September 15, 2008
Globe and Mail
A recent report indicates that the RCMP relied too heavily on the manufacturer's advice and research in developing policies for the use of electric stun guns. This latest revelation goes to show that the police force got it wrong, right from the beginning.
An independent review has found that the RCMP failed to exercise due diligence when it approved the taser for use. The police force failed to adequately consult medical and mental health experts about the impact of taser use and relied on advice from the taser's American manufacturer in determining how it would train officers and deploy the weapon. Further, the RCMP took a contrary position to other police forces when it trained all its officers to use the devices.
The independent review was ordered by the Commissioner of the RCMP, William Elliott, submitted to him in June and released under the Access to Information Act. It reportedly criticized the stun-gun research of the Canadian Police Research Centre (the research arm of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police), finding its reports were not adequately peer-reviewed, lacked important information and included inaccurate data. (A new report on the safety of the stun guns expected from the Canadian Police Research Centre last month has been delayed until 2009.) The report concludes that many of the problems in the RCMP "policy-development process" might have been avoided if the force had enlisted impartial researchers to conduct studies "that could detect and take into account potential police and manufacturer biases." The federal government should set national standards, it also urges. Currently, 170 police agencies in Canada use the devices.
The RCMP's willingness to rely on the manufacturer of the weapon for advice in how to deploy it may have been the first instance of poor judgment by the police force when it comes to tasers, but certainly not the last. A report from the commissioner for public complaints against the RCMP released in June concludes that the RCMP has failed to adequately document the use of the devices since 2001, so much so that RCMP policy shifts were made without a factual basis, the report concludes, calling it "a dangerous practice."
The coziness of the relationship between Taser International and Canadian police forces has already been made clear - including payments (and stock options) to a researcher at the Canadian Police Research Centre, and sponsorship of police chiefs' conferences over the years (most recently a $25,000 platinum sponsorship of last month's conference). But this latest news suggests that the very foundation of taser use by the RCMP is flawed.
This has probably had repercussions beyond the RCMP's use of the device. As the national police force, the RCMP's practices set a standard for the country. Other municipal police forces could reasonably implement the same use-of-force policies, and rely on the research of the Canadian Police Research Centre.
The RCMP's failure to fulfill its responsibility to objectively assess the impact of the weapons in developing its own policies may well have played a role in the 22 taser-related deaths in the past five years.
WELCOME to TRUTH ... not TASERS
Monday, September 15, 2008
September 15, 2008