Why would an RCMP officer Taser a child?
What possible reasoning would be in play to justify such an action?
The questionable actions of a rookie cop raised so many questions that Ian McPhail, Q.C., Interim Chair of the Commission for Public Complaints against the RCMP has initiated a complaint into the conduct of RCMP members involved in the Tasering of an 11-year-old boy in Prince George earlier this month. The complaint also focuses on the adequacy of the actions by the RCMP.
McPhail’s action is bang on.
On April 7th police in Prince George received a 911 call that a 37-year-old man had been stabbed at a B.C. children’s ministry facility. The boy who had allegedly stabbed him was found in a neighbouring group home where the officer used his stun gun.
The complaint has been launched with full understanding that the West Vancouver Police Department is currently conducting a criminal investigation into the incident. Apparently the boy, about whom little is known, was Tasered when he tried to leave the home. He was taken to hospital for assessment then taken into custody. The man who was stabbed is recovering.
What is stunning, no pun intended, is that a Mountie 18 months out of training can’t presumably figure out how to safely diffuse a situation with a single child.
The Commission has been on this case since it happened and clearly felt it was necessary to launch its own investigation. They can expect a lot of pressure from native groups and child rights groups not to mention the general public.
To its credit, the Commission has done extensive work on RCMP Taser use over the past several years, including individual high profile cases.
But no one can forget the tragic death of Robert Dziekanski at Vancouver International Airport October 14th 2007. That incident, which was caught on videotape and which outraged people around the world, raised many questions, the central one being why a group of RCMP officers couldn’t peacefully take control of a situation involving one distraught and confused immigrant.
Now people are asking the same thing of a child.
Children can be at greater medical risk when Tasered because of their small size. A report issued last year by the Commission stated that between 2002 and 2009 there were 194 incidents when the force Tasered youth 13 to 17 years old. This incident with an 11-year-old is believed to be the youngest child yet.
The RCMP has adopted many of the Commission’s recommendations and last year announced a new Taser use policy. But clearly someone’s not connecting the dots. An inexperienced officer Tasering a child doesn’t seemingly speak to responsible police work. What prompted him to fire? Did he feel threatened? Was the boy actually holding the weapon? What actions did he take first to diffuse the situation?
Calling in the West Vancouver Police as a non RCMP force to do the investigation still translates as police investigating police. Regardless of their independence from the RCMP, cops relate to cops and there is an underlying camaraderie and sense of support that goes beyond whether they belong to federal or municipal agencies.
Last June, the provincial government committed to act on all the recommendations stemming from the Braidwood Commission’s final report, ‘Why? The Robert Dziekanski Tragedy.’ Those recommendations built on actions taken by the government since Braidwood’s first report that included restricted use of Tasers, standardized police training and crisis intervention.
Braidwood’s final report recommended the establishment of an Independent Investigation Office to be led by a civilian, mandated to conduct criminal investigations into police-related incidents and have its powers entrenched in legislation.
Ten months have gone by. Where is it?