February 25, 2009
Little more than a week after the RCMP made some welcome changes to its Taser policy, the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police and the Canadian Police Association had an opportunity to follow suit and show that they, too, are willing to be flexible in light of the public's reasonable concern about the use of conducted energy weapons.
Instead, one representative of the two national police agencies decided not only to stand his ground on Tasers, but to lob a few insults at the media and the public at a press conference announcing the release of a joint document on Taser use.
The agencies maintain that Tasers pose no threat to the public, and that the weapons have helped to save lives. That might be true, but there are legitimate questions about Tasers given the more than 20 people in Canada who have died after being zapped.
Instead of acknowledging as much, the police chiefs chose to attack reporters, saying that "inaccurate and incomplete information is circulating in the media."
Exactly what information that is isn't clear, though Tom Kaye, vice-president of the CACP, did say that the media took a recent statement by RCMP Commissioner William Elliott out of context. Here's his statement in full:
"The RCMP's revised [Taser] policy underscores that there are risks associated with the deployment of the device and emphasizes that those risks include the risk of death, particularly for acutely agitated individuals."
Elliott made this comment, which is abundantly clear and which was made without qualification, before the Commons' standing committee on public safety.
Kaye didn't provide any evidence as to how it's been taken out of context, but did suggest, inexplicably, that the statement had been clarified "to us" -- that is, presumably to the police chiefs. But he didn't bother to explain what the clarification was.
Nevertheless, the chiefs continued on the offensive, with Ontario Provincial Police Commissioner Julian Fantino suggesting that 150 studies have proven there exists no link between Tasers and death.
Despite not being able to name a single paper when asked for citations, Fantino nevertheless ramped up the rhetoric by telling people to "do your own homework."
And if that weren't enough, he launched into an adolescent attack on Taser critics, saying "So much of the misinformation and miscommunication is driven by people who have never walked in our shoes, have never faced those situations and could never pass recruitment training."
The chiefs' arrogance and unwillingness to consider any opinions but their own extended even to the medical profession, as they defended the use of "excited delirium," a condition dropped by the RCMP because it's not recognized by physicians.
If there are any bright spots in all of this -- and there are precious few -- it's that the chiefs did agree that there needs to be adequate training and guidelines regarding Taser use. And by the end of the press conference, Kaye admitted Tasers may have been used on peaceful subjects and that that shouldn't have happened.
That's a hopeful admission. But given that it came towards the end of an all-out assault on Taser critics, the real lesson from the press conference is that the chiefs will brook no questioning of their methods, even when the questions are fair and reasonable. And even when they come from the people who pay their salaries.
WELCOME to TRUTH ... not TASERS
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
February 25, 2009