bc-080625-Taser

The use of stun guns is under scrutiny at a public inquiry in B.C., following the deaths of several people who died after the weapon was used on them. ((CBC))

The head of the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP said the force has to start listening to the public when it comes to using stun guns.

Paul Kennedy made his comments on Taser use Wednesday at the Braidwood Inquiry, which heard testimony for the final day before wrapping for the summer. The inquiry will reconvene on Oct. 20.

Retired Justice Thomas Braidwood is examining the controversial weapons.

Kennedy told the inquiry there is a problem when police are using a Tasers on teenagers, the elderly and passive citizens.

He said stun guns are used more often when multiple officers are at a scene and most often by constables on general patrol.

Kennedy said police don’t seem to appreciate how much pain is inflicted by the Taser, which he called insidious.

'There is something about that device itself that requires additional safeguards.' —Paul Kennedy, head of the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP

"I think there is something about that device itself that requires additional safeguards because you don't see it … and you might become immune to it," he said.

"Listen to the public…the public is telling you 'we have concerns with this device' and if you don’t modify your behaviour you are not going to be in sync with the public whom you should be serving."

Reclassification of Tasers as firearms recommended

B.C.'s police complaint commissioner, Dirk Ryneveld, has told the Braidwood Inquiry that Tasers may be misclassified as prohibited weapons, as opposed to prohibited firearms, as defined under Canada's criminal code.

'The Taser has become a tool of convenience…'Drop the beer!' No? Zap!' —Dirk Ryneveld, B.C. police complaint commissioner

Ryneveld told the public inquiry on Wednesday the distinction is important because the classification determines how police use the controversial stun guns.

"If this is a prohibited firearm, it must be authorized for use. And if their paperwork is misclassified as a prohibited weapon, then the restrictions on its use, and the reporting and the training and the certification don’t apply to the Taser, whereas perhaps it should," said Ryneveld.

He also told the inquiry police need to use Tasers knowing that they could be lethal, not with the belief that they are a safe, non-lethal alternative to a gun.

"Unfortunately, the Taser has become a tool of convenience in some situations. Sort of a come along device. ‘Drop the beer!’ No? Zap!" said Ryneveld.

While he isn't calling for an outright ban, Ryneveld said Tasers have become a 'tool of convenience'  and require more study and training.

Ryneveld said he's had a long-standing concern with how stun guns are used by police forces, adding that issues about the weapon that were raised several years ago still haven't been resolved.

While he didn't recommend a moratorium, Ryneveld said the Taser needs to be placed higher on the use-of-force scale than it currently is. A national protocol should be devised to help all users understand when a stun gun should be used, he said.

The public inquiry was called in the wake of the death of Robert Dziekanski after he was shocked with an RCMP Taser at Vancouver International Airport last October. A report on the general use of Tasers by police is expected this fall.

With files from The Canadian Press