June 19, 2008
A parliamentary committee is threatening to call for a moratorium on the use of stun guns if the RCMP doesn't begin restricting use of the weapons by the end of the year.
The House of Commons public safety and national security committee made its report on Taser use public in the hours following the release Wednesday of a high-profile final report from an RCMP watchdog.
In that report, Paul Kennedy, head of the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP, called for Mounties with less than five years experience in the field to be banned from using Taser stun guns and for individuals zapped to get immediate medical treatment.
Kennedy also asked that the stun gun be reclassified as an "impact weapon," meaning it should only be used in situations where an individual is combative or poses a risk of "death or grievous bodily harm."
That recommendation and many others are echoed in the committee's report, but MPs went one step further — threatening to introduce a motion in the House of Commons calling for a stun gun moratorium if the RCMP doesn't restrict use of the weapon by Dec. 15. The report received the unanimous support of its 12 members.
The two studies of Taser use are among at least five probes of the weapon undertaken following the Oct. 14, 2007, death of Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski after he was zapped with a stun gun.
RCMP officers were called to the Vancouver International Airport after Dziekanski, 40, who spoke no English, became agitated and destructive, damaging a computer and throwing a small table.
The incident was captured on amateur video and covered by media around the world.
The committee's report says the video "seriously shook public confidence in the RCMP."
"To prevent confidence in the RCMP from eroding further," the committee calls for the force to "react immediately" by reclassifying the weapons for restricted use.
"We want them to change for the better — to restrict the use, have better training, better reporting, better data collection so Canadians are safe and protected and the RCMP and other police forces have the tools they need," said Liberal MP Ujjal Dosanjh, a committee member.
Also among the recommendations are training officers on the potential risk of death and injury from Tasers, as well as teaching them about mental health and addiction issues.
It also suggests the RCMP be required to submit detailed information about Taser use in their annual reports to Parliament.
The RCMP complaints commissioner blasted the Mounties for failing to comprehensively track use of the weapons, which incapacitate people with their 50,000-volt electric shock.
The report also recommended that:
Health Canada look into a lack of psychiatric programs and drug addiction programs.
Three federally-subsidized research councils study stun gun technology.
The government commission an independent study on stun gun safety.
Statistics Canada be given the mandate to create a national database on in-custody deaths and the use of Tasers and other restraint methods.
An RCMP civilian watchdog with "broad powers" must also be established as soon as possible, the committee says.
WELCOME to TRUTH ... not TASERS
Thursday, June 19, 2008
June 19, 2008