Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Transit police deputy chief says Taser policy changed as result of usage

with 3 comments

Canadian Press

The evidence given yesterday to the Braidwood Inquiry by Metro Vancouver transit police force deputy chief Ken Allen confirms that fare evaders were being tasered. The language in the instructions issued to officers has now been changed from “non-compliant” to “actively resistant.”

“The concern was that non-compliant could be construed to mean non-payment of fares by the public.”

Allen was not asked to explain what the term “actively resistant” means.

That seems to confirm earlier suggestions that some “noncompliant” passengers were either tasered or threatened with a taser. This is completely unacceptable. There is an ongoing enquiry into taser use on transit but that of course is being conducted by another police force.

There are plenty of places in North America that use the proof of payment fare system. None of them use armed police to check fares. At least part of the problem has been the grossly unrealistic estimations of fare evasion used by critics of proof of payment based on no evidence of any kind. And sadly that perception has been bolstered by the Minister of Transport and the former Chair of Translink, Malcom Brodie. Moreover, the only reason that SkyTrain needs a police force is that it crosses too many police jurisdictions to be effectively policed by local forces. There are many good reasons why Greater Vancouver should have a Metropolitan Police Force, most of which are far more compelling than the need to police SkyTrain.

We also need to look at the role the media has played in creating the urban legends that surround crime and SkyTrain, which has lead to a situation where  dangerous over reaction – armed police checking tickets – seems to be accepted as necessary.

It is to be expected that as a result of the Braidwood enquiry much tougher rules will be imposed on police, who have been far too ready to use a taser first and ask questions afterwards. Armed police deal with situations differently than unarmed police. It might also be worthwhile for Translink to review what police are expected to do on the system. Ticket checking should be done by SkyTrain staff – and police should only be called to deal with situations which call for a police presence. Someone arguing about the validity of a ticket is not such a situation.

Written by Stephen Rees

May 17, 2008 at 6:54 am

Posted in transit

Tagged with ,

3 Responses

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  1. The latest “Translink Listens” survey is all about security.

    Here are some of the ideas they’re thinking of:
    Trained Black Labrador Police Dogs with trained SkyTrain handlers on-board SkyTrain and on the platform. Through scent, the dogs identify security threats. This system of dog security is currently in place on the transit systems in Boston and Portland among other locations.

    A proximity walking program where on request, neighbourhood volunteers who have been given a security clearance, meet the passenger at the station and walk them home.

    SkyTrain security whistles issued through community policing stations throughout Metro Vancouver. This program is currently in effect at the Joyce Collingwood Policing Station. People blow the whistle if they feel threatened. Community residents know that if they hear the whistle they should respond.

    Also, a question about whether I think the media coverage of skytrain incidents is balanced, fair, negative, or sensational.

    I think the whistles are useless. The volunteer escort thing sounds OK, kind of like “walk save” programs on university campuses. The dogs are obviously about drugs — how can a dog smell a security threat, anyway?


    May 17, 2008 at 8:54 am

  2. Dogs are also used to sniff out explosives. Unfortunately with the security now in place at airports, bombers have now turned their attention to transit with dire results in Madrid and London.

    Whistles only work if others respond. I suppose it is easier to blow a whistle than use a cell phone. The loud blast may also act as a deterrent to possible villains who usually would prefer to fade away than hang around to see who turns up in response

    Stephen Rees

    May 17, 2008 at 9:42 am

  3. The whistle would work in some circumstances, but someone has to be within earshot and likely to respond for it to be a deterrent I guess.

    The only real benefit we’d get from installing turnstiles is that it would require an attendant to be at each station during operating hours (to allow people in wheelchairs and those with strollers through a gate). This attendant would be able to hear any whistle blasts. Of course it must be much easier and cheaper to not bother with the turnstiles and just skip straight to having attendants at all stations.

    Also, I had not considered explosives. Maybe it’ll be played up a bit more in the media as we continue down the road to the 2010 Olympics.


    May 18, 2008 at 9:36 am

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