The retired judge whose investigation into the death of Robert Dziekanski led to sweeping changes in police use of Tasers said hes very pleased at the changes made by government and law enforcement agencies since his report.
Justice Thomas Braidwood told an all-party legislative committee on Tuesday that he is pleased and excited with how the B.C. government, RCMP and municipal police forces have changed Taser standards and training since he issued his reports into Dziekanskis death in 2009.
Ive been very impressed with the provinces response to what Ive said, Braidwood told MLAs on the committee.
Dziekanski died in 2007 after he was shocked with a Taser several times during a confrontation with four RCMP officers at Vancouver International Airport.
Amateur video of the incident sparked outrage and led to the commission.
The resulting recommendations have all been satisfactorily implemented, Braidwood said.
The government created new provincewide Taser training standards, which replaced a piecemeal approach by each police department that relied largely on instruction from the devices manufacturer, Taser International.
The government standard states that officers can only use the Taser against a person who is at risk of causing someone harm.
The new standard that has now been set implements my recommendation using virtually identical language, Braidwood said. So that is to be admired.
Officers must also use lesser force and de-escalation techniques when possible, especially in cases of emotionally disturbed people. Provincewide reporting on the devices and independent testing are also being implemented, the committee has heard.
Braidwood repeated his assertion that conducted-energy weapons like Tasers are safe when properly used, though police have relied on the devices too often in the past.
The experience is, overwhelmingly, that the use is beneficial, he said.
Somebody said to me, Well, we should ban Tasers, and I said: Yeah, and then we would just shoot them in the stomach.
Its the balance, and I think weve got the balance here.
The committee of MLAs has been examining how Braidwoods Taser recommendations have been implemented by government and police.
The politicians previously heard that Taser use is down 87 per cent in B.C. since Dziekanskis death, and that police are afraid to use the devices because of public criticism.
In one sense, the dramatic reduction in use of conducted-energy weapons is a good thing, but that one statistic alone leaves many questions unanswered, Braidwood said Tuesday.
More research is required to see if gun usage has increased as Taser usage declined, and whether officers are suffering more injuries while restraining violent subjects, Braidwood said.
The legislative committee, which will continue to hear testimony this month, has one year to produce its final report.
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