RCMP commissioner issues new taser guidelines 

Only one incident in Whistler in past year

For a detachment that spends a lot of time policing the bar scene and breaking up fights, RCMP use of Tasers - officially referred to as conducted energy weapons (CEWs) - is rare in Whistler.

In the past year, Sergeant Steve Wright says a CEW has only been deployed once after a suspect became combative and started to fight RCMP officers. It was only the second time a CEW has been used in the line of duty in the more than four years that Wright has served with the detachment.

The RCMP has threatened the use of a CEW in three incidents in the past year without having to use the weapon.

"Usually a Taser challenge is sufficient to get people to become compliant," said Sgt. Wright.

This week, in light of the Braidwood Inquiry into the 2007 death of Robert Dziekanski at Vancouver Airport and public concern, RCMP Commissioner William Elliott announced changes to RCMP policy. Officers would still carry the weapons, but now they can only be deployed when there is a significant risk to the officer or the public.

"Usually that means there's some kind of weapon involved like a pipe or a broken bottle," explained Sgt. Wright, although weapons are not necessary to pose a threat of injury.

"Previously the person could be resisting arrest and be combative. Now there must be the risk of injury to the public or our member before deployment."

In a letter to newspapers the RCMP Commissioner said, "We have to be honest about our weaknesses and acknowledge our mistakes," and that "any issues that erode the public's confidence in our work are cause for concern."

Elliott also put the RCMP use of CEWs into perspective:

In 2008, the RCMP responded to three million calls for service, or 7,500 calls per day. Less than half of one per cent of those calls involved the CEWs, and just three per cent of incidents resulted in injury.

In more than half of cases, CEW use was restricted to showing or threatening to use the weapon.

"The RCMP is keenly aware that we must constantly assess our policies and practices and be ready to make appropriate changes," wrote Elliott. "In this vein, we have further restricted situations in which CEWs can be deployed, and CEW deployment has declined by 30 per cent."

According to Sgt. Wright just 10 members of the 35-member Whistler detachment are certified to use CEWs. Schedules are made to ensure that at least one CEW-certified officer is on every shift if a situation arrives.

Two more vehicles stolen in Sea to Sky

While the frequency of motor vehicle thefts has dropped off since nine vehicles were stolen in a four-week period at the start of the year, vehicles are continuing to go missing in Sea to Sky. RCMP are investigating to see whether the latest two thefts are related to each other, or to other thefts in the corridor.

Between 4:30 p.m. on April 16 and 12:30 a.m. April 17 a green 1993 Nissan Pathfinder, licence plate KHW 461, was stolen from the commuter parking in Pemberton. The lot is opposite the Petro Canada by the visitor centre. The vehicle has a large push bar in front and a new Yakima roof rack.

Between 10 p.m. on April 18 and 2 a.m. April 19 a blue 1991 Mazda pickup truck, licence BH 1274, was stolen from the Fairmont Chateau Whistler parking area.

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