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Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Winnipeg cops study ways to avoid losing Taser cartridges

After its officers lost four unused Taser cartridges in eight months, the Winnipeg Police Service is looking at ways to zap any further losses.

Const. Natalie Aitken, a police spokeswoman, said the service’s use of force experts will consider other types of cartridge pouches and speak to other police agencies during a review of the situation to find out if any changes are necessary.

“We’ll be exploring some of the different options, if there are any,” Aitken said.

On Saturday night or Sunday morning, a police officer became the fourth in Winnipeg to lose a Taser cartridge since February.

The cartridge and its black canvas pouch were lost in Division 13 in northwest Winnipeg and haven’t been recovered. Police are seeking the public’s help to locate it.

“It is really of no use unless you possess the (Taser),” Aitken said.

The Taser X26 itself wasn’t lost.

Police didn’t identify any locations where the pouch might have fallen off the officer’s belt.

It’s believed the other missing cartridges — lost in District 3, which encompasses northwest Winnipeg — haven’t been returned to police.

Aitken said most officers attach the pouch to their duty belt, along with their service pistol, handcuffs and other items.

Mike Sutherland, president of the Winnipeg Police Association, said such a loss might occur from time to time because of the physical nature of the job.

The risk of an item becoming loose increases when officers struggle with a suspect, run and hop over fences, among other things, he said.

Sutherland said none of his members have complained to the union about the pouches.

Police said the missing cartridge could pose a risk of harm to someone even if it’s not attached to a Taser.

The cartridge contains barbed probes attached to wires. The probes and wires extend at rapid speed from the cartridge when a Taser is discharged.

If the cartridge is carried in a pocket a buildup of static energy could activate it and cause the probes to be propelled, putting the person at risk of injury.

Police are asking anyone who finds the cartridge to immediately call the non-emergency line at 986-6222.

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