In the past four years in North America more than 150 people have died after receiving a discharged shock from a Taser weapon. There is some debate about the cause of these deaths but it remains a fact that these deaths would not have occurred if not immediately preceded by the tasering.
I think we need to understand this correlation better before allowing their continued use on the Canadian public.
Right now in Canada a Taser can be used in any situation, on any person (including children, the mentally handicapped, pregnant women or people who are already handcuffed), for any period of time - with no need to justify its repeated use.
I believe our police forces in Canada operate at a high standard of integrity. However people do make mistakes, some people use bad judgment and some people will abuse the power they have to use these weapons - like in the case of Malaika Brooks who at eight months pregnant was tasered multiple times by american police for refusing to sign a traffic ticket - especially when the guidelines of such use are not clear.
Tasers are not safe pieces of kit. Staff Sgt. Sherstan, (RCMP Emergency Response Team in Edmonton) says that Tasers should not be considered non-lethal – but a "less-lethal alternative" to using a firearm in situations where the use of said firearm is authorized.
I think we should suspend using Tasers in Canada until we have:
- An understanding of accumulated research regarding deaths
A national standard on when/how the Taser is used
Restrictions on multiple use and certain areas of the body
Restrictions on use in routine, non-life threatening situations
An emphasis on alternative measures to subdue
A reporting structure for every time a Taser is used
A disciplinary policy for those who misuse their Taser
In addition, I think a public awareness campaign to educate the public on the properly determined use of this weapon by our police services and to reinforce the expectation and importance of complying with legal commands from police officers would be integral to decreasing Taser incidences.