With nearly 300 deaths following the use of tasers -- electric stun guns -- by police in the United States and Canada, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police internal watchdog panel this week came up with a reasonable and responsible plan to curb taser use.
The RCMP should immediately restrict the use of tasers to only the most serious encounters with people who are combative or pose a risk of “death or grievous bodily harm,” the head of the force's public complaints commission says.
The recommendation is among ten made by commission chairman Paul Kennedy in an interim report released Wednesday. The interm report comes on the heels of the use of the electric stun gun after the death of Polish citizen Robert Dziekanski at the Vancouver airport on Oct. 14.
Among the recommendations:
• Reclassify the taser as an “impact weapon” rather than an “intermediate” device such as pepper spray, which changes how officers use it according to the RCMP's use of force model. In other words, the taser should only be used in situations where a person is being “combative” or poses a risk of “death or grievous bodily harm” to the officer, themselves or the general public.
• Change the RCMP's taser training program to reflect its status as an impact weapon.
• Require recertification in taser use every two years.
• Require and enforce stricter reporting requirements every time a taser is used.
• Creation of an “use-of-force” co-ordinator to oversee policies, techniques and equipment.
“The most powerful asset in a police officer's arsenal is public support. Anything that erodes that support reduces the ability of officers to successfully perform their duties on behalf of the public,” Kennedy said.
He nailed it on the head. Let's hope police administrators have the brains -- and the morals -- to immediately heed these common-sense recommendations.