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Monday, December 14, 2009

Ontario police services see no change in use of Tasers

December 14, 2009
Will Senn, Toronto Observer

In response to the recent findings of the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP, spokesmen for both the OPP and Toronto Police Services, do not see use of Tasers changing in their forces.

In a report released Dec. 8, Commissioner for Public Complaints against the RCMP, Paul Kennedy, found the four Mounties who fired a Conducted Energy Weapon (Taser) at Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski acted inappropriately. The RCMP have since announced they’re reviewing the use and effectiveness of Tasers on the force.

Other police forces in Ontario, however, see no reason to alter their practices when it comes to the deployment and use of CEWs.

Sgt. Pierre Chamberland, media relations co-ordinator for the OPP, said most OPP officers aren’t even issued with Tasers; only those who are are highly trained in the use of the weapon are allowed to carry them.

“Basically, in order to be eligible to even carry a Taser as a police officer in Ontario, you have to meet certain criteria: You have to be either a member of a tactics and rescue unit, or a front-line supervisor. The first-line officers are not authorized to carry them,” he said.

Mark Pugash is a spokesperson for Toronto Police Services. He said the independent inquiry conducted by B.C. Appeal Court Justice Thomas Braidwood which issued 19 recommendations on CEWs in July, holds up the Toronto Police Service as an example to other services about the proper deployment and use CEWs.

Pugash says TPS will review the RCMP commission’s findings, but that currently, the service sees no reason to remove CEWs from deployment.

“We look at every decision carefully, but our record shows we use them (Tasers) properly. They’ve saved many lives, both officers and civilians,” Pugash said.

Chamberland says the OPP commissioner would actually like to see front-line officers equipped with Tasers, but because of current regulations, that may not be possible.

“The government actually controls the use of Tasers in Ontario through legislation under the Police Services Act,” he said. “You have to be trained and meet certain standards, and you have to maintain those standards by re-qualifying on a yearly basis.”

According to Chamberland, the OPP is interested in the report issued by Commissioner Kennedy, but he doesn’t see the removal of CEWs on the horizon.

“We’re going to review (the report) because we’re always interested in being able to do our job more effectively,” he said. “But ultimately, it isn’t going to change how we operate on a daily basis.”

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