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Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Tasers should be LAST RESORT, police psychologist testifies

May 13, 2008
Neal Hall, Vancouver Sun

VANCOUVER - Canadian police have been "brainwashed" by Taser International to justify the use of the electronic weapon, a police psychologist told a Taser inquiry today.

"I'm not anti police," Mike Webster explained. "I've worked with police for over 30 years."

But he accused the company that makes the Taser of convincing police in Canada that when officers encounter a person suffering from a condition that Taser refers to as "excited delirium" they have few options other than jolting the person with a Taser.

"When you think the only tool you have is a hammer, the whole world ends up looking like a nail," Webster told the inquiry.

He said police are well-meaning but blamed the training the officers get.

He suggested Tasers should only be used as the last resort before lethal force.

He said he has been shocked and embarrassed by recent examples of Taser use being applied in low-risk situations, especially againt people who are mentally imbalanced.

Webster said more non-threatening communications skills need to be used to defuse crisis situations.

He teaches crisis management skills and communications techniques to Vancouver police and consults with police forces in Europe, South America and Australia.

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