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Thursday, February 25, 2010

Cops say stun guns safe

February 25, 2010

Despite public concern about stun guns sending out more electrical current than specified by the manufacturer, Edmonton police say that most of their small percentage of defective Tasers have registered below-tolerance readings.

And the few deemed to be above tolerance were still within safe parameters, said Const. Olena Fedorovich, of the Edmonton Police Service officer safety unit.

“There’s an assumption that they’re above tolerance. They’re not. They’re below most of the time,” she told the Edmonton Sun.

“There have been a few where either their pulse rate or main phase was slightly above manufacturer’s specifications — but they’re still considered safe.”

Chief Mike Boyd told the Edmonton Police Commission last week that 23 conducted energy weapons (CEWs) were pulled from service in 2009 because they failed independent testing. That amounted to about 6% of the EPS’s stock last year.

Statistics on how many were under or above tolerance weren’t available.

But an April 2009 report made public by the Ottawa-area engineering firm that tests them, MPB Technologies Inc., shows that out of 175 Edmonton police CEWs tested, six were under tolerance, five were above and five others were both under and above.

The under-above results occur because five aspects are tested on each CEW: pulse duration, pulse rate, main phase net charge, main phase peak current and main phase peak voltage.

Of the 23 CEWs taken out of service last year, 17 were returned to Taser International to be replaced under warranty.

The remaining six are being stored for at least two years pending complaints and investigations, according to an EPS report.

The EPS plans to buy 15 new CEWs from Taser International this year at a cost of about $23,000, giving the service a total of 431, said Fedorovich.

Each CEW, including a holster, costs about $1,500 plus GST, Fedorovich added.

“It’s not a cheap program,” she said. “This is a very expensive and important program. We don’t take it lightly and we don’t take our training lightly.”

Fedorovich admitted that some officers have some apprehension about using CEWs stemming from recent controversy.

“The hassle of being questioned regarding your use of force is very stressful,” she explained. “But we do not have droves of members turning in their Tasers. That is not happening. Members are still carrying their Tasers and they’re still using their Tasers.

“It is a very valuable weapon and our operators recognize that. They also have a heightened understanding of the liability and accountability associated to it.”

CEWs are tested every 12 months, as dictated by the Alberta solicitor general. In addition, each EPS stun gun is subject to maintenance up to four times a year, Fedorovich said.

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