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Friday, December 12, 2008

Alberta testing stun guns

December 12, 2008

The high-voltage debate over police use of Tasers has jolted the province into testing 400 older models of the controversial stun guns. All X-26 Tasers purchased by Alberta police services prior to Jan. 1, 2006, will be scrutinized in the wake of a media investigation that suggested electrical output of older models exceeded the manufacturer's specifications.

Should any discharge currents above those specs, they will be pulled from service, said Solicitor General Fred Lindsay. "The plan is to test all of the approximately 400 Tasers in question to determine if they are working within the manufacturer's specifications," he said. "We'll await the results of those tests before deciding on next steps.

"In the meantime, we will continue to work with the Canadian Police Research Centre on a standard testing protocol for police services across the country."

Analysis will begin in January and is expected to take two months. The province has not ordered any police to cease using Tasers.

The 400 shock units pulled from service are in addition to six yanked from Alberta RCMP detachments as part of a nationwide review that recalled 24 older models for testing.

Calgary police Chief Rick Hanson said he's confident in the provincial decision to continue using the Tasers during the review. He said officers always test their Tasers and cycle them through once before taking them out. About half of the force's approximately 360 Tasers will be tested.

"I would feel very uncomfortable removing Tasers as a tool for our officers on the street," Hanson said. "Absolutely, let's support the test. But let's not knee-jerk and take them off the street and put people's lives needlessly at risk."

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