Conducted Energy Weapon

Executive summary

The Conducted Energy Weapon is listed as an "Intermediate Device" on the Incident Management Intervention Model, used by the RCMP to determine the appropriate level of force, if any, required to preserve public and officer safety in relation to a police incident. As an "Intermediate Device", the CEW would only be used against those subjects, normally under arrest, who are displaying "resistant" or "combative" behaviors against police officers and/or members of the public. The CEW uses electrical shock to incapacitate in "probe mode"; or to induce pain as a compliance measure in "touch stun" mode.

The use of TASER® s by the Canadian policy community, including the RCMP, has generated occasional controversy because of sporadic media and advocacy group allegations that Conducted Energy Weapons (CEWs) cause, or contribute to, fatalities in some cases. When the RCMP adopted the TASER® M26 in late 2001, a paper form, the Conducted Energy Weapon Usage Report (Form 3996), was developed to capture information, including personal information, in relation to every CEW incident.

The primary purpose behind development of the form was to gather statistical information that would inform the debate as to the safety and efficacy of the CEW as a less-lethal force option. A secondary purpose was to be able to quickly retrieve CEW incident data in response to a request as to whether a Form 3996 had been submitted in relation to a given subject.

The original proposal in 2001 was that the Form 3996 CEW incident data would have been stored in a restricted-access, stand-alone electronic database, housed on a national server. The database was partially developed; however, it was never implemented or populated. Paper forms have been submitted and are on file, but the data from those forms have never been loaded into a database.

It is now proposed to proceed with the development, implementation, and population of a new CEW incident database, that would contain some personal information on a temporary basis (name, date of birth, and FPS number), and other less identifying personal information on a permanent basis (age, gender, height, and weight). The CEW data would reside on a national server, to which access would be restricted to ATIP coordinators, division Criminal Operations Branches, and the national CEW policy centre analyst. It is proposed to "back load" all available Form 3996 data submitted since 2001.

Limited personal information (name, date of birth, and FPS number) would only be retained for two years from the date of a CEW incident and then the personal information would be purged, since the requirement to link a specific CEW incident to a specific individual is of waning importance as time passes. The completed form, in paper or electronic format, will be stored separately on the operational case file, which will be retained until the appropriate retention period has expired.

To demonstrate the safety and efficacy of CEWs, it is essential to gather the data from all incidents involving the deployment of a CEW. Statistical data is necessary to enable accountability to the public.

The RCMP believes that the CEW is an effective and safe less-lethal weapon. The RCMP contends that the use of the CEW is averting injuries and fatalities to public and peace officer alike. To assess/ establish the validity of this position, it is essential to collect and analyze empirical statistical data in relation to all incidents during which RCMP members had occasion to deploy a CEW.

The Canadian Police Research Centre, a part of the National Research Council, is undertaking a multiyear, multi-jurisdictional study of TASER s, the brand name of the most widely-sold CEW® W. The Victoria Police Service, as a result of an order issued by the British Columbia Police Complaints Commissioner in August 2004, is also undertaking an intensive review of TASER®s. Both have already requested that the RCMP provide statistical data in relation to the CEW incidents reported by RCMP officers. There will be future studies and legal proceedings, such as trials, inquests, etc., for which empirical statistical data would be of great benefit to the legitimate public interest in the safety of the CEW.

The RCMP, as an acknowledged leader in the Canadian policy community, wants to ensure that Conducted Energy Weapons are a safe and effective less-lethal weapon, saving lives and averting injuries. The CEW database would enable the RCMP to discharge its mandate of accountability and transparency to the Canadian public. This proposed CEW statistical database, which would contain limited personal information (name, date of birth, and FPS number) for only a limited period of time, would advance the understanding of Conducted Energy Weapons and any possible harmful effects, not only within Canada, but internationally. Note that the studies would be conducted using CEW data would cite aggregate data only, and would not contain personally-identifiable information.

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