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Thursday, February 14, 2008

Montreal police used tasers inappropriately in one in five cases

February 14, 2008
Irwin Block, Montreal Gazette

MONTREAL - Reports that Montreal police used Taser guns inappropriately in 11 of 53 incidents over two years add urgency to calls for a moratorium on their use, critics of the weapons say. Internal police studies obtained by Radio Canada found that officers did not follow operational instructions in one in five cases where the Taser was used in the past two years.

"These reports increase our concern about how this weapon is used," said Anne Sainte-Maire, spokeperson for Amnesty International's francophone branch. The group is part of a coalition, including the Ligue des droits et libertés and Montreal city councillors Warren Allmand and Marvin Rotrand, that has called for a Taser ban pending an independent study of its effects.

Montreal police can only use the Taser if the person to be apprehended represents a high risk of violence or there is a high risk he'll be injured or cause injury to police or bystanders. But police reports indicated the weapon was used in cases where a subject refused to obey instructions or offered passive resistance.

Police officials declined an interview request yesterday, but stood by a comment Inspector René Allard gave to Radio Canada where he said the department will not tolerate inappropriate Taser use. "There may have been cases where people did no use it (the Taser ) adequately. For us, this is not acceptable," Allard said. "Is there a need for training? Is it because the (Taser) user was surprised by the type of situation he faced and perhaps exercised a lack of judgment?" he asked.

The Quebec coroner's office is investigating the cause and circumstances of two deaths that followed police firing Tasers at them. Montreal police used a Taser to subdue 38-year-old Quilem Register on Oct. 18. He died four days later of multiple heart attacks. Claudio Castagnetta, 32, an Italian immigrant who was walking around Quebec City barefoot and refused to leave a shop, died in a police cell in September two days after police used a Taser three or four times to subdue him.

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