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Friday, December 14, 2007

Alberta cops get new taser policy

December 14, 2007
By The Canadian Press

EDMONTON — Alberta has issued new police guidelines on Tasers, but the changes appear timid compared to what’s being recommended by a national agency that oversees the RCMP. The RCMP public complaints commission issued a report this week that says the Mounties should curb the use of Tasers to the point where they’re used only if there’s a threat of death or serious injury.

But Alberta’s new Taser policy, which takes effect immediately, allows police to use Tasers when suspects resist being arrested or even threaten to resist arrest.

Lawyer Tom Engel, who has several clients who were zapped by police Tasers, says Alberta is sending the wrong message to police about the use of Tasers, which can be deadly in some cases. “I think the public is getting the impression, and rightly so, that officers are resorting to the use of Tasers in circumstances where it’s not justified,” Engel said in an interview. Engel points to the case of Randy Fryingpan, who was Tasered six times by Edmonton police in 2002. The judge in the case later stayed a minor charge against Fryingpan and accused police of cruel and unusual treatment.

Solicitor General Fred Lindsay is aware of the Fryingpan case and other public complaints about Taser use, but says he doesn’t think police in Alberta are using Tasers too often. “Without a hard policy, then that’s when you start getting these incidents where someone is Tasered 13 times and perhaps they should only have been Tasered four times,” Lindsay said Thursday in an interview. Lindsay says up until now, police forces across Alberta had a myriad of Taser policies. But he says all police in the province will now follow the new policy, including the RCMP.

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