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Wednesday, April 16, 2008

B.C. transit police stun fare cheaters with taser: documents

April 15, 2008
CBC News

Transit police on SkyTrain stations in Metro Vancouver have used Taser stun guns on passengers who didn't pay the fare and tried to run away, CBC News has learned.

Transit police have fired Tasers 10 times since January last year, and three cases involved non-violent suspects, according to internal police reports obtained by CBC News using access to information laws.

In one case, a person ran from transit cops during a check for free-riders and "the Taser was deployed as the subject fled," the documents say. Another person who didn't pay the fare was arrested but "grabbed onto the platform railing and refused to let go … the Taser was deployed."

A Taser may be used when "the situation demands control over a non-compliant, suicidal, potentially violent, or violent individual and lower force options were ineffective," according to the transit police policy.

Stunning someone without a transit ticket doesn't qualify as an appropriate use of a Taser, said Murray Mollard, executive director of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association. "I would call it a shocking abuse and misuse of a very significant weapon," Mollard told CBC News Tuesday.

Liberal MP Ujjal Dosanjh, who's on a federal committee reviewing the use of Tasers, said transit police have gone too far. "That's the example where Taser use has just gotten out of hand and I believe the government needs to actually bring them under some kind of control," he said.

Federal New Democrat MP Penny Priddy also called such a use of Taser "absolutely intolerable."

B.C.'s solicitor general didn't comment on whether transit police use of Tasers was justified, saying the officers must adhere to the same standards as other police when it comes to proper use of the Taser. "They are expected to conduct themselves in the same manner using the same tools as other police, and they are subject to the same review process [and] the same accountability through the office of the police commissioner," John van Dongen said.

Dosanjh said British Columbia should be proactive in ensuring SkyTrain police are using Tasers properly.

Van Dongen said he will wait for Ottawa's report on Tasers before taking any action.

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