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Monday, July 28, 2008

Saskatchewan police chiefs want taser issue revisited

July 28, 2008
Anne Kyle, Regina Leader-Post
With files from James Wood

REGINA -- The province's association of chiefs of police respect the Saskatchewan Police Commission's decision to rescind the motion to expand the use of conducted energy devices (CEDS) but it doesn't fully agree with the decision.

"The Saskatchewan Association of Police Chiefs hopes this decision will receive further review from the commission in due course. Obviously, when you look at expanding any use of force tool, certainly, foremost in that decision is officer and citizen safety,'' said Prince Albert Police Chief Dale McFee, president of the SAPC.

On Friday, the commission, the province's independent regulatory body for municipal police, announced it was reversing its previously stated plans to allow Tasers. The commission was in the process of developing a policy for their use, but on Friday the commission chair Michael Tochor said it was rescinding last year's decision to approve the use of Tasers. That decision was in response to the controversy over the use of Tasers in connection with a number of deaths, including the death of a Polish citizen Robert Dziekanski at the Vancouver International Airport in October, and a lack of adequate information on the full consequences of their use.

"Decisions to expand the methods of dealing with difficult issues relating to the safety of officers and citizens is something our police agencies always take seriously,'' McFee said.

"We feel, if there is another tool available that improves safety for all, obviously it needs to be looked at. From a policing perspective anything that we do in relation to the use of force whether it is the use of a firearm, the use of a CED, or the use of a baton -- that is all reported and it is all reviewed. At the end of the day the police are accountable for their actions.

"Each potentially dangerous situation requires a different response and we have to remember in many situations the next response in keeping safe is the service firearm. The goal for all is safety to all,'' McFee said.

The police commission announced Friday it won't authorize the general use of CEDs by members of the province's 14 municipal and First Nation police services until more information is available. SWAT team members will continue to be allowed to use stun guns.

Regina Police Chief Troy Hagen said that the commission's decision will not change current practises within the Regina Police Service operation. Currently no Regina police officers other than trained SWAT members, who are trained in their usage, carry CEDs.

Saskatoon police chief Clive Weighill said he hoped the commission would have adequate information to revisit the Taser issue in six months.

"Naturally we would like to have that option available for our officers because right now they don't have the option. They have to go right from baton or pepper spray right up to lethal force. It would make sense to us that if there is an option available we should be allowed to use it," he said Monday.

However, Weighill would not link the lack of Tasers to the four times Saskatoon police used their firearms last year. There were two high-profile police shootings in December, one that saw a women wounded by police and another that saw the death of Dwayne Charles Dustyhorn.

Further recommended reading over at Excited-Delirium's website on this topic - "That's why it's not their decision."

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