More Sask. police will be allowed to use stun guns
Saskatchewan could soon see more police officers using stun guns.
The Saskatchewan Police Commission had restricted the use of Taser weapons over the past five years so that only the RCMP and municipal SWAT teams could use them.
Now, the commission has decided that more widespread use by municipal police forces is OK.
Paul Korpan, chair of the Saskatchewan Police Commission, says it has come up with strict regulations on when and how officers can use the stun guns in order to reduce the likelihood of deaths and serious injuries from the devices.
"For example, only one member should discharge a Taser against one person at any give time, only a single discharge should be deployed," Korpan said.
In general, Tasers can be deployed only when an officer or member of the public is at imminent risk of bodily harm, Korpan said.
The devices can deliver an incapacitating 50,000 volts.
"It's a high-level use of force, but it is a step underneath lethal force and it is something that our officers will be now able to use as a force option," said Evan Bray, president of the Saskatchewan Federation of Police Officers.
It will be months before beat cops will carry them. Individual chiefs will decide if they want their officers to use them.
Regina police chief Troy Hagen had no forecast on when Tasers would come to Regina, but said the priority would be front-line officers.
Currently, Regina's SWAT team has 20.
Meanwhile, Saskatoon's chief of police Clive Weighill said he expects his beat officers to be issued the stun guns by this fall.
He said his police service will be open with the public when stun guns are used.
"Whenever we use that device, I'll put out something to the media," he said.
"In the past we've only heard the sad stories that have come out of the use of that weapon, and I'd like to make sure that there's a balance to the public on how we utilize it."
Critics say the health risks associated with a getting the electric shock outweigh any policing benefits.
They also question whether police might turn too quickly to the stun guns, instead of a more peaceful response.