September 12, 2008
RCMP officials relied too heavily on information provided by manufacturers when they were developing their own stun gun policies and training programs, an independent review concludes.
The review of the Mounties' policies on the use of stun guns, known by their brand name Taser, was prepared on the orders of RCMP Commissioner William Elliott. The review was finished in June, but only made public on Friday.
"There was an over-reliance on research carried out by [stun gun] manufacturers and/or the views of police services relying primarily on the research conducted or sponsored by the manufacturers," the review states in its conclusion.
"While manufacturers understandably need to provide (and are entitled to do so) information to potential customers or clients as part of their marketing and promotion efforts, the policing community needs to be assiduous in assessing the manufacturer's information."
Taser International, the American maker of Taser products, has done extensive research on its products and defends them as safe. But Tasers, which are used by 73 police forces across the country, have been linked, although not directly, to at least 20 deaths in Canada. The most controversial case came last year when 40-year-old Robert Dziekanski of Poland died at Vancouver International Airport shortly after the RCMP shocked him. Dziekanski's death renewed calls for a moratorium on Taser use.
Didn't consult national medical agencies
The independent review, done by a group of independent consultants, also concludes that the RCMP did an "inadequate" review of the literature available on Tasers but had an "over-reliance" on anecdotal information. And while the RCMP contacted two provincial schizophrenia societies for information, they should have contacted national medical and mental health associations, the review finds.
The review also concludes that while the RCMP relied on research done by professional police officers with some technical understanding of Tasers and practical expertise, the force should have sought the assistance of trained research and policy analysts.
"Having such practical knowledge is not a substitute for training in research and policy analysis," the review says.
The Toronto Star was the first media outlet to obtain the review, which was provided to the newspaper on Thursday through an Access to Information request. Some 16 pages were removed from the report before it was released to the Star, including the recommendations the review made.
The review comes on the heels of a Taser report issued in June by Paul Kennedy, head of the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP. He concluded that only experienced officers should be handling the weapons.
WELCOME to TRUTH ... not TASERS
Friday, September 12, 2008
September 12, 2008