Vancouver and British Columbia are gaining a reputation for having taser-happy cops. Recent statistics show that you’re much more likely to be tasered in Western Canada than in the rest of the country. BC has the highest number of taser incidents in the country, with over 500, followed by Alberta, with over 400. The drop off to the next province is a steep one. Ontario and Quebec, with larger populations, have had only a small fraction of those numbers.
By now, the Robert Dziekanski incident at Vancouver International Airport is world famous. “Welcome to Canada.” ZAP. Maybe it’s something about transportation facilities that puts cops and security officers on edge, because now we’re finding out that Transit Police on the Skytrain are using them on people, too. No, not on suspected terrorists. Believe it or not, at least five fare dodgers have been tasered. Fare dodgers! Call me soft on crime, if you must, but that strikes me as rather harsh.
Just how they justify tasering fare dodgers is beyond me. How great a threat do they really represent? If that doesn’t demonstrate that tasers are being used as a first response rather than a final measure for potentially dangerous assailants, what does? This is just lazy policing, at best. “I can’t be bothered wrestling him to the ground, so I’ll just zap ‘im.” Maybe it’s worse. Maybe it’s, “I can get away with zappin’ ‘im cuz he tried to get away”. Give some people a uniform…
There are supposed to be guidelines for the use of these things. The RCMP and local police forces like the VPD are supposed to have policies, anyway. The transit police aren’t real police, though. Who knows what policies and guidelines they have, if any? They’ve been accused of using excessive force in the past, even before they started carrying tasers.
I don’t know if there are provincial or national guidelines governing all use of tasers. If there aren’t, there should be. News reports about the statistics seem to indicate that there are. If those rules do exist, they need to be enforced. Otherwise, we’ll have cops and pseudo-cops tasering anyone they like, for whatever reason - or just because they can.