Justice Minister Ross Landry has strengthened provincial guidelines on the use of conducted energy weapons, commonly known as Tasers, to help ensure the health and safety of people involved in Nova Scotia's justice system.
"The revised guidelines recognize that conducted energy weapons are a useful tool for peace officers, but also acknowledge that their use must follow clear and prudent procedures," Mr. Landry said. "The revised guidelines are some of the strongest in Canada and meet or exceed the federal ones."
The revised guidelines outline:
— when and how the devices are to be used
— procedures to be used when dealing with people living with a mental illness or a suspected mental illness
— high-risk situations where the use of the weapons should be avoided
— policy and documentation requirements
— compulsory reporting to the province of any use of the devices
— mandatory training and certification of users
— regular testing of the weapons
"These guidelines will assist police in responding effectively to situations requiring the use of force, giving consideration to both the person involved and the responding officer," said Deputy Chief John Collyer of the Bridgewater Police Service.
The stronger guidelines, which come into effect today, June 9, build on changes made in 2008 in response to the death of Howard Hyde and the subsequent recommendations of the Report of the Advisory Panel on the Use of the Conducted Energy Device by Law Enforcement Agencies in Nova Scotia.
Last month, government released Building Bridges: Improving Care in Custody for People Living with Mental Illness. The plan outlines about 90 actions to address recommendations from Judge Anne Derrick, who presided over an inquiry into the death of Mr. Hyde.
"Peace officers want to respond appropriately to incidents involving people living with a mental illness," Mr. Landry said. "In the guidelines, we emphasize the importance of de-escalation and other crisis-intervention techniques, and that emphasis is now part of all conducted energy weapons training in the province.
"We also emphasize that many of the incidents should be considered medical emergencies to ensure the health and safety of all those involved."
The conducted energy weapon guidelines and a fact sheet can be found online at www.gov.ns.ca/just .