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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Niagara Regional Police changes Taser use policy

October 13, 2009
Grant LaFleche, St. Catharine Standard

Niagara Regional Police have joined the growing ranks of police forces changing their Taser policies following a warning by the weapon’s manufacturer.

Last week, the NRP changed its use of Taser policy, instructing officers not to shoot the weapons into the chests of suspects after Taser International said it might be dangerous.

Police spokeswoman Sgt. Jacquie Forgeron said Taser International sent out a bulletin to police services on Sept. 30, advising that striking the chest with the conducted electrical weapon could put the suspect’s heart at risk.

Taser International now recommends officers aim for the legs, back or abdomen.

Forgeron said the NRP made its policy change on Oct. 7.

“Our training unit will start instructing officers on the change,” she said.

The RCMP, along with the Calgary and Winnipeg police services, are among those that are also instructing officers to aim lower when firing a Taser.

The use of Tasers by police in Canada has been in the spotlight because of the hearing into the death of Robert Dziekanksi, who died after being jolted with the weapons by RCMP officers in 2007 in Vancouver.

Some of the controversy over Taser use has reached Niagara. Michael Parsons successfully sued the NRP in civil court after officers used the weapon on him. He was awarded $50,000 after suing the police service and five officers for negligence, false arrest, malicious prosecution and breach of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The NRP had originally planned to appeal the decision, but has recently withdrawal its challenge.

In 2005, James Foldi of Beamsville died after being Tasered by NRP officers. However, an inquest found Foldi’s death was an accident, caused by acute cocaine toxicity leading to sudden cardiac death, in the setting of excited delirium.

Most NRP patrol officers are not armed with Tasers. Only NRP supervisors and members of the tactical unit are authorized to use the weapons.

In 2008, Tasers were used by NRP officers in 44 incidents, down from 98 in 2007.

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