Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

New 'targeting guide' for police Taser use

Don't stun chest; avoid heart

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The company that manufactures Tasers has issued a new "targeting guide" to police who use the weapons.

In a Sept. 30 training bulletin, TASER International instructed users to -- in the interests of evading "controversy" -- refrain from targeting the chest area to avoid impact to the heart.

"When possible, avoiding chest shots with electronic control devices avoids the controversy about whether (stun guns) do or do not affect the human heart," said the bulletin, which is posted on the company's website.

While maintaining the weapons are safe, the company recommends users aim for the abdomen, legs or back. The website also includes a diagram highlighting the recommended target areas on a suspect's body.

Both the Vancouver and Calgary police confirmed Thursday they'll be following the new avoid-the-heart directive.

Coun. Gord Steeves, head of Winnipeg's protection committee, said the Winnipeg Police Service is looking at changing its policy on how stun guns are used.

He said they are considering restricting officers from aiming at the middle of the upper body.

The findings of the Braidwood inquiry into the death of a Polish immigrant Tasered at Vancouver airport will be discussed at Winnipeg's protection committee meeting today and police have been asked to report back with a summary of recommendations.

"These devices are still used in difficult circumstances when people are avoiding arrest or avoiding detention," Steeves said. "There's no absolute guarantee a Taser can be administered precisely where you want to."

TASER International said the new directive improves the safety of the weapons and enhances officers' ability to defend themselves against post-event lawsuits.

Should a suspect die of sudden cardiac arrest after being hit by a Taser in the chest area, it would place the officer, the law enforcement agency, and TASER International in the "difficult situation of trying to ascertain what role, if any, the Taser... could have played," said the company bulletin.

Retired judge Thomas Braidwood, who is overseeing the inquiry into Robert Dziekanski's death, released this summer a series of recommendations, including banning the use of Tasers by police unless a suspect is physically harming someone or about to while committing a criminal act.

Closing submissions continue this week in the inquiry.

 

-- Canwest News Service, with files from Gabrielle Giroday

 

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 9, 2009 A6

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