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Thursday, June 12, 2008

RCMP watchdog abruptly delays release of final taser report

June 12, 2008
CBC News

Hours before the scheduled release of a highly anticipated final report on the use of stun guns by Mounties, the RCMP complaints commission abruptly cancelled the Thursday event.

Spokesman Nelson Kalil said the report by RCMP complaints commissioner Paul Kennedy will be released next Wednesday instead, at the request of Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day. He did not specify a reason.

Canadian Press quoted a commission spokesman as saying the delay resulted from a last-minute call late Wednesday from the minister's office requesting a meeting with Kennedy. Kennedy agreed to meet with Day early next week.

Day, who is travelling, received an advance copy of the report on Tuesday.

Last December, the RCMP watchdog released an interim report calling for the force to curb its use of Tasers, saying the weapons were increasingly being used to subdue resistant people rather than those who pose a threat, including people who were "clearly non-combative."

It also recommended an overhaul of Taser training, stricter reporting requirements and more research on the devices.

The final report was expected to detail specific conditions and restrictions on the Mounties' use of Taser guns, said CBC's investigative reporter David McKie.

A day before the Taser report's expected release in Ottawa, a joint investigation by CBC News/Radio-Canada and the Canadian Press found that RCMP are likely to fire their stun guns multiple times during an altercation, despite warnings issued to officers that it posed a health risk.

The investigation found that Mounties zapped a person more than once in 43 per cent of all 3,000 incidents nationwide between 2002 to 2007. In nearly 18 per cent of the incidents, officers fired the stun gun three or more times.

The RCMP told officers in 2005 that multiple deployment of stun guns "may be hazardous to a subject" and warned them not to cycle the weapon repeatedly. But the investigation found that multiple firings of Tasers continued to rise.

The investigation also revealed that in 73 per cent of the incidents in that period, the person Mounties were dealing with was unarmed.

The complaints commission, an independent civilian agency, launched its probe into how the force uses Tasers following the death of Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski, a case that attracted worldwide attention after a videotape capturing his death was released.

Dziekanski, 40, died Oct. 14, 2007, after four RCMP officers zapped him with a stun gun at least two times. Early on, investigators named excited delirium as a possible cause of death.

Excited delirium— a condition disputed by some groups, who see it as a way for police to deny responsibility — has been listed by coroners as the cause of death in numerous Taser-linked deaths.

Those suffering from excited delirium are said to become agitated, sweat profusely, act violently and become insensitive to pain. The victim's heart races, then stops.

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