CPC Chair Submits Interim Taser Report to Public Safety Minister Day



    OTTAWA, Dec. 12 /CNW Telbec/ - Paul E. Kennedy, Chair of the Commission
for Public Complaints Against the RCMP (CPC), today submitted his Interim
Report concerning the RCMP's use of the Conducted Energy Weapon (CEW),
commonly know as the Taser, to the Minister of Public Safety Stockwell Day,
following a request made by the Minister on November 20, 2007.
    The interim report includes 10 recommendations for immediate
implementation that address concerns identified throughout the document.
    "The most powerful asset in a police officer's arsenal is public support.
Anything that erodes that support reduces the ability of officers to
successfully perform their duties on behalf of the public," said Mr. Kennedy.
"Because of this dynamic relationship, effective policing policies are
critical to ensuring public confidence in the accountability of both
individual members and the RCMP as a whole."
    Mr. Kennedy's review is complementary to his Chair-Initiated Complaint
into RCMP actions surrounding the in-custody death of Robert Dziekanski at the
Vancouver International Airport on October 14, 2007. The report also builds on
the work already undertaken by the Commission on the use of CEWs, as referred
in its June 2007 annual report.
    The report's executive summary and recommendations can be found in the
attached backgrounder. Given the short timeframe to complete the document, the
full Interim Report is immediately available upon request in English only and
will be available in the near future in both English and French on the CPC
website at www.cpc-cpp.gc.ca.

