Taser use in New Brunswick is down nearly 50 per cent in the last four years after the Department of Public Safety brought in new rules on the use of stun guns.

The provincial government released statistics showing Tasers were used 22 times in 2011, which is down from 43 times in 2008.

The Department of Public Safety revised its Taser policy in 2008 to require annual certification for law enforcement officials who use stun guns, instead of a three-year certification process.

The policy applied to the Saint John, Fredericton, Rothesay and Edmundston municipal police forces that use the devices. But it did not apply to RCMP officers in the province.

The RCMP, however, did change its policy to avoid stun gun shots to a person’s chest.

RCMP focus on 'de-escalation'

Cpl. Chantal Farrah said the national police force has been offering more training to its officers so these weapons are not used.

She said the RCMP's new use of force training and policies put a large emphasis on "de-escalation" of situations.

"The totality of the circumstances, which includes: situational factors, tactical considerations, officer perceptions as well as the subject's behaviour, all determine the options available to the officer and assist in determining the safest and most effective way to handle the situation," Farrah said.

"A more restrictive CEW [conducted energy weapon] policy with a higher threshold for CEW use may also be a contributing factor to the decrease in CEW usage."

While use of these weapons has diminished in the last four years, Farrah said it was difficult to say how the trends would continue.

Taser use dropped in B.C.

The drop in Taser use in New Brunswick follows a similar pattern in British Columbia.

Police officers in the western province used their Tasers 640 times in 2007, compared to 85 times in 2011, a committee heard this week.

The B.C. committee is examining the status of recommendations to tighten provincial Taser policy since Robert Dziekanski's October 2007 death.

Dziekanski died after he was stunned repeatedly with an RCMP Taser at the Vancouver airport.

New Brunswick had a coroner’s inquest into the death of Kevin Geldart in 2007.

Geldart died of cardiac arrest in a Moncton bar following a violent confrontation with RCMP officers.

Geldart died on May 5, 2005, after RCMP officers hit him in the neck with a stun gun as they tried to take him into custody.

Hours earlier, he had walked away from the psychiatric unit at Moncton Hospital where he was being treated for bipolar disorder.

The coroner's inquest found that underlying medical conditions cause his death, not the weapon.