A Vancouver-area transit cop who used a Taser on a fleeing passenger suspected of not paying his fare has been handed a two-day suspension without pay for abusing his authority.
A ruling issued by the Office of the Police Complaints Commissioner concluded Constable Daniel Dickhout wasn’t justified when he used his Taser on Christopher Lypchuk, who was caught dodging the fare at a SkyTrain station in September, 2007.
The written decision says Constable Dickhout was attempting to issue a violation ticket when Mr. Lypchuk fled. Constable Dickhout and another officer caught up with Mr. Lypchuk in a stairwell, where Constable Dickhout deployed the Taser, causing Mr. Lypchuk to fall to the ground and hit his head.
Constable Dickhout, 60, said he believed Mr. Lypchuk was attempting to assault the other officer, referred to as Constable Chartrand, but adjudicator Ian Pitfield rejected that claim.
“I concluded that the officer did not believe that Mr. Lypchuk was about to assault (Constable) Chartrand, but that if he held such a belief, it was unreasonable in the circumstances,” wrote Mr. Pitfield.
While Mr. Pitfield said Constable Dickhout was not justified in using the Taser, he also said the case does not amount to serious misconduct. He concluded a two-day suspension is adequate.
Mr. Pitfield said Constable Dickhout is highly regarded by his superiors and has no other complaints on his record.
Constable Dickhout started his career as a military police officer and then worked for the Vancouver Police Department from 1976 to 2003. He joined the transit police in 2005.
The adjudicator also noted Mr. Lypchuk apparently didn't think the event was serious enough to warrant a complaint. The B.C. Civil Liberties Association brought the case to the commission's attention.
“The use of a conducted energy weapon against a fare evader cannot be justified, if ever, in any but the most unusual and unique circumstances, none of which were present in this instance,” Mr. Pitfield wrote.
“However, this is not an incident involving misconduct of the most serious kind.”
Mr. Pitfield noted Taser standards have changed since 2007, driven in large part by the death of Robert Dziekanski after he was stunned with an RCMP Taser at Vancouver's airport.
The latest standards, put into place in January of this year, say Tasers can be used only if suspects are causing bodily harm to themselves, officers, or someone else, or there is reasonable grounds to believe that’s about to happen.
Officers are also required to use crisis intervention and de-escalation techniques, if possible, before deploying a Taser.
The Canadian Press