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Monday, November 03, 2008

Toronto police taser reporting

November 3, 2008
Toronto Police Accountability Coalition
Bulletin No. 43

In September the Toronto Police Services Board rethought how it might ensure it got full information on the use of tasers by Toronto police. TPAC threw in its ideas based on the fact that almost all those on the receiving end of the taser in Toronto are those in mental or emotional crisis. TPAC asked that police report on whether the person showed signs of distress, and whether and when the mobile crisis intervention unit was called. (TPAC believes the intervention of the MCIU is much preferable to taser use.)The Board was inconclusive about what changes would be made - everything seemed to be referred back to the chief for further comment.

But what is clear is that no report reporting form will capture the full range of how the taser is used. One case that happened two years ago recently came to light in the courts, when a judge dismissed charges of cocaine trafficking because the suspect was tasered while lying naked on the floor, his hands handcuffed behind him. Another case came to light when a civil action was started - police had tasered an autistic man lying in bed who was not obeying police orders to get up and put his hands in the air. Neither of the details of these incidents was included in previous reports. Perhaps we need to include in the standard reporting format some pretty simple questions, such as: was the person clothed or naked? In handcuffs? In bed?

The state of taser use in Canada remains shamefully muddled. It is more than a year since the death of Robert Dziekanski in the Vancouver airport after being tasered, but the public inquiry is still to begin. Meanwhile, the RCMP has released a report on taser use, basically asking that RCMP officers be more careful. That depressing report can be found at http://www.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/ccaps/cew/kiedrowski_report_e.htm

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