We can learn from Taser video, B.C. premier says

Premier Gordon Campbell says a video recording released yesterday shows there is room for improvement in the way police use Tasers.

Premier Gordon Campbellsays a video recording releasedWednesday shows there is room for improvement in the way police use Tasers.

"I've seen part of the tape," Campbell said Thursday."I haven't had a chance to see the whole tape. Obviously it's very disturbing to me and to others who have seen it, and obviously we can learn from it and do much better."

Campbell was one of several politicians commenting Thursday on a video recording of Robert Dziekanski dying at Vancouver International Airport after being stunned by RCMP with at least two hits from a Taser during the early morning hours on Oct. 14.

B.C. Solicitor General John Les said Tasers are not as lethal as a service revolver, and they have been used consistently over the past years with just two fatalities associated with them in B.C. since 2005.

Six people have died in police Taser-related incidents in B.C. since 2003.

NDP public safety critic Mike Farnworth said Wednesday the airport tragedy warrants the appointment of a special prosecutor under the Crown Counsel Act.

It is up to the Criminal Justice Branch, headed by B.C. Attorney General Wally Oppal, to appoint a special prosecutor. Special prosecutors are non-government lawyers who are appointed to oversee cases that may place Crownprosecutors in a conflict of interest.

Oppal, who is meeting with other provincial justice ministers in Winnipeg, said Thursday he wants to hear the police side of the story before making any decisions.

He said that like anyone else, he was shocked by the video of Robert Dziekanski's death Oct. 14 at the Vancouver airport, but he is not considering a moratorium on Taser use.

Other provincial justice ministers said they're not rushing to judge the use of Tasers, despite the number of people who have died after being zapped by the guns.

At least eighteen people have died in Taser-related incidents across Canada since 2003.

Manitoba Justice Minister Dave Chomiak said there is no conclusive evidence that proves Tasers cause death.

Ontario Community Safety Minister Rick Bartolucci agreed, saying he wouldn't favour a moratorium on Taser use.

But the video of Dziekanski's death has raised concerns for others about the use of Tasers.

Speaking to reporters in Victoria, federal Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion said his party would ask the RCMP to review the use of Tasers.

The federal public saftey critic for the Liberals has alsosaid his party is calling for a national public review of the use of tasers in Canada.

Ujjal Dosanjh said Thursdayhe has been flooded with angry letters and e-mails as a result of the taser video, released yesterday.

But Dosanjh said he isnot in favour of a moratorium on the use of tasers becausehe doesn't want to take what he calls " a valuable tool"away from the police.

But the Liberal MP said too many deaths in Canada have been associated with their use, and they need to be studied.

In Toronto, a police watchdog group is calling for a ban on Taser use by front-line officers in that city.

John Sewell, a lawyer and former mayor of Toronto who heads the Toronto Police Accountability Coalition, said Thursday the city should shelve a proposal to spend $8.5 million to buy 3,000 Tasers for all front-line officers in that city.

"They are going to say it's a safe thing to use," Sewell said, "and bingo, they'll Taser somebody before you know it, as happened at the Vancouver airport."

"If you're going to have Tasers, they should be left with the emergency-trained task force," Sewell said.

For now, the Toronto police plan is on hold, and on Thursday the Royal Newfoundland Constabularyalso confirmed it has halted a plan to buy Tasers, as a direct result of the Vancouver incident.

With files from the Canadian Press