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Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Ottawa police taser teenager behaving erratically in traffic

December 26, 2007
The Canadian Press

OTTAWA - Ottawa police are defending the use of a Taser last week to subdue a teenager who was acting strangely in traffic.

Ottawa police were called last Thursday after a 17-year-old boy was found "acting in a strange manner" on a busy street near his east-end high school, said Staff Sgt. Peter Couillard. Police incapacitated the teen with a stun gun and took him into custody where he received "the attention that he required" before being released, Couillard said. "It's a very zero incident to us," he said. "From the police standpoint, it's just an average everyday call." Couillard added that if Ottawa police issued a news release every time a Taser was used, "we'd be writing them 10 times a day."

Every time an officer uses a Taser, a report is made to the force's Professional Development Centre, which monitors use of force options. When asked if it was necessary to use the stun gun on the teen, Couillard defended the move. "There's a lot of factors that come into play. You have to be acting in an aggressive manner and from there we figure it out as to what's the best method to take control of the subject in everybody's best interest," he said. "What he was doing was incorrect, and he was taken into custody with the appropriate manners, and he was provided the attention that he required."

The use of the stun guns has been under growing public scrutiny since the case of Robert Dziekanski, the Polish immigrant who died shortly after being shocked with a Taser and then manhandled by police.

The company that manufactures Tasers stresses the devices have never been directly blamed for a death and it has defended them in several lawsuits.

On December 27th, an article in the Ottawa Citizen, entitled "Taser remark taken out of context", said the following: An Ottawa police sergeant says his remark that the force's use of Tasers is very common -- as frequent as 10 times a day -- was taken out of context. The Canadian Press yesterday quoted Sgt. Peter Couillard as saying if Ottawa police issued a news release every time a Taser was used in the city, "we'd be writing them 10 times a day." Speaking to the Citizen yesterday afternoon, Sgt. Couillard didn't deny using the phrase, but said what he told the reporter was "more along the lines of, 'If we used it 10 times a day, we'd have to do press releases.'" The sergeant went on to say the Taser is "a tool that will be used, there's no doubt about it." He was responding to the news agency's inquiry regarding a story that appeared in yesterday's Citizen about the use of a Taser last week to subdue a teenager who was acting strangely in traffic. He said the use of the Taser was "similar to using pepper spray ... We go for a week and don't use it, then if we have a Saturday night in the Market that's stupid, we might use it a couple of times," he said.

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