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Monday, February 25, 2008

RCMP probe Taser incident involving girl in Inuvik jail

February 25, 2008
CBC News

RCMP in the Northwest Territories are investigating their use of a stun gun on a teenage girl at a youth detention centre in Inuvik last year.

The internal investigation into the March 27, 2007, incident at the Arctic Tern Young Offender Facility should be complete within a few weeks, RCMP spokesman Sgt. Larry O'Brien told CBC News.

Officers will examine whether the officers involved broke the law and whether they followed the RCMP's policies on Taser use when they shocked the girl with the electronic stun gun.

Corrections officials told CBC News last week that the teen was acting so aggressively that corrections staff called in police, who subdued her using the Taser.

The incident came to light last week when Inuvik Twin Lakes MLA Robert C. McLeod asked Justice Minister Jackson Lafferty about it in the legislative assembly.

Corrections director Darin Reeves said it was the first time a Taser had been used at an N.W.T. correctional facility. He said corrections officers did the right thing by calling in police. "No one wants to have an event like this happen," Reeves said. "Certainly when you're looking at protecting the environment itself and the youth from harming themself or others, you will go through every option you can to try and contain that situation." Reeves said the girl was examined afterwards and was fine. But the girl's mother has since been trying to get answers through McLeod about why the incident happened in the first place.

Taser use higher in Inuvik: RCMP

RCMP figures show there are more incidents involving Taser stun guns in Inuvik than anywhere else in the territory. Between September 2006 and November 2007, police reported a total of 54 Taser-related incidents in N.W.T., including 26 in Inuvik and seven in Yellowknife. O'Brien said those numbers include situations in which officers produced the weapon but didn't fire, as well as actual Taser use. Most of the time, he said, just saying a Taser will be used is enough to prompt people to co-operate. "It is certainly something you use, not as a last resort but when you're approaching a last resort," O'Brien said. "When you're to the point where you either use that or use a firearm, that would be a situation where members would be looking at using a conductive energy weapon."

O'Brien could not explain the discrepancy between Taser usage in Inuvik and Yellowknife, but said the number of officers in the two communities could play a role. Inuvik has two officers on duty on any given night, he said, while Yellowknife could have as many as eight officers. "If there's a situation in Yellowknife, we have the ability to bring multiple members to the scene in a short period of time. Those of us in policing know that the amount of police officers present usually has a big impact on the activities of the people involved in the complaint," he said. "Inuvik doesn't have that luxury. So they have to be very cognizant of what tools they have at hand, and that may go some way to explaining why the conductive energy weapons are being used more in Inuvik."

Tasers are involved in fewer than one per cent of arrests made in the territory, O'Brien said.

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