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Thursday, May 08, 2008

Vancouver police won't taser themselves or pregnant women, inquiry told

May 8, 2008
Neal Hall, Vancouver Sun

VANCOUVER - Local police won't use a Taser on a pregnant women because they could fall and be injured, a police trainer told a Taser inquiry today. "That's your only concern?" asked inquiry commission lawyer Patrick McGowan. "At this point, yes," replied Const. Tammy Hammell, who is the coordinator of Conducted Energy Weapons (Tasers) program for the Vancouver police force.

Vancouver police no longer use Tasers on officers during training sessions, she told the inquiry probing the controversial use of the electrical weapons. It was stopped about 18 months ago after a request by Workers Compensation Board because of a number of shoulder injuries caused by officers falling during training, Hammell said.

She said Tasers were used about 100 times last year by Vancouver police, up from about 90 times the previous year.

Hammell said she downloads computerized information from each of the 120 Tasers used by Vancouver police. This is done every six months or immediately after an officer discharges a Taser in the line of duty.

She said about 150 officers have been trained to use Tasers, which are classified as an intermediate weapon, the same as police batons, beanbag guns and anti-riot weapons that fire rubber bullets.

The police use-of-force continuum allows police in B.C. to use Tasers when a subject displays "active resistance" to arrest or police commands. A day earlier, Kevin Begg, assistant deputy minister of the B.C. ministry of public safety and solicitor general, told the inquiry that the Taser was approved for use in B.C. in 2000 for situations where a suspect was violent, aggressive or armed. He said he is concerned that in recent years Tasers are being used in lower-risk situations. He suggested Taser use should be moved up the use-of-force continuum for assaultive and combative behaviour.

The inquiry continues Friday with presentations by Dr. Zian Tseng, a U.S. cardiologist, and Paul Corrado, superintendent of strategic operations for sheriff services.

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