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Friday, July 24, 2009

Amnesty International welcomes Braidwood Inquiry report call for restricted use of Conducted Energy Weapons (CEWs) – Public Statement

24 July 2009
Amnesty International

In an extensive report released yesterday, Commissioner Thomas R. Braidwood made an urgent and compelling call for a new approach to the use of conducted energy weapons by police in British Columbia.

Amnesty International has been concerned for many years about the expanding use of CEWs in the absence of adequate research, guidelines or accountability. While it is vital for police to have a range of force options available to them, increasingly CEWs appeared to be deployed too often and too soon. Electro-shock weapons, which have a high physical impact and cause extreme pain, should never be used as a general force tool. The case of Robert Dziekanski was a tragic illustration of the inappropriate use of this technology.

In his findings, Commissioner Braidwood upheld Amnesty International’s long-standing contention that CEWs carry with them the potential for serious injury and death, and that this risk as well as the potential for abuse must inform all issues related to their deployment. The organization welcomed unequivocal calls for both highly restricted use and the development of province-wide standards for equipment approval and maintenance, training, and mandatory reporting.

In recommending that use of CEWs be restricted to situations where the subject is causing (or will imminently cause) bodily harm, Commissioner Braidwood significantly noted that lesser force options and de-escalation and/or crisis intervention techniques must nonetheless still be considered prior to the ultimate decision to use CEWs. A general prohibition on multiple stuns, with re-evaluation of the threat level prior to a further discharge of a CEW, was also recommended. This strongly echoes the UN Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials, which stress the need for restraint and use of non-violent means of intervention wherever possible.

The identification of situations which are medically high-risk also represents an important finding. While welcoming the call for paramedic assistance at incidents involving emotionally disturbed persons, the elderly, and other medical conditions such as heart disease, the organization remains concerned, however, that other vulnerable individuals, including those who are intoxicated or under the influence of drugs, merit similar consideration. It is hoped that such individuals will be considered as a priority in the context of the further research recommended by Commissioner Braidwood.

As the appendices to the Braidwood Commission report amply illustrate, individual jurisdictions in Canada have brought their own particular approach to the approval and use of CEWs resulting in tremendous inconsistencies – sometimes within the same city – in standards and practices. BC Solicitor General Kash Heed has reportedly announced that the provincial government accepts all 19 recommendations of the Braidwood Commission. In commending the provincial authorities for their swift commitment to reforms, Amnesty International believes that the impact of Commissioner Braidwood’s work should not end at the provincial border.

Amnesty International encourages federal, provincial and territorial authorities to work together to review the Inquiry’s findings and recommendations, and collectively implement a minimum national standard for the use of CEWs as soon as possible.

For further information, please contact:
John Tackaberry, Media Relations
613-744-7667, ext. 236

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