December 4, 2008
CAROLINE ALPHONSO AND IAN BAILEY, Globe and Mail
TORONTO and VANCOUVER — One in 20 stun guns breaks and is returned to the manufacturer, the head of Taser International said yesterday.
Rick Smith, chief executive officer of the controversial weapons company, said that although Taser employees fire the devices more than 100 times before the gadgets leave the factory, their electronic components can wear out from regular use.
"Taser devices, like any other electronic device, you're going to have a certain number of failures where the devices break, especially in the law-enforcement realm," Mr. Smith told a meeting of The Globe and Mail's editorial board yesterday.
Mr. Smith was responding to questions about a lawsuit by shareholders that was settled out of court, in which former employees alleged that the weapons had design flaws and other assembly defects. He said the allegations in the lawsuit, dating back to a period between 2003 and 2005, were "extremely inflammatory" and "so far from the truth."
Stun guns in Canada do periodically break, but officials at Taser International said that isn't because of manufacturing defects, but rather general usage where the weapons are dropped or the electrodes break off.
The use of the stun gun has come under scrutiny since Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski, 40, was seen in October of 2007 on amateur video screaming and writhing on the floor at Vancouver International Airport after he was tasered by Mounties. His death and the public outrage that followed prompted a national debate on the use of stun guns and sparked several probes.
Mr. Smith defended the use of tasers yesterday, saying they have helped police officers de-escalate potentially violent situations. The company has sold about 500,000 of them to law-enforcement agencies and private citizens in the United States and Canada.
In the case of Mr. Dziekanski, Mr. Smith said, he wondered why the autopsy results have not yet been released. He said the use of the taser was not an unreasonable choice for police officers involved if other tactics, including talking to the suspect, did not yield results.
Terry Foster, spokeswoman for the Office of the Chief Coroner in British Columbia, said the autopsy results on Mr. Dziekanski have not been released because the case concerning his death has gone to an inquest.
"That is where the facts and circumstances will be put forward," Ms. Foster said yesterday.
Meanwhile, B.C. Crown spokesman Stan Lowe said there has been no final decision on charges in the case. But he said all the relevant information is on the desk of the assistant deputy attorney-general, who oversees the operation and administration of the prosecution service in the province.
Robert W.G. Gillen will make the final call on the issue, after reviews by two regional Crown officials, Mr. Lowe said.
The investigation is focused on the conduct of four Mounties, who were involved in the final confrontation with Mr. Dziekanski. Members of the regional Integrated Homicide Investigation Team conducted a wide-ranging investigation, and forwarded the results to the Crown for review.
The Crown also sought information from outside experts.
"We're working hard on it," Mr. Lowe said of efforts to decide whether charges are warranted.
With a report from CTV News
WELCOME to TRUTH ... not TASERS
Thursday, December 04, 2008
December 4, 2008