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Thursday, November 15, 2007

Newfoundland Constabulary halts taser use

November 15, 2007
CBC News

The Royal Newfoundland Constabulary has suspended its use of Tasers, following a fatal incident at Vancouver's airport. The RNC, which has for several years equipped its officers with Tasers as a presumably safer alternative to firearms, had posted a tender two weeks ago to buy more of the weapons. However, the force — which polices urban areas in Newfoundland and Labrador, including metropolitan St. John's — is reassessing that plan.

"We put that on hold, pending the outcome of the review in Vancouver, just because this incident has occurred," said Const. Shawn O'Reilly. "We think it would be prudent to wait for that review to see how we move forward."

The RNC has also decided, for the time being, to not use Tasers in the field, even though officers have seldom used them anyway. The revelation comes in the wake of Wednesday's release of a video recording that shows RCMP officers subduing Robert Dziekanski at Vancouver International Airport on Oct. 14. Dziekanski died after being stunned with at least two hits from a Taser.

The RNC had begun using Tasers after an officer shot and killed Corner Brook resident Darryl Power, who had had critical mental health problems, during an October 2000 confrontation. A judicial inquiry — which examined the Power case and a similar fatal shooting involving the RCMP — recommended in its December 2003 report that Tasers be used as an alternative to lethal force.

Bob Buckingham, a St. John's criminal defence lawyer, said the RNC is making the right move. "There hasn't been a need exhibited for them. That's one thing," Buckingham said. "Secondly, use of them across North America has produced unnecessary deaths because [police] don't know how to properly use them."

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