Judge Thomas Braidwood has issued part one of his report on the death of Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski, which deals with the weapon that may have killed him, the Taser.
Braidwood’s key finding is Tasers can and do kill people, despite ceaseless claims to the contrary by the manufacturer. Twenty-five people in Canada and 300 in the U.S. have died after being Tasered.
His key recommendation is that officers stop using the Taser when a subject is engaging in “active resistance,” and use it only when the subject is causing bodily harm or the officer is satisfied, on reasonable grounds, the subject’s behaviour will imminently cause bodily harm.
Check out Braidwood’s report at braidwoodinquiry.ca/report/. It’s a compelling — if chilling — read. What stands out for me is the number of times Tasers have been used by police since they were adopted.
The RCMP, which polices 70 per cent of B.C., has used Tasers 1,446 times. Municipal police: 1,397 times. Sheriff’s officers: 127 times. Corrections officers: 149 times. Even the transit police have used Tasers six times, three for felonious fare-skipping.
Worse, Braidwood vigorously maintains the reported numbers are low, and the actual use is probably double that. Considering that Tasers cause excruciating pain, temporary paralysis, and even death, I’ve got to ask: Why? Why are so many officers quick to cause excruciating pain and temporary paralysis?
The psychology of the Tasering officer is not really addressed in the report, although Braidwood does lay the blame for inconsistent policies and training at the door of the provincial government, and Solicitor General Kash Heed has been quick to adopt the report’s recommendations. So going forward, we can only hope fewer people are going to get 50,000 volts for refusing to come quietly.
Still, I’m left with the haunted feeling there’s a lot of anger on the Thin Blue Line and the Taser has been its means of expression. I don’t know about you, but until we address that anger, I’ll just take the ticket and smile … carefully.