Nelson Police Department re-certified its officers to use Tasers earlier this month allowing them to carry the weapon for the first time in years.
The local department voluntarily took the Tasers off the street in 2007 as they awaited the results of a public inquiry prompted by the Tasering death of Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski at the Vancouver airport in October, 2007.
In summer 2009, the Braidwood Inquiry came out with recommendations for the safe use of Tasers, including new training standards and that weapons only be used when other de-escalation techniques have failed and a person is threatening or has caused harm on another person or themselves. The province mandated all municipal police departments follow the recommendations.
Nelson Police Department Chief Wayne Holland said a specialized use-of-force team was brought in from Delta to train the local officers on when it’s appropriate to use their Taser.
“If they’ve tried to resolve the issue other ways — they’ve tried to talk and reason with the person — and there’s a threat of harm, then the Taser is a way for the officer to control the person and constrain them in handcuffs,” Holland explained.
Often an officer only needs to threaten to use the Taser, and not actually deploy it, to get a person to comply to their demands.
As was the case pre-2007, an incident report must be filed every time an officer takes the Taser out of its holster. The reports are reviewed by the Police Oversight Office.
Holland noted the oversight office has never once questioned a Nelson officer’s use of a Taser. Still, he welcomes the new guidelines to ensure they’re being used safely.
“We strive throughout our careers in law enforcement to never have to use lethal force,” he said. “The Taser is a less-than-lethal force and it’s one of many tools in the tool belt to help our officers do their job or protecting the public.”