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Thursday, April 17, 2008

Tasered fare-evaders asked to testify at Braidwood Inquiry

April 17, 2008
David Carrigg and Frank Luba, The Province

Two fare-evaders who were Tasered by SkyTrain cops are being asked to come forward and testify at a public inquiry into Taser use. Murray Mollard, executive director of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, said victims of Taser-use need a voice at next month's Braidwood Inquiry in Vancouver.

"I have seen nothing on the psychological impact on being Tasered," Mollard said yesterday. "The police make much of the fact they can turn it on and off and there's no subsidiary effects. Others say it's like an instrument of torture."

Mollard was reacting to a revelation that members of the Greater Vancouver Transportation Authority Police Service have used their Tasers 10 times since January 2007, including twice against fare-evaders. In one case the fare-evader was Tasered after running from transit police and in the other case the victim was Tasered as he grabbed onto a platform railing and wouldn't let go, according to the CBC. "I don't think anybody, if they knew a Taser would come to be used on fare-evaders, would have said yes it's a good use. It's a shocking abuse," Mollard said.

Former B.C. Appeal Court judge Thomas Braidwood, who is conducting the Taser-use study as well as an examination into the Taser death of a man at Vancouver airport, told The Province that when he learned of the SkyTrain Taserings it raised a "red flag." "It [Taser use] seems to put a red flag on it," Braidwood said. "It appears that they didn't follow their own policy in the use of [Tasers]. I'm not involved in making any blame or anything but that would certainly red-flag it."

Braidwood said he was always going to include the TransLink police force in his inquiry. "They [TransLink police] were always going to be a part of it," he said. "My mandate is to look into every police force that the province has jurisdiction over, to see exactly what is going on, report back and then make recommendations about the appropriate use of the Taser."

Braidwood said 27 presentations are scheduled for his inquiry but none are from Taser victims. An inquiry spokesman said Braidwood will consider presentations from anyone with something to contribute.

TransLink police issued a news release yesterday in response to its Taser use. "The GVTA Police Service is like any other police service, with its police officers trained in the various levels of use of force, meeting the National Use of Force Standards," read the statement. "The GVTA Police Service has been provided various tools to assist in the execution of their duties, with the Tasers being one. All tools are used with safety in mind, for the public and the police officers. The province is looking at the use of Tasers and the GVTA Police Service will be advised of the findings."

Jenny Kwan, NDP MLA for Vancouver-Mount Pleasant, has called for a moratorium on the use of Tasers on transit until Braidwood's inquiry is complete.

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