January 22, 2009
ROB TRIPP, WHIG-STANDARD POLICE REPORTER
Kingston police have not had any of their 34 Taser tested, seven weeks after an investigative report raised concern that some older models of the weapon could deliver much larger shocks than the manufacturer says is possible.
Last month, Kingston Chief Stephen Tanner said the weapons would be tested.
"It's not stalled, we're just trying to work through the logistics," said Insp. Brian Coachman, of Kingston Police. "There's only one company right now that has been used."
That firm, MPB Electronics in Quanta [Reality Chick here: I think they mean Kanata], has tested Tasers used by Ottawa officers and York Regional Police officers.
"Every unit that we sent successfully completed the testing from the perspective that it was operating within the specifications as established by Taser International," Armanda La Barge, York's police chief, told the Whig-Standard in an interview yesterday.
Last month, Ottawa police said their Tasers that were tested were found to be operating within specifications.
MPB tested 21 York Tasers. The department of more than 1,300 officers has 30 Tasers that are used only by tactical officers.
The remaining units also will be tested, La Barge said. He said he was happy to see that the weapons are operating within specs. "I was relatively confident that would be the case," he said. "I have a responsibility to the citizens and I have a responsibility to the officers that we put these tools in the hands of."
Many police agencies are scrambling to find independent labs to test their Tasers after a CBC television report in early December. It found that some older model Tasers, units manufactured before 2005, delivered far greater electrical shocks than the manufacturer said was possible. In some cases, the current was up to 50% stronger than specifications.
Taser International, the U. S. maker of the guns, disputed the findings. It said the tests didn't follow the right procedure.
Tasers used by Kingston Police are all pre-2005 X26 models that were part of the CBC testing.
All of the York Tasers tested were X26 models, but only two were manufactured before 2005.
Tasers are supposed to deliver a jolt of 50,000 volts of electricity, enough to briefly incapacitate a person, but a growing number of deaths in Canada and the U. S. of people who have been shocked has raised concern about the safety of the weapons.
The CBC report, based on independent scientific testing of 41 Tasers, prompted some police agencies across Canada to pull the stun guns out of use until they could be examined.
"There had been enough doubt raised in my mind that I just felt that I had to do this," La Barge said.
Kingston's chief initially balked at testing but changed his mind, saying that he felt it was important to address a "public perception" issue.
MPB Electronics won't talk about its test results. "We just do measurements for clients, whoever that client may be," said Dan Zanette, the private firm's technical director. "We perform the measurements for them and it's up to them to do what they feel is appropriate." Zanette would not explain, except in general terms, the firm's expertise in testing Tasers.
"All we can say is that the type of testing we perform here is related to lightning- induced transients on various types of equipment that [range] from aircraft to nuclear stations and their instrumentation, commercial equipment that would be susceptible to high voltage, high current transients," he said. Zanette wouldn't say if the firm has experience with Taser testing. "We're sort of uncomfortable with even talking about it,"he said. "Measurements of that kind on those kinds of transients are not new to us, it's just the specific topic of Tasers, which seems to be very sensitive these days."
Kingston Police discovered that the testing may be more costly than expected. MPB isn't licensed to handle Tasers, which are classified as restricted weapons. It could mean an extra expense because a police officer would have to accompany the weapons to the Kanata offices of the lab and then remain with them throughout the testing process. "We have to attach an [officer] to it," Cookman noted.
Two York officers took their Tasers to Kanata and oversaw the tests. "Essentially we do have somebody babysitting any devices or any equipment that's deemed to be like an illegal firearm," Zanette said.
The lab has considered seeking special licensing that would permit staff to handle prohibited weapons without a police officer being present.
Insp. Tony Cooper, deputy chief firearms officer for Ontario, said no private labs in the province have sought a special licence that would allow them to possess Tasers for testing.
Cookman said it's his understanding that discussions about how the tests should be done also is holding up further tests. "They're tweaking their methodologies as they progress through this," he said. "They left me with the impression that they wanted to upgrade or finesse what they have."
Zanette wouldn't say if anything is delaying more testing of police Tasers. "Generally there's a desire for some consensus on what should be measured regarding devices of that kind and so there's a lot of discussions going on now," he said. "It's just being discussed on a ... broad sense as to what are the important things to measure about these types of devices."
Kingston's chief has said that he will release the results of tests once they are completed.
WELCOME to TRUTH ... not TASERS
Thursday, January 22, 2009
January 22, 2009