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Friday, March 27, 2009

Quebec orders police to turn in Tasers - Province recalls 167 weapons after some stun guns malfunctioned in testing

March 27, 2009
CBC News

The Quebec government is pulling all its Taser stun guns off the street for testing after new lab results revealed problems with some of the weapons.

Quebec was the first province to order testing of the stun guns after a CBC/Radio-Canada investigation showed some used by Canadian police did not meet the manufacturer's specifications.

The province sent 52 stun guns made before 2005 to an independent lab for testing. Five of them performed outside normal range.

With the results in hand, on Thursday evening Quebec Public Security Minister Jacques Dupuis ordered all of the province's police departments to send their Taser stun guns to the lab immediately.

As a result, 167 of the weapons will remain off the streets until they are checked.

"All of the measures possible will be taken," Dupuis said in his statement. "Quebec is on the leading edge in this work and nothing will be neglected in guaranteeing the responsible use and security of this type of weapon."

The Quebec government has not yet provided details on how the guns malfunctioned or how much current they delivered.

The problem weapons came from Longueuil, Eastmain and Akwesasne. Police say none of the weapons had been used against a person. The five stun guns will be destroyed.

Quebec tests echo CBC/Radio-Canada findings

Quebec first became concerned about stun guns after a CBC/Radio-Canada investigation last fall. CBC tested 41 Taser stun guns and found that 10 per cent delivered higher jolts of electric current than specified by the manufacturer, Taser International. All the Tasers that malfunctioned were older models.

Pierre Savard, the biomedical engineer who conducted the CBC/Radio-Canada analysis, also worked with the province on developing the protocol for its study.

"It is difficult for me to say something definite about those results but it clearly shows that all Tasers are not perfect," said Pierre Savard.

There are thousands of Tasers in use by police across the country and most major police forces are in the process of having their the stun guns tested.

Critics, supporters applaud recall decision

Critics of stun gun use in Quebec were pleased by the minister's decision.

Marvin Rotrand, a Montreal city councillor, hopes the recall will lead to a full ban in Quebec. "Is this a valid part of the police arsenal? The proof has not been made conclusively," said Rotrand.

"The minister now has an opportunity not only to test whether Tasers in the police arsenal across Quebec actually are safe, but whether we might be better off if Tasers were retired from the arsenal altogether."

Claude Dauphin, the executive committee member responsible for public security, said the Montreal police department will send its 17 Taser stun guns to the lab as requested.

He supports the government's decision to test the stun guns, and hopes the findings will reassure the public that they are important tools for police.

"When we use the Taser gun it is the last resort before the real gun," said Dauphin. "That is why on the island … we made sure with our police authorities that [the stun gun] has to be used in a very restricted operation."

Dupuis is expected to hold a news conference Friday to give more details.

Taser International has not responded to the Quebec action. However, the company has criticized CBC/Radio-Canada's investigation, saying the testing methods were flawed.

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