RCMP members with less than five years of operational experience should be prohibited from using Taser stun guns, the force's watchdog said Wednesday, adding that any individuals zapped by the Mounties should receive immediate medical attention.
Paul Kennedy, head of the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP, released a final report Wednesday outlining 12 government recommendations on the ' use of Tasers by the Mounties.
Among his key recommendations, Kennedy said "that individuals who are Tasered about whom police have no knowledge of underlying medical conditions receive prompt medical attention, thereby possibly saving their life."
'The use of these stun guns on people should be much better regulated and restricted. Let's find a way to treat people as people.'
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He also said a new policy should be implemented that would restrict Taser usage to experienced officers.
"The Taser must be in the hands of those qualified and trained, but also those who have the knowledge, experience and judgment to know in which circumstances this weapon may be most effective."
However, Kennedy said, there should be allowances on that policy due to geographical contingencies. In rural settings, officers who have the rank of senior constable with at least five years of experience would be allowed to use the weapon. But in urban areas, members would have to have attained the rank of corporal or above.
Kennedy also said the Mounties have failed to comprehensively track how they use the weapons, which are used by police to incapacitate people using a 50,000-volt electric shock.
"The quality of the data in the RCMP national data Taser bank is so poor that any of the policy shifts after the 2001 introduction of the weapon cannot be factually supported," Kennedy said.
Kennedy said of the 4,000 reporting forms examined contained "large gaps in the data where numerous fields on the reporting forms were not completed."
He said there were instances where the RCMP knew Tasers had been used, but no forms were submitted.
Interim report called for restricted use
The commission, an independent civilian agency, launched a probe into how the force uses Tasers following the death of Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski, a case that attracted worldwide attention after a videotape capturing his death was released.
Dziekanski, 40, died after four RCMP officers zapped him with a stun gun at least twice at Vancouver International Airport.
In an interim report, Kennedy had called on the force to restrict its use of stun guns, saying the weapons are increasingly employed to subdue those who are resistant rather than those who pose a threat.
In that report, Kennedy criticized the RCMP for failing to manage the use of Tasers and allowing usage to grow over the past six years to include cases where people were "clearly non-combative."
Kennedy reaffirmed in his final report that the weapon be classified as an "impact weapon" and be used in situations where an individual is "combative" or posing a risk of "death or grievous bodily harm," including individuals appearing to be experiencing the conditions of excited delirium.
Other recommendations for the RCMP included:
- Implementing clearer operational guidelines on the use of stun guns against "at-risk populations" and in particular the role of emergency medical services after the weapons have been deployed.
Making Taser reporting forms more detailed to include the context surrounding weapon's use, a description of the subject's behaviour, information on how the officer's safety was augmented by the weapon, and justification for a multiple or prolonged use of the weapon.
Instructing all divisions to immediately conduct a comprehensive review of Taser use, identify all outstanding reports and immediately submit all reports to the national database.
Kennedy's findings follow a joint investigation by CBC News/Radio-Canada and the Canadian Press which found that RCMP officers are likely to fire their electronic stun guns multiple times during an altercation, despite a policy that warns it may pose health risks.
The media outlets, examining data from 2002 to 2007, also found multiple use of Tasers is increasing.
As well, the probe revealed that about one in three people stunned with a Taser by the RCMP receive injuries that require medical attention.
In a statement Wednesday, Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day said the government "accepts the report and its recommendations in principle," including further restrictions on how Tasers are used.
Day added he had already met with RCMP Commissioner William Elliott to discuss the implications.
"We will act on the recommendations as quickly as possible to provide clearer direction to our members, to further restrict situations in which the [Taser] can be deployed, and to develop and implement measures to enhance accountability and to promote officer and public safety," Elliott said.