New stun gun changes studied by oversight group
An organization of Canadian law enforcement oversight bodies is examining the need for more changes in how stun guns are used in the country.
The death of Polish-born Robert Dziekanski at the Vancouver Airport in 2007 sparked an inquiry into how Tasers are used by police.
The RCMP changed its rules on how they use the stun guns in May so that Mounties are only supposed to use the weapon when a person is causing bodily harm or an officer has "reasonable grounds" to believe a person will "imminently" harm somebody.
The Canadian Association for Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement, which monitors and promotes high ethical standards in police forces, is holding meetings in Fredericton this week to discuss possible changes on Taser use.
Alex Neve, a spokesperson from Amnesty International, said the RCMP's policy change on when Mounties use the stun guns is welcomed but there is room for further reform.
"We would have liked there to have been an adjective that was something like 'serious' bodily harm or 'grievous' bodily harm'. We'll be looking at that very closely," Neve said.
The recent RCMP changes do not affect municipal police forces in New Brunswick so Neve said he also wants to see a standardized policy across all police forces in Canada.
At least 20 people in Canada are known to have died after being struck with a Taser.
Dziekanski died after being hit with a RCMP Taser at the Vancouver airport. A video of the confrontation taken by a fellow passenger triggered public outrage and a re-examination of stun gun use.
Justice Thomas Braidwood called on the B.C. government last July when he released his report's findings to place strict restrictions on the use of Tasers, including a requirement that the weapons be used only when there is a threat of bodily harm.
Other provinces have also taken a second look at how they use stun guns, and the RCMP is planning a sweeping overhaul of its Taser policy.
George Wright, the president of the Canadian Association for Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement, said the Braidwood inquiry has put the spotlight on rules governing when the stun guns should be used.
"The Taser situation, we all know that that was a pretty major thing which has required extensive examination and investigation, especially by the Braidwood inquiry in B.C.," Wright said.
Those findings of the Braidwood inquiry have already had an effect on how the weapons are used, according to Kevin Brosseau, the senior director of the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP.
Brousseau said the number of times the weapons were used in 2009 was roughly 650 compared to 1,200 in 2007