Go to the Globe and Mail homepage

Jump to main navigationJump to main content

Sergeant Gord McNevan demonstrates the use of a taser at police headquarters in Peterborough, Ont. (CLIFFORD SKARSTEDT JR)
Sergeant Gord McNevan demonstrates the use of a taser at police headquarters in Peterborough, Ont. (CLIFFORD SKARSTEDT JR)

Judge urges tighter restrictions on tasers Add to ...

The B.C. government and the RCMP are at odds over the province's immediate implementation of Thomas Braidwood's recommendations on the use of tasers.

The Mounties want time to study the report, which could affect policing across Canada.

But B.C. Solicitor General Kash Heed said Thursday he was ordering the adoption of all 19 recommendations of the Braidwood commission, and expected all B.C. police forces to follow, including the RCMP, which polices communities that are home to 70 per cent of the province's residents.

More Related to this Story

"I've given a directive, and that directive I expect to be followed by every police officer in British Columbia, including the RCMP," Mr. Heed, the former West Vancouver police chief, told a news conference held shortly after Thomas Braidwood issued 19 recommendations on reforms to police use of tasers.

Mr. Heed appeared to take it as a given that the RCMP would be in line with the ideas of Mr. Braidwood, who is heading the inquiry into the death of Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski after he was tasered at Vancouver International Airport in October 2007.

Mr. Braidwood said the B.C. government should make the RCMP acceptance of the reforms a precondition for the province entering into a new policing agreement with the Mounties when the current deal expires in 2012.

Pressed on what he would do if the RCMP did not agree, Mr. Heed said he believes the RCMP would follow his orders on tasers.

"I certainly gave them a clear direction. I am confident they will follow it. I expect them to follow it, " he told reporters, noting his staff were talking to senior Mounties.

But a spokesperson for RCMP operations in B.C. said the force would take time deciding how to proceed, and were cautious about the prospect of creating B.C. taser standards at odds with RCMP operations in the rest of Canada.

"These recommendations would have implications to our training, policy and operations across the country, and it is too early to make a public statement on our next steps until we have the appropriate amount of time to review these recommendations," Sergeant Tim Shields said.

"We still need to review and assess the conclusions and recommendations from this report, which is almost two inches thick."

Asked about 2012, he said the Mounties are committed to working with the province on required adjustments to procedures, policies and training.

Mr. Braidwood, a retired justice of the B.C. appeal court, was appointed in February, 2008, to head a commission of inquiry on taser use by police other than the RCMP, deemed as a federal police force to be outside provincial jurisdiction, and a study on the death of Mr. Dziekanski.

Mr. Dziekanski, 40, was stunned repeatedly with a taser during a confrontation with four Mounties prompted by his erratic conduct. While the use of the taser has not been conclusively linked to the cardiac arrest that killed him, its use prompted a furious, ongoing debate about the police use of stun guns.

"On balance, I am satisfied that our society is better off with these weapons in use than without them. However, my support for their use is conditional on significant changes being made in when and how the weapon is deployed," Mr. Braidwood told a news conference yesterday.

He ruled out a moratorium on the use of tasers.

His 19 recommendations, he said, respect the need to provide police officers with the best tools for their jobs, but are also mindful of the potential of tasers to cause serious injury or death, as well as what he called "Canadian values." He noted that tasers have been linked to 25 deaths in Canada.

Taser, he said, "have the capacity to cause serious injury or death, typically by triggering heart arrhythmia which can lead to ventricular tachycardia and-or fibrillation." He also noted that "deploying a conducted energy weapon against an emotionally disturbed person is, in most cases, the worst possible response."

He called for tougher standards for taser use, suggesting they should not be used to enforce municipal bylaws or provincial offences such as transit-fare evasion, but only for "truly criminal offences." He said that they may be use against people causing bodily harm or if a police officer is satisfied "on reasonable grounds" the subject's behaviour will imminently cause bodily harm.

"It would embarrass me as a Canadian to watch a police officer deploy this weapon against a subject, even one under investigation for a criminal offence, for merely walking or running away from the officer," he said.

Among his recommendations was that police should be barred from discharging stun guns for more than five seconds - Mr. Dziekanski was subjected to five blasts over 31 seconds - and that officers assigned tasers should also be given external defibrillators.

Mr. Braidwood also decried the absence of provincial standards on the approval, use, care, and testing of tasers as well as training for officers using them, resulting in a "patchwork quilt of inconsistent policies." He said the province had "abdicated" its responsibilities.

The news conference marked a rare opportunity for reporters to pose questions for Mr. Braidwood, who took all queries, but declined to discuss the circumstances of Mr. Dziekanski's death in detail because that part of his review is still under way.

"It will come," he said.

Asked if there was anything he would encourage the government to do, Mr. Braidwood replied, "Accept everything I said."

Follow on Twitter: @ianabailey

In the know

Most popular video »

Highlights

More from The Globe and Mail

Most Popular Stories