Alberta pulls 50 police Tasers, vows to test all

Alberta will be testing all of its police Tasers after pulling 50 that failed to work properly in independent tests.

Alberta will be testing all of its police Tasers after pulling 50 that failed to work properly in independent tests.

Solicitor General Fred Lindsay made the announcement in Edmonton on Thursday morning, revealing the results of independent tests of a sample of Alberta police Tasers that showed more than 10 per cent didn't meet manufacturer specifications.

"I have not seen any evidence yet that would indicate that even though some of them are out of spec, that there is any increased safety risk in using them," Lindsay said. "We're quite comfortable with the results that we've seen and we believe that we've taken prudent action."

MPB Technologies Inc. of Kanata, Ont., tested 412 of the electronic stun guns, mostly older-model  X-26 Tasers purchased by Alberta police services before Jan. 1, 2006. Of the Tasers tested, 42 older-model and eight newer-model Tasers "did not operate within manufacturer specifications."

Those Tasers will be destroyed or sent back to the manufacture for repair. Any repaired Tasers will be independently tested before being used by police officers, the province said.

Investigation found high level of electricity than promised

Alberta ordered the testing in January after a CBC News and Radio-Canada investigation found that some of the stun guns deliver a higher level of electricity than the manufacturer promises.

Taser International has called the testing "flawed." In written releases to news agencies, the Arizona-based company said the CBC investigation made scientific errors by failing to spark-test the weapons before firing them, which the company recommends police officers do.

The Tasers tested so far came from police services in Calgary, Edmonton, Camrose, Lacombe, Taber and Medicine Hat as well as the Blood Tribe, Tsuu T’ina and North Peace First Nation police services. The Lethbridge force had no older models of the stun guns, while the RCMP carried out its own independent testing.

Calgary, Edmonton police support testing

In Calgary, 31 of the force's 190 stun guns that were tested were found to be outside the manufacturer's specifications. But Supt. Trevor Daroux of the field operations division said the deviations were so small that they didn't change police's confidence in the devices.

"None of the results from these tests demonstrate that the devices are not operating properly," Daroux said on Thursday. "They remain a very valuable use-of-force option for our officers." Calgary officers deployed Tasers 140 times in 2007 and 87 times in 2008.

Daroux said the Calgary Police Service supports the solicitor general's decision to test all Tasers in the province, even though the cost will fall to each individual force. The testing should take place in phases in the next two to three months, he added.

In Edmonton, where 15 of that force's 175 tested Tasers measured either too high or too low, police said