Friday, July 25, 2008

First Taser Incident in Winnipeg

Well, it was bound to happen soon than later. Winnipeg has had its first Taser related death.

The Manitoba Metis Federation wants an inquiry. The father of the boy wants an inquiry too but he seems more apt to believe that the boy might have been threatening police.

An investigation is standard in such a case. Unfortunately, the ability of the police to investigate their own has taken a hit due to the Taman inquiry. Even if it is found that the police had no choice but to fire in self defence, the doubts might linger.

It is hard to hear cops say they can't recall if a colleague was drunk or had been drinking the night someone was killed. It is hard to hear about how no notes were taken by various police forces, how no one seemed to ask a cop if he had been drinking and the special treatment a cop received afterwards both by the police and the courts. These are the things that the Taman inquiry has shown in its many weeks of testimony.

Police should not investigate police. It hurts their credibility. And credibility is what police need to do their job.

The Taman incident has shaken faith in the police and the justice system in a big way.

In terms of Tasers, I think it is clear that Tasers can be lethal. The RCMP and manufacturer of the Taser have tried to say that the Taser doesn't kill but there seems to be a growing consensus that it can lead to heart failure in some people. A 17 year old died from a weapon that is supposed to be non-lethal. That should raise eyebrows right there.

The problem as I see it is that if police believe the weapon is non-lethal, they are more apt to use it than a gun. Tougher guidelines are needed on use.

An inquiry is needed in regards to this death. It should be open and forthcoming as it can be and make recommendations in regards to the Taser at the very least.

In terms of the police and investigating its own, I believe that for its own good, the police should advocate for an independent body.

As for the issue of race, a frank discussion needs to continue.

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