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Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Police 'convinced' Tasered boy, 11, was dangerous

Apparently it is okay for our police to use a legally-defined LETHAL WEAPON against a child carrying a pen, even if it did look like a knife. And no sanctions on this rookie officer? What if the child had died? Thank God he wasn't wielding a stapler! Another justification comes from the fact that the boy gave the police the finger! That showed 'disrespect for police' apparently, so that is the rationale for using the taser. Oh-- the boy HAD been seen with a knife earlier. Truth be told, after a 40-minute stand-off, the boy was lured out on the porch and the Taser was fired. We have no indication on placement of darts, duration of stun, etc. We just have police investigating police. Again. WVPD Chief Lepine is a former Mountie. This all leans heavily towards the need for the Independent Investigation Office (IIO). When will this civilian-led body be formed?

October 18, 2011
The Canadian Press

WEST VANCOUVER, B.C. — Police were convinced an armed, deaf, 11-year-old was violent and a danger to himself and others when they used a Taser on him following a confrontation last April, a police report has said.

Chief Pete Lepine of the West Vancouver Police Department said in a news release Monday the RCMP officers involved that day faced a dire situation that had little chance of a publicly acceptable outcome.

He noted officers could have declined to use a Taser and risk the situation escalating to the point where the boy harmed himself or others, possibly forcing officers to use lethal force.

Or officers could take the path they ultimately chose: Use the Taser on the boy and deal with the public relations disaster later.

"I can assure all of you that everyone involved in the original incident, as well as the investigation, was fully aware and sensitive to the fact that the police were dealing with a child," Lepine wrote.

"However, ultimately, the boy's age was secondary to the fact that his apprehension was deemed necessary in order to prevent him from causing further grievous bodily harm or death.

"...If the officers had decided not to take overt action to apprehend the child quickly, they would likely have been subjected to harsh criticism for standing idly by while the child harmed himself or someone else."

Lepine was heavily criticized last month for releasing his investigators' independent findings into RCMP actions that day by simply saying the officers were justified in using the device on a child.

He provided no explanation as to why.

On Monday, he said he was releasing a detailed account after consulting with other agencies conducting a review of the incident and also the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, which has been highly critical of RCMP Taser use in the past.

Lepine said police were called to the Prince George residential group home at about 5:30 p.m. April 7 after a report that an adult had been stabbed by an 11-year-old boy.

Officers were told the boy was hearing impaired but that his hearing aids had been damaged in a previous incident.

Before police arrived at the scene, the boy had holed himself up in the large, main residence with a bottle of wine and a knife. He also had access to other weapons, Lepine's report said.

Police were told he was "prone to extremely violent outbursts, during which he exhibited extraordinary strength for his age and size and presented a viable threat to his own safety as well as the safety of adults attempting to manage his outburst," the report said.

Investigators were also told he would not back down from a physical confrontation and could attack officers.

The police who arrived on the scene positioned themselves to watch the boy and quickly determined that a forced entry of the residence wasn't reasonable.

Instead, officers attempted to negotiate with him.

Lepine's report said when the boy appeared at a small second-story window, one of the officers tried to talk to him. The boy opened the window and used a knife to cut out the screen and hung his upper body outside, prompting concern he might fall.

Discussions stopped.

Lepine's report said officers also saw the boy slashing at his sweatshirt and running a knife blade over the palm of his hand and up his arms.

Eventually, the boy asked for some belongings, the report said.

Police left them on the front porch and the boy came to retrieve them -- armed with a knife at all times. He made the sign of a cross, which police had been told was "an indication that things were going to get bad."

The boy came out of the house again to post a note, which officers couldn't read.

At this point, Lepine's report said, investigators concluded that their efforts to de-escalate the situation weren't working and that the boy was increasingly a danger to himself.

"His willingness to engage in violence and use weapons against adults indicated that physical confrontation with the boy would present an extremely high risk to all involved," the report said.

The officers decided to use a Taser if the boy came out again.

The boy was asked to come out and clarify the contents of the note. When he did, he was holding a knife and a Taser was deployed once.

Officers gained physical control of the boy and found he had a pen, not a knife, in his hand.

During the independent investigation of the RCMP's actions, Lepine said West Vancouver investigators sought the opinion of a "recognized subject matter expert" in policing that concluded the officers' decisions were "sound, appropriate to the situation and in keeping with their training and existing policy."

"It was clear to me that the officers involved responded to a dynamic and potentially deadly incident in a measured, appropriate and professional manner," Lepine concluded.

After the boy received the jolt, the boy was taken to hospital for observation and released the next day.

The Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP and B.C.'s children's watchdog have launched their own investigations. The RCMP is also conducting an internal review.

Two RCMP officers were placed on administrative leave after the incident, but they returned to their full duties in late June.

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