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Over the years, Royal Canadian Mounted Police tactics have been criticized.
The testimony has given more ammunition to critics who accuse the RCMP and local police forces of being Taser-happy. In northern Ontario, for example, a 14-year-old aboriginal girl was arrested for underage drinking and then tasered for picking at the paint in the holding facility.
Amnesty International says 25 people have died after being zapped in Canada, including 11 after RCMP officers used the weapon. An estimated 300 people have died after being tasered in the U.S.
The Arizona-based manufacturer of the shock gun, Taser International, said in a recent statement that its weapon is “the proven safer response to resistance compared to any other use-of-force tool. We stand by the safety of our devices as shown by the substantial volume of Taser research.”
But critics insist that much of the company’s research has not been peer reviewed by independent experts. The CBC news network recently commissioned tests on 41 Tasers and found that four of them delivered significantly more electrical current than Taser International maintained was possible.
Two weeks ago, RCMP Commissioner William Elliott did an about-face, admitting for the first time that firing a Taser poses a risk of death, “particularly for acutely agitated individuals.” RCMP training and policies have been changed to make that clear, he added.
RCMP officers are now prohibited from using Tasers against people in the throes of what police call “excited delirium.” Taser use must be “reasonable” in circumstances were the alternative is to fire a gun.
For Dziekanski, the immigrant with dreams of a new life in Canada, the changes have come too late.
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