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Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Vancouver Police Taser woman 'wielding knife'

June 2, 2009

Only a day after the B.C. government ordered hundreds of Tasers removed from circulation for failing to meet manufacturer's specifications, a woman is in serious condition in hospital after being Tasered by Vancouver Police and hitting her head.

Cst. Jana McGuinness says the "distraught" 55-year-old was carrying a large folding knife on East Hastings St. when she was approached by police around 11:30 Tuesday morning. McGuinness said the woman was waving the knife in an "aggressive stance," and police fired the Taser when a man intervened and they feared for his safety. The woman fell to the ground, still clutching the knife, striking her head on the ground.

She remains in serious condition in hospital with a head injury, and the VPD Major Crimes Unit is investigating.

The incident comes on the heels of a call to ban all Tasers in British Columbia. On Monday, B.C. Solicitor General Rich Coleman pulled 650 older Tasers after recent testing revealed an 80 per cent failure rate, more often than not delivering less electrical output than expected.

"They failed, so we pulled em," Coleman said.

In a statement to CTV Monday night, the Vice President of Public Relations for Taser International, Peter Holran, said "the safety of the devices was never in question" when the M26s were ordered removed. "Those devices which pass testing can be returned to service, according to the Solicitor General," he wrote.

But NDP Public Safety Critic Mike Farnworth disagrees. He says Tasers that are under-performing can be dangerous. "If you're delivering a lower dose of voltage than expected and an individual is not responding, the way you expect, and you just keep Tasering them, zapping them, that's not safe because we don't know the accumulative effects," Farnworth said.

Farnworth is also concerned that no one seems to know what the life span is of any Taser. "If there's an estimated 650 in B.C. being pulled at $1,000 bucks a pop, that's a lot of money," he said. "If all you're doing is replacing them with new Tasers, which we don't know the shelf life is or deterioration rate is -- in essence, you're throwing good money at bad."

Taser international didn't respond to CTV News but the Solicitor General's office did say some of the malfunctioning Tasers may be beyond repair and will have to be destroyed

With a report from CTV British Columbia's Peter Grainger

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