NEWS

Police promise more information on case of boy stunned with Taser

09/16/2011 06:29 EDT | Updated 11/16/2011 05:12 EST
VANCOUVER - The outside police force that cleared RCMP officers who used a Taser on an 11-year-old boy is promising to release more information about what happened after coming under fire for their refusal to explain the decision.

West Vancouver police concluded Mounties acted reasonably and didn't break the law when they stunned a boy outside a government-run care home in Prince George, B.C., while responding to a stabbing in April.

But in releasing that decision on Thursday, the force refused to reveal even the most basic details about the case or explain their rationale for recommending against charges.

West Vancouver police Chief Peter Lepine released an open letter Friday, explaining that he was restricted in what he could say because he didn't want to jeopardize other ongoing investigations.

He said he understands the public's frustration with the lack of information, and he promised more would be available soon.

"Our key challenge right now is balancing our commitment to transparency and public accountability with the health and welfare of the 11 year-old boy, while also respecting our obligation to support the integrity of other ongoing investigations into this incident," Lepine wrote in the letter, posted to the force's website.

"My team and I are currently consulting with other authorities and stakeholders to make sure we strike the right balance. I intend to post an update to this website as soon as those consultations are complete, which I hope will be within the next week."

The Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP and B.C.'s children's watchdog have launched their own investigations. The RCMP is also conducting an internal review.

Two RCMP officers were placed on administrative leave after the incident, but the force confirmed Friday they returned to their full duties in late June.

Police have yet to say whether the boy was armed when he was stunned or whether he attacked or threatened police or himself.

On Friday, RCMP Supt. Eric Stubbs said in an interview he couldn't discuss the case in detail because the investigation was the hands of the West Vancouver police.

"It's an unfortunate incident that occurred. I'm not pleased that our members had to shoot an 11-year-old with a Taser and they're not pleased," said Stubbs.

"But given the complex and volatile circumstances that they were presented with, they were able to safely apprehend the youth with minimal injury or harm to everybody involved. Paramount on their minds was the safety of this boy."

Stubbs said it wasn't a quick confrontation, but he couldn't say how long it lasted.

The level of disclosure from West Vancouver police had the B.C. Civil Liberties Association arguing it was impossible to keep the force and its officers accountable without knowing what happened. The group said the case was yet another example of why police shouldn't be called on to investigate police.

The RCMP have said they will call in the provincial body in cases involving its officers. The Independent Investigations Office has been searching for its civilian director and the office is expected to be open by the end of the year.

Such an independent body was a key recommendation from the public inquiry into the death of Robert Dziekanski.

Dziekanski died in Vancouver's airport in October 2007, when he was confronted by four RCMP officers and stunned multiple times with a Taser.

After a two-part public inquiry, commissioner Thomas Braidwood concluded Tasers can be fatal in rare circumstances, and he identified several factors that would increase that risk.

Among those most at risk, Braidwood wrote in one of his reports, were people with pre-existing heart conditions and children because of their smaller size.

The parents of the 11-year-boy stunned in Prince George have said he suffers from bipolar disorder and a heart condition.

B.C.'s children's watchdog is conducting her own investigation looking specifically at group homes in the province.

Mary-Ellen Turpel Lafond released a statement this week that said she'll consider the West Vancouver police decision, but she noted her investigation is also looking at the broader issue of police attending group homes.

"In reviewing this particular Prince George incident, I became concerned about a wider issue of police being called by group home staff to attend and act as a disciplinarian of sorts," Turpel Lafond said in the statement.

"This special report ... will examine concerns about some group homes repeatedly using police to help them manage or discipline children with complex needs and behaviours."

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