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Monday, February 18, 2008

Oppal would consider Taser ban if probes recommend it

February 18, 2008
John Bermingham, Vancouver Province

VICTORIA -- B.C. Attorney General Wally Oppal said he's prepared to limit or even ban the use of Tasers if a new commission into their use recommends it. Oppal appointed a pair of probes Monday to look into the proper use of the controversial weapons, headed by retired judge Thomas Braidwood. One will look into Taser use by B.C. law enforcement, the other into the death of Robert Dziekanski, who died at Vancouver International Airport last October after being Tasered by the RCMP.

"Under what circumstances should police forces be using Tasers, given the vast amount of conflicting information there is?" Oppal said at the B.C. Legislature. Oppal said the inquiries could lead to changes in the policy of Taser use. "A lot of police forces across North America are having second thoughts about the use of Tasers, given some of the medical opinions out there," he said. "We want a full and comprehensive opinion as to what our police should be doing in this province."

Oppal said he expects the RCMP to co-operate with the inquiry, even though it's a federal agency. "We're looking for them to co-operate," he said. Oppal said the evidence has been building around Taser use in B.C. for some years, and the commission will pull it together. Oppal ruled out a moratorium because there's evidence for its continued use. "The police keep telling us it saves lives," said Oppal. "We want the police to have all the tools at their disposal that they think are useful."

Oppal said it's premature to consider a ban, but if Braidwood recommended it, Oppal said he would give it thought. "That's something obviously we would have to think about, but it would be premature at this stage to have a ban," he said. "We would be prepared to look at anything and everything."

Braidwood will report back by the end of June. The federal government is doing its own inquiry into Taser use in Canada. A coroner's inquest into Dziekanski's death is also set for May 5 to 16.

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