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Tuesday, November 20, 2007

"Independent" reviewer named to report on RCMP Taser use

November 20, 20007
The Canadian Press

Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day has appointed the head of the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP to review Mountie use of Tasers. Paul Kennedy is "to review all RCMP protocols on the use of [stun guns] and to assess the compliance of the RCMP with these protocols" in preparing an initial report by Dec. 12, Day announced late Tuesday.

"The government of Canada takes this matter seriously and recognizes that Canadians must continue to have full confidence in their national police force."

The latest request from Day is in addition to his earlier order of an internal RCMP review of Taser procedures.

It also follows an analysis of 563 incidents by the Canadian Press that found three out of four suspects shocked by a Taser by the RCMP between 2002 and 2005 were unarmed.

Many of the reports suggest there's a pattern of using the Taser as a tool to keep drunk or unruly suspects in line rather than to defuse major threats.

Kennedy's review will include only the RCMP and not other police forces that use the 50,000-volt electronic weapons.

The federal government also plans to release a report Thursday or Friday on events leading up to Dziekanski's death. Day said the report by the Canada Border Services Agency will include recommendations on how to better deal with immigration incidents.

There has been intense speculation over what role border officials may have played. The government has not yet explained why Dziekanski remained in a secure area at the airport for 10 hours on Oct. 14 — a Sunday — before becoming so agitated that police were called.

But union leaders representing customs and immigration workers say the government's use of students and other inexperienced staff on weekends and during peak periods has been a major issue for years.

"The concern is with the over-reliance on students which, for all intents and purposes, are cheap labour which the employer turns to and has developed a dependency on," Ron Moran, national president of the Customs Excise Union, said in an interview.

He stressed that he does not wish to prejudge the results of a pending coroner's inquest and several inquiries, but said chronic staffing shortages are "something we should all be concerned about. And we'll just have to wait and see … whether that was a factor in this."

RCMP officers responding to a call about an aggressive man destroying property zapped Dziekanski with a stun gun at least twice before pinning him to the floor. He stopped breathing soon after and was pronounced dead.

The videotape shows the first Taser shock was administered within 30 seconds of the officers' arrival, with no sign of the attack on police that the RCMP spoke of before the recording went public.

The resulting international uproar spurred the B.C. government to announce an inquiry into the incident, which was caught on camera by a civilian witness.

Day said the RCMP probe into the case could result in criminal charges. He also highlighted the fact he ordered a review of Taser-use policy a few days after Dziekanski's death.

Asked Tuesday if he would apologize for the border agency's handling of Dziekanski's arrival, Day said he's sorry. "I'm sorry it happened. I'm sure all Canadians are sorry it happened.… This is a very serious incident that took place."

I can't say anything nice so I won't say anything at all - for now.

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