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Friday, November 23, 2007

Moratorium imposed on taser use at Yukon jail in light of recent deaths

November 23, 2007
CBC News

The Yukon Justice Department has imposed a moratorium on using Tasers at the Whitehorse jail in light of recent deaths involving the stun gun elsewhere in Canada. Superintendent Phil Perrin said that because guards at the jail do not use firearms, they have been able to use pepper spray or Tasers if they need a weapon.

The Taser "would be considered probably the most severe tool that we have … on the use-of-force spectrum," Perrin said Thursday. The decision to introduce the temporary moratorium comes as numerous reviews of Taser use are underway across Canada.

"No one wants to have to access a tool that they're using with uncertainty about, you know, what the outcome of its use might be," Perrin said.

A Nova Scotia man died Thursday morning after Halifax police jolted him with a Taser the day before, although police say it's too early to link that death with the Taser use. The day before, the British Columbia Coroners Office announced it scheduled an inquest for next May into the death of Robert Dziekanski, a Polish immigrant who died Oct. 14 after he was stunned by an RCMP Taser at Vancouver International Airport.

Meanwhile, a retired soldier in Manitoba is suing the RCMP for using a Taser on him during a scuffle at the psychiatric ward of a hospital, where he was seeking treatment.

In Whitehorse, Perrin said jail guards have used a Taser only once since it was introduced three years ago. Just the threat alone of being jolted with 50,000 volts of electricity is usually enough to make inmates comply with guards, he added. "There are a number of cases where the individual seeing that the weapon has been drawn will make the decision not to act out any further," Perrin said.

A review of the one time the Taser was fired determined that its use was inappropriate, he said.

The moratorium is temporary, pending recommendations from numerous investigations by the RCMP, the federal government, the B.C. government and other jurisdictions. Perrin said his guards won't be missing the weapon in the meantime in light of the recent deaths. There is still no word from Whitehorse RCMP about their use of the taser in Yukon communities. The RCMP told CBC News that they're waiting for word from Ottawa.

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