Report zaps Canadian police on Taser use policy

Fri Sep 12, 2008 6:16pm EDT
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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.   Continued...

<p>A taser X26 model and cartridges are displayed at a trade show for the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police in Montreal August 26, 2008. REUTERS/Christinne Muschi</p>