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Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Victoria Police Department's use of tasers dropped 85% after Robert Dziekanski's 2007 death

March 10, 2010
The Canadian Press

VICTORIA, B.C. — The Victoria police department announced Wednesday that two of its officers face criminal assault charges, the same day an audit of the department recommended a review of use of force incidents.

The audit, released Wednesday and written by the provincial Police Services Division, found 13 officers out of about 260 were responsible for one-third of all the department's use-of-force reports.

"Overall, the use of force review reveals that the Victoria Police Department is a well-functioning department with appropriately trained and generally highly motivated individuals who take considerable pride in their job and the work they do for the community," said the review, requested by the solicitor general in January 2009.

It said there were no major areas of concern identified, but the authors did note "one key item of concern."

"It may be that these offices are conscientious about reporting any type of physical interaction or that these officers work in particularly challenging environments," said the audit, dated March 4.

"However, the audit team recommends that the department proactively identify the officers that generate a higher proportion of use of force reports and review these incidents to ensure that the high frequency of use of force is not highlighting any training or management issue that needs to be addressed."

Details of the assault charges against the two officers have not yet been released.

Despite the latest case of Victoria officers facing charges, the audit report, based on data from 2007 and 2008, said the department did not have a pattern of public complaints out of the ordinary compared to other B.C. police departments.

However, the report did find that Victoria police officers were more likely to use Tasers than pepper spray to subdue suspects - in 51 per cent of incidents involving intermediate weapons compared to 40 per cent for spray.

But it notes that things changed after Robert Dziekanski died in Vancouver's airport after he was shocked by an RCMP Taser. "It appears there was a strong effect in the aftermath of the death of Robert Dziekanski," noted the report. The use of force decreased 10 per cent after Dziekanski's October 2007 death, and the use of Tasers dropped 85 per cent.

The authors made dozens of recommendations, for both administration and the use of force, including that the department enact policies for ensuring all weapons are maintained in good working order, annual requalification for intermediate weapons such as Tasers, and that all use of force incidents be reviewed.

The report noted that the Victoria police department has hired a new chief of police, Jamie Graham, since the audit was ordered and the Police Services Division "observed improvement in various aspects of the department as a result."

Former solicitor general John van Dongen ordered the audit after the mayor of Esquimalt, which neighbours Victoria, raised concerns about the level of police service the community received after amalgamating with the Victoria department.

The Victoria department has faced several high-profile controversies in recent years, including a lawsuit by a 15-year-old girl who was left leashed to a cell door in the department's drunk tank for hours and charges against a veteran officer.


Anonymous said...

It is a pity that the Vancouver Police did not feel a strong effect after the death of Robert Bagnell...then probably Dziekanski would be enjoying life in Canada with his Mom.

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