On news that British Columbia Police Complaint Commissioner Dirk Ryneveld has received an “independent” report on TASER use from Victoria Chief Constable Battershill, we question whether Mr. Ryneveld commissioned a truly independent and impartial report.
Instead of obtaining a report from an expert in the academic or scientific community, Mr. Ryneveld has commissioned a report from a police chief whose department has had a long businbess relationship with the stun gun’s manufacturer.
The Victoria Police Department was the first police department in Canada to buy Taser weaponry. In 1999, one of Chief Battershill’s police officers wrote a complimentary report on TASER use that the company, Taser International Inc., has posted on its website for promotional purposes: www.taser.com. More recently, Taser International sponsored a gathering of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, to which Chief Battershill and other Canadian chief constables were invited.
Mr. Ward brought his concerns to the attention of Mr. Ryneveld in a letter dated September 7, 2004. He wrote: “We question whether Chief Constable Paul Battershill is in a position to conduct an impartial investigation, given his police department’s association with Taser International, the manufacturer of the weapon. We note that a report authored by Sgt. Darren Laur, control tactics coordinator, of the Victoria Police Department appears as a testimonial to TASER use on Taser International’s website…In the circumstances, it is our view
that only a truly independent and impartial authority is in a position to investigate the concerns about TASER use.”
On September 29, 2004, Mr. Ryneveld wrote Mr. Ward to defend his selection of Chief Battershill.
We stand by our criticism. The Battershill report parrots the company line and is hardly an objective study. The Arizona Republic and the New York Times have published extensive reports documenting more than 70 deaths linked to TASER use by police officers in the United States. How can a police chief be qualified to express an opinion on the safety of a device that delivers up to 50,000 volts of electricity to the human body?
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