Canadian police groups defend Taser use
The Canadian Police Association says all officers should be allowed to carry Tasers and receive regular training to ensure they are using them correctly and in appropriate situations.
The CPA and the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police released their joint position paper on the use of Tasers in Ottawa on Tuesday.
The groups also recommended that provincial governments set a uniform standard for training, testing and reporting incidents when Tasers are used.
"This would assure (law enforcement) agencies, their oversight bodies and the public that the police are exercising due diligence in the use of conducted energy weapons," CPA president Charles Momy told reporters.
Momy and Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police Vice-president Tom Kaye maintained that there is no evidence that a Taser has directly caused the death of a suspect.
They said that 150 studies have failed to find a link between Tasers and deaths, but did not make reference to any specific research.
However, earlier this month, the RCMP released new guidelines for the use of Tasers, acknowledging that they may increase the risk of death for a suspect who is agitated.
The new policy restricts the use of Tasers to subdue a suspect when the safety of officers or the public is threatened.
The RCMP guidelines were announced as a public inquiry is underway in B.C. to probe the death of Robert Dziekanski, a Polish man who became disoriented at the Vancouver airport.
Dziekanski became agitated after spending hours at the airport looking for his mother, who was waiting to pick him up.
He died after being subdued by RCMP officers, including being hit by a Taser.
Despite police claims that Tasers are safe, a team of Chicago researchers who Tasered pigs in 2006 found that each animal either died or suffered heart problems after being hit in the chest with two 40-second jolts.
Both Momy and Kaye said that the general public has been misinformed about the potential dangers of Tasers, and cited examples when people have been subdued when they were threatening to commit suicide.
Both men said officers are already authorized to use force when necessary, and called Tasers a valuable public safety tool.
"The CEW is used in situations when there is an imminent need to control, and when other options have been ruled out by a police officer," Momy said.
However, they also cautioned that there is the risk of injury or even death associated with other forms of force, including batons and pepper spray.