British Columbia

More Tasers on the way for Metro Vancouver Transit Police

Vancouver Transit Police have announced they will be adding 40 more Tasers to their fleet, meaning half of front-line officers will be equipped with both a Taser and a gun.

Police force announces 40 additional Tasers to be introduced into 120 officer fleet

Half of Metro Vancouver's Transit Police front-line officers will be equipped with Tasers over the next year. (CBC)

Metro Vancouver Transit Police will soon be equipped with more Tasers.

The police group is in the process of introducing 40 more Tasers to its fleet over the next year, meaning half of front-line officers will soon be armed with both a Taser and a gun.

"Chief Doug LePard is aiming for a total of 60 Tasers to be with front-line officers within a year," said Transit Police spokeswoman Anne Drennan.

Drennan says the new additions are meant to enhance the safety of officers and offenders should dangerous situations occur.

"He wants officers dealing with these critical incidents to have rapid access to a less-lethal option than using their handgun."

All of Metro Vancouver's 120 front-line transit officers are currently equipped with a standard issue Glock. Drennan says it will work out so one officer in each pairing is armed with a Taser.

"It's a really valuable tool and it can save lives — but the circumstances have to be right for its use."

Rigorous training

Drennan assures that officers will undergo a rigorous training program before they are equipped with their Taser, something Vancouver lawyer Art Vertlieb says is important to ensure the tools don't get abused.

"It really comes down to the officer training, which is critical," Vertlieb told stand-in host Gregor Craigie on CBC's BC Almanac..

Vertlieb served as commission counsel to the Braidwood Inquiry, an investigation into the safety of Tasers and the controversial death of Robert Dziekanski, a Polish immigrant who died after being repeatedly Tasered by a group of RCMP officers at the Vancouver International Airport.

Robert Dziekanski died after being stunned multiple times with a Taser in the arrivals lounge of Vancouver International Airport. (Paul Pritchard)

Vertlieb hopes the officers will handle the Tasers responsibly, given past tragedies.

"Clearly, they are less lethal. But what needs to always be remembered is that this is called a conductive energy weapon. It's a weapon. It's not a candy-cane."

The sentiment was echoed by Josh Paterson, the executive director of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association. He worries the additional tools will open the door towards unnecessary force.

"Are they being used as an alternative to lethal force? Or are they being used as an alternative to less lethal forms of intervention?"

"There are really important questions about the use of these devices ... that we've still never really seen resolved," he said.

But Drennan maintains that transit officers will be responsible and diligent.

"You have to consider very carefully when you use a Taser because it can have negative results. I think that the training is very important so that the officer has to very quickly assess the situation to find out if using a Taser is appropriate."

With files from CBC's BC Almanac

To listen to the full interview, click on the audio labelled: More Tasers on the way for Vancouver Transit Police