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Saturday, March 06, 2010

B.C. police complaints commissioner to review transit police Taser incident


March 6, 2010
Frank Luba, The Province

Since voluntarily changing the rules in 2008 around when Tasers are used, the transit police have used the conducted energy weapon just once.

The transit police had used Tasers a total of 10 times in 2007 and 2008, which resulted in a complaint from the B.C. Civil Liberties Association to the Office of the Police Complaints Commissioner.

The transit police said Friday they have been exonerated in their use of the weapon in nine of the 10 instances, with the disciplinary authority asking for a review of the 10th incident.

The police also released a DVD of videos of the incidents taken by cameras on the Tasers or by cameras in the station where the incidents took place.

The BCCLA was surprised to hear about the exoneration of the police because the group hasn’t seen the decision.

Insp. David Hansen of the transit police said the police complaints commissioner’s report is still not complete but that the force intends to discuss it with the civil liberties group after the investigation is finished.

BCCLA executive director David Eby still wants improvements around the use of Tasers.

“There needs to be a [consistent] policy around when it’s used and how it’s reported,” said Eby.

He conceded the situation has improved, particularly after provincial Solicitor-General Kash Heed directed police, sheriffs and corrections officers in July to severely restrict the use of Tasers.

“It’s a much better situation than it was when transit police were Tasering people for fare evasion,” said Eby.

Heed was not available for comment Friday but a ministry source said the province is working with the federal government as part of ongoing negotiations to incorporate the Braidwood Commission’s recommendations about Tasers into RCMP policy and standards.

The transit police’s use of the Taser plunged after the force voluntarily changed the guidelines for using the weapon from suspects being “non-compliant” to “actively resistant.”

So instead of Tasering someone because they were fleeing after being asked for their ticket, as had happened previously, the last time transit police used the Taser was on an actively resistant suspect armed with a butcher knife.

The subject was later convicted of assaulting a transit police officer.

Despite the reduction, Hansen wouldn’t drop the weapon from his force’s armoury.

“It’s a valuable tool,” he said. “To us, it’s something we need. It’s another step. It’s a less-than-lethal option. I still feel there’s a need even though there’s only been one incident [since the guidelines changed].”

The complaints commissioner’s office did not respond to a request for an interview on Friday.

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