New Alberta guidelines on police use of stun guns fail to get tough on training, says the sister of a Lacombe man who died after being Tasered three years ago.
Surya Doan spoke in reaction to new government guidelines on conducted energy weapons which were introduced on Friday. All police agencies, including every RCMP detachment in Central Alberta and the municipal police force in Lacombe, must abide by them.
She said the three police officers and one civilian turned her 28-year-old brother Jason Doan over after he was Tasered and found he was blue in the face. He suffered heart failure while fighting with the four on the lawn outside an Oriole Park home on Aug. 10, 2006. He was in a coma for 20 days at the Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre before he died on Aug. 30.
Surya Doan said the officers should have training to recognize when a person is suffering a serious malady, such as a grand mal seizure, so that medical help isn’t delayed.
Jason Doan had been observed in a highly agitated state by some Red Deer residents who saw him smashing car windows, shouting and yelling at no one and threatening to kill any police officer. He hit an officer over the head with a pitchfork handle before he fought Red Deer Mounties and was eventually subdued with three Taser jolts in less than one minute.
Tasers emit a five-second burst of 50,000 volts of electricity intended to temporarily paralyze a person.
Doan said police officers should be Tasered during training in the same kind of heart-pumping state that someone might be going through at the time of being hit with an electrical jolt.
“Why don’t they get both police officers on a treadmill with their heart rate on as high as some as these people are experiencing that they Taser,” Doan said. “And give them three different cycles of the Taser — 15 seconds each, just to see what compliance they will get. If it doesn’t kill you, why isn’t that part of training?”
“Any other recommendations, I am sure aren’t anywhere close to where they should be,” Doan added.
Solicitor General spokeswoman Michelle Davio said the guidelines say police need to assess the information from emergency dispatch before they go into a situation, so they can call medical assistance as needed.
By proper assessment of the situation, officers will know how to respond to potentially violent situations, she said.
The guidelines also say a police officer must consider what other use-of-force options are on hand first before deploying the conducted energy weapon.
An officer who believes a suspect may cause harm to him or herself or a bystander can use the stun gun, but someone who is simply running away isn’t enough reason to do so. The guidelines also say careful consideration must be given prior to using a conducted energy weapon on a subject restrained by handcuffs or any other restraints.
Previous guidelines said officers could fire the stun guns if someone tried to resist arrest, or even just threatened to do so.
Alberta police must now have a Taser co-ordinator, set requirements for ongoing testing and set up a use-of-force reporting system for Tasers — all of which must be monitored by the Solicitor General and Public Safety.
RCMP welcomed Friday’s announcement from the provincial government.
“We welcome the guidelines and we are of the belief that these new guidelines and our policies are fairly consistent in the application in how CEWs are to be used,” said Cpl. Wayne Oakes, media relations officer for Alberta RCMP K Division. “There will be an increase for public accountability — which can only be a good thing,” Oakes said the RCMP already exceed the guidelines recertification requirements, which is asking officers to be trained every two years.
“Our current policy is that anyone using or carrying a Taser be trained every year,” he said.
The RCMP have had a Taser co-ordinator for many years who is responsible for overseeing the reports on stun gun use that come in from all detachments.
All new Tasers must be tested before being put into service.
“We are committed to complying with whichever level of policy, guidelines or regulations that places the greatest onus on us,” Oakes said.
He expects any changes that must be made will be done as soon as possible.
More than 25 Canadians, at least three from Alberta, have died after encounters in which Tasers were used.
Alberta’s move comes a week after the B.C. government imposed similar restrictions on Taser use following the release of the Braidwood report into the 2007 death of Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski at Vancouver International Airport.