LETTERS TO THE EDITOR - Telegraph Journal, New Brunswick
Published Saturday December 30th, 2006
Appeared on page A5
Please, cabinet, stop police TASER use
Dear Honourable Premier and Honourable Ministers:
As the father of a 10-year-old autistic boy with severe communication challenges I have long been aware that persons with autism and other disorders which impair communication skills have on occasion been TASERED by police forces in North America; in some part because police will use TASERS when dealing with "unruly" persons who do not respond to commands, just as they sometimes use forceful takedowns in effecting arrests of such persons. I am concerned about the use of such dangerous weapons on New Brunswick citizens by our police forces.
The announcement by New Brunswick's Chief Coroner, Dianne Kelly, that she has set a date for an inquest into the death of Kevin Geldart, 34, who had been reported missing from a Moncton hospital ward on May 5, 2005 and who died after Moncton police used a TASER gun on him later that day, increases my concern, as does news that the Fredericton City Council has voted to authorize the purchase of TASERS for use by Fredericton City police officers.
TASER use has raised concerns around the world and its use has preceded the deaths of approximately 50 people in North America since 2001. A TASER is a weapon which discharges a high voltage shock, causing immediate and total loss of muscle control.
Amnesty International has called for cessation of TASER use by police forces pending further study of their safety and has stated that the use by police forces of TASER weapons contravenes international standards prohibiting torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment as well as standards set out under the United Nations (UN) Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials and the Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials.
Please be safe not sorry. You have great and necessary responsibilities to weigh on your consciences. The unnecessary death of New Brunswick citizens should not be among them.
I ask that your government prohibit the police use of TASERS or at least suspend such use until your government has studied their safety and you personally feel comfortable with their use on New Brunswickers.