13 Feb 2009

Canadian Mounties to curb Taser use, warned of risks

10:50 am on 13 February 2009

Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers may now only use taser stun guns if there is a real threat to public safety and if they have also been warned that the weapons can kill.

Concern over the weapons heightened in 2006 after 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.

Witnesses testifying at a public inquiry into his death this month said Mr Dziekanski had been emotional and upset in the moments leading up to the incident.

Mounties' chief commissioner William Elliott said instructions that tasers must only be used where it is necessary to do so in circumstances of threats to officer(s) or public safety have been written into formal policy.

Mr Elliott told the Canadian Parliament's committee on public safety that the Mounties' new policy on tasers warns it is dangerous to use them several times on a suspect.

Critics say Canada's national police force gas used tasers far too frequently and have often used them on people who pose no real threat.

Such incidents have included people trying to avoid paying fares on public transport and, in one case, an elderly man who was strapped to a hospital stretcher.

The taser incapacitates people through a 50,000-volt jolt of electricity.

Police say they are needed as a nonlethal alternative to firearms.

Mr Elliott cited three medical studies that he said showed that the vast majority of people hit by taser blasts suffered no lasting effects.

Man dies in US after taser arrest

A man in the northern California city of San Jose has died after being jolted with a taser stun gun, police said on Thursday.

The man, who police said appeared to be in his 20s, got into a struggle with two officers when they tried to arrest him in the back yard of a home late Wednesday.

One officer was cut in the face and another had a leg injury. Both were treated and released from a hospital.

Police watchdog groups said the death was the sixth in San Jose connected with use of a taser since the department began using the stun guns in 2004, though police could immediately confirm that figure.

The city has been sued in at least three of those cases.