May 24, 2000
The Ottawa-Carleton police will be testing out a new weapon they say could save lives. It's a taser gun, designed to immobilize a person with a zap of 50,000 volts. To prove that it works, and that it's safe, police used it on each other and a few volunteers from the media.
The taser works by firing two tiny darts, each trails a copper wire. When they hit someone, the circuit is complete and 50,000 volts surge through the person's body. It makes the person lose control of their muscles, causing them to fall to their knees. This allows a police officer to gain control of the offending party.
"Basically we're looking for an option to bring a person under control without having to resort to lethal options," says Police Chief Vince Bevan.
Pepper spray is now in every officer's belt, but to be effective it has to go directly into a person's eyes.
The bean bag gun was considered a non-lethal way of bringing down a person, until three years ago when Ottawa police killed a deranged man with it. Constable John McDonald says, "This technology would have been perfect in this incident."
The tasers will only be in the hands of the tactical team during a six-month trial. It has the blessing of Ontario's solicitor general.
"The ministry itself is interested in making sure police officers have the equipment they need to fulfill their duties, and in this case we're interested in testing a new less-than-lethal-force option," says Steven Byrd.
It's hoped the tasers will be a deterrent more often than they are used. Chief Bevan says, "People should be warned: we have them and we won't hesitate to use them."
As with all non-lethal weapons, the benefits of the taser ultimately depend on how and when it's used.
Most people accept that it's better to be shot by a taser than by a police gun. The B.C. Civil Liberties Association welcomed the taser's deployment in that province for just that reason.
But some research suggests that the very non-lethality of weapons like the taser encourages police to use them in scuffles and demonstrations when, in the old days, no weapon would have been used at all.
WELCOME to TRUTH ... not TASERS
Wednesday, May 24, 2000
May 24, 2000