November 15, 2007
Manitoba has no plans to stop using Tasers in the wake of the death of a Polish immigrant who was shocked by an RCMP Taser last month at the Vancouver International Airport.
Justice Minister Dave Chomiak said it's too early to draw conclusions about the incident, which returned to the spotlight Wednesday after an eyewitness's video recording was released to the public. Chomiak said he did not think the video told the whole story, and a moratorium on the use of the devices would rob police of a useful tool.
"When you look at the alternatives to Tasers, you're faced with a situation of often lethal force or Tasers, and I think the conclusion … of both of the RCMP and municipal police forces has been that the option of Tasers is a more viable option," he said.
Chomiak said Manitoba's police services have not indicated to the Justice Department that they would like a review of the use of Tasers, and he is leaving it to them to do so.
Mounties in Manitoba have used Tasers since 2001.
RCMP spokeswoman Sgt. Line Karpish said officers receive two days of training on the weapons, and they are issued to detachments, not to individual officers. It is up to officers to determine when they should be used, she said. "Since they've been introduced, they have been widely used," she said. "Lives have been saved in critical incidents where a higher degree of force may have been required."
Manitoba's Law Enforcement Review Agency, which investigates complaints against on-duty police officers, received one complaint in 2006 and seven so far in 2007 about the use of Tasers.
Winnipeg defence lawyer Greg Brodsky said he's worried police do not realize the damage Tasers can cause. "People using Taser guns think of them the same way they do as mace or some debilitating thing, and don't appreciate the lethal consequences that are always there," he said. "You don't assume when you mace somebody that they're going to have any permanent injury, so you're not as careful. And people don't appreciate that potentially the Taser gun is not just stunning people, it … can kill them."
In light of the Vancouver death, Brodsky hopes police forces will make changes to the amount of voltage Tasers use or the guidelines for deploying them.
WELCOME to TRUTH ... not TASERS
Thursday, November 15, 2007
November 15, 2007