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Saturday, October 08, 2011

RCMP cut Taser use, but are dragging feet on many recommendations, report finds

October 7, 2011
Robert Hiltz, Postmedia News

OTTAWA — Canada's national police force has reduced the use of controversial Taser stun guns significantly in the past three years, according to the RCMP complaints commission's annual report.

In the report released Friday, the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP was optimistic about the use of Tasers since the commission released its 2009 report — made public in June 2010 — on the use of the stun guns.

The CPC said it is satisfied with the RCMP's progress in response to a report on the death of Robert Dziekanski, who died in 2007 after being Tasered and restrained by four RCMP officers at Vancouver International Airport.

The commission also found that the RCMP is moving toward clearer policy regarding the use of the stun guns and has implemented a higher threshold for their use.

However, in the report, the interim chair of the CPC criticizes the national police force's commissioner for "extensive delays" responding to recommendations. Ian McPhail says that just over half of the notices from the RCMP commissioner have been delayed by "more than six months", while another two have been delayed for more than a year.

"In performing its work, the commission continues to be guided by the tenet that in order to be effective, review must be timely," McPhail writes. "I remain concerned that extensive delays in the response of the RCMP Commissioner to the commission's recommendations continue to occur."

Complaints commission figures show that 39 notices submitted to the head of the RCMP are still outstanding. Twenty of those have received no reply from the commissioner for an average of more than eight months.

"While the RCMP made a significant effort to clear its backlog in 2009, the backlog returned and has continued to grow this year. Although the CPC received 38 commissioner's notices from the RCMP, most were in response to interim reports sent to the RCMP in the previous fiscal year," the report states.

"The CPC's concern regarding the delay in the provision of commissioner's notices continues to grow, as these delays threaten the integrity of the public complaint process."

The watchdog is unable to complete its reports, or provide them to the complainant or RCMP member, until it receives a notice from the commissioner.

The documents also say external police investigations into serious incidents involving RCMP officers have begun quickly in the wake of a previous CPC report.

McPhail says the CPC's role is integral to keeping the RCMP accountable to the public and urges that the government reintroduce a bill that would create a new complaints and review commission with expanded powers. A new mandate is necessary, the interim commissioner says, because greater oversight is "widely accepted as essential" and the new review body needs stability to effectively carry out its duties.

The bill to create a new commission died when the 2011 federal election was called.

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