Calgary Herald (9 May 2010) [LINK]
A police officer in Philadelphia exercised his so-called discretion this week when he tasered an unarmed teenager who ran onto the baseball diamond during a Phillies game. He shot the 17-year-old prankster from behind, firing 12,000 volts that sent the boy tumbling into a heap. The real shock is this was not a clear misuse of force... ...officials defended the officer... Regulations restricting use of the weapons need to be spelled out, so there is little room for such discretion in the absence of far more aggressive behaviour on behalf of a suspect.
In Canada, the last of the grey zone was coloured black and white a day after the baseball incident. RCMP announced tighter taser rules for the second time in two years. Mounties can now only reasonably use stun guns if the suspect is being physically combative or threatening physical harm. The refined policy further clarifies a major change implemented last year... The new policy is long overdue, but better late than never. With clear directives, swift consequences can be taken when officers misuse their power.
"Had the new policy been in place at the time of Dziekanski's death, it may have resulted in criminal charges against the officers," says Mount Royal University criminologist Doug King. As it was under the old policy, the Crown found the officers followed procedure, even though their actions contributed to Dziekanski's demise.
...Shooting people with such powerful weapons simply to get compliance from suspects was never in line with Canadians' expectations. Police sold tasers to the public support as a nonlethal alternative to drawing their guns yet in some cases it's being used before even issuing a verbal warning. What's more, some 25 Canadians have died after being tasered by police, while more than 300 taser-related deaths have occurred in the U.S.
Bad policy leads to bad decisions, as the incident at the Philadelphia baseball game so aptly illustrates. Taser use should leave little room for officer judgment, because too often that judgment is clouded.
It's worth noting that police officials found that the police officer did nothing wrong. And yet, they're changing their policies so that police will no longer get involved with similar minor field intrusions.
Did nothing wrong, but it'll never happen again (in similar circumstances).
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