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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Access to Tasers should be 'expanded': report

February 23, 2009
ctvbc.ca With a report by CTV British Columbia's Leah Hendry

As the Braidwood inquiry continues, a new report on Tasers from Canada's police chiefs is about to be made public. CTV News has learned it will recommend police across the country have "expanded" access to Tasers, and establish new guidelines on when they should be used.

Earlier in February, the RCMP set out new rules for Tasers, stating they can only be used against suspects who are a clear threat.

While the RCMP appears to be stepping back, Canada's police chiefs appear to be encouraging their use.

One Vancouver city councillor says changing the way Tasers are deployed should wait until after Braidwood is done.

"This is not something we want to use like a toy," said George Chow. "I think we really should be careful. I don't see us rushing into training everyone for a weapon that's not that useful, or if it is useful, should be used in limited circumstances."

Right now, the number of municipal and provincial officers who are armed with and trained in the usage of Tasers varies from force to force.

Some provinces ban them among frontline officers and restrict usage to supervisors or tactical team members.

In B.C., where most of the policing is done by the RCMP, our solicitor general says all police forces need a similar policy.

"Our effort is to ensure that they have the tools but they have specific conduct in the deployment of those tools," said John van Dongen.

The worry is that the police chiefs recommendations are just a guideline.

It's actually up to the individual police forces to set Taser policy.

"I'm going to let the RCMP and I'm going to let each police force make their rules for their own practices. Policing is really a local, municipal question," said Peter Van Loan, the federal public safety minister.

Which means Canada could end up with a mish-mash of different policies.

Police psychologist and former RCMP officer Mike Webster says if Taser use is expanded training needs to be entirely revamped.

"If expanding their training means it includes crisis intervention training and having a greater understanding of populations at risk and includes people in crisis, then it would be a good thing. But if it simply means getting more Tasers and using them in more situations and lowering the bar, that would be ridiculous," he said.

The report is expected to be released tomorrow. {February 24, 2009}

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