HALIFAX — Nova Scotia has placed an immediate interim restriction on the use of Tasers to “situations of violent or aggressive resistance or active threat that may cause serious injury” to a police officer or another person.
The measure was one of 16 recommendations contained in the second part of a ministerial review of Tasers released Thursday by provincial Attorney General and Justice Minister Cecil Clarke.
The review was prompted by the death in custody in Halifax last November of Howard Hyde after he was shocked with a Taser.
Mr. Clarke said the interim restriction will remain in place until a full policy review can be completed. He said the review will be conducted by a “use of force co-ordinator,” who will help establish new standards of use for the devices, including how, when and by whom the devices may employed.
Nova Scotia wants to ensure the conducted energy weapons are not used to force a subject to comply with a police demand, but only in situations in which someone presents a danger to the public, himself or police.
BUT CLARKE REFUSED A BAN, AND CRITICS SAY IT WILL DO LITTLE TO CLARIFY TASER’S USE
But Clarke refused to impose a ban on them despite lingering questions over the death of Howard Hyde, a Dartmouth, N.S., man who died after being Tasered by police last year.
“There is no moratorium,” he told reporters at the legislature after the release of a 36-page report, which was prompted by Hyde’s death.
“In the vast number of occasions the Taser has been effective and safe when deployed.”
But critics panned the announcement, saying it will do nothing to create clear standards for Taser use
and doesn’t differ greatly from existing guidelines on when the devices should be used.
According to the old language, the device should only be discharged where there is “risk from aggression, violence or other reasonable conditions exist … in the interests of public or officer safety.”
NDP justice critic Bill Estabrooks said the measure is merely a stalling tactic and fails to provide any clear guidance on when the weapons are used.
“I’m disappointed in the delay, I’m disappointed in the lack of clarity,” he said.
“I was expecting that they were going to make some clear decisions, particularly when it came to restrictions, use and accountability. I mean, the buck stops at the minister’s desk.”
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