#1Apr 7th, 2009
Police are realizing the dangers of their zap-guns
By GREG WESTON (external - login to view)
Last Updated: 7th April 2009, 1:17am
While it is hard to imagine anything good coming from the RCMP's sickening stun-gun death of Robert Dziekanski at Vancouver airport, there has at least been a significant drop in other Mounties' getting their man by electrocution.
A report on RCMP use of the electro Taser weapons indicates a total of 563 people were zapped in 2008, roughly half the number who got shock treatment the year before.
The report was prepared by Paul Kennedy, the thoroughly able head of the RCMP public complaints commission, watchdog of the federal force.
Kennedy concludes that police are realizing the dangers of their zap-guns, and are showing increased restraint before firing them.
The report also shows a major decline in the number of times officers drew their Tasers last year, but didn't have to zap anyone.
That, says Kennedy, is likely an indication of growing public awareness of the Taser, resulting in suspects yielding to the mere threat of being lit up.
No doubt, fear is a dominant byproduct of the current public inquiry into the tragedy that befell the hapless Polish visitor after his arrival in Vancouver to see his mom.
The horrifying amateur video of Dziekanski's fatal final minutes with the four stooges of the apocalypse is enough to scare the wits out of hardened criminals and honest citizens alike.
The bad news is Kennedy's report suggests the case may be symptomatic of problems far larger than four misguided Mounties.
First and foremost, there's the issue of honesty.
The cops involved originally filed official reports which tried to depict Dziekanski as some kind of wild, armed ogre who somehow would have overwhelmed and savaged the four young and burly officers if they hadn't repeatedly zapped him with enough voltage to run a subway.
Even now that the famous bystander's video has completely belied the cops' versions of events, they have nonetheless stuck to their clearly fanciful stories, under oath, often provoking outright derision at the inquiry.
In his report, Kennedy raises similar questions about the veracity of other Horsemen who have drawn their Tasers, and who may be trying to take Canadians for a ride.
For instance, official reports filed by RCMP officers who drew their Tasers last year indicate that in 54% of the cases, their actions "avoided the use of lethal force."
In other words, according to the official reports filed by almost 1,000 RCMP officers, without Tasers, the force would have would have resorted to firearms and gunned down almost 600 people last year.
Kennedy notes: "There is reason to be suspicious of this figure ... There were no cases identified as active resistance (by a suspect) that would, based on the facts provided in the (officer's report), have resulted in lethal force.
"There were at most two cases where the subject could be considered so dangerous that lethal force might have been used to prevent escape."
But for outright gall, it is hard to beat the Mounties who filed official incident reports saying that in a majority of cases involving potential suiciders, zapped them avoided the use of regular firearms.
Kennedy concluded: "It is hard to fathom circumstances under which suicidal subjects, bent on injuring themselves, would be killed."
This is the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Put your hands up! Please do not attempt to commit suicide, or we will shoot you ..