, RCMP policy classifies Tasers as an "intermediate" device, placing it in the same category as pepper spray.
That classification allows Mounties to use the weapon when someone is deemed "resistant."
As a result, the Commission feels the weapon can be used "earlier than reasonable."
"We looked at the history of the introduction of the Taser in Canada by the RCMP, and we looked at its subsequent use and policy changes, and reflected on our own experience in the past number of years with cases that had been appealed to us," said Kennedy.
"What became fairly clear is the policy that had initially been in place in 2001, which (was to use the Taser on) people who were resisting arrest, suicidal, combative and so on, had been changed in 2004. Instead of being used as a less-than-lethal alternative, it would be used as an intermediate device in the same range as pepper spray.
"We looked at the data, and it didn't seem strong enough to warrant moving (the Taser) from one level to another).
The report does not recommend an outright moratorium on Taser use by the RCMP, saying that the weapon "has a role in certain situations."
However, it calls for more accurate and meaningful data to be collected on Taser use, saying current policy has evolved without "adequate, if any, reference to the realities of the weapon's use by the RCMP."
It also calls for proper training programs for Mounties on when to use the devices.
Kennedy compiled the report at the request of Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day.
"The most powerful asset in a police officer's arsenal is public support. Anything that erodes that support reduces the ability of officers to successfully perform their duties on behalf of the public," Kennedy said in a press release.
"Because of this dynamic relationship, effective policing policies are critical to ensuring public confidence in the accountability of both individual members and the RCMP as a whole."
Day called for the report following the death of Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski last October. Dziekanski died after being Tasered by police during a confrontation at the Vancouver International Airport.
In a statement Wednesday, Day said he plans to review the interim report before commenting on it.
"Our Government takes this matter seriously and recognizes that Canadians must have full confidence in their national police force," said Day. "The recommendations of Mr. Kennedy will be considered in detail and I look forward to receiving his final report, expected in the early summer 2008."
For the full list of the Commission's recommendations, click here.