SkyTrain police tighten Taser rules

Metro Vancouver’s Transit Police Service has tightened its policy on when officers can fire Tasers.

The change happened after incident reports showed transit police have on four occasions used the electroshock weapons against people who weren’t violent but merely “non-compliant.”

That was allowed under the old policy and internal reviews found the officers involved acted appropriately.

But “non-compliant” has been replaced with “actively resistant” in a policy change approved by the force’s police board May 19.

Deputy chief Ken Allen told the Braidwood Inquiry on Taser use Friday the change aims to address concerns raised in recent weeks that Tasers could be used against fare evaders with no other justification.

“The concern was that the term ‘non-compliant’ could be construed to mean non-payment of fares by the public,” he said.

He was not asked to define “actively resistant.”

Allen was initially reluctant to answer when asked whether someone who fails to pay the transit fare could still be Tasered if they try to flee –  as happened twice in the past year.

Commissioner Thomas Braidwood, a former judge, pressed Allen to answer whether a fare evader who suddenly flees can be classed as actively resistant.

“Not in itself, no,” Allen answered.

He said permitted Taser use would depend on the circumstances of why someone fled.

Braidwood also asked why police who patrol SkyTrain and the bus system need to be armed with guns and Tasers.

Allen cited officers’ response to armed robberies and to incidents of heavily armed suspects wearing body armour at or near SkyTrain stations.

The force denies it ever Tasers anyone for fare evasion.

Transit police officials do not rule out further changes to their Use of Force policy, depending on recommendations from the inquiry or other bodies reviewing the issue.

The inquiry was ordered by the provincial government in the wake of the death of Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski at Vancouver Airport last October after being Tasered by RCMP.

Transit Police officials initially refused to participate at the inquiry, but relented after B.C.’s Solicitor General ordered them to appear.

The Transit Police Taser incidents are also the subject of a B.C. Police Complaints Commission review.

The Braidwood inquiry continues.

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