September 8, 2008
The Sudbury Star
Letter to the Editor (published in today's Sudbury Star)
Re: Restrict Tasers, don't ban them, editorial -- Sept. 4.
You say: "Tasers offer police a last chance to avoid unholstering lethal force, possibly saving lives, if they're used properly. Rather than ban Tasers, police forces should provide proper training, closely oversee their use and help explain to the public why they are useful police tools."
The problem is there can be no such thing as "proper" use or training with a weapon that has the potential to kill like the Taser does. Unfortunately, every time police officers unholster a Taser, they are, in fact, unholstering potentially lethal force. It's Russian Roulette.
You say more than 90 people have been Tasered in Sudbury since 2003 without incident. Statistics would show that the Sudbury police force's streak of luck could end at any time -- the more the Taser is used, the more there is the potential for people to die. The successes aren't the problem -- the failures are.
Contrary to the out-of-date Amnesty International statistics you quoted, there have actually been at least 371 deaths proximal to the taser since 2001, more than 20 of them Canadian.
Sister of Robert Bagnell, who died on June 23, 2004 in Vancouver after he was tasered
September 5, 2008
The Sudbury Star
Restrict tasers, don't ban them — Editorial
Two years after former RCMP commissioner Giuliano Zaccardelli was forced to resign he continues to stun Canadians with his comments -- this time, advocating an end to Taser use by the force.
Zaccardelli resigned in 2006 after giving two opposite testimonies to a House Commons committee on how he discovered the RCMP had passed incorrect information about Maher Arar, who was falsely accused as a Muslim extremist, to the U. S. The information is thought to have helped the U. S. deport Arar, a Canadian, to Syria, where he was reportedly tortured.
During his seven years as commissioner, Zaccardelli defended the Mounties' use of Tasers, but now that he's an officer with Interpol in France, he has changed his tune. In an interview with CBC television that was to be aired last night, he said he has now had time to think. Said the Zaccardelli: "After all that I've thought about it, I've come more and more to the conclusion that I'm not sure that having Tasers is worth the negative impact that it has on police forces in terms of public perception. I think we should stop using it."
You read correctly -- the former RCMP commissioner thinks that what he otherwise advocates is a useful police enforcement tool should be taken out of their hands because of bad PR.
The logic escapes us. If police officers cannot be trained and trusted to use Tasers properly, how can they be allowed to carry loaded guns?
There are about 6,500 Tasers in use across Canada by police and correctional officials. Greater Sudbury police train only patrol supervisors, K9 and tactical units to use Tasers. They have been used more than 90 times since their introduction in the force since 2003, with no reported serious injuries.
Tasers jolt victims with 50,000 volts, temporarily incapacitating them. But more than 20 people have died in Canada in recent years within hours or days of being Tasered. Amnesty International says more than 280 people have died in the U. S. since 2001 after being Tasered. The problem is so-called usage creep, in which law-enforcement officials rely more and more on Tasers in situations that are not life-threatening.
The Taser debate intensified after 40-year-old Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski died at Vancouver Airport last October after being stunned twice by Mounties with Tasers, an incident that was caught on camera and viewed around the world. Dziekanski did not appear to combative.
Police generally follow a six-level protocol in the use of force. Tasers are most often classified as an intermediate weapon, placing them in the same category as pepper spray or batons. Earlier this summer, the House of Commons public safety and national security committee called for the RCMP to restrict use of the weapons, reclassifying them as an "impact weapon" that should only be used in situations involving high risk and in which the suspects are combative.
Paul Kennedy, head of the Commission for Public Complaints against the RCMP, recommended Taser victims be provided with immediate medical treatment.
Tasers offer police a last chance to avoid unholstering lethal force, possibly saving lives, if they're used properly. Rather than ban Tasers, police forces should provide proper training, closely oversee their use and help explain to the public why they are useful police tools.
Fix the process, fix the image, but let the police use all the legitimate tools at their disposal to do their jobs.
WELCOME to TRUTH ... not TASERS
Monday, September 08, 2008
September 8, 2008