Thursday, March 6, 2008

Truth, Justice and the Canadian Way, Part II

The second story contains the results of one of those long-awaited reports on taser use. This time in Nova Scotia. .

Apparently the amount of training "differs significantly among law enforcement agencies", with RCMP and corrections officers receiving 16 hours of training to become a Taser operator while municipal police officers and sheriff’s deputies get half that. Some enforcement agencies require a supervisor’s approval whenever possible before using the stun gun, while others are told to give notification "as soon as practical" afterward. Some guidelines say the only time a Taser should be fired more than once is when a subject continues to resist, while others don’t mention it. All enforcement agencies are told to issue a verbal warning before using the Taser, but only some are directed to give an arc demonstration before firing it.

So there you go, now you know. Anything surprising there? Not really, I can't say I expected consistency in either training or rules of engagement. However, as Justice Minister Cecil Clarke noted, "differences are hard to justify".

Incidentally, the report found that there was no "causal connection" between Taser use and last November's death of Howard Hyde, a 45-year old schizophrenic from Dartmouth who died about 30 hours after Halifax Regional Police subdued him with a Taser. Which doesn't much surprise me, either. Given that only a little digging will show that despite the number of people who have died after being shot with a Taser, it is very difficult to find more than one or two cases where the Taser itself is believed to have caused the death. Unfortunately, the media's favourite play seems to be to link the two events (being tasered and death) as being causal just because they both occurred.

And, as a final twist, the Halifax Police Department reports that their numbers show that there are more arrest injuries when tasers aren't used they when they are.

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