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Saturday, September 20, 2008

Editorial: To taser or not to taser

The Brampton Guardian
September 19 2008

BRAMPTON - It's been said before but we'll say it again- maybe it's time we take a closer look at the police use of Tasers. A Brampton man died in hospital Wednesday morning, 12 hours after being hit by a Taser in a struggle with police in a Mississauga police station.

The SIU is now investigating just how Sean Reilly, 42, died.

In Canada there have been at least 21 Taser-related deaths, yet police maintain the devices are a safe alternative to lethal force.

However, if you look at the ages of many of the Taser victims- they are surprisingly young in their 30s and 40s- and one would assume in good health. How many 30 and 40 year olds do you know who just drop dead? Tasers appear to be pretty lethal to us.

One study found Tasers caused cardiac arrests in pigs but another police association study done in 2000 said the devices are safe.

Somewhere in the middle lies the truth.

The police use the fancy term excited delirium to describe Taser deaths, but even psychologists say the condition is rare and controversial. A person with excited delirium acts agitated, violent, sweats a lot and is unusually strong and insensitive to pain. Then, the victim's heart races and eventually stops beating.

The jury may still be out on Tasers, but until there is evidence that the devices are not killing people needlessly, they should be holstered. At the very least, Tasers should not be used as a standard weapon to enforce compliance without the threat of serious injury or death of the subject, a member of the public or a law enforcement officer.

When pepper spray or four burly cops will do, leave the Taser in its holster.

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