September 13, 2008
Betsy Powell, Toronto Star
The RCMP are facing criticism over their use of Tasers as a less-than-lethal weapon but Toronto police treat the stun gun as a prohibited firearm.
And while the Mounties have been told to stop using "excited delirium" to describe combative, resistant suspects whose behaviour justifies firing the 50,000-volt charge, the term doesn't show up anywhere in Toronto police procedures relating to the use of Tasers.
"Excited delirium" is not a recognized medical diagnosis, but a term sometimes used by emergency room doctors or coroners, an Ottawa-based independent review panel said in a report obtained this week by the Star under Access to Information.
RCMP Commissioner Bill Elliott ordered the review after the death last October of a Polish man shot with a Taser by RCMP officers at the Vancouver airport.
The report urges the federal government to set national standards for Taser use by all police forces in Canada, under its power in the Criminal Code to regulate firearms.
Elliott received the report in June but it had not been made public until this week.
The review concluded, among other things, that the RCMP did not do "due diligence" when it approved the Taser stun gun for widespread use within the force and relied too much on the advice of the Taser's American manufacturer in developing its policies and training.
Across Canada, 170 police agencies use stun guns and 22 people have died after being hit by stun guns, although the deaths have not been linked directly to their use.
Toronto police will not comment on the report since officials have yet to read the document, spokesperson Mark Pugash said yesterday.
But he noted that the Toronto Police Service's approach to Tasers was favourably cited in another Taser report released earlier this year by the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP in British Columbia.
That report found Toronto has provided "a good example of operational use and guidance around CEW (conducted energy weapon). "The authorization of CEW deployments in situations where the subject is displaying assaultive behaviour is similar to where the commission has argued that the RCMP should be situating this weapon."
That report also concluded that in contrast to other police services, including Toronto, "which took the precaution of restricting CEW use to supervisors, the RCMP's position was that all of its officers should be trained to deploy a CEW."
While Toronto police have restricted Taser use to tactical units and qualified front-line supervisors, Chief Bill Blair has and continues to call for their use to be broadened to about 3,000 of 5,500 officers, Pugash said.
WELCOME to TRUTH ... not TASERS
Saturday, September 13, 2008
September 13, 2008