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Saturday, August 15, 2009

Taser sues Canadian government

August 15, 2009
Robert Anglen and Andrew Johnson, The Arizona Republic

Taser International Inc. filed a lawsuit Friday in Canada blasting a government report that prompted severe limitations on how and when law-enforcement officers in British Columbia can use stun guns.

Officials with the Scottsdale-based manufacturer called the Braidwood Inquiry biased and asked the Supreme Court of British Columbia to quash all of its findings and declare those involved in compiling evidence derelict.

"We provided . . . more than 170 studies, periodicals (and) reports with respect to the safety of the device and use-of-force questions," David Neave, an attorney for Taser in Canada, said Friday. "All of that information clearly indicates that when the device is used properly there is not cardiac effect. For reasons unknown to us, that information did not wind its way into the report."
The 18-month-long Braidwood Inquiry, headed by retired Judge Thomas Braidwood, concluded in July that Tasers can cause death.

In his 556-page report, Braidwood criticized law enforcement for putting the stun gun on the street with little or no independent testing and recommended restricting use of Tasers. Within hours, the head of public safety in British Columbia adopted all 19 of Braidwood's recommendations, including a ban on Tasers in non-criminal situations or where there is not an imminent threat of bodily harm.

A spokesman for the Braidwood Inquiry said Friday that officials were surprised by Taser's reaction.

"We didn't expect this type of action to be taken," said Chris Freimond. "Mr. Braidwood is an experienced and respected jurist."

The Braidwood Inquiry was sparked by the 2007 death of a Polish immigrant at Vancouver International Airport who stopped breathing after being shocked five times by Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers.

Braidwood was charged by the provincial government with looking into Taser use in the province, where Tasers were introduced in Canada. Braidwood was also asked to provide a complete record of the circumstances surrounding the airport death, which is still ongoing.

The Braidwood Inquiry involved public testimony by Taser executives, police officers and opponents of the stun gun. It examined medical research, testimony from doctors, and test studies supportive and critical of the stun gun.

In its petition, Taser said it was treated unfairly by the inquiry. It accused officials of overlooking key information, including scientific studies and expert testimony, in favor of the stun gun.

Taser points specifically to the lawyer and to the chief overseer of medical and scientific research, saying any conclusions in the report are tainted by their bias. It asks the court for an injunction restraining Braidwood from making any conclusion about the medical safety or risks of the stun gun. Taser also says the Braidwood Inquiry violated law by releasing the report without first giving Taser the chance to provide a response to the findings.

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