Police to test older Taser stun guns

Tue Dec 9, 2008 11:24am EST
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OTTAWA (Reuters) - The Royal Canadian Mounted Police said Tuesday they would test 24 Tasers bought before 2006 after a media investigation suggested older models of the stun gun could fire excessively large electrical charges.

The RCMP -- under increasing pressure over its Taser policy -- said in June it would curb the use of the weapons, which are made by U.S. firm Taser International Inc.

"The RCMP has undertaken a review of its national inventory of conducted energy weapons (CEWs) and has identified 24 Taser Model X-26 units acquired by the RCMP prior to January 1st, 2006. It has directed that these units be removed from service and undergo testing," the Mounties said in a statement.

Last week the Canadian Broadcasting Corp aired an investigation into 44 X-26 units used by U.S. agencies and said independent tests showed four of them fired charges up to 60 percent greater than the supposed maximum. All four were made before 2005.

An official Canadian report made public in September said the Mounties did not do enough research on the dangers of Tasers before they approved the weapons for use.

Last year, Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski died at Vancouver's airport during an incident in which he was jolted several times by police Tasers and then physically restrained.

The Taser incapacitates people through a 50,000-volt jolt of electricity. Police say they are needed as a non-lethal alternative to firearms.

Critics say the weapon's use has been linked to more than 290 deaths in North America since 2001, and not enough is known about potential health risks, such as heart failure.

Taser says there is no evidence the weapon caused any of the deaths.

(Reporting by David Ljunggren; editing by Rob Wilson)

<p>Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers march during a memorial for four slain officers in Edmonton, Alberta, March 10, 2005. REUTERS/Shaun Best</p>