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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Alberta sends tasers for testing

January 27, 2009
Melissa Dominelli, ctvedmonton.ca

Alberta has started testing older model Tasers used by Alberta police services before January 2006 to make sure they are not delivering shocks that are too powerful.

The units will be tested by an engineering firm, MPB, in Ontario.

Solicitor General, Fred Lindsey said about 100 Tasers have been sent to Ontario, where a testing protocol has been developed.

The decision comes after initial testing, not done by the province, found that some of the older model Tasers in Alberta were producing voltage levels higher than the 50,000 volt shock they're designed for.

"If we have any instrument that's used in law enforcement that's not meeting the manufacturer's specifications, we want to make sure that we test it and ensure that it is and if it isn't, we will take it out of service," said Lindsey.

Lindsey hopes to have all 400 of the older Tasers, known as x-26 models, tested by the end of March and eventually he said testing of all Tasers will be done on a regular basis using facilities in Alberta.

Some critics of Taser usage think the Taser testing a step in the right direction, but say it doesn't go far enough.

Back in October, Trevor Grimolfson was Tasered by police, after he allegedly went on a rampage, breaking objects and attacking people in a city pawn shop.

Grimolfson later died and his close friend, who asked not to be identified, can't help but wonder if the Taser played a role in his death.

"I would rather not see a Taser on any police officer at all," he said.

While the first tests are underway, the solicitor general said all of the province's Tasers will remain in service.

The Edmonton Police Association is happy to hear that other Tasers won't be pulled from service while testing begins.

"It would be irresponsible to take them out of services because they do a lot of good as an intermediate weapon and it stops us from using lethal force," said Tony Simon with Edmonton Police.

And while Trevor Grimolfson's friend is glad the province is taking a second look at Tasers, he wishes it had been done sooner.

"Why couldn't they be testing these Tasers every two months before they go out into the street?"

Effective immediately, any Taser used in an arrest where the suspect is injured will automatically be pulled from service and tested.

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