Archive for February 28th, 2008

Tasers and Human Rights

Thursday, February 28th, 2008

The use (or rather the misuse) of tasers by law enforcement in Canada (and also the U.S.) is a growing human rights concern according to Amnesty International (AI) Canada (please see “Amnesty International’s Concern About Tasers”). Taser-related deaths have been increasing since they were deployed amongst law enforcement officers in Canada (and the U.S.). Most recently is the case of a Polish immigrant, Robert Dziekanski, who died after being stunned with a taser by the RCMP at Vancouver International Airport (see Amnesty International Canada’s news report on airport death). (News reports at the time said that Dziekanski was arriving to meet his mother and got lost in the airport. He couldn’t find any assistance in finding his way and couldn’t contact his mother. He grew frustrated and agitated at being lost in the airport. RCMP didn’t realize he was speaking Polish and sent the wrong language interpreter to the scene.) In 2004, AI Canada published a report addressing the issue of tasers. With the report are clear cases of tasers being used excessively, in some cases ending in death (please see “Canada: Excessive and lethal force? Amnesty International’s concerns about deaths and ill-treatment involving police use of tasers”).

Instead of sitting by and allowing this misuse of tasers to continue and taser-related deaths to increase, AI Canada is calling for a moratorium on the use of tasers. AI Canada is asking that law enforcement cease the use of tasers until independent research can be conducted on them. If you believe that the use of tasers should stop until more research is conducted on them, take action and fill out the form on AI Canada’s moratorium page. I have filled out the form and added the following comment:

Addditionally, the use of tasers can be inherently dangerous if used on someone with a pre-existing health condition (such as epilepsy or heart disease). Persons with specific health conditions are at greater risk of dying from being stun by a taser as their bodies’ tolerance to being stunned is lower. I do not believe law enforcement officers are well trained enough to be able to determine if someone may have a health condition that might predispose them to dying from a taser stun.

Clearly from the increasing taser-related deaths, tasers should be considered lethal force and in the meantime, should not be used until further research and clearer safety parameters are set.

You can read AI Canada’s latest report (in pdf) on this issue – “Canada: Inappropriate and excessive use of tasers (May 2007)”.

~~~Cass