June 25 2008
The Canadian Press
VANCOUVER -- B.C.'s police complaint commissioner says he doesn't advocate a moratorium on the use of Tasers but they have become a "tool of convenience" and more testing, study and training is required.
Dirk Ryneveld told a B.C. public inquiry Wednesday that he's had a long-standing concern with the Taser and how it's being used by police forces.
"Unfortunately, the Taser has become a tool of convenience in some situations, sort of a `Come along' device, `drop the beer. No? Zap,"' Ryneveld told the inquiry.
"In essence, it's being used in situations far short of an alternative to lethal force."
He said the Taser's use should be restricted to situations when people pose a threat to the public, an officer or themselves. Ryneveld, who investigated the death of Robert Wayne Bagnell, 44, after he was subdued with a Vancouver city police Taser in June 2004, said issues about the shock weapon were raised then and still haven't been resolved.
He said a report issued in the wake of Bagnell's death called for uniform training in the use of Tasers by police across the province.
Ryneveld said further study, independent testing and training is urgently needed.
"That was my view in 2004 and it still is today. Unfortunately, the issues we raised then are still unresolved and true independent study and testing hasn't been as actively or as timely pursued as I would have hoped," he told the commissioner.
Ryneveld said he doesn't have the jurisdiction to ban or even limit the use of the weapons. In any event, he said he doesn't recommend a moratorium. "I am ... not advocating a moratorium on its use in its entirety at this time, based on safety issues alone," he said.
"Apart from anecdotal accounts of inappropriate use of the Taser in situations where they clearly ought not be used, there is not, to my knowledge (apart from one U.S. civil case), a body of evidence or legal determination that directly connects Taser use with resultant death as its sole cause."
Ryneveld said the shock weapons need to be placed higher on the use-of-force scale than they currently are and a national protocol should be established so all users understand when they should be deployed.
The B.C. public inquiry was called after would-be Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski was hit with an RCMP Taser at Vancouver International Airport last October.
The inquiry has been so overwhelmed with requests from people to appear that it scheduled an additional day on Wednesday for submissions.
A report on the first phase of the inquiry, which is looking at the general use of Tasers by law enforcement in the province, is expected this fall. A second phase of the inquiry will look specifically at Dziekanski's death.
WELCOME to TRUTH ... not TASERS
Wednesday, June 25, 2008
June 25 2008