taser use up and rising. accountability down and sinking.

Last week, the RCMP released statistics showing a dramatic increase in taser use by their forces: in 2007, tasers were used (or threatened) more than twice as often as they were in 2005. At the same time, the records kept on incidents involving tasers decreased and became less accessible.
The number of incidents involving RCMP stun guns has more than doubled since 2005, according to records obtained by CBC News.

Statistics prepared by RCMP officers on the use of stun guns, or Tasers, show Mounties across the country drew or threatened to draw their Tasers more than 1,400 times last year — a dramatic rise in incidents, compared with 597 in 2005.

The spike was greatest in jurisdictions such as British Columbia, where the number of Taser incidents rose from 218 in 2005 to 496 in 2007, and in Alberta, where it grew from 89 to 371 over the same period.

But while reliance on stun guns has increased sharply since the force began using them in 2001, documents obtained under the federal Access to Information Act indicate that record-keeping about Taser incidents has either become less comprehensive or that the RCMP is unwilling to share all the details of the cases with the public.

More than 2,800 Tasers are in use across the country by the 9,100-plus RCMP officers trained to use them. The RCMP forms that are supposed to be filled out every time an officer even threatens to use a Taser formerly included details such as whether the person encountered by police was armed or suffering from a mental illness. That data was previously disclosed under the Access to Information Act in RCMP Taser reports from 2002 to 2005.

But records recently released to the CBC and the Canadian Press have been stripped of this information, as well as the precise date of each incident, actions taken by the officer before resorting to the Taser, and whether the stun gun caused any injuries — leading some to criticize the RCMP for a lack of transparency.

We need to keep this issue in the forefront. It's vital to our civil liberties, to our freedom to live without fear of being brutalized by authorities. Never forget poor Robert Dziekanski, and the 19 other Canadians whose names we might not know, who died after being tasered by police or RCMP (since 2003).

In North America, 74 people were killed by tasers in 2007, five of them Canadian. My source - and the best site for information about and advocacy against Taser use - is Truth Not Tasers. The site is maintained by the family of Robert Bagnell, who died after being tasered by police in Vancouver in 2004.

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