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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Decree authorises use of tasers by French local police

September 23, 2008
France 24 International News

France's 20,000 local police officers will be able to carry Taser stun guns under a decree published Tuesday, despite calls from human rights groups for the weapon's use to be suspended.

Municipal officers will join the national police and gendarmes in using the weapon, which packs a 50,000-volt punch that can paralyse targets from up to 10 yards (meters) away, and is intended as an alternative to handguns.

Local mayors will have to apply for individual permits for each officer, who will have to receive a Taser blast as part of their training, under the decree published in the government's official gazette.

Many officials see it as a safer alternative to the handgun, which local officers have been authorised to carry since 2000.

According to the head of Taser France, Antoine Di Zazzo, 346 mayors have expressed an interest in the newest Taser X26 model, which has a built-in camera to record the scene each time its used.

To date, 4,615 Tasers have been issued to France's national police and gendarme force. They were used 280 times last year without causing serious injury, cutting handgun use by 15 percent, according to police chiefs.

But France's opposition Socialist Party is firmly opposed to rolling out the Taser to local police.

Amnesty International says that more than 290 people have died around the world after being zapped with a Taser and is demanding a moratorium on the weapon's use while a full investigation is conducted.

Taser France says the figures does not apply to the Taser X26 model.

A United Nations committee ruled in November last year that the Taser's use constitutes "a form of torture" which can result in death.

The UN criticism followed a string of deaths in the United States and Canada that occurred after police used Tasers to subdue people, including a Polish man who was filmed dying after being stunned at Vancouver airport.

Taser responded by saying the UN committee was "out of touch with modern policing".

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