This week’s news that Taser use by B.C. police has dropped 87 per cent in five years left MLA John Slater wondering how officers are managing to control potentially dangerous people.
“How many of them have been shot by police?” he asked, to which a justice ministry spokesman responded that there has been no increase in shootings.
With such a substantial drop, from 645 down to 85 Taser incidents, Slater also questioned whether police are now more exposed to dangerous situations.
An obvious response is that since the death of Robert Dziekanski at the Vancouver Airport in 2007, followed by the recommendations of former judge Thomas Braidwood in 2009, and the change in RCMP policy in spring 2010 that dictated police would only fire at people when they’re hurting someone or clearly about to, police are really asking themselves if the potentially lethal use of force is warranted.
But we suspect the awareness is two-pronged — perhaps it’s not just police, but also the public that has grasped how powerful Tasers are. Just the threat of using one may be enough to cause an otherwise out-of-control person to calm down. An Abbotsford police spokesman added that since the Braidwood recommendations put Taser use so in the spotlight, many officers don’t even carry Tasers anymore.
In Kamloops, Taser use has held steady. In each of 2010 and 2011, the Taser option was used six times, and three times so far in 2012.
This doesn’t mean one was fired all those times, it also reflects the times one was pointed at someone or the laser sight on a suspect was activated.
RCMP Staff Sgt. Grant Learned says having the Taser available gives officers the chance to control a volatile and potentially deadly suspect instead of having to resort to more lethal force.
While the drop in police Taser use is positive and police are providing valuable insights, politicians examining the status of the Braidwood recommendations need to hear from us to have the full picture.
The public will have a chance to have its say on the province’s Taser-use policy on Oct. 22 and 23. Don’t miss this chance to offer your insights on the matter — register by emailing email@example.com or send in a written submission before Nov. 2.
We Say editorials represent the viewpoint of The Daily News and are written by publisher Tim Shoults, city editor Tracy Gilchrist, or associate news editors Dan Spark and Mark Rogers.