You may have arrived here via a direct link to a specific post. To see the most recent posts, click HERE.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Kaye stands behind Tasers

December 9, 2008

The city's police chief says he has no plans to test the service's four Tasers despite a report that claims some early models fire up to 50 per cent more electrical current than billed.

The report prompted the RCMP to announce it will test a cross-section of its devices.

Chief Tom Kaye calls the public attention devoted to Tasers emotional "hysteria" and has instead opted to bump up the release date of a national "best practices" document on the much-maligned police tool in an attempt to educate the public about the science behind the device.

"Nobody, anywhere has ever been able to link one of these devices to anybody dying, ever. That's a fact. And I realize that the people who are opposed to them and want them banned don't appreciate the fact that science is not on their side and they have nothing else to argue except humanity and emotion, but that shouldn't be used to set public policy," said Kaye, who is also vice-president of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police and the chair of the national Taser committee writing the best practices policy.

"Given the hype that continues around this, we need to put this report out soon and into the hands of the public. They need to be reassured that we are looking at these things and we certainly take them very seriously, but we need to show the truth behind the devices."

The committee originally planned to release the document in late spring, but is now aiming for mid-January, due in part to a scientific review commissioned by the CBC and Radio- Canada that concluded four of the 41 model-X26 guns tested fired more electrical current than manufacturer Taser International said was possible.

Kaye says the testing was faulty, explaining that the devices must be spark-tested daily, an act that charges or warms up the device, something that wasn't done during testing for the CBC. The CBC, however, defends its testing method, stating Taser International protocol made no mention of spark-testing.

Owen Sound Police Services has four Tasers, two of which are the X26 models that were the subject of the CBC report. The other two are newer M26 models. In Ontario, only sergeants or tactical team officers can carry conductive energy devices. There are five sergeants with the city police.

"There's still no evidence that excessive voltage can be transferred out of the device. The higher voltage is in a separate ignition system that doesn't transpose itself into an electrical current that can travel down the wires to the darts," said Kaye.

Tasers, which can deliver up to 50,000 volts of electricity, have been under intense public scrutiny since the death of Robert Dziekanski, who died at the Vancouver International Airport after RCMP used a stun gun to subdue him in October 2007. The incident was captured on video by a witness and broadcast across the country.

Many of the deaths that have occurred after someone has been Tasered have been attributed to "excited delirium," a heightened state of distress in which a person acts agitated, violent, tends to sweat profusely and is seemingly impervious to pain. Often, the victim's heart begins to race and eventually stops.

Amnesty International has repeatedly made calls for a total ban on Tasers.

But Kaye maintains that, "at the end of the day, there is not one piece of scientific evidence . . . that has linked a Taser, even casually, to the death of any individual anywhere."

"We don't plan on doing any testing. There's nothing to indicate that our Tasers are malfunctioning . . . and what we're doing is reiterating to our people that they have to follow the protocols, but certainly nothing would indicate to us they're not," he added.

No comments: