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Thursday, April 02, 2009

RCMP reach for Tasers most in Saskatchewan's north

April 2, 2009
CBC News

RCMP in La Loche, Sask., have used Tasers on 37 occasions over six years to shock subjects into submission, information obtained by CBC News shows.

La Loche is a Saskatchewan community of 2,400 people, located about 650 kilometres north of Saskatoon.

The frequency of Taser use by members of the La Loche detachment was described as the highest rate in all of Saskatchewan, according to documents received by CBC News under federal Access to Information laws. The data covered the years 2002 to 2008.

The figures, contained in RCMP reports, show that La Loche officers used a Taser to deal with violent, often intoxicated individuals in the remote village.

RCMP Staff Sgt. Herb Perpelitz, who has spent 20 of his 24 years of police work patrolling northern Saskatchewan, told CBC News that officers in northern areas face unique circumstances.

"Our people are dealing with violence, for the most part," Perpelitz said. "Most of them do stem from the alcohol and drug abuse that has really been inherent in the north because of social conditions."

As for the frequency of Taser use in La Loche, Perpelitz said each situation is different. However, he believes the device can be an effective policing tool.

"The Taser still is an acceptable police practice," Perpelitz noted, adding two provisos: "that the situation would warrant it, and members have to be fully trained in the use of it."

The Taser reports from La Loche had officers facing intoxicated individuals armed with knives, screwdrivers and clubs. In some cases, suspects were high on amphetamines and heroin.

A vice-chief for the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations, in reviewing the Taser figures, observed that getting an electric shock from police would be preferable to being shot.

Morley Watson, a vice-chief with responsibilities for justice issues, told CBC News that, nevertheless, the frequency of Taser use is a concern to the FSIN.

Watson said he is concerned any time force is used by police.

However, he added that he has spoken to families of people shot by RCMP, and believes Tasers can play a role in policing.

"When you talk to the families there, they sometimes say, 'Geez, there should have been another option to gunfire,'" Watson said.

He said the FSIN's special investigative unit looks at complaints brought forward from individuals who feel they've been mistreated by police.

Watson said his organization is aware of five incidents this year where RCMP used Tasers on First Nations individuals.

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