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Thursday, May 06, 2010

New Taser rules a continuation of ongoing process: top cop

May 6, 2010
Jack Wilson - Red Deer Advocate

New rules governing how the RCMP use stun guns are basically a continuation of the process started a few years ago, Red Deer’s top policeman said on Wednesday.

“In the last few years, there has been a complete evaluation of the process of the use of the conducted energy weapon guidelines and rules,” Supt. Brian Simpson said. “This is just the continuation of that process and at the end of the day we want to be open and transparent in terms of how we do business,” he added.

New rules were unveiled on Tuesday in Ottawa. The rules limit RCMP officers to using their stun gun in cases where a person is causing bodily harm or an officer has “reasonable grounds” to believe a person will “imminently” harm somebody.

“Members’ actions must be reasonable and the force used must be necessary in the circumstances,” according to the revised policy.

Simpson said the use of the Taser stun gun has decreased in the last several months.
Simpson said the city detachment has about five Tasers available for use per shift. There are four shifts.

RCMP officers must always give a verbal warning, “where tactically feasible,” that they are about to use their stun gun, the policy says. In medically high-risk situations, officers will be required to request medical assistance, when feasible, before using their stun guns, policy states.

Simpson said all officers authorized to carry the weapon are well trained and undergo updated training when time allows. He said every time officers deploy the weapon, they must “articulate and justify their reason for doing so. There’s been a lot of negative headlines about the weapon but there are many positives too,” Simpson said. Many times the weapon has “helped neutralize a potentially dangerous situation,” he added.

Some Tasers used by city detachment officers have been sent away for regular maintenance and found to be firing at a lower amperage than called for, he said.

The RCMP changes come in response to the B.C. inquiry into the death of Robert Dziekanski, 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.

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.”

In 2006, Jason Doan, 28, died after being tasered three times by police in Red Deer following a complaint to RCMP about a man smashing car windows.

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