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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

All officers need Tasers, police associations say

To see how Canadians *really* feel about this, be sure to click here and read the COMMENTS! Nice to see it's not just us.

February 24, 2009
CBC/The Canadian Press

Canada's two main police associations defended the use of Tasers on Tuesday, saying all officers should be equipped with stun guns because they save lives and there is no proof they have been directly responsible for civilian deaths.

"We reiterate that to date, there is no evidence, either scientific or medical, that a conducted-energy weapon has been the direct cause of death anywhere, at any time, on any person," Chief Tom Kaye, vice-president of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, said in a news conference in Ottawa.

The Canadian Police Association and the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, representing chiefs and rank-and-file officers, said the public has been subjected to "inaccurate and incomplete" information on electrical stun guns and they want to dispel some myths related to their use.

The bottom line is that [conducted-energy weapons] saves lives," said Charles Momy, president of CPA.

"They certainly enhance public safety and officer safety. It is our position that all police officers should be authorized to carry CEWs," Momy said, adding that officers should also be provided with regular and adequate use-of-force training.

The associations say the weapon should only be used if there's a threat to the police officer or a threat to the public.

"There has to be some active resistance on people's behalf. It's got to be some kind of assaultive, combative behaviour," said Kaye, who is chief of the Owen Sound, Ont., police force.

The device should not be used in passive-resistance cases, said Kaye. He acknowledged that police may have used it in those types of cases in the past.

"They may have allowed it be used more as a compliance device. We're suggesting that that's not correct," he said, adding that there needs to be a better job done of reporting and tracking the use of the device.

Taser target died at airport
Police use of Tasers generated intense public concern after Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski died at Vancouver International Airport more than a year ago. An RCMP officer hit Dziekanski with a Taser shortly before his death.

British Columbia called an inquiry that has been looking at the use of Tasers and the circumstances surrounding Dziekanski's death.

Kaye wouldn't comment on the Dziekanski case or whether he believed a Taser was responsible for his death. He pointed out, however, that there have been 150 studies and reviews around the world, none of which, he said, suggest anyone has died from being zapped with a Taser.

Kaye raised the "in-custody death syndrome," in which people who have been pepper-sprayed or just held down by officers have died in police custody.

However, in 1989, a Canadian study found that stun guns induced heart attacks in pigs with pacemakers. Ten years later, an American study concluded that weapons delivering a jolt weaker than Tasers increased the risk of cardiac arrest in people with heart conditions.

In July 2005, a Chicago medical examiner ruled that the death of a man in February 2005 was the result of being shot with a Taser by Chicago police.

Media reports said it was the first time a death had been linked directly to a police stun gun, although the medical examiner said the victim also had a lot of methamphetamine in his system.

RCMP policy tightened
Earlier this month, RCMP Commissioner William Elliott told a House of Commons public safety committee that the force had revised its policy on the use of stun guns.

He said the new 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 agitated individuals."

But Kaye said the commissioner told him those comments were taken out of context.

Kaye also said the public is being led to believe that the weapons are used on a regular basis.

According to 2007 statistics, there were 3.3 million police service calls in Canada, with 800,000 that involved a "criminal occurrence," he said. Of those, 98.5 per cent of the individuals were taken into custody with no force being used, he said.

Of the remaining cases, 0.8 per cent involved the use of a Taser, said Kaye, although he did not know how many of those situations involved drawing or deploying the weapon.

"You get some idea of how rare it is that police officers actually have to use any of the use-of-force options that they carry," he said.

1 comment:

akston said...

Thanks for maintaining this great resource. You can find my archive on Canadian TASER issues at the end of Statism Watch's coverage of this story. Perhaps you'll find it useful in turn.