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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Ontario to standardize Taser training

March 30, 2010
Tobi Cohen, Canwest News Service/National Post

New guidelines and training standards for Taser use by Ontario police officers will come into effect this summer.

The province made the announcement on Tuesday following a two-year review of conducted energy weapon use.

The Policing Standards Advisory Committee looked at a number of issues related to Tasers including precautionary measures, training requirements and reporting procedures.

The committee recommended a set of standardized guidelines for both those who use conducted energy weapons and those who train the police officers who do.

"Ontario's new training standards are consistent with our government's long-standing, measured approach with respect to Tasers," Community Safety Minister Rick Bartolucci said in a statement.

"When used appropriately, these weapons remain an effective option for police services in carrying out their responsibilities and protecting communities."

Currently, about 17% of police officers, including tactical and hostage rescue units and front line supervisors, are authorized to use such weapons.

A spokeswoman for Mr. Bartolucci said that's not going to change despite recommendations from the Police Association of Ontario (PAO).

PAO president Larry Molyneaux believes more officers should be carrying the devices.

"We are obviously in favour of standardized training, however, it doesn't address what our bigger issue is," he said.

"Our feeling is that all front line officers, once properly trained, should be equipped with conducted energy weapons."

The PAO believes the expanded use of Tasers would ultimately reduce injury to both the public and police officers.

"Conducted energy weapons present a valuable tool and a less dangerous option than a firearm," he said. "It's another tool in an officer's tool belt."

A memorandum from the ministry to police chiefs indicated a one-day session to educate current Taser trainers will be held at Ontario police colleges in May, while a pilot train-the-trainers course will roll out in June.

Stun gun use by police officers has been a contentious issue across Canada for some time.

Controversy over the weapon peaked after the death of Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski at the Vancouver International Airport in October 2007.

Mr. Dziekanski died shortly after he was struck at least five times with a Taser by RCMP.

An inquiry into his death recommended severe limits be put on Taser use in B.C.

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