Amnesty opposes Taser use on Aberdeen

Amnesty International Canada has stated it’s opposed to the possible use of Tasers as a strategy by Kingston Police to break up any future unsanctioned street parties, a spokesperson for the organization told the Journal.

“The use of Tasers to disperse crowds after disruptive activities such as Frosh Week and Homecoming is not an acceptable use for Tasers,” said Amnesty spokesperson John Tackaberry. “We as an organization are [already] calling for a suspension of their use until questions are answered about their impact in terms of people who are in agitated states.

“We certainly don’t think it should be used as a way to move along people who are rowdy and disruptive.”

City police announced a proposal last week to purchase 30 additional Tasers as a new option for applying “reasonable force” when confronting unlawful activity such as that which occurred during the unsanctioned Aberdeen Street party Sept. 24. They also said they want to purchase 180 helmets with face shields and are looking into the possibility of tear gas.

Dr. Andrew Reid, a Kingston-based physician for the Ontario Provincial Police, said he’s had a Taser demonstrated on him, as must all police officers who work with the weapon.

“[In demonstrations] we usually activate them for a full second and you’re usually on the ground very quickly,” he said. “It’s just the loss of ability to use your muscles.”

Reid explained that a Taser is a “less lethal” use-of-force option that can deliver a jolt of electricity—up to 50,000 volts—from up to 6.5 metres away and can penetrate up to five centimetres of clothing.

When administered as a necessary means of force, an officer may tase an individual for five seconds to disable them, he said.

“As soon as it’s over, though, the person regains full strength, so during those five seconds are when the officer has to get on top of the person [to make an arrest],” he said. “If after five seconds they still want to fight, you can shoot them again for another five [seconds].”

Tackaberry said Amnesty has reviewed a number of studies—from organizations such as the Canadian Police Research Centre and the US-based Police Executive Research Forum—leading them to believe that in some instances, multiple Taser use may cause death.

According to the CBC, critics of Tasers say more than 50 people in North America have died after being tased since 2001.

Reid said there’s no proof a Taser has ever caused death.

“The cause of death, ultimately, is cardiac arrhythmia,” he said, explaining many cases involve individuals who have drugs in their system. “So no coroner’s inquest has come out to say the Taser has killed somebody.”

The provincial government approved the use of Tasers by police in the summer of 2002.

“The province of Ontario feels that a Taser is an effective and safe use-of-force option for a police officer for a situation where use of force is indicated,” Reid said.

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