Conducted energy weapons should not be a substitute for policing
Article: Farron Ager – Oped Editor
On March 14, the Regina Police Service reinstated the use of conducted energy weapons (CEWs) for their officers. The Tasers have already returned to their belts, as a Regina officer used one to make an arrest on March 22.
In 2008, these weapons were decommissioned due to an extraordinary number of high profile deaths across Canada, including the infamous Robert Dziekański Taser Incident in 2007, where a Polish immigrant was tasered five times by RCMP and subsequently died from his injuries sustained. Dziekański’s death, along with other Taser incidences, sparked a nationwide reaction, leading Amnesty International to demand that Taser use in Canada come to an end.
In order to provide perspective on the reinstatement of CEWs, Police Chief Troy Hagen says, “If we can have more tools that are available to use less-than-lethal opportunities to fulfill our duties, then that’s where we want to be.”
And, really, this makes sense. If a Taser can be used as a means to subdue someone who poses a threat, it may mean one less bullet fired from a handgun. I’m alright with that. What I am concerned about, however, is the danger that Tasers may once again fall into default usage as an easy way out to deal with a situation. If it becomes the easy way out again, we may see Taser-related deaths spike once more.
Of course, to combat this notion, the reinstatement of CEWs does come with a bit of fine print. Only anyone who poses a threat of causing bodily harm to themselves, to officers, or the public may be tasered. Technology for CEWs has also underwent a massive reworking as well, including an onboard computer tracking information such as date and time it was discharged, the duration of which it was used, and how many times it was used.
Before 2008, I remember going to an RCMP open house in Regina and have seen willing people tasered for a shared laugh and spectators clapping their asses off. It was something done in good fun. Of course, this was before any of the new rules came into practice, but the light-hearted attitude towards a potentially lethal device proved to be perplexing to me.
While I am in absolutely no position to speculate whether or not the use of a Taser in a situation is justified, I would like to appeal to Regina Police Service to be mindful of the old habits that gripped police nationwide back in 2008. It only took eight days after the lift for officers to start using Tasers again in their operations. It may be just another tool in the belt to fight crime but any tool, with enough effort, can be used as a weapon for lethal means.