Time for the RCMP to do the right thing: Pull tasers out of service pending further independent testing.

Forgive me, but I’m opening the door to ‘taser talk’ again. ( The last time I did this it initiated an ongoing debate in the comments section that lasted for several months.) Last night I watched an excellent documentary on The National, regarding tasers. More specifically, the older x26 model manufactured prior to 2005, of which thousands are in active service all over Canada. 

CBC News and Radio Canada commissioned an independent study of these tasers, testing them using scientific standards and protocols designed   by Pierre Savard, a biomedical engineer at the University of Montreal, using Taser International’s specifications. Of the 41 tasers tested, 4 delivered significantly more current than Taser International says is possible – in some cases, up to 50% more than stated. The findings are particularly significant in part because police officers are trained to aim the Taser at a suspects chest, increasing the chances of  cardiac arrest if a larger current is delivered.

RCMP have now pulled random sampling of tasers in the field and say preliminary reports indicate no problems. They will not say how many tasers have been tested or where/how  the testing was conducted, but in a surprising move, Quebec justice minister Jacques Dupuis announced Friday the province was pulling older weapons off the streets to test them. They are also pulling samples of newer models to check the current output as well.

Taser International has issued an official statement here: http://www.cbc.ca/news/pdf/taser-official-statement.pdf

Taser usage in Canada has been a contentious issue since its addition into the arsenal of weapons used by the RCMP. Clearly, the safety of officers who serve the public is important, but just as important is the certainly that this weapon performs in a consistent and reliable manner.

Currently, there are more international safety standards for cell phones than there are for tasers and there have been no independent or government initiated controls or standards by which the force can rely on – the only testing and standards have all been done by the manufacturer, Taser International. The CBC test clearly shows that their information cannot be relied upon as being  100% accurate in some cases. In addition, no method has been developed for RCMP divisions ( or other police forces) to test the ongoing performance of the Taser in the field,leaving them powerless to monitor reliability or find weapons that may not be performing to specifications.

I question why this weapon has been able to be used on an international basis without such safety standards in place ? It would seem almost negligent to me  that police forces have so hastily laid claim to a weapon whose  manufacturers claims  have not been ascertained by anyone other than themselves.

Yes, Tasers have assisted officers in subduing suspects. Yes, Tasers can and do prevent on the job injuries – in some cases. And while I do believe there is a place for a weapon such as this within policing, the number of deaths related to taser usage is significant enough that combined with the outcome of this test, the only option would seem to be to pull all weapons and call for immediate government regulation and testing. At least, that’s how I see it.

View the entire episode, read the reports and responses through this link: http://www.cbc.ca/national/blog/special_feature/a_deadly_landing/the_taser_test_1.html

Background stories on Robert Dziekanski and other taser related  stories can be viewed here: http://www.cbc.ca/national/blog/special_feature/a_deadly_landing/

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