Canada Police Urged to Curb Taser Use
OTTAWA - Canada's national police force should limit their use of Taser stun guns to cases in which a suspect poses a major threat, a Canadian watchdog said Wednesday in the wake of three recent deaths of people who had been shocked by the hand-held weapon.
The report by the Commission for Complaints Against Royal Canadian Mounted Police called to sharply curtail the use of Tasers but stopped short of urging a moratorium. It said the weapon should only be used when suspects are "combative" or pose a risk of "death or grievous bodily harm" to police, themselves or the public.
More than a dozen people have died in Canada after being hit with Tasers in the last four years. However, the Arizona-based manufacturer of Taser guns says they have never been conclusively linked to any deaths in Canada.
On Oct. 14, a Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski died after the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Taser zapped him with a stun gun when he began acting erratically at an airport. His death brought international attention after video of the incident was released, and Canadian police have faced intense criticism over their handling of the incident.
Last month, A 36-year-old British Columbia resident died four days after police used a Taser stun-gun on him because he reportedly was acting erratically in a store. A Nova Scotian man died earlier the same week, 30 hours after being shocked with the Taser at a jail where he was being held on assault charges.
The report recommends revamped Taser training and stricter reporting requirements for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, along with additional research on the devices.
Police spokeswoman Sylvia Tremblawy said the RCMP will study the report and prepare a response.
Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day asked for the report last month.
"I will review this interim report before commenting further," Day said Wednesday. "Our government takes this matter seriously and recognizes that Canadians must have full confidence in their national police force."
On Tuesday, national police commissioner William Elliott told a hearing in the House of Commons that training and usage policies now in use are appropriate.
© 2007 The Associated Press