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The Globe and Mail

Liberals urge police to follow taser findings

The Vancouver Police Department said it would immediately implement the recommendations of the Braidwood commission on the use of tasers, and Liberal MPs urged other police forces to do the same.

"We fully respect the process and have completely co-operated with every step and level of the inquiry," Vancouver's Deputy Chief Constable, Doug LePard, said at a news conference Thursday. "No officer will be deployed with a taser who has not had an in-person briefing on the new directives."

Ujjal Dosanjh, the former Liberal public safety critic who has been outspoken on the use of tasers, said the federal government could order the recommendations be enacted "with the stroke of a pen."

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"The RCMP will move only when the federal government puts its weight behind these recommendations," he said.

The party's current public safety critic, Mark Holland, said the government has ignored concerns about tasers raised by the House of Commons public safety committee.

"We've had many of these answers just sitting, waiting to be implemented," Mr. Holland said. "It's our hope this is the impetus to finally get it done."

Public Safety Minister Peter Van Loan said in an e-mail that the government would consider the report.

"I am asking the RCMP to review the findings and recommendations of the Braidwood Inquiry Phase 1, with the objective of improving upon current RCMP policies and procedures with respect to taser use," he said. "This will build on earlier improvements made by the RCMP to their policies."

The report could affect how police use tasers, also known as conducted-energy weapons.

The BC Association of Municipal Chiefs of Police said it welcomed the report's findings.

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"The report recommends a new and different threshold for CEW use and we will take immediate steps to put this policy in place," it said in a statement.

Many provincial and municipal police forces declined to comment on the report Thursday, saying they need time to study the recommendations.

"I can't speak to that, but ... the use of violence is always one of our last resorts," said Sergeant Pierre Chamberland, a spokesman for the Ontario Provincial Police. "Our goal is to keep the peace."

Some have reacted to criticisms of tasers in the past, however.

At a news conference in Ottawa in February, OPP Commissioner Julian Fantino said tasers are not lethal.

"Tasers save lives," Mr. Fantino said at the time. "There has to be policies and procedures and accountability. But to deprive our police officers of what is, in fact, a very essential tool to do their jobs is counterproductive."

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Officials from the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police and the Canadian Police Association were also present that day. Tasers "certainly enhance public safety and officer safety," said Charles Momy, president of the CPA.

But the safety of these weapons has been called into question. In April, dozens of tasers in use by the Alberta police were taken out of service when independent tests revealed they didn't work properly. Since then, every police taser in the province has been tested, said Michelle Davio, a spokesperson for the Alberta Solicitor General's office.

"We're confident in our oversight and our guidelines," she said, noting that many of the report's recommendations are already in place in Alberta.

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