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Thursday, January 15, 2009

RCMP watchdog launches new taser probe around deaths

January 15, 2009
CBC News

Chair-Initiated Complaint & Public Interest Investigation – In-Custody Deaths Proximal to CEW Use

The RCMP's civilian watchdog will investigate every case in which a person died after being struck by a Mountie Taser, the group's chair said Thursday.

Paul Kennedy, head of the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP, said he wants to discover whether officers followed their own rules for the weapons, and whether those rules are stringent enough.

The commission previously investigated the stun guns in 2007 by examining more than 4,000 RCMP reports, each one filed every time one of the force's officers used the weapon.

That investigation led Kennedy to conclude the RCMP was increasingly relying on the device in cases where a less drastic response was appropriate, including in situations involving the stunning of children, the elderly and people in handcuffs.

Now Kennedy wants to focus on the cases in which people died since the RCMP starting using the weapon in 2001.

Kennedy said the probe will cover about 10 deaths, but the exact number of cases to be examined has yet to be determined because the commission lacks a precise count.

Rather than rely on the RCMP to conduct the investigation, Kennedy is employing his own experts to examine not just police data, but coroner's reports and other material.

"Why did these 10 cases have situations where death ensued and the others didn't?" Kennedy said.

"Maybe it's just random. Maybe it was the device. Maybe there's something unique about the individual who was subjected to this particular technique. So you have to look at it and see."

Last year, Kennedy recommended the RCMP reclassify the weapon to only be used in incidents in which a subject is combative and dangerous and other methods of control had been considered.

But the RCMP has been reluctant to do that. The force's current policy, which was tightened last year, officially restricts the use of stun guns to incidents involving threats to an officer or public safety.

In a statement Thursday, the RCMP said it is aware of the new investigation and pledged its support.

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