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Sunday, July 26, 2009

Taser restrictions will cause more deaths, injuries: manufacturer

July 26, 2009
By Susan Lazaruk, Canwest News Service

VANCOUVER - Tougher restrictions on the use of Tasers will cause more deaths and injuries, said the devices' manufacturer as it defended the weapons as safe and effective, in the wake of a report calling for "significant changes" of its use by police in British Columbia.

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``Overly restrictive policies on Taser device usage will force police officers to migrate to other, more dangerous force options, such as batons, physical force and even firearms, resulting in more, not fewer, deaths and injuries in police confrontations,'' Steve Tuttle, vice-president of communications for Taser International, said in an e-mailed statement from the company's Arizona headquarters.

Thomas Braidwood on Thursday released his report on the use of Tasers in B.C. , which called for "the threshold for use" of the weapons to be "significantly revised from 'active resistance' to the much higher standard of 'causing bodily harm.' " This prompted the province to order all of its police, sheriffs and corrections officers to "severely restrict the use" of the weapons immediately.

Tuttle in the statement accused Braidwood of twisting medical evidence, basing its recommendations on speculation and ignoring key facts.

``It appears that politics has trumped science in the commission,'' Tuttle said. ``Medical pathologists in the Robert Dziekanski case found no evidence that the Taser device was related to the death, which was caused by underlying medical factors.''

He said the report's findings aren't supported by medical research on conducted energy weapons, citing a new report by Dr. William Bozeman, who found Tasers did not affect heart rate. ``This research has consistently demonstrated that Taser devices are safe and effective when used properly,'' he said in his statement.

Tuttle declined an interview request.
Tuttle declined an interview request.
Tuttle declined an interview request.

Tuttle did acknowledge in his release that ``Commissioner Braidwood recognizes the value of our life-saving technology and (he) states, `On balance, I concluded that our society is better off with these weapons in use than without them.''

But that endorsement was contingent on police implementing Braidwood's recommendations - including officers only use a Taser when a suspect is physically harming someone while committing a criminal act and a lesser force wouldn't be adequate.

His report also emphasized crisis management and de-escalation in confrontations.

All 19 of Braidwood's recommendations were accepted by B.C.'s Solicitor General Kash Heed, who said he expected all police forces, including the RCMP, to follow them.

The federal RCMP said it largely supported the recommendations but was reviewing them to see if recently revamped RCMP policy needed adjustments, the force's deputy commissioner Gary Bass said in a written statement Friday.

The RCMP released a bulletin to its officers, advising them to treat Braidwood's recommendations as ``complementary'' to existing policy.

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