March 25, 2008

the recent taser commentary in Canada ..

None of your business


You may believe that Tasers are a weapon of second to last resort for the police. That the RCMP and municipal forces are only supposed to be using them in lethally dangerous encounters when the only options are 50,000 volts or a bullet.

You'd be wrong.

Don't be embarrassed, it's not an unreasonable belief. Ujjal Dosanjh former Attorney General of BC certainly believed that was the use model intended when BC adopted them. It was only after the tragic death of Robert Dziekanski that he was flabbergasted to discover that the RCMP considered the high voltage electrocution weapon an 'intermediate tool' like pepper spray or physical restraint and are increasingly using them on "clearly non-combative" people that the police would just rather not take the time and effort to talk down or restrain physically. Pressing a button and unleashing instant agonizing pain and the clear risk of death is easier than engaging in what used to be considered basic police work.

When this zap first model was revealed in the tragic case of Robert Dziekanski, an agitated and frightened, but clearly non-threatening visitor to our country shocked multiple times only seconds after the police confronted him, the RCMP seized and tried to withhold from the public the video that revealed their willingness to skip any kind of engagement and go straight to the electric torture.

Now we discover that they are still attempting to keep the details of their ever increasing use of the device from the Canadian people. It's none of our business apparently.

OTTAWA - The RCMP is stripping crucial details about Taser firings from public reports as use of the controversial stun guns skyrockets across the country.

A joint investigation by The Canadian Press and CBC found the Mounties are now refusing to divulge key information that must be recorded each time they draw their electronic weapons.

As a result, Canadians will know much less about who is being hit with the 50,000-volt guns, whether they were armed, why they were fired on and whether they were injured.

Taser report forms obtained under the Access to Information Act show the Mounties have used the powerful weapons more than 4,000 times since introducing them seven years ago.

Incidents have increased dramatically, topping 1,000 annually in each of the last two years compared with about 600 in 2005. The overwhelming majority of firings took place in Western Canada, where the national force often leads front-line policing.

As Taser use escalates, however, the RCMP has tightened the lid of secrecy.

Information stripped from the forms includes details of several Taser cases the Mounties previously made public under the access law. In effect, the RCMP is reclassifying details of Taser use - including some telling facts that raised pointed questions about how often the stun guns are fired and why.

A Canadian Press analysis last November of 563 incidents between 2002 and 2005 found three in four suspects Tasered by the RCMP were unarmed. Several of those reports suggested a pattern of stun-gun use as a handy tool to keep drunk or rowdy suspects in line, rather than to defuse major threats.

But the Mounties are now censoring Taser report forms to conceal related injuries, duration of shocks, whether the individual was armed, what police tried before resorting to the stun gun, and precise dates of firings.

It is legal to film the police anywhere they are performing their official duties, although it makes them very unhappy and making armed people who've have a tendency to electrocute first and ask questions later unhappy has it's risks. There's a growing movement worldwide to have multiple cameras aimed at the police whenever they're in sight.

This is beginning to seem like simple self defense.

Spotted at Larry Hubich's place.

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