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Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Victoria police board approves ‘pain compliance’ use of taser gun

May 16, 2008
By Keith Vass - Victoria News

The Victoria police board needed minimal discussion this week to approve a policy amendment that clears the way for police to use a 50,000-volt Taser shock for 'pain compliance.'

Last month, the Victoria News reported that the department's use-of-force policy governing Taser use was silent on the weapon's 'push stun' mode.

The written policy only endorsed the use of Tasers as a 'force presence' or for an officer to deploy the weapon's barbed probes to disrupt a subject's muscle control.

In push-stun mode, electrical contacts at the weapon's tip are placed directly against a subject.

According to training slides provided to the News by the Victoria Police Department's Taser program co-ordinator, Const. Mike Massine, "the push-stun mode affects the sensory nervous system ONLY, making it a pain compliance weapon that will not cause (loss of muscle control)."

The policy now contains a clause that reads "a push stun can be used to cause localized motor dysfunction or to gain compliance from a subject who is displaying active resistance." Police define 'active resistance' as any situation where a subject is refusing to comply with demands, including turning away or saying 'No.'

In a four-minute discussion at Tuesday's meeting, none of the board's seven members questioned the amendment or what differentiates push-stun use from probe deployment.

Before the board passed the amendment unanimously, provincial appointee Catherine Holt asked for clarity as to whether the terms 'push stun' and 'drive stun' are used interchangeably and was told they are.

Esquimalt Mayor Chris Clement questioned other sections of the policy. In response, interim Chief Bill Naughton said 120 of the force's 220 officers are trained in Taser use. He said the term 'lower lethality' used to describe the Taser indicates "the likelihood of death is remote but possible."

An analysis of 183 Victoria police incident reports from 2005 to 2007 revealed the device was used in push-stun in 57 per cent of all cases where police activated their Tasers. Often, it was used to get a subject already pinned to the ground to produce their hands for cuffing.

Naughton told the board that he expects the Taser policy will need to be amended again after the ongoing Braidwood inquiry into Taser use by police forces in B.C. Twelve other inquiries are ongoing or scheduled across Canada.



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