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Monday, February 09, 2009

If needs be, cops can use Tasers on kids

February 9, 2009

The Ontario Provincial Police's top local cop says it's unlikely officers will be trained to avoid using their Tasers on children.

SD&G OPP Inspector Dave Springer said the officers under his command do not use age-specific tactics in their use of force, which includes the deployment of Tasers.

"(Our officers) are trained to apply force in a way that eliminates risk as much as possible," Springer said. "You're not likely going to see a policy for use of a Taser based on age because each situation in which they are used is so specific."

The behaviour of an individual confronting a police officer, what type of weapon is involved, the condition of an officer and the perception of an officer are all factors which affect how they react, whether it be to use a Taser, firearm or no weapon at all.

Springer's comments follow the rejection by Community Safety Minister Rick Bartolucci of a request by Irwin Helman, Ontario's advocate for children, to put a moratorium on the use of stun guns on minors.

Helman's appeal followed a report that a 14-year-old girl from a remote northwestern Ontario First Nation, Sioux Lookout, Ont., was zapped with a Taser in a jail cell last July.

In the 18 months since the OPP was issued Tasers, Springer said there have been no injuries sustained during the six incidents reported so far in SD&G involving the weapons.

An individual charge from a Taser applies a consistent 50,000 volts. A shock from a defibrillator is 1,000 times stronger, said Springer.

"If you know the difference between amps and volts, you'll know that volts hurt and amps kill," said Springer. He knows what it's like to be Tasered because he, like 20 other OPP officers in SD&G, have been subject to the devices as part of their training.

"They certainly get your attention," Springer said of his Taser experience. "If you've been given an order to comply with, I wouldn't want to not comply after being Tasered."

The inspector explained that a shot from a Taser causes the affected muscle groups to contract 19 times per second, which induces a large of amount of involuntary physical exertion to tire the subject out.

The young girl's parents have filed a $500,000 lawsuit against the OPP, claiming she was manhandled and Tasered for peeling paint off a wall.

Police officers should be able to use all the tools in their arsenal in a dangerous situation, and age should not be a factor in deciding how to deal with an individual, Bartolucci said.

"That police officer should have all the tools necessary to ensure that he or she chooses a course of action that protects the individual, protects the public and protects the police officer - regardless of age,'' Bartolucci said, adding the government has commissioned a study on the use of Tasers which he will await before taking further action.

Helman said he couldn't believe Bartolucci won't err on the side of caution.

"In a way it's a knee-jerk reaction to be using (Tasers), rather than not be,'' he said.

"I don't understand it, to be honest. I don't understand the logic or where he's coming from.''

Police have not disputed that a Taser was used on the girl, and watching the video of the incident creates concerns of "usage creep'' with Tasers, Elman said.

"It's a child in a cell, doing nothing, that has a Taser used on her in order to gain compliance. That's wrong,'' he said.

A statement of claim filed in court alleges two provincial police officers entered the girl's cell without warning, "violently" pulled her to the floor and applied the Taser to her right upper thigh for three to five seconds.

None of the allegations have been proven in court.

The girl, who has fetal alcohol syndrome, had been arrested for underage drinking, the family's lawyer said.

The lawsuit also seeks an order that would prohibit the use of stun guns on minors except in cases where a life is clearly at risk.

Bartolucci said the government's study on Taser use should be ready sometime early this year.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

According to excited-delirium.com...the police might consider using the burning end of a cigarette, much cheaper than a taser...or perhaps a flame thrower on these uncompliant kids...oh but that would seem awfully brutal for a civilized society such as ours. And now, thank God, we are not legally allowed to smoke in our car if there are children in the vehicle. But policemen are being trained to taser these same kids. Yep, in a car, in handcuffs, in a jail cell....Speak up Mike Duffy...this is important!!!