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Monday, November 17, 2008

EDITORIAL: Ontario should review taser use

November 17, 2008
Editorial, The Kingston Whig-Standard

Last week, Corrections Canada suspended a plan for its officers to use Tasers as part of their arsenal when responding to incidents inside federal institutions. The federal prison agency had purchased only eight Tasers and had deployed the stun guns to two prisons - Millhaven and Kent in British Columbia -for a pilot project last fall.

It's that pilot project that has now come to a halt. A spokesperson for Corrections said, "We're constantly evaluating the equipment we use. The use of that technology is still being considered but is under review."

The review of Tasers should also happen in Ontario.

If the officers who guard the worst criminals in Canada are not permitted to carry the stun guns, then police forces who employ Tasers on the public should review their use, too.

Prison guards respond to some of the most dangerous individuals daily. Couple that with the fact that all inmates in federal maximum prisons have committed serious crimes and must reside in the highest level of security. Prison guards do respond to incidents where inmates pose a threat to themselves or the officers - a typical situation in which a Taser is deployed.

The Taser stun gun is used to temporarily subdue an individual. The stun guns emit about 50,000 volts, causing involuntary muscle seizures.

Police carry the Taser to be used as a last weapon before deadly force is required. But Taser use by police has faced scrutiny after about 20 people in Canada have died some time after they have been shot.

The most public incident took place in a Vancouver airport last year and was caught on videotape. Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski died after he was Tasered and then jumped on by four Mounties.

From that incident came two reviews of Tasers, one by British Columbia, the other by the federal complaints commission chairman.

The latter produced a report for the federal government, which was made public in the summer. Among its recommendations was a review of the Mounties Taser policy. The report called for the Mounties to limit the use of Tasers to incidents where suspects are a risk to themselves, police or public.

In Dziekanski's case, the cause of death was never reported publicly. However, a public inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the death of Dziekanski is ongoing.

Tasers are also facing scrutiny in Ontario. Last month, the Ontario Special Investigations Unit said it will investigate the death of a Brampton man who died after he was Tasered in the custody of Peel Regional Police. At the station, there was a struggle in the cell, and police deployed the Taser. The man died in hospital later.

Despite growing questions regarding police force usage of Tasers, its use continues in police forces across Ontario, including Kingston.

Police forces and legislators have said there isn't enough evidence to suggest Tasers should be banned. Toronto's police chief wants to see all front-line officers be permitted to use the stun guns.

The head of the OPP, Julian Fantino believes it's training that's required, not banning Tasers.

Too many questions about Tasers remain to be answered. Police forces in Ontario must recognize that the federal agency that deals with convicted criminals won't allow guards to use Tasers. It's time for the province and police associations to do their own Taser review.


Anonymous said...

did you submit this story??

Reality Chick said...

i'll never tell!!