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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

RCMP says force would change Taser use policies if B.C. inquiry presents evidence

February 20, 2008
The Canadian Press

VANCOUVER - An RCMP official says the force would change its policies on Taser use if a public inquiry into the death of a Polish immigrant provided any evidence to do that. "We are pleased to participate voluntarily with this inquiry or any other process with the goal of ensuring that our policies, techniques, methodologies and equipment are working properly and doing what they were designed to do," said Gary Bass, deputy commissioner of the RCMP's Pacific region.

On Monday, Attorney General Wally Oppal launched the inquiry into the death of Robert Dziekanski, who was hit with a blast from a Taser at Vancouver International airport.

Dziekanski had wandered around the airport for hours before causing a disturbance that brought police attention. Another traveller video recorded four Mounties approaching Dziekanski, who didn't speak English, before he was hit with a Taser and died.

The inquiry commissioner will be able to make recommendations to the government on the use of Tasers in B.C. But the phase of the inquiry that will look into overall Taser use will not be able to compel witnesses to testify, nor can it make findings of misconduct against individuals.

Oppal has said one of the main questions that need to be answered at the inquiry involves the appropriate use of Tasers and under what circumstances police forces should be using them. He said the inquiry could lead to changes in the use of Tasers in B.C.

Although the RCMP is a federal police force, Oppal said the federal government has indicated it will co-operate and he expects the RCMP to comply with any changes that come out of the commission.

Solicitor General John Les announced the commission of inquiry into the death of Robert Dziekanski last November. The second phase of the commission, reviewing the specific circumstances of Dziekanski's Oct. 14 death, will be able to call witnesses and will have the authority to make findings of misconduct.

Oppal said the two phases of inquiry will provide Dziekanski's family and the public with a complete record of the circumstances surrounding his death.

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