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Saturday, June 16, 2012

Taser recommendations to be examined by British Columbia

June 13, 2012
Rob Shaw, timescolonist.com

The use of Tasers by police officers will be put under the microscope by a special committee of provincial politicians.
Eight government and Opposition MLAs were quietly appointed to study the issue, amid a flurry of other business on the last day of the spring session of the legislature.

The MLAs will focus on recommendations made by Justice Thomas Braidwood on Tasers, as well as how those recommendations have been implemented throughout the province, said Murray Coell, the Liberal MLA for Saanich North and the Islands and the committee convener.

“The direction we were given [by the legislature] was basically to look at the recommendations of Justice Braidwood, that’s the starting point,” Coell said.

MLAs will also consider “the scientific research into the medical risks to persons against whom conducted-energy weapons are deployed,” according to the committee’s terms of reference.

The politicians have the power to call witnesses, gather evidence and travel throughout the province, though it’s not known to what extent they will exercise those abilities.

Coell said it is reasonable to assume that police officials would be called to give evidence.

The first meeting is scheduled for July 18, and the committee must produce a report within a year.
Braidwood released recommendations on the use of and training surrounding Tasers in 2009.

The provincial government accepted them all and, in late 2011, approved new mandatory policing standards for Taser use, as well as crisis intervention and de-escalation techniques.

The Braidwood commission then went on to examine the death of Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski, who died after police repeatedly Tasered him while restraining him face down on the floor at Vancouver International Airport on Oct. 14, 2007.

The video of the incident sparked international criticism, and Braidwood ultimately said the actions of the four RCMP officers involved were shameful and not justified.

The officers have since been charged with perjury, and B.C. has launched a civilian Independent Investigations Office to handle police-involved serious injury and death cases.

“Clearly, given the death of Robert Dziekanski, given the serious concerns raised about the Taser … the committee has the chance to bring forward some good recommendations,” said NDP justice critic Leonard Krog, who is also a committee member.

The MLAs will also conduct a random audit of the police misconduct cases handled by B.C.’s Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner.

Coell said the government is doing “due diligence” in examining the office’s performance.

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