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Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Taser a necessary evil?

April 28, 2010
JAN RAVENSBERGEN, Montreal Gazette

So many issues dog the use of Tasers that "the burden of proof should be put on police" to demonstrate that their stun guns need to be retained for Montreal Island's law-enforcement arsenal, city councillor Marvin Rotrand said yesterday.

Rotrand argued that local police should be ordered to follow in the footsteps of authorities in several major U.S. cities who have banned outright any use of stun guns by their officers.

Boston, Detroit, Washington and San Francisco are among major U.S. cities to have either dropped Tasers as a law-enforcement tool or refused to adopt them when proposed,

Rotrand told the island-wide public security committee.

He and others spoke at a hearing to examine Taser use as part of a coalition - which includes Ligue des droits et libertés - favouring a permanent ban on police taserings.

"The tide is starting to turn," with the stun gun also banned by many European forces, added Patrick Bolland, a member of the coalition.

Montreal police assistant director Marc Parent, the first to appear at the hearings, took the opposite tack.

He offered a defence of Tasers as a necessary police tool. They are needed in some instances as "an intermediate weapon" before officers pull out firearms, he said.

In other cases, they are the best option to bring incidents involving heavily disturbed individuals to a quick conclusion - even when police use of a firearm is not necessarily the sole alternative, Parent told Hampstead Mayor William Steinberg, a committee member.

There are 17 Tasers - all the M-26 model from Taser International - in Montreal police hands, Parent said, with about 100 officers trained in their use.

Montreal police discharged Tasers during a total of 11 incidents in 2009, Parent said, and also pulled them out without using them another seven times.

Police statistics show they were fired 11 times and used as a threat a further three times in 2008; fired 23 times and used as a threat 10 times in 2007; and fired 17 times and used as a threat 11 times in 2006.

During the three years following their introduction in 2001, Montreal police statistics show officers pulled out the stun gun a total of 14 times.

The Taser uses two barbed darts to deliver a jolt of up to 50,000 volts, intended to incapacitate the recipient. Its use jumped to 21 incidents in 2004 and dipped to 17 in 2005. Figures covering the initial five years of deployment don't differentiate between actual discharge and use of a Taser as a threat.

"If a new medicine caused as many deaths as Tasers, it would have been withdrawn very quickly," said Gaetan Laurendeau, another coalition member.

A November 2008 report by Amnesty International concluded that 334 deaths in the United States and 25 deaths in Canada have followed police use of a Taser.

Among the fatalities was Montrealer Quilem Registre. He died in hospital, age 38, four days after he received six Taser hits from local police in October 2007.

"The Taser leaves no biomedical marker that can be identified as mortal," coalition member Bolland said.

While cocaine and alcohol in Registre's system might have contributed, a report by coroner Catherine Rudel-Tessier concluded it was "difficult to believe (the taserings) played no role in his death."

"We are still waiting for justice," Augustin François Registre, 71, the dead man's father, said in a brief interview after a Black Coalition of Quebec presentation endorsing a full Montreal law-enforcement ban of the weapon.

1 comment:

Excited-Delirium blog said...

"Necessary evil?"

"Evil", hell yes. Obviously evil. Random re-distribution of death. Street-level death lottery. Then, just when it might be useful, it's often ineffective. These are evil traits.

"Necessary", obviously not. Many jurisdictions has made a conscious decision NOT to procure tasers. And they're doing just fine thank you very much.