April 7, 2010
RAHUL GUPTA, ST. CATHARINE'S STANDARD
The head of the Niagara police association says his membership is willing to adjust to proposed legislation requiring the recording of Taser useage if it means more officers get to carry the electro-shock weapons.
Paul Di Simoni of the Niagara Region Police Association said he hopes the plan under consideration by the provincial government would mean greater access to Tasers for frontline officers in the region.
Currently, only experienced officers can use the weapons.
"I hope legislators get on the same page as the association and implement standard use of Tasers," said Di Simoni from the NRPA's office in Welland.
"It's a better, less lethal option for officers to employ."
Under the plan, any Ontario police officer who fires a Taser in the course of duty would automatically activate a small camera, or Taser cam, that can be attached to the base of the weapon's handle.
Up to 90 minutes of tamper-proof footage could then be downloaded and used as evidence.
"Is there value to documenting Taser use? I suppose," he said.
"It's a relatively new technology."
While Di Simoni said he supported the province's recently introduced training and usage guidelines for Tasers, he worried a camera would only capture one aspect of an altercation between police and a suspect.
"It's a snapshot in time," he said. "One has to look at the totality of events."
Di Simoni said he was concerned that footage obtained from a Taser Cam would lead to premature censure of Niagara police officers.
"Officers may fall into a situation where they're being criticized without all background information," he said. "The camera captures only the deployment of the Taser and nothing else."
While Taser Cams aren't used in Niagara, Ottawa police have employed them since last year, said an officer who has provided extensive training in the use of the weapons.
Sergeant Mark Barclay of the Ottawa Police Service said all 32 members of the Tactical Unit are currently using the cameras.
Barclay said the response to Taser Cams among officers with the unit has been largely positive, although there have been instances when the camera's lens has been accidentally obscured by officers used to handling guns.
"We're trained to use a two-handed grip when it comes to firearms," said Barclay from Ottawa police headquarters. "So some officers go back to what they know in moments of extreme stress, which can block the lens."
Another problem with the Taser Cams, according to Barclay, is the fixed position of the device.
"To sometimes get a good camera shot, you've got to point the Taser right at the person, which isn't always possible," he said.
Barclay said the camera's video output can often be shaky or blurry, depending on the circumstances, although a microphone can still capture available sounds.
"It's better than nothing."
Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services spokesman Anthony Brown said any decision to legislate Taser Cams would be made in consultation with provincial law enforcement agencies.
Niagara Regional Police declined to comment on the issue of Taser Cams.
Taser International announced Tuesday that 2,680 Taser Cams were shipped for use in law enforcement in 2010.
WELCOME to TRUTH ... not TASERS
Wednesday, April 07, 2010
April 7, 2010