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Saturday, March 14, 2009

Halifax police decline Taser cameras

March 14, 2009
By DAVENE JEFFREY, Chronicle Herald

Halifax police say they’re not interested in capturing their stun gun use on camera.

Taser International, the company that makes stun guns used by police forces in Nova Scotia, sells a camera which fits onto the gun handle of some models.

"There’s too many issues with them," said Halifax police spokesman Const. Jeff Carr, explaining that his department is aware of the optional add-on.

According to Taser’s website, the camera records audio and video when the gun is used and offers increased accountability.

"A picture is worth a thousand words," the company’s website boasts. The company also says that citizen complaints are down by up to 50 per cent in jurisdictions where police forces use the Taser cam.

"It makes a lot of sense," said NDP justice critic Bill Estabrooks.

Mr. Estabrooks is very clear that he is not against police forces having stun guns and believes they have likely saved lives.

But an audio and video record of every time an officer uses a Taser sounds like "common sense." With a recording, it would be clear what an officer was facing when the weapon was drawn and deployed, the politician said.

Nova Scotia’s Justice Department is also not considering ordering police forces to add the cam to their stun-gun weaponry.

"This is not part of our government’s standards in Nova Scotia at this time," said Justice spokeswoman Sherri Aikenhead.

Some agencies may have gone ahead and purchased the cameras on their own, she said, but the government at this time is not going to make it mandatory.

"It’s really up to the individual agencies," she said.

Tasers have been under attack in Canada over the past couple of years.

Late last month the Canadian Police Association and the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police admitted that police have overused the weapon in this country and have not been transparent enough in reporting how they have used the stun gun.

A public inquiry is currently underway into the death of Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski. He is one of at least 20 people who have died in this country after being zapped with a stun gun.

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