Canadian report calls for restrictions on Tasers

Thu Jul 23, 2009 6:42pm EDT
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By Allan Dowd

VANCOUVER, British Columbia (Reuters) - Police should restrict their use of Taser stun guns, but there is no need for a moratorium on the weapon while safety concerns are studied, according a Canadian report released on Thursday.

The weapons can be used safely, but police must also recognize they have the potential to kill, and further study is needed on their medical effects, according to the report of British Columbia inquiry into a fatal incident near Vancouver.

Inquiry head Thomas Braidwood said he was recommending police be able to keep the weapons while safety questions are resolved, because they are a potentially valuable tool for officers as an alternative to firearms.

"From a public policy standpoint, you have to balance the good and the bad ... life is not easy," Braidwood, a retired British Columbia judge, told reporters in releasing the 546-page report in Vancouver.

Tasers, also known as conductive energy weapons, disable people with a 50,000-volt jolt of electricity, and have become increasingly popular with police around the world. They can also be sold to the public in the United States.

British Columbia's provincial inquiry stems from the death of Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski in an incident in which he was shocked several times in a confrontation with Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers at Vancouver International Airport in 2007.

The exact cause of his death has never been determined.

A video recording of him screaming on the floor as he died was broadcast around the world, and became the flash point for concerns in Canada that police were misusing the weapon.   Continued...