Oak Bay police are getting the jump on a deadline to adopt new policing standards relating to the use of Tasers.
Changes to the department’s use-of-force policy include more training for officers on Taser use and how to better ascertain the state of individuals on whom such force might be used.
The move to update the training regime comes well ahead of the provincial Justice Ministry’s Jan. 31, 2013 deadline to update policing standards. That mandate followed the Braidwood inquiry into circumstances surrounding the 2006 death of Robert Dziekanski, who was Tasered multiple times by RCMP officers in the Vancouver airport.
The new policy describes where and when that level of force is warranted, said Chief Const. Mark Fisher. He pointed out that Oak Bay officers have rarely used the three Tasers they have at their disposal.
The department’s 2010 intermediate force options report shows no instances where a Taser was displayed by an officer, let alone used. Fisher added there were no reportable incidents in 2011, either.
In addition to a one-day course on how and when to use the weapon, officers will be trained in crisis intervention and de-escalation.
Sgt. Rob Smith, the Oak Bay officer in charge of training, said in many instances where a Taser is used, the subject is suffering from mental illness.
“Their lack of following instructions from a police officer at the scene quite often isn’t because of a lack of wanting to, it’s a lack of being able to,” he said.
“The emphasis is on a best practice of how we can de-escalate those confrontations, so that everything can be possibly tried before going hands-on.”
The updated policy calls for all officers to be trained to use portable defibrillators, in case someone goes into cardiac arrest after being shot with the stun gun.
Smith said he’s never had to discharge the weapon over his law enforcement career.
“I’ve had the laser sight on people, and that’s usually enough to gain compliance,” he said. “It’s much the same as pepper spray in that way.”
Fisher said all officers will receive the defibrillator training in March. He hopes to have everyone trained on the new use-of-force policies by sometime this spring.