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Thursday, December 11, 2008

Calgary: Older tasers on way out

December 11, 2008
Gwendolyn Richards, Calgary Herald

Amid growing concerns about the safety of stun guns, the Alberta government is expected to ask police forces today to begin a phased withdrawal of an older model Taser so they can be tested.

The same model was pulled by the RCMP and police forces in B.C. for safety testing within the past week.

Model X26 Tasers acquired before 2006 were recalled by the national police force following a CBC report that said tests on that model showed some of the units were generating more power than the manufacturer's specifications.

B.C.'s solicitor general followed suit on Monday.

It's unclear how many of the model are in use by municipal forces in Alberta.

However, unlike the RCMP and police forces in B.C., Alberta won't withdrawn its X26 stun guns all at once, sources said.

Liberal solicitor general critic Kent Hehr hopes Alberta will go further still, pulling the stun gun model from service permanently and undertaking a full-scale study into Tasers' voltage, whether they are safe and whether the province has implemented appropriate Taser-use policies.

"I would recommend a full investigation on Tasers, whether those things are safe for human beings to be zapped with them and in what situations," he said Wednesday.

Hehr added he'd like to see the province adopt the RCMP's policy on Taser use, which, he said, is stronger.

The announcement comes on the fourth day of a fatality inquiry examining the death of a Red Deer man after he had been jolted three times by the stun gun as RCMP officers tried to subdue him in August 2006. Jason Doan died three weeks later in hospital after going into cardiac arrest following the Taser deployments. A medical examiner testified Monday that Doan had a pre-existing heart condition.

More than 25 people across the country have died after they were Tasered.

Of the 24 model X-26 Tasers the RCMP has recalled for testing across Canada, six were from Alberta, said Cpl. Wayne Oakes.

"They've gone in for independent testing," he said.

The establishment of a quality control program would be a welcome move in Alberta, said Stephen Jenuth, president of the Alberta Civil Liberties Association.

Jenuth said the CBC's investigation shows clearly the weapons may not work as advertised.

In an e-mail statement from Taser International, spokesman Steve Tuttle said the company welcomes proper testing, saying the tests undertaken on behalf of the CBC included "scientific errors."

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