You may have arrived here via a direct link to a specific post. To see the most recent posts, click HERE.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

EDITORIAL: MPP's Taser push needs careful consideration

March 20, 2010
TEVIAH MORO, Orillia Packet & Times

Simcoe North MPP Garfield Dunlop is taking a risk by reopening the debate on the use of Tasers by Ontario police forces.

On Friday, Dunlop announced his plan to reintroduce a private member's resolution that calls on the Ontario government to equip all front-line officers in the province with Tasers. The Progressive Conservative's resolution also asks that the province train officers in the use of Tasers, generically known as conducted energy weapons (CEW).

As it stands, under Ontario's Police Services Act, only tactical team members and patrol supervisors are able to use Tasers.

Dunlop, as his party's community safety critic, says there is unanimous support among law enforcement agencies in Ontario to enable front-line officers to have Tasers.

There is little reason to doubt that, in general, law enforcement is supportive of outfitting more officers with conducted energy weapons.

And any tool or policy to help law enforcement get the job done should be embraced. But here's why Dunlop is taking a risk with his resolution, and the rub:

Tasers have gained a nasty reputation ever since 2007, when Mounties repeatedly shocked Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski, resulting in his death in the Vancouver airport.

The jury is still out whether that reputation is well deserved. The provincial government is expected to table a report looking into the use of Tasers at the end of March, Dunlop notes.

Though some argue it's wrongheaded to compare Ontario police services to RCMP in Vancouver, looking at contrasts is worthwhile.

If the Dziekanski case were an isolated incident, are there any Ontario regulations that would have helped prevent such horrific misuse of the weapons? Perhaps restricting Tasers to tactical team members and patrol supervisors is one.

In the Dziekanski case, the RCMP officers obvisously lacked training. Would the same problem result in Ontario if Tasers were handed out to all front-line officers? How much would it cost to provide adequate training to prevent such a problem?

As it stands, in Ontario, people have died after being shocked by Tasers, whether it's due to "excited delirium" or not. In considering Dunlop's motion, lawmakers should think long and hard whether conducted energy weapons will bring more safety or grief to law enforcement.

No comments: