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Thursday, February 14, 2008

Montreal police break rules on using stun guns

February 14, 2008
CBC News

Radio-Canada probe finds 11 improper Taser incidents

Montreal police used Taser weapons inappropriately more than 10 times in the last two years, violating their code of conduct, according to a Radio-Canada investigation.

Documents obtained through access to information requests show that of the 53 occasions in which Montreal police fired stun guns in 2006 and 2007, 11 did not meet the force's criteria for using Tasers. Incident reports show that police used stun guns on people who refused to comply or who put up passive physical resistance.

Montreal public security guidelines say police should use stun guns only on aggressive people, or suspects who actively resist arrest.

The force is aware of the problem, said Insp. René Allard. "There are maybe cases in which people didn't use [them] adequately. This is not acceptable for us, and people have recourse, and I encourage them to follow up on those options," which include complaining to the police ethics board, he said in an interview with Radio-Canada.

Officers are briefed on the force's Taser guidelines in a two-day course, but may not be fully prepared to use them, Allard said. "Is it a training issue? Is it that the officer was surprised by the type of event [he or she] is facing, and perhaps he showed a lack of judgment or simply poor training, and that he used it inadequately?" he said. "That is also in the domain of possibilities."

The Montreal police force owns 16 Taser weapons, which are available to patrolling officers on call as reinforcement for neighbourhood police stations.

The incident reports obtained by Radio-Canada are partially censored, with several sections blacked out. It's not clear how many times each suspect was struck with the stun gun, or which parts of their body were hit and whether they were injured or hospitalized.

The documents say an average of six officers were present at all the Taser incidents. In one case involving an attempted suicide, sixteen officers were called to the scene.

The Radio-Canada report underscores the need for a Quebec moratorium on stun guns, said a provincial coalition lobbying for a Taser ban. "The public has the right to know all the information on Tasers and how they're used," said Dominique Peschard, president of the Quebec League of Rights and Liberties.

Call for Taser moratorium intensifies

Canadian critics have argued there is not enough research on stun gun safety following several Taser-related deaths. In October 2007, Robert Dziekanski of Pieszyce, Poland, died at Vancouver International Airport after being shocked with a Taser by police. In Montreal 38-year-old Quilem Régistre was shocked with a stun gun after police stopped him in his car, which he was driving while impaired. Régistre was hospitalized in critical condition and died a few days later.

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