CANADA

Taser, a non-lethal weapon?

Canada's federal police watchdog requested yesterday that authorities "immediately restrict" the use of Taser guns (electronic control devices). The news has refuelled debate over the use of the "non-lethal" weapon, which has been blamed for the death of a Polish immigrant killed in Vancouver airport on 14 October. The incident was filmed by a passenger who put the images online a few weeks later. Robert Dziekanski, the man we see in the video, died a few minutes after being shocked with a Taser. We have commentary from an Amnesty International representative and from Tom Smith, co-founder of Taser.   Video filmed by an airport passenger on 14 October 2007.  

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Canada's federal police watchdog requested yesterday that authorities "immediately restrict" the use of Taser guns (electronic control devices). The news has refuelled debate over the use of the "non-lethal" weapon, which has been blamed for the death of a Polish immigrant killed in Vancouver airport on 14 October. The incident was filmed by a passenger who put the images online a few weeks later. Robert Dziekanski, the man we see in the video, died a few minutes after being shocked with a Taser. We have commentary from an Amnesty International representative and from Tom Smith, co-founder of Taser.

Video filmed by a airport passenger on 14 October 2007.

Robert Dziekanski, 40, had arranged to meet his mother when he got off the plane, the BBC reported. But he couldn't find her and waited for 10 hours in the baggage area. It was the first time that he had travelled by plane. These elements have been considered as reasons for his panicked behaviour when he was confronted by the police.

Commentary from Tom Smith, co-founder of Taser

Taser International Inc. expects annual revenues of around $100 million this year. It sells arms to police throughout the world, including in France, the UK, South Korea and South Africa. Their slogan: "Taser: Protect Life."

I don't believe that the use of the Taser was the cause of death. This man continued to fight after he was shocked, and electricity has an immediate effect, so it can't have been that. The reality is that we've Tasered over 500,000 people, and we believe that this product is not lethal. If you think about it, police deaths have been around for a long time. We have a drug problem worldwide: People approached by police are often under the influence of drugs and can react differently. So this is often the cause of death. The weapon used can be anything: pepper spray, a baton, whatever.

Our reputation is stronger than ever. After all, Taser saves lives. I'm surprised that Amnesty International doesn't support us, when the use of Taser supports human rights. It's better than using real guns. I believe the Canadian policeman used the Taser correctly. We'll find out what really happened when the results from the investigations are released."

Commentary from Eulette Ewart, Amnesty International

Without results from the investigation, it's impossible to say if the cause of death was the use of a Taser. But we can't help but notice, seeing the video on YouTube, that he died just after being shocked with the weapon. And this isn't a one-off. Since 2001, 290 people have died after being deployed an electric charge, and that's just in North America. The institution [Taser] insists that the weapon is not lethal. However, in 2005 they changed their product definition from ‘non-lethal' to ‘less-lethal'.

The problem is not so much the weapon, but the way it's used. We think that it should only be used in very specific circumstances, and only by trained police. That's how it works in Great Britain, but not in the US or Canada."

Taser demostrates its 'civilian model'

Taser demonstrates its new model, the C2, which was launched at the beginning of the year. This version was specifically designed for the general public. "The electric charge causes [a person's] muscles to lock up so they can really not move very effectively. But as soon as it shuts off, they're fine," the salesman explains. "It's the best way to protect yourself short of legal force."

 

Video posted 11 January 2007.