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Saturday, October 10, 2009

Edmonton police review taser use

October 10, 2009
Laura Drake, edmontonjournal

EDMONTON — City police have been instructed not to aim Tasers at people's chests after the weapon's manufacturer issued a warning not to do so.

Insp. Bob Hassel, who is in charge of EPS training, said a directive was sent to all officers telling them to avoid intentionally aiming for the chest when they fire a Taser.

"We are reviewing it, but considering that it's a manufacturer's recommendation and they don't support that target area based on target research, for now, as an interim solution, we will immediately cease that practice," Hassel said.

Tasers use an electric charge to induce involuntary muscle contractions to temporarily incapacitate a person. Hassel said EPS officers have been trained to point Tasers at the body's largest muscle groups, including the chest, for the best results. Training will "immediately change" to reflect the new manufacturer's guidelines, Hassel said. "We want to ensure, especially for public safety, that we are complying with this directive," he said.

The bulletin from Taser International lists three main reasons to avoid chest strikes: That strikes are more effective to the thigh or pelvic area; to avoid the chance of hitting the face; and to avoid controversy.

Taser International maintains that its research shows that Taser strikes rarely cause ventricular fibrillation, and that the risk of an "adverse cardiac event related to a Taser electronic control device (ECD) discharge is deemed to be extremely low," but that if someone went into cardiac arrest during a Taser incident "it would place the law-enforcement agency, the officer, and Taser International in the difficult of situation of trying to ascertain what role, if any, the Taser ECD could have played."

Edmonton police have been using Tasers since 2001.

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