The RCMP shifted its national Taser policy and are now training its officers that use of the stun gun poses a risk of death “particularly for acutely agitated individuals.”

In the past, the RCMP had suggested using the weapon was appropriate in cases where “resistant” individuals could be subdued in order for them to be given medical attention.

“We no longer allow that,” RCMP Commissioner William Elliott told a parliamentary committee in Ottawa yesterday.

Elliott stressed the force believes the conducted energy weapons, which fire a 50,000-volt discharge, are still a “useful weapon.”

But the force has changed its training and policy directives to officers in the field to flag the “risks” and to stress it should only be used when “necessary” to ensure “officer or public safety.”

The new policy also says use of the Taser must be “reasonable” in circumstances where otherwise a firearm would be used.

Const. Jeff Carr, a spokesman for the Halifax Regional Police, said they revamped their Taser training rules last year.

A hearing is set for later this month in a Halifax courtroom to look into the death of Howard Hyde. He died in 2007, several hours after police used a Taser on him. Another inquiry is ongoing in B.C. regarding the death of Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski.

The Taser should now only be used where there is “lethal overwatch” or where another police officer is standing by ready to shoot his gun at an individual if the Taser fails to subdue the suspect, Elliott said.

The instructions also warn of the “hazards of multiple deployment or continuous cycling” of the weapon.

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