June 15, 2008 / 3:03 PM / in 9 years

Canada delays release of report on Taser use

VANCOUVER, British Columbia (Reuters) - Canada’s federal police watchdog has delayed a report expected to raise concerns about the use of electronic stun guns so the government can have more time to look at the report’s findings, an official said on Thursday.

<p>A demonstrator attends a rally in memory of Robert Dziekanski in Vancouver, British Columbia, November 24, 2007. Canada's federal police watchdog has delayed a report expected to raise concerns about the use of electronic stun guns so the government can have more time to look at the report's findings, an official said on Thursday. REUTERS/Lyle Stafford</p>

The report was prompted by an incident last year that left a Polish immigrant dead at Vancouver’s airport after he was shot by police with a Taser gun. It had been scheduled to be released in Ottawa on Thursday, but in a last-minute change the release has been pushed back to next Wednesday.

Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day asked for the delay so he could meet first with the watchdog, Paul Kennedy, who is chairman of the Commission on Public Complaints against the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Kennedy’s spokesman said.

Day, who has a copy of the final report, is traveling outside the country, so Kennedy agreed to delay the release until he can meet with Day in person, the spokesman said.

An interim report by Kennedy in December urged police to restrict use of the weapons made by Taser International Inc. until safety questions are answered. He stopped short of calling for a moratorium.

Kennedy also warned the weapons should be used only when the target poses a clear risk of death or bodily harm to police or to the public.

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

Taser’s 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, and has accused its critics of spreading myths about it potential dangers. The deaths, it says, were caused by the victims’ drug use or other factors.

Controversy over the weapons erupted in Canada following the death in October of Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski in a confrontation with police at Vancouver International Airport.

Images of Dziekanski writhing on the floor after he was shot with the stun gun were broadcast around the world, but the cause of his death has not been determined.

The incident also prompted a provincial public inquiry on the weapon’s use in British Columbia, which is expected to issue its own report later this year.

Editing by Peter Galloway

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