West Vancouver police investigating a Mountie's use of a Taser to subdue an 11-year-old boy at a group home last Thursday in Prince George, B.C., say the officer has less than two years of experience on the force and has been placed on administrative duties.
Members of the West Vancouver Police Department arrived in Prince George on Sunday, three days after the incident, to begin the investigation.
Corp. Fred Harding said the preliminary investigation could be complete as early as Monday or Tuesday and the officers would then return to West Vancouver to mull the details and prepare a report with recommendations.
"It's integral to the investigation to find out if the officer acted accordingly to policy, but not only policy but to the law," said Harding.
But the boy's case and the ensuing investigation of the RCMP in Prince George by the West Vancouver Police Department are already raising concerns among critics.
Little is known about the incident except the details contained in a brief statement issued by Prince George RCMP Supt. Brenda Butterworth-Carr on Friday.
The statement said the boy was a suspect in the stabbing of a 37-year-old man, and a Taser was used in his arrest. Officers found the boy inside a group home next door to the crime scene, and when he came out, he was shocked with a stun gun.
The unidentified boy was taken to hospital for assessment and then taken into custody, police said Friday. The stabbing victim is recovering from his wounds.
Police shouldn’t investigate police: Braidwood
But Thomas Braidwood, the former head of B.C.'s inquiry into the police use of Tasers and the death of Robert Dziekanski, says the case is another reminder that police should not investigate police.
"I'm not suggesting for a moment that there is or has been any coverups, but there's always a suspicion of it. But I did wish that they'd get with it and set up this independent tribunal that I said," Braidwood said.
Butterworth-Carr said she supports the idea of an independent tribunal investigating such incidents, but it was not possible under the current regulations.
"I know there's been concern with respect to the fact that it's another police agency investigating us, but that's all we have. And certainly, if we had an independent body, much like what Alberta does, absolutely, I think that would be a great thing to have in place."
Youngest Taser victim
Ellen Turpel-Lafond, B.C.'s Representative for Children and Youth, said it's the province's responsibility to ensure the safety of children in foster care or group homes and that's why she says she'll be conducting her own review into the incident.
"The police protocol is, if it is a child, there's a review done. But my issue is not if proper police procedures were used, but why are we using a Taser on a child to begin with?" she said.
"When we think about this being a very young aboriginal, vulnerable child, 11 years old, living away from home, in a group home, I can't think of a more vulnerable child," she said.
The BC Civil Liberties Association has also called on police to release more information about the incident and why a Taser had to be used on a child.
Simon Fraser University criminologist David MacAlister says it's hard to draw conclusions about the officers' conduct until more details come out. But he believes the boy is the youngest person ever to be shocked with a stun gun by the RCMP in Canada.
He pointed out that in Braidwood's final report on Taser use, it said there is a concern about police using stun guns on individuals who are particularly thin because there is only a thin layer between their skin and heart.
Braidwood was appointed by the B.C. government to oversee an inquiry on the use of Tasers or conducted energy weapons in the province and to make recommendations about their appropriate use. He also carried out an inquiry into the death of Dziekanski, a Polish immigrant who was shocked several times with a stun gun at the Vancouver airport.
The Mounties have been fiercely criticized over the use of stun guns since Dziekanski died.