(Adds comment from inquiry)
VANCOUVER, British Columbia Feb 24 Canada's
two largest police associations defended the use of Taser stun
guns on Tuesday, saying there is no direct evidence the weapons
can be lethal.
The public support for the weapons follows a decision by
the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to warn its officers that
electronic stun guns can kill and should be fired only when
there is a real threat to themselves or the public.
It also comes amid a public inquiry that has raised
questions about police use of the weapons during a incident at
the Vancouver International Airport in 2007 that left a Polish
The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police and the
Canadian Police Association said police should be equipped with
the weapons, which incapacitate people through a 50,000-volt
electrical jolt, because they are a safe alternative to regular
The groups dismissed complaints that not enough independent
research had been done into the possible dangers of so-called
conducted energy weapons, and said there was no evidence Tasers
had contributed directly to any deaths.
"So much of the misinformation, the miscommunication, is
driven by people who have never walked in our shoes ... and
could never pass recruit training," Ontario Provincial Police
Commissioner Julian Fantino told an Ottawa news conference.
Critics of the weapons, made by U.S.-based Taser
International Inc TASR.O, say that in addition to a lack of
data on their dangers, police are now using them too frequently
to zap people who pose no real threat.
The controversy has been heightened in Canada since the
Vancouver Airport incident, in which immigrant Robert
Dziekanski died after he was jolted several times by RCMP
officers and then physically restrained.
A video of Dziekanski's brief confrontation with the police
and his screams as he died on the airport floor received wide
international publicity, although the exact cause of his death
has not been determined.
One of the RCMP officers who confronted Dziekanski defended
police actions at a hearing on Tuesday, saying they thought he
posed a threat and there was not enough time to talk with him
before using the Taser.
However, Constable Gerry Rundel said that, in retrospect,
it was possible that Dziekanski's actions reflected his
frustration at not being able to communicate with anyone in his
Rundel said police had very little information on
Dziekanski when they arrived at the airport on a disturbance
call, and he did not interpret the man's raised arms as a sign
Later in the hearing, Dziekanski's mother could be seen
shaking her head as Rundel said that even now he is not sure
what the officers could have done differently based on what
they knew at the time.
(Reporting Allan Dowd, editing by Rob Wilson)