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Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Police president angered by Taser comments

November 28, 2007
CTV.ca News Staff

The head of the Canadian Police Association has blasted Liberal Sen. Colin Kenny for straying outside of his "area of expertise," after the senator told CTV's Canada AM there should be a moratorium on Taser use until officers are properly trained. Tony Cannavino issued an open letter to Kenny on behalf of the association's 57,000 members, to express his "extreme displeasure and disappointment" over his comments on Conducted Energy Devices.

"It is unfortunate that you have chosen to venture outside of your mandate as Chair of the Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence, to comment on matters which are apparently, from your comments, beyond your area of expertise and understanding," wrote Cannavino. "It is irresponsible of you to suggest, without any regard for the body of scientific knowledge concerning these devices, nor any understanding of police training and procedures related to same, that a moratorium should be imposed on the use of CEDs."

Kenny, chair of the Senate defence and national security committee, said Tuesday that Tasers should only be fired by officers when they are threatened or in danger. He also said police may wish to consider using a different type of stun gun that records a visual record of its use. "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," Kenny told Canada AM.

He emphasized that 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.

RCMP officers used a Taser on Dziekanski within 25 seconds of confronting him and he died soon after, although the cause of death remains unknown.

Cannavino claimed Kenny's comments suggested officers were improperly using Tasers. "Those incidents which have given rise to recent public attention are the subject of multiple layers of investigation and oversight, and the public can be assured that the interests of all Canadians will be accounted for in these processes," he wrote. "Furthermore, the officers involved in these incidents have the right, in our democracy, to the presumption of innocence pending the outcome of these inquiries. Your commentary only serves to undermine this presumption."

The RCMP officers involved in the Dziekanski incident have been reassigned.

The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) released its report into the Dziekanski incident last Monday and there are at least eight more investigations underway, including a public inquiry launched by the B.C. government and a federal inquiry into the RCMP's use of Tasers.

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