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Friday, February 27, 2009

Safety minister rejects calls for a moratorium on Taser stun guns

See Excited-Delirium.com's challenge to Peter Van Loan, Canada's PUBLIC SAFETY MINISTER.

February 27, 2009
Janice Tibbetts, Canwest News Service

OTTAWA -- Public Safety Minister Peter Van Loan on Friday rejected calls for a moratorium on Taser stun guns saying they are a relatively safe use of force compared to more deadly options.

While acknowledging the controversial shock guns are a weapon and therefore carry a risk, he said police should have access to them nonetheless.

"If officers are properly trained and if the Taser is properly used in the proper circumstances, it can be safe, it can be safer than the alternative," Mr. Van Loan said in an interview with Canwest News Service and Global National. "I believe that obviously shooting someone with a gun is going to be far more lethal than the use of a Taser and as an alternative I think it's something that should be available to the police."

Earlier this week, the opposition Liberals called on the government to impose a moratorium pending the outcome of a public inquiry in British Columbia into an October, 2007 death of Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski after RCMP officers zapped him several times at the Vancouver airport.

RCMP Commissioner William Elliott, acknowledging this month Tasers carry a risk of death, said the Mounties have reined in their policy so the shock guns can only be used to subdue suspects who pose a safety risk to the public or police.

Mr. Van Loan agreed Tasers, like other weapons, are not risk free.

"You can kill someone with a night stick, you can kill someone with the butt of a gun, you can kill someone with your fist, so any of these things can represent obviously some kind of risk and I think the commissioner in his evaluation of it was simply stating the obvious," the minister said.

He also acknowledged police are human beings capable of mistakes and "the right decision will not be made every time" when judging whether a Taser should be fired.

There are no common standards for Taser use among police forces across Canada and Van Loan said it is not up to the federal government to tread on provincial jurisdiction over municipal and provincial policing by insisting on common practices.

Earlier this week, the Canadian Police Association and the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police held a joint news conference to defend the use of Tasers amid mounting criticism. The two police groups said there is no clear evidence that Tasers kill, and police need them to enhance public safety.

Police acknowledged, however, that Tasers, like other methods of force such as pepper spray, have been blamed for triggering a pre-existing medical condition called "excited delirium," which carries the risk of death.

The federal Liberals disputed the contention that Tasers don't kill and urged the federal government to impose a moratorium on RCMP use of the shock guns until the B.C. inquiry issues its findings.

Amnesty International has also called for a moratorium, pending further study on the safety of Tasers, which the group charges "are simply being used too often and too fast, when too little is known about them."

The guns have been blamed for being a factor in more than 20 deaths in Canada.

1 comment:

Public Safety Minister earns his badge said...

Related post at Excited-Delirium.com