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Friday, January 27, 2012

Fraction of VPD carries Tasers under new rules

"Tasers can still be used on seniors, children, pregnant women and the mentally ill, despite warnings from the manufacturer."

January 27, 2012
With a report from CTV British Columbia's Peter Grainger

The new standards for Taser use are set to come into effect next week, and they mean that just a fraction of Vancouver police officers are carrying the conducted-energy weapons.

The changes to B.C. policy were recommended by retired judge Thomas Braidwood, who led an inquiry into the death of Robert Dziekanski after being stunned multiple times at the Vancouver International Airport in October 2007.

The Vancouver Police Department is already complying with the province-wide standards, which require officers to undergo training before they can carry Tasers. But the department doesn't automatically send people to be qualified and officers have to volunteer.

Right now, only 107 officers carry a Taser, and a third of those are members of the emergency response team. As of December, there were 1,327 sworn officers in the VPD.

Some of the other new policies include:
  • Tasers are only to be used on violent people
  • Officers must give verbal warnings before shocking anyone
  • They must use, or consider using, crisis intervention first
  • They must avoid chest shots
  • Shocks cannot last for more than five seconds
However, Tasers can still be used on seniors, children, pregnant women and the mentally ill, despite warnings from the manufacturer.

That is a concern for BC Civil Liberties Association director David Eby, who was the only civilian member of the implementation committee on Braidwood's recommendations.

"This device, still untested on those groups, is still being used by police officers and potentially on those groups. That is a potential major issue given the recent Tasering of an 11-year old in Prince George," he said.
"There may be some mistaken notion that now they're safe, now we know what the effects of them are, now we know when we can properly use them and when we can't. I don't think police officers have that information still."

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