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

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Mounties restrict Taser use

May 5, 2010
Jim Bronskill, The Canadian Press

OTTAWA — The Mounties say that from now on they will fire stun guns at people only when those people are hurting someone or clearly about to do so.

Accused of relying too heavily on Tasers, the RCMP introduced new policies Tuesday to restrict their use to nipping violent confrontations in the bud.

The revamped operational manual says officers should limit Taser use to incidents in which a person is "causing bodily harm" or will "imminently" lash out.

Bob Paulson, an assistant RCMP commissioner, said the threshold is more specific than the previous one, defined as "a threat to officer or public safety."

"We feel that this is more precise," he said in an interview.

The directive mirrors a recommendation from former judge Thomas Braidwood, head of a B.C. public inquiry on Taser use prompted by the death of airline passenger Robert Dziekanski.

The RCMP changes come in response to the B.C. inquiry, new Alberta guidelines and persistent criticism from human-rights advocates that the Taser was often being used to make people obey police commands, not to defuse the most serious threats.

The new RCMP policy says that when possible, Mounties should warn suspects they are about to be zapped.

The policy continues to advise that multiple firings of the Taser may be hazardous. It also reinstates direction that officers must not use the stun gun for more than five seconds on a person and should avoid multiple stuns unless truly necessary.

It also calls for better records on Taser use and more testing to make sure the devices are operating correctly.

The RCMP now issues quarterly reports on Taser use but they lag a year behind.

"It’s not timely enough," said Paulson. "It’s not acceptable and we’re going to improve that."

The RCMP watchdog, which has sharply criticized the force’s stun-gun policies, welcomed the announcement as a "significant improvement."

Restricting Taser use to the "clearly defined threshold" of bodily harm should help reduce the risk of "usage creep" — the tendency to stun people as a convenient means of making them comply, said Ian McPhail, interim chair of the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP.

No comments: