British Columbia to question Taser use today
The first phase of a public inquiry into the use of Tasers in British Columbia begins today.
This first phase will look at the rules of use of the weapon by police, the training they receive and any medical evidence about the conducted energy weapons.
Retired B.C. Appeal Court justice Thomas Braidwood, who will head the inquiry, will make recommendations on appropriate use of the device.
A second phase will examine the circumstances surrounding the death of Robert Dziekanski -- however, it is on hold until a decision is made on whether charges will be laid in the case.
The 40-year-old Polish man died at Vancouver International Airport last October. A bystander captured the last moments of Dziekanski's life on video.
Tasers jolt an individual with 50,000-volt shock. The jolt causes a person to lose control of their muscles, making it possible to for police to bring them under control.
However, there have been questions raised about whether police are using the devices to control or punish rather than protect themselves from harm.
Emile Therien of the Canada Safety Council told Canada AM that he thinks a call for a ban on Tasers is unlikely to come out of the inquiry because of how popular they are with police services.
He said he hopes that the inquiry recommends that police services release their internal numbers on how many times Tasers are used. From there, a better idea of their use could lead to national standards
"There's no standards whatsoever on their use at the moment . . . at the minimum they should adopt national standards," Therien said.
"Relaying on manufacturer's specifications is totally unacceptable."
The RCMP classifies Tasers as an intermediate weapon that can be used when a suspect is "resistant."
Paul Kennedy, chair of the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP (CPC), recommended in December that Tasers be classified as an impact weapon.
That would mean a Taser could only be used when a suspect is "combative" or posing a risk to the officer's safety.
He didn't recommend a complete moratorium on the weapons, saying they had a place.
In addition, there are questions about whether Tasers are safe. Studies conducted on pigs suggest a Taser jolt could affect the heart's rhythm.
"I think the assertion that's been made that Tasers cannot possibly cause any direct action on the heart is incorrect. Tasers can affect the heart in particular circumstances," Dr. Paul Dorian told CTV's Canada AM on Friday.
He authored an article published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal about the effects on pigs.
At least 20 deaths in Canada have been linked to police use of Tasers, with about 300 in North America.