Thursday, April 17, 2008

Avoid paying the fare - get zapped

There are times when Vancouver's Skytrain stations can be pretty mean places. Depending on the actual station and time of day, some stations are occupied by drug dealers, gang members and other unpleasant individuals.

When it was decided to arm the Vancouver Transit Police, it was that particular type of problem that prompted the decision. Going after fare-jumpers with weapons was never mentioned.
In one incident, a non-paying passenger was tasered after he held onto a railing on the SkyTrain platform and refused to let go.

"After several warnings to the subject to stop resisting arrest and the subject failing to comply with the officers' commands, the taser was deployed and the subject was taken into control," said the report provided by TransLink, the region's transit authority.

I am just guessing but the first thought that came to mind is that this episode probably occurred towards the end of the transit cop's shift. That's not the good one though.

On another occasion, a passenger was tasered when he fled from police who found him without a payment receipt during a "fare blitz." This time, however, the passenger got away because, as recounted in the report, "the Taser was ineffective due to the subject's clothing and [he] escaped the custody of the officers."

Politicians and civil-liberties activists alike decried the use of tasers on individuals who were attempting merely to avoid paying a fine for not buying a ticket to ride.

"I think it's absolutely uncalled for, absolutely reprehensible, and the police should not be doing that," federal Liberal public safety critic Ujjal Dosanjh said in Ottawa yesterday.

On the face of it, the use of tasers by transit police here is far outside guidelines that say they should be used only if someone is suicidal, violent or about to injure himself or someone else, Mr. Dosanjh said.

"Their current use is absolutely inappropriate," he said, adding that the latest revelations, coming after a storm of recent controversy over taser use by regular police forces across the country, have brought him close to calling for a moratorium on the powerful stun guns.

"This is the kind of example that would lead people like me, who have so far resisted asking for a moratorium, to actually call for that," he said.


A "Fare Blitz". Appropriate name given that the transit cops seem more than willing to employ a potentially lethal weapon to apprehend those nefarious "free riders".

You know, I have this small, rechargeable camera-flash unit. The kind powered by 4 AA batteries. Pretty harmless aside from being able to momentarily blind someone looking directly into it... right?

Mmmm. Maybe.

Electro-shock disabling devices are weapons. And on the face of it, the Vancouver Transit Police have no idea when it is appropriate to use them. I'm rarely in Vancouver and therefore rarely on Skytrain, and I always buy a ticket. But, on those occasions when I am there, since it looks like the bus cops are so poorly trained, I'll be carrying my camera-flash unit.

Hat tip Todd.

No comments: