VANCOUVER, British Columbia (Reuters) - Canada’s national police did not do enough research on the dangers of Taser stun guns before they approved the weapons for use, according to a report made public on Friday.
The report also admonished the Royal Canadian Mounted Police for allowing officers to use Tasers on people they believe are suffering from “excited delirium” - a term used by police to describe suspects who are extremely combative.
The diagnosis of “excited delirium” as a medical condition is not accepted by many doctors so its use by police was only “folk knowledge” and it should not included in training manuals until more is known, the report recommended.
The report was prepared for the RCMP in June, but not made public until Friday when it was obtained by the Toronto Star newspaper under access to information laws. The RCMP then published its executive summary on its website.
The weapons made by Taser International Inc incapacitate people with a 50,000-volt jolt of electricity, and are promoted as a nonlethal alternative to firearms or brute force in subduing suspects.
But the weapon’s use has been extremely controversial in Canada since the death last year of Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski at Vancouver’s airport during an incident in which he was subdued with a Taser.
A videotape of Dziekanski’s death received international publicity, but the exact cause of his death has not been determined.
The RCMP had trouble developing its policy on Taser use partly because it relied too much on anecdotal material from officers and information from the manufacturer, according to the report.
Critics have accused Taser of pushing its product on the market without adequately testing for health risks such as heart failure, and for manipulating studies to downplay possible safety issues.
Taser International has accused its critics of spreading myths about the weapon. The company argues there is no evidence the guns have caused any fatalities and factors such as drug use by victims may be responsible.
The RCMP said on Friday it was studying the report, but had already taken steps to improve its polices on the use of the gun - which it refers to as a conducted energy weapon.
The Vancouver airport incident is also the subject of an investigation in British Columbia, with the results of a provincial inquiry into the weapon’s possible dangers expected to be released before the end of the year.
Reporting Allan Dowd, Editing by Peter Galloway