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Friday, February 20, 2009

EDITORIAL: Should tasers be used on children?

February 20, 2009
Caledon Enterprise

Whether or not police should have the authority to zap a young person with a weapon that can produce 50,000 electrical volts would seem to be quite obvious, wouldn’t it?
But controversy about the electrical weapons, which cause an uncontrollable contraction of muscle tissue after discharge, being holstered on the hips of officers is a debate that is far reaching.

Numerous cases have made headlines, sparking concerns from advocates about their safety, and has raised questions about police forces’ use of the devices.
The debate was recently fired up again after Irwin Elman, Ontario’s child advocate, called for a moratorium on using stun guns on minors except in rare circumstances. A request which has been refused by the province.

Instead, Minister of Community Safety Rick Bartolucci says the decision of whether or not to use stun guns will be left up to officers and the specific circumstance.
This comes after a 14-year-old girl from a remote Ontario First Nation was reportedly stunned by Ontario Provincial Police officers as she picked paint off a jail cell wall in Sioux Lookout. Her family is suing the OPP for $500,000 in damages. The girl’s father has alleged that two officers entered her cell last July (she had been arrested for drinking under age) and took out a black weapon, shocking his daughter’s leg. The allegations have not yet been proven in court, and OPP won’t discuss the matter because of the ongoing lawsuit.

After reviewing a police video of the incident, Elman began pressing the province about whether police should have the authority to use the weapons on young people.
If this case is in fact true, then it’s a no brainer that officers clearly had no right to use a taser on a young girl for scratching away paint. However, in other extreme instances where a violent person is threatening an officer’s life, or that of a member of the public, taser use may be an alternative defence if all others fail, including their negotiating skills to diffuse a volatile situation. But there would seem to be something clearly wrong with our front line officers if they are unable to restrain a young child without the assistance of an electrical current.

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