Transit cop suspended 2 days for Tasering fare evader
The Canadian Press
Published Friday, April 27, 2012 4:14PM PDT
A Vancouver-area transit cop who used a Taser on a fleeing passenger who was suspected of not paying his fare has been handed a two-day suspension without pay for abusing his authority.
A ruling issued by the Office of the Police Complaints Commissioner concluded Const. Daniel Dickhout wasn't justified when he used his Taser against passenger Christopher Lypchuk, who was caught dodging the fare at a SkyTrain station in September 2007.
The written decision says Dickhout was attempting to issue a violation ticket when Lypchuk fled, prompting Dickhout and another officer to give chase.
The officers caught up with Lypchuk in a stairwell, where Dickhout deployed the Taser, causing Lypchuk to fall to the ground and hit his head.
Dickhout, 60, said he believed Lypchuk was attempting to assault the other officer, referred to as Const. Chartrand, but adjudicator Ian Pitfield rejected that claim.
"I concluded that the officer did not believe that Mr. Lypchuk was about to assault Chartrand, but that if he held such a belief, it was unreasonable in the circumstances," wrote Pitfield.
While Pitfield said Dickhout was not justified in using the Taser, he also said the case does not amount to serious misconduct. He concluded a two-day suspension is adequate.
Pitfield said Dickhout is highly regarded by his superiors and has no other complaints on his record.
Dickhout started his career as a military police officer and then worked for the Vancouver Police Department from 1976 to 2003. He joined the transit police in 2005.
The adjudicator also noted Lypchuk apparently didn't think the event was serious enough to warrant a complaint. Instead, it was the BC Civil Liberties Association that brought the case to the commission's attention.
"The use of a conducted energy weapon against a fare evader cannot be justified, if ever, in any but the most unusual and unique circumstances, none of which were present in this instance," wrote Pitfield.
"However, this is not an incident involving misconduct of the most serious kind."
Pitfield noted Taser standards have changed since 2007, driven in large part by the death of Robert Dziekanski, who died after he was stunned with an RCMP Taser at Vancouver's airport.
The latest standards, put into place in January of this year, say Tasers can only be used if suspects are causing bodily harm to themselves, officers, or someone else, or there is reasonable grounds that's about to happen.
Officers are also required to use crisis intervention and de-escalation techniques, if possible, before deploying a Taser.