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Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Edmonton Judge raps use of Taser

June 10, 2009

Dismisses assault charge, says physical force could have subdued aggressive suspect

An Edmonton police officer has been criticized by a judge for using "excessive force" by zapping a suspect with his Taser because the man swatted his hand away.

The excessive force ruling also led to the man -- who was being investigated in an alleged domestic abuse case -- being acquitted of a charge of assaulting a police officer.


In a previously unreported provincial court decision stemming from earlier this year, Calgary Judge Bruce Fraser spoke out against the inappropriate use of Tasers.

"I am not against the use of Tasers in appropriate situations. They have their place," said Fraser in a Feb. 6 written decision in the case of Shaun Paul Dianocky.

"I understand no one can measure to a nicety how police can respond to physical force or anyone can respond. The police did not consider using other weapons at their disposal such as batons, spray or guns because of the injury or damage they can cause," continued Fraser.

"They must consider that with Tasers as well. Putting 50,000 volts of electricity into a person's body can be injurious and should not be used as a first line of control when other means are available, and they are not facing deadly force," said Fraser.

The Calgary judge was presiding over the Edmonton trial of Dianocky, who had been charged with assaulting a police officer while resisting arrest.

Court heard two city police officers, Const. Vic Pipke and Const. Neil Thompson had responded to a 911 call reporting a domestic dispute at an apartment in which a person was reportedly "being beaten up by hubby."

When the officers arrived, an aggressive and defensive Dianocky was yelling and swearing and Thompson tried to put his hand on his shoulder to calm him and guide him to a chair.

Dianocky swatted Thompson's hand away and was pushed into the chair by Pipke who used a hand stun to his head.

Dianocky was then zapped with a Taser by Thompson.

The accused pulled the Taser leads out almost immediately and before they had time to take much effect and said: "You'll have to do better than that."

Dianocky then kicked Pipke in the groin.

Pipke hand stunned him again and Thompson zapped him three more times with the Taser, which apparently had little effect because Dianocky again kicked Pipke.


Fraser noted Dianocky had a pouch or sheath on his belt that appeared to hold a knife, but was actually a work tool, and accepted the officers were acting properly in trying to calm and control him so they could investigate.

The judge also stated a person should never touch or swat or swing at a police officer.

However, he ruled the two officers should have been able to physically subdue Dianocky.

"Tasers should not be used just because it is easier or less physically exerting," said Fraser. "Here it was used because he swatted his hand away."

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