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Tuesday, June 02, 2009

RCMP boss and Solicitor General pick busy news day for Taser revelations

June 1, 2009
By Charlie Smith, Georgia Strait

Call me cynical and jaded, but I am somewhat suspicious about the timing of two Taser-related news stories today.

In the first instance, Solicitor General and former RCMP officer Rich Coleman ordered the immediate recall of 578 older-model M-26 Tasers.

Coleman's announcement came conveniently after the last witness appeared at the Braidwood Inquiry on May 26.

Final arguments will begin on June 19 at the inquiry, which is probing the death of Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski at Vancouver International Airport in 2007 after being stunned five times by a Taser.

The solicitor general also chose one of the busiest news days in recent memory.

The morning began with General Motors seeking bankruptcy protection.

There was also an Air France plane that went missing over the Atlantic, with all the passengers and crew presumed dead.

Here in Vancouver, there was a riveting tale of a high-school student being arrested, allegedly with a hit list of students and staff at Templeton secondary.

If Coleman's spin doctors in the public-affairs bureau wanted to ensure there would be minimal coverage of the Taser announcement, they picked the right day to leak the news. It ranks up there with TransLink holding its annual general meeting on election day.

Meanwhile, RCMP Commissioner William Elliott also showed a similar knack for timing his Taser-related revelation of the day.

Before the Senate defence and national security committee in the late afternoon in Ottawa, Elliott declared: "We are very sorry for Mr. Dziekanski's death, and are committed to learning as much as possible from this terrible event."

Elliott promised senators that there will be "further change" in the RCMP's policy regarding Tasers.

This comes after CBC Radio-Canada reporter Frederic Zalac exposed last March how the Mounties actually loosened the rules on the use of the stun guns by lifting a restriction on multiple uses.

Elliott told senators today that it wasn't the RCMP's intention to allow Mounties to make more liberal use of their Tasers.

Perhaps the RCMP's spin doctors have advised Elliott that allowing the force to zap suspects several times might not be such a good idea--particularly while this is being examined as part of the high-profile public inquiry into the death of Dziekanski, who himself was the recipient of five jolts.

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