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Saturday, August 01, 2009

Follow new rules or lose tasers, Alberta police forces told

July 31, 2009
Dawn Walton, Globe and Mail

Police in Alberta, including the RCMP, must adhere to new rules about when they can deploy tasers or face losing the weapons altogether, under government guidelines released Friday.

The 11 pages of regulations also say that it is appropriate to use conducted energy weapons, or CEWs, only when “there is a real likelihood of injury to the officer, subject, or bystanders.”

Fred Lindsay, Alberta Solicitor General and Minister of Public Security, said that while a suspect who is running away isn't a reasonable threat, someone in handcuffs or other restraints could still kick or bite.

“Obviously, this tool has been controversial,” he told CHQR radio in Calgary. “Public confidence is important, and anything that the police do, and this is just one example, where I believe clear, concise guidelines will promote public confidence.”

Under the new rules, police must tell the government each time a taser is used so an assessment can be done. If the use is deemed to have been inappropriate, the province could issue warnings, take away a police force's weapons or suspend individual officers, Mr. Lindsay said.

A week ago, a British Columbia inquiry into the 2007 death of Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski, who was tasered at Vancouver International Airport, issued tough recommendations on use of the devices.

Commission head Thomas Braidwood, who criticized B.C. for its lack of a provincial policy, issued 19 recommendations including limiting use to “truly criminal offences” and stunning suspects for no more than five seconds.

Both the B.C. government and the RCMP endorsed the report. The federal government said it would consider it.

Mr. Lindsay said Alberta's rules “meet or exceed” the Braidwood recommendations, but could still adopt some of them.

Alberta will also test the devices annually and before any new ones are put into service to make sure they meet the manufacturer's specifications. In April, dozens of tasers in use Alberta were pulled when independent test show they didn't work properly.

“You perhaps take for granted when you get something new that it's already tested and working as it should be,” RCMP Corporal Wayne Oakes said. “This will assure you that that process is in place, that the tool that you're working with is working as it's supposed to.”

He said Mounties in Alberta welcomed the new rules, adding that they are consistent with RCMP policy and enhance public trust.

Acting Superintendent Ray Robitaille said the Calgary Police Service is already following the guidelines.

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