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    Executive Summary

    The most powerful asset in a police officer's arsenal is public support.
Anything that erodes that support reduces the ability of an officer to
successfully discharge his/her responsibility on behalf of the public. For
that reason, law enforcement use of the conducted energy weapon (CEW),(1) and
other use of force techniques, is a public policy issue. The very nature of
policing and the dynamics of the relationship between the police and those who
are policed call into question actions and techniques vested with law
enforcement personnel that would otherwise be illegal to most citizens.
    The police need tools and techniques that enable them to justifiably and
reasonably do their job of enforcing laws and protecting society, while at the
same time protecting themselves. On the other hand, citizens have the right
not to be subject to unreasonable police practices and behaviours that
constitute abuse and erode civil liberties. Because of this dynamic
relationship, policing policies are critical to the public's perception of the
police in that they establish standards by which the RCMP as a whole and its
members individually may be held accountable. As such, policy development is
central to police governance.
    The CEW is currently one of several use of force weapons available to law
enforcement. As such, the CEW has a role in specific situations that require
less than lethal alternatives to reduce the risk of injury or death to both
the officer and the individual when use of force is required. In other words,
it is an option in cases where lethal force would otherwise have been
considered. However, CEW use has expanded to include subduing resistant
subjects who do not pose a threat of grievous bodily harm or death and on whom
the use of lethal force would not be an option. The question to be addressed
then is in what situations are CEWs not appropriate for use.
    The Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP (Commission) is not
recommending an outright moratorium on CEW use by the RCMP, as the weapon has
a role in certain situations. Rather, the CEW needs to be appropriately
classified in use of force models for very specific behaviours involving very
specific situations. This means restricting the use of the CEW in both push
stun and probe modes and classifying it an "impact weapon", permissible only
in those situations where an individual is behaving in a manner classified as
being "combative" or posing a risk of "death or grievous bodily harm."
    Current RCMP policy classifies the CEW as an "intermediate" device
placing it in the same category as oleoresin capsicum spray. This
classification permits use of the weapon for those situations where an
individual is exhibiting behaviours that are deemed "resistant", and not just
"combative" or posing a risk of "death or grievous bodily harm" to the
officer, themselves or the general public. It is the position of the
Commission that the placement of the CEW as an "intermediate" device
authorizes deployment of the weapon earlier than reasonable.
    The current approach by the RCMP clearly illustrates a shift in
permissible usage from the original intent in 2001, which was more restrictive
in that the weapon was to be used to subdue individual suspects who resisted
arrest, were combative or who were suicidal. The Commission refers to this
expanded and less restrictive use as "usage creep". This has resulted in
deployment of the weapon outside stated objectives as illustrated by cases
that have been reviewed by the Commission over the past six years where the
individuals have exhibited behaviours that were clearly non-combative or where
there was no active resistance.
    Current RCMP policy for CEW use has evolved without adequate, if any,
reference to the realities of the weapon's use by the RCMP. Changes to policy
appear to have appropriately considered the experiences of external sources,
but failure to correlate this data to RCMP-specific experiences amounts to a
significant oversight, which should be redressed at the earliest opportunity.
    Of particular concern is the fact that there are currently 2,840 CEWs
within the RCMP and since introduction, 9,132 members have been trained to use
the CEW, yet there exists no empirical data generated by the RCMP as to the
benefits, or detriments, of using the weapon. The CEW has been deployed in
push stun or probe mode over 3,000 times since its introduction in December
2001, yet not one annual report has been produced and the information captured
on the Conducted Energy Weapon Usage Form has not been thoroughly examined nor
utilized in the development of current CEW policy. This is further exacerbated
by the fact that the CEW data base at headquarters has only been fully
operational since late 2005, yet the CEW was first deployed in the field in
late 2001. Accurate and meaningful data on CEW use is crucial in terms of
understanding when and why members are employing certain use of force
techniques and enabling senior officers to take corrective action when
necessary.
    Failure to properly collect, collate or analyze its own data means that
the RCMP is unable, by its own inaction, to relate any external research to
RCMP use of the CEW. Six years after the introduction of the CEW to the RCMP
arsenal, there exists neither comprehensive nor even more cursory analyses
readily available to the Commission to assist in conducting this review. This
neglect means that the RCMP has been unable to implement systemic
accountability processes, such as public reporting, and cannot evaluate what
effects its policy changes have had on CEW use, training or officer and public
safety. In effect, CEW use was liberalized without a complete thoughtful
analysis or strategic plan, which amounts to a critical shortfall in the
management and oversight of the CEW.
    Supervision of those members that use the CEW is another method for
ensuring appropriateness. Though the Commission was not able to fully examine
the data pertaining to the number of members and instructors trained to use
the CEW according to rank, the numbers tend to indicate that not all
supervisors in the field are trained on the CEW. Yet, those supervisors are
the ones who are responsible for the members under their control who may be
authorized to use the weapon, and complete the necessary forms that are
submitted to headquarters. The Commission is of the opinion that any
corrective action that may be needed for members who improperly use CEWs is
impeded in those situations where the supervisor is not trained and certified.
    A mechanism is needed to ensure ongoing compliance with the RCMP use of
force model and current CEW policy during operational use. The RCMP has
acknowledged that proper assessment and accountability relating to the use of
the CEW requires adequate reporting and analysis. This information is crucial
in resolving concerns about use and developing appropriate and applicable
policies and practices. In addition to the lack of RCMP-wide evaluations of
CEW use, there has been little done to determine how CEW use has affected the
application of other use of force options. These too are key considerations in
determining the overall merits of the CEW. To ensure consistency of practice
and policies and to establish a defined accountability mechanism, in addition
to enhancing transparency, a National Use of Force Coordinator within the RCMP
is essential.
    Training programs must ensure that RCMP members learn to appropriately
deploy a CEW and that the decision-making process and assessment of
situational factors according to the use of force model is appropriate and
justifiable when using the weapon. The use of force model is taught
extensively during cadet training at Depot when cadets receive training for
almost all other types of intervention options, including the use of firearms.
CEW training, however, is not taught at the same time as the other use of
force options; though this appears to be changing. Currently, CEW training can
be provided years after completion of cadet training at Depot and the
requirement of yearly re-certification has decreased to every three years. The
Commission believes that this time period is too long and that biannual
re-certification is more appropriate. This will ensure that those permitted to
use CEWs remain current with policy, policy shifts and situational assessment
techniques and experiences in the use of force model.
    The tragic occurrences associated with CEW use in the past few months
have raised the level of public concern regarding the weapon. The RCMP relies
upon studies that speak to the relative safety of CEWs as a less lethal
technology. However, many of these same studies note the lack of research in
relation to "at risk groups". It is imperative that research be continued to
establish the safety levels for "at risk groups" and to determine whether, by
virtue of the very symptomology exhibited by these groups (i.e. drug use or
psychiatric disorders), they may be exposed to a disproportionate number of
police interventions where CEW use may be deemed appropriate.
    When examining CEW use by law enforcement personnel, it is evident that
consideration must be given to the condition of excited delirium. However, it
should be noted that the term does not have universal acceptance within the
medical community. Excited delirium, while still a contentious issue with
some, has been identified in the literature to be a compelling medical concern
that should be taken into account by law enforcement personnel. However, the
topic as it relates to the use of CEWs rests in the currently held belief that
individuals in a state of excited delirium are in immediate need of medical
intervention and that treatment should not be delayed in the hopes that the
individual's condition will improve. The position of the Commission is that
CEWs are not the preferred option for dealing with individuals experiencing
the condition(s) of excited delirium unless the behaviour is combative or
poses a risk of death or grievous bodily harm to the officer, the individual
or the general public. As such, the CEW is not a medical tool for dealing with
individuals who appear to be experiencing the condition(s) of excited
delirium. It is clear that RCMP involvement in CEW related research is
necessary to further assist policy development and practice.
    To address these concerns and others identified throughout this interim
report, the Commission recommends, for immediate implementation, the
following:

    Recommendation 1: The RCMP immediately restrict the use of the conducted
energy weapon by classifying it as an "impact weapon" in the use of force
model and allow its use only in those situations where an individual is
behaving in a manner classified as being "combative" or posing a risk of
"death or grievous bodily harm" to the officer, themselves or the general
public. This includes use of the device in both push stun and probe modes.

    Recommendation 2: The RCMP only use the conducted energy weapon in
situations where an individual appears to be experiencing the condition(s) of
excited delirium when the behaviour is combative or poses a risk of death or
grievous bodily harm to the officer, the individual or the general public.

    Recommendation 3: The RCMP immediately communicate this change in use of
force classification to all members.

    Recommendation 4: The RCMP immediately redesign the conducted energy
weapon training members receive to reflect the classification of the device as
an "impact weapon".

    Recommendation 5: The RCMP immediately amend the conducted energy weapon
policy by instituting the requirement that re-certification occur every two
years.

    Recommendation 6: The RCMP immediately appoint a National Use of Force
Coordinator responsible at a minimum for the following:

    
    - National direction and coordination of all use of force techniques and
      equipment;
    - Development of national policies, procedures and training for all use
      of force techniques and equipment;
    - Implementation of national policies, procedures and training for all
      use of force techniques and equipment;
    - Monitoring of compliance with national policies, procedures and
      training for all use of force techniques and equipment;
    - Creation, maintenance and population of data bases related to the
      deployment of use of force techniques and equipment; and
    - Analyses of trends in the use of all use of force techniques and
      equipment.

    Recommendation 7: The RCMP immediately institute and enforce stricter
reporting requirements on conducted energy weapon use to ensure that
appropriate records are completed and forwarded to the national data base
after every use of the weapon.

    Recommendation 8: The RCMP produce a Quarterly Report on the use of the
conducted energy weapon that will be distributed to the Minister of Public
Safety, the Commissioner of the RCMP, the Chair of the Commission for Public
Complaints Against the RCMP and all Commanding Officers in each Division that
details at a minimum:

    - Number and nature of incidents in which the conducted energy weapon is
      used;
    - Type of use (i.e. push stun, probe, threat of use, de-holster, etc.);
    - Number of instances medical care was required after use;
    - Nature of medical concerns or conditions after use;
    - Number of members and instructors trained;
    - Number of members and instructors that successfully passed training and
      number that were unsuccessful at training; and
    - Number of members and instructors that successfully re-certified and
      number that were unsuccessful at re-certification.

    The Quarterly Report will be produced for a period of three years
effective immediately.

    Recommendation 9: The RCMP produce an Annual Report on the use of the
conducted energy weapon that will be distributed to the Minister of Public
Safety, the Commissioner of the RCMP, the Chair of the Commission for Public
Complaints Against the RCMP and all Commanding Officers in each Division that
is comprehensive of all Quarterly Reports for that year, and at a minimum
details:

    - All data required and analyzed in the Quarterly Report;
    - Justifications for suggested or actual changes in policy;
    - Justification for suggested or actual changes in training;
    - An analysis of trends of use;
    - An analysis of the relationship between use and officer/public safety;
      and
    - An analysis of the relationship between use and suggested changes in
      policy and training.

    The Annual Report will continue to be produced after the time period for
the Quarterly Report has expired.

    Recommendation 10: The RCMP continue to be engaged in conducted energy
weapon related research looking at medical, legal and social aspects of the
weapon's use. This includes focusing at a minimum on:

    - CEW use, the infliction of pain and the measurement of such pain;
    - Appropriateness of CEW application in contrast to other forms of use of
      force interventions;
    - CEW use against vulnerable or at-risk populations;
    - Alternate use of force/intervention options when dealing with people
      who present with symptoms of excited delirium;
    - CEW use, excited delirium and sudden or unexpected death within the
      context of a rural setting or Northern policing; and
    - Connections between CEW use, excited delirium and the possibility of
      death.
    

    This includes notably collaborative research projects being carried out
by the Canadian Police Research Centre (CPRC).
    The Commission intends to further examine RCMP use of the conducted
energy weapon. With challenges in obtaining accurate and meaningful data, the
need to fully evaluate existing RCMP data on CEW use by RCMP members, the
amount of research and literature that exists on the subject, and the
necessity to conduct cross-jurisdictional comparisons, the Commission intends
to produce a Final Report by the summer of 2008 that expands on these and many
other issues identified to date. The Final Report will include comprehensive
recommendations.

    Paul E. Kennedy
    Chair, Commission for Public Complaints
    Against the RCMP

    ----------------

    (1) Conducted energy weapon (CEW) is also commonly referred to as a
conducted energy device (CED), Taser(R) or stun gun. These terms can be used
interchangeably




For further information:

For further information: Nelson Kalil, Manager, Communications, (613)
952-2452, nelson.kalil@cpc-cpp.gc.ca

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