Self-harm prevention one of most common uses for Taser among police: report

There are many reasons why a police officer may use a Taser, but one common use is in response to a person threatening self-harm or exhibiting a mental health crisis, according to Regina Police.

In Regina last year,  Conducted Energy Weapons, or CEWs, were used 18 times. Seven of those times involved a mental health crisis or a person threatening self-harm. Twenty CEW deployments happened last year in Saskatoon. Five of those were because of a mental health crisis.

According to Regina Police spokesperson Elizabeth Popowich, police will often use a Taser in a situation that requires immediate intervention.

CBC

"It is a tool that's used by police where it's necessary to gain control of a subject, someone who's assaultive or threatening self-harm, and it's necessary to do that right away because you, the officer, believe that there's a threat of injury or even death if you don't intervene quickly," she said. 

"The use of a CEW, while the person loses muscle control and experiences discomfort, it's temporary. And so you are, in some cases, saving that person's life."

According to Popowich, police are required to let the Tasered person know what has just happened to them and that the effects of what they're feeling are temporary. People must be medically cleared after a CEW has been used on them. 

Julie Clark, spokesperson for the Saskatoon Police Service, agrees with Popowich that Tasers can be an effective way of neutralizing a self-harm situation quickly. 

"It basically just cuts down that time gap where [police] can get the weapon away from the person, so deploying that CEW is an immediate response," she said. 

"At the end of the day, we want to use the minimum force possible."

All members of both the Saskatoon and Regina police force have to re-certify their CEW training every year. Trainers have to re-certify every three years.