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Friday, June 11, 2010

MONTREAL Exclusive: Taming police Tasers - Public security panel Cops urged to use stun gun only when a life is at risk

June 11, 2010
JAMES MENNIE, The Montreal Gazette

Montreal police should continue to use Tasers but only when they're the sole alternative to a firearm, Montreal Island's public security committee will recommend next week.

But that recommendation is not the unanimous finding of the nine-member committee, The Gazette has learned. A minority report will recommend that Taser use by Montreal's police force be subject to a moratorium until more is known about just how dangerous the device can be.

During a series of public hearings this year, Montreal police representatives described the Taser -a stun gun that can deliver a 50,000-volt charge -as "an intermediate weapon" that would be used as an alternative to a firearm.

But the police representatives also noted that the device could be used to bring incidents involving heavily disturbed individuals to a quick conclusion -even when police use of a firearm is not necessarily the only alternative.

The committee's recommendation, which is scheduled to be tabled next week during a meeting of Montreal's agglomeration council, will seek to have the protocols for Taser use by police mirror those already in place for firearms -that the officer's life, or the lives of bystanders, be at risk.

The protocol would also allow a Taser to be used if the life of the suspect is at risk -police intervening in a suicide attempt, for example.

The recommendation also calls for a Taser, once drawn, to be used only once on a suspect, and for the public security committee to be notified of any technological or training changes that might affect the Montreal police department's use of the device.

The report will also recommend that rather than using a Taser on mentally disturbed suspects, police call in support from someone trained to deal with individuals who have psychiatric problems.

Taser use by police has been under scrutiny in Montreal since the 2007 death of Quilem Registre, 38, four days after being tasered six times by police after he was stopped for a traffic violation. Coroner Catherine Rudel-Tessier concluded that while cocaine and alcohol in Registre's system might have contributed it to his death, it was "difficult to believe (the taserings) played no role."

The hearings heard that about 100 Montreal police officers are trained to use the 17 Tasers in the department. Montreal police discharged Tasers during 11 incidents in 2009, and they drew them from their holsters without using them another seven times.

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

During the three years after their introduction in 2001, Montreal police pulled out the stun gun 14 times.

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