VANCOUVER — The country’s only armed transit police have been tasering passengers who try to avoid paying fares.
According to documents provided in response to a Freedom of Information request, police patrolling public transit in the Metro Vancouver area have used tasers 10 times in the past 18 months, including five occasions when victims had been accosted for riding free.
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.
An internal review of the incident concluded that the action taken by transit police officers complied with the force’s policy and was within guidelines “set out in the National Use of Force Model,” the report said.
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.