The new RNC chief says equipping officers with stun guns will improve public safety.
RNC Chief Bill Janes announced Wednesday morning at RNC headquarters in St. John’s that the police force has ordered 15 stun guns, which will be given to a “select group of officers,” including the tactics and rescue unit, which responds to high-risk situations such as armed barricades, patrol officers, and the crime suppression unit, a new team tackling organized crime, especially motorcycle gangs.
Janes said the RNC’s use of force committee recommended adding stun guns to the force for several reasons, including their use by other police forces across Canada, technological improvements to stun guns that have “enhanced their reliability and consistency” and an “event log” that will record the deployment and use of the weapons, which incapacitate people with a brief electric shock.
Janes also cited the Braidwood Inquiry, which concluded “our society is better off with these weapons in use than without them.” The Braidwood Inquiry was a public inquiry into the use and safety of Tasers — a brand of stun gun — after Robert Dziekanski, a Polish immigrant to Canada, was killed after being shocked five times by police officers attempting to subdue the unruly Dziekanski at the Vancouver airport.
The Braidwood Inquiry concluded the officers weren’t justified in using Tasers against Dziekanski.
The Braidwood Inquiry also noted several factors that make stun gun use problematic, including mental health problems and heart conditions, and concluded strong provincial oversight in the regulation of their use, due to a “troubling lack of consistency” in police agencies’ approach. Among municipal police forces, the inquiry found at least 160 instances — out of 1,397 uses — when stun guns were used against people either co-operating or not actively resisting arrest, “neither of which justifies deployment,” according to the report. The report recommends the weapons be used only to enforce federal criminal law, and that any officer equipped with a stun gun should have an automated external defibrillator readily available as well.
The chief told the Telegram later Wednesday that a decision on whether officers will also have defibrillators has not been made yet, and he noted the Braidwood Inquiry is just one piece of information the RNC used to making a decision.
“It was a look at the calls that are officers were responding to and the jeopardy they are in and the jeopardy the community is in … and the improvement in these weapons over the last decade, their reliability and consistency, the event log within the device which records the deployment,” he said. “When we look at other provinces and other police services, we’re either seeing a continuation or an expansion of the conducted energy weapons usage.”
Janes said stun guns will only be used by officers who have been trained to use them, and Janes hopes they’ll be in use by mid-summer. “The RNC has a full policy in place to provide direction on usage and followup reporting,” he said, adding the use of the weapons would be authorized on “violent or aggressive individuals,” or people equipped with a weapon other than a firearm. “That will be fully explored and developed in our policy and in training for the officers.”