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Use of Tasers in question

November 2007
I will open by stating the obvious: the death of Robert Dziekanski after being tasered by the 4 RCMP officers should not have happened. I don’t know anyone who would agree wtih that more that the RCMP offiicers themselves. Although none of us “arm-chair quarterbacks” really know what was going through the minds of the officers I can understand one reason why the officers may have used the taser in the fashion they did; they didn’t want anyone to get hurt, themselves included. Although getting hurt or worse is an occupational hazard, I know many good officers who have suffered seroius injuries in scuffles with suspects. Some of them even had other officers there to assist, who also got hurt. The taser has been marketed as a “Less-than-lethal” use of force option. Perhaps it is this promise of an “injury free” way to subdue a suspect has left had the ripple effect of giving officers too much of a false sence of security. Maybe officers are relying too much on technology.

Other use of force options cause a varrying degree of injury or worse. The baton can leave bruising, break bones and, if hit in the head, cause death. Pepper spray is not effective on some people, and in one case that I used it on a violent suspect, only made him more mad at me. A gun can kill, and despite what most TV cop shows will lead you to believe, it is not that easy to “shoot him in the leg” or “shoot the gun out of his hand”.

And don’t think that a handcuffed suspect is not dangerous. They can still use kick with their legs and use their body as a battering ram.

Although no deaths have been directly linked to the use of the Taser, deaths are occurring. Perhaps it is time to re-examine the use of this use of force option. Either that or chalk these deaths up to unfortunate circumstances. Remember that many have been tasered with no ill-effects.

About the author

Bruce Forsyth

Bruce Forsyth served in the Royal Canadian Navy Reserve for 13 years (1987-2000). He served with units in Toronto, Hamilton & Windsor and worked or trained at CFB Esquimalt, CFB Halifax, CFB Petawawa, CFB Kingston, CFB Toronto, Camp Borden, The Burwash Training Area and LFCA Training Centre Meaford.

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