Fare prey - Greater Vancouver transit cops tell fare cheats: comply with police or expect to be tasered
April 18, 2008
David Hogben, Vancouver Sun; With files from Kelly Sinoski
Rules for passage on trains and buses are on the back of every ticket. Fare cheats who resist police can expect a Taser jolt.
Transit police say they will continue Tasering "non-compliant" passengers, despite outrage over reports that the weapon has been used against non-violent fare-evaders.
"Absolutely. Absolutely. Yup," Insp. Daniel Dureau of the Greater Vancouver Transportation Authority Police said Thursday, in a telephone interview, after he was asked if officers would still use Tasers on non-violent passengers.
Dureau, the force's media liaison officer, insisted the Tasers are used in compliance with TransLink police policy, and the force has no intention of changing that policy before a provincial inquiry into the use of Tasers makes its recommendations.
Sgt. Willie Merenick said claims that Tasers were being used on fare evaders were "really unwarranted." When Tasers are used on fare evaders, it is because they are refusing to comply with police, he said, not because they are fare evaders. "We do not, have not and will never Taser those in our care for non-payment of fares," Merenick said in a news release.
In an interview later, Merenick confirmed Tasers have been used 10 times on members of the public and were deployed "for the safety of the public, the people themselves and the police." There have been no public complaints about the force's user of Tasers, he added.
"If we didn't believe that Tasers save lives, reduce and prevent injuries and are effective, we wouldn't use them," he said. "They are an essential tool in helping us achieve our goal of keeping everyone safe."
The issue arose earlier this week when a Vancouver Sun columnist, relying on freedom-of-information legislation, revealed that non-violent passengers have been Tasered for "non-compliance" with officers.
Former B.C. Court of Appeal justice Thomas Braidwood said later the TransLink police will be included in one of two inquiries he is preparing to conduct into the use of Tasers by law enforcement officers.
Braidwood was asked to conduct the reviews by B.C. Attorney-General Wally Oppal after Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski died after being Tasered at Vancouver International Airport last October.
Other than a brief e-mail statement, transit police had refused to discuss their use of Tasers until Thursday. "Our Tasers were used against people who, within the policy, did not comply after being arrested and therefore [Tasers] were used within the policy as has been reported," Dureau said. "So we are not going to give any other detail or further detail on them. We are being reviewed, as all other police agencies, provincial police agencies are . . . by Mr. Braidwood," he said.
Dureau said the transit police will comply with any directions given by the provincial government after the inquiry is complete.
The B.C. Civil Liberties Association and the provincial New Democrats have called for a moratorium on the use of Tasers.
The FOI documents revealed the weapons have been used on 10 occasions since last July. In four incidents, they were used against non-violent and non-threatening individuals, three of whom were fare evaders.
The BCCLA, meanwhile, complained Thursday to the provincial police watchdog over the force's use of Tasers. "The fact that Tasers are being used in situations that border on debt collection by the government is outrageous," BCCLA president Rob Holmes said in a news release. "The public has every right to be concerned that there is a lack of proper control over the use and application of these devices. A full investigation is required."
In his letter to Police Complaint Commissioner Dirk Ryneveld, Holmes said using Tasers on non-violent people is repugnant. "The use of a Taser to gain compliance over non-threatening and non-violent individuals clearly does not accord with the 'use of force' policy and, in any event, is repugnant," he wrote.
Rules of engagement: SkyTrain police are the same as any other B.C. force, therefore they can use the same policing tools (including Tasers) as other police. The 93 transit police trained* in the use of the Taser must qualify at least every two years to use the weapons. Transit police now use the X-26 model, billed by its maker as Taser's "premier law enforcement electronic control device." The Taser is meant to be "an alternative option to more intrusive force response measures." A Taser is issued to qualified two-member teams, when they report for duty. Twenty of the stun guns are in the force's arsenal.
Source: Solicitor-General of B.C., February 2008 *As of December 2007