Saturday, March 08, 2008

Vancouver Police Release Taser Report

The Vancouver Police Department has released (Links to police pdf reports are on the right side of that page.) details on the approximately 150 times its officers have pulled their tasers from 2002 to 2007:
VANCOUVER - The Vancouver Police Department has publicly released details on the roughly 150 times it has used the Taser over the past six years - records that show the device is most often used against those who are mentally ill or armed with a weapon. ...

However, in other cases, there was no immediate physical threat to officers or others and the Taser was simply used to make a suspect comply.

"Suspect fled from plainclothes members and resisted arrest when caught. Suspect was taken to the ground but refused to allow [officers] to handcuff him and held his arms underneath his body," reads one report from 2006.

"Strikes and open hand techniques were attempted but the suspect was still resisting. A [Taser] drive stun was applied to the suspects' lower back and the suspect was then handcuffed."

This article quotes a representative of a Canadian civil rights organization responding to the report:

Jason Gratl, president of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, said he was troubled to see Vancouver police are using the Taser as a compliance tool.

"The officers seem content to Taser individuals for lack of compliance with verbal commands or aggressive posturing," said Gratl. "It is dead certain from these reports that Tasers are not merely an alternative to the use of sidearms but are used in practice as a convenient tool to gain physical control over individuals."

And this quote from a police officer gives some insight into police justification of taser use:

"...a simple request to stop, show your id or drop the weapon should suffice. A request is seldom enough to stop someone who's bent on suicide, deranged with mental illness or high on drugs or alcohol or armed with a weapon."