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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Canadian senator calls for moratorium on RCMP taser use

A moratorium on Taser use by the RCMP should be imposed until everyone is assured that officers issued the weapons are properly trained, says Sen. Colin Kenny. The appropriate time to use them "is ... when someone is threatened or someone is in danger," the chair of the Senate defence and national security committee told Canada AM on Tuesday.

Kenny said police may wish to consider a different type of Taser. "There are Tasers that actually record a picture of what the Taser's aiming at, and they record it on a little tape and they record the sound." This would make the officer think twice before using the Taser and would give a reviewing officer a record of what happened, he said.

Kenny said he was speaking in general terms and not specifically about the case of Robert Dziekanski, the Polish immigrant who died following a confrontation with police at Vancouver International Airport in the early-morning hours of Oct. 14. The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) released its report into the Dziekanski affair on Monday. Alain Jolicoeur, president of the federal agency, said it would move to improve translation services at the airport and make changes in the way it deals with international travellers. The CBSA will also extend video surveillance of the areas under its control within the airport, he said.

Kenny said he's reviewed the five recommendations. "The most obvious concern to me is when the individual came to primary inspection, there was clearly a communications problem. And at that point, there should have been an escort to take the individual through to secondary," he said. Dziekanski -- who came to Canada to be with his mother, Zofia Cisowski of Kamloops, B.C. -- went through primary inspection at 4:09 p.m. on Oct. 13. He went in the direction of the secondary inspection area, but then ended up in the baggage carousel area, where he remained for more than six hours. Cisowski's husband made inquiries about Dziekanski at 7 p.m., but CBSA officials said no one fitting Dziekanski's description was found.

Dziekanski tried to leave the baggage area at 10:40 p.m. A border services officer directed him to the secondary inspection area. By that time, his mother had already left for Kamloops. Joliceur said an officer who spoke a "limited" amount of Polish was available to help Dziekanski; however, that individual was never called on again during the evening. Dziekanski cleared secondary inspection at 11:30 p.m.

A sweating, distressed Dziekanski started acting out at about 1:20 a.m. Airport security called the RCMP, and officers used a Taser to shock Dziekanski at least twice. The 40-year-old lost consciousness and died.

"I don't know how customs can clear somebody to come into the country if they can't communicate with them," Kenny said. There are translation services available off-site, he said. The CBSA report is one of at least eight reviews into the Dziekanski case, including a public inquiry launched by British Columbia and a federal inquiry into the RCMP's use of Tasers.

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