RCMP officer defends Tasers as an 'important tool'
CTV.ca News Staff
Published Thursday, December 13, 2007 10:56AM EST
An RCMP officer defended Tasers as an "important tool" on Thursday following an interim report recommending restrictions on the use of the conducted energy weapon.
The Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP made 10 recommendations Wednesday 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 Tasers 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.
Staff Sgt. Ken Legge told Canada AM on Thursday that the report's recommendations and the possibility that officers could lose an "important tool" causes concern.
"This is an important tool in the tool belt of our members and in our intervention model and to see this restricted further or moved in our model causes us some concern, especially where this is an interim report," he said.
Police force protocol currently has six-levels which escalate in intensity depending on the situation. They include:
- officer presence;
- 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;
- deadly force.
Legge said weapons within the same category as Tasers can also cause significant damage to a combative individual.
"There's often potentially more damage done by a steel baton with a combative individual as opposed to a brief electric shock to bring an individual under control and take control of them," Legge said from Fredericton.
The report was compiled on the request of Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day, who called for it 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. His death sparked international criticism on the use of Tasers and prompted the airport to announce announced more than $1 million in upgrades in effort to prevent a similar tragedy.
Legge said any form of public outcry is "always important to us," but he cautioned that Canadians shouldn't "prematurely make judgments."
"We're here to protect the Canadian people, that's our role and obviously we need the support of the Canadian people to do that. But, it's also important that we don't judge hatefully on just on opinion or a quick review of an incident," he said.
"There is research being done as we speak by a variety of agencies and all of this will come into play. The real question is whether the conductive energy weapon actually causes death or not."
He added "it would be a mistake if we moved too hastily on this."
The report does not recommend an outright moratorium on Taser use by the RCMP, saying that the weapon "has a role in certain situations."
The CPC is expected to release its final report next summer.