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Saturday, December 22, 2007

Quebec adopts measures to supervise use of tasers

December 19, 2007
Marianne White, CanWest News Service

The more things change, the more they stay the same!

QUEBEC -- Quebec is implementing new measures to better supervise the use of Tasers in the province -- including giving immediate medical attention to a person hit by a Taser -- following the recommendations of a task force.

The Public Security ministry released a report Wednesday from a government committee calling for limits on the use of Tasers, which fire 50,000 volts of electricity. At the same time the department said it had sent new guidelines to police chiefs the day before to explain when and how the weapon should be used.

Before using a Taser, police officers will have to make sure the person refuses to comply and must assess the violence potential of the suspect, the risk of injuries and if the person is armed.

The ministry said that the use of a Taser is reasonable when trying to bring under control a person who is a significant threat to himself, to the police officer or to someone else. It's also reasonable when the police officer has to protect himself against an imminent threat of physical injury.

The new guidelines specify that an agitated person should be considered a medical emergency and therefore police officers should call for medical help before doing any physical intervention.

A person who has been hit by a Taser will also have to get a medical evaluation "as soon as possible" before being taken into custody.

Public Security Minister Jacques Dupuis didn't comment directly on the report but said only the most qualified police officers were allowed to use the Tasers.

"It's not the weapon itself that is dangerous, but rather the way it's used," Dupuis told the Quebec legislature Wednesday before the report was made public.

The report also suggests police officers receive more in-depth training on the use of the weapon, a recommendation the government says it will follow.

Across the country in the past year, there have been about a dozen investigations into the use of Tasers. In Canada, Tasers have been involved in as many as 20 deaths since 2001.

In Quebec, the cases of Claudio Castagnetta, who died in Sept. two days after being hit with a Taser, and Quilem Registre, who died in Montreal after being stopped by police on suspicion of drunk driving, are being reviewed.

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