Canadian Mounties admit abuses, to curb Taser use

Thu Feb 12, 2009 5:00pm EST
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By David Ljunggren

OTTAWA (Reuters) - The Royal Canadian Mounted Police, acknowledging its officers have on occasion been too quick to use Tasers, said on Thursday its members may now only fire the stun guns if there is a real threat to themselves or public safety.

The national police force also said officers have been warned that the weapons can kill.

Critics say the Mounties have used Tasers -- also known as Conducted Energy Weapons (CEW) -- too frequently and often zap suspects who pose no real threat. Such incidents include people trying to avoid paying fares on public transport and, in one case, an elderly man who was strapped to a hospital stretcher.

"On June 18, 2008, all members of the RCMP were instructed that the CEW must only be used where it is necessary to do so in circumstances of threats to officer(s) or public safety," said RCMP Chief Commissioner William Elliott.

"This requirement has subsequently been written into our formal policy. The fact that deploying CEW involves risk was also reinforced," he told a parliamentary committee on public safety.

Concern over the weapons heightened in 2006 after Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski died at Vancouver's airport during an incident in which he was jolted several times by police Tasers and then physically restrained.

Elliott, who declined to comment specifically on the Dziekanski case, later said officers would no longer use Tasers against suspects who were merely resisting arrest.

"I think there certainly have been some instances where Tasers have been used in inappropriate circumstances," he told a news conference.   Continued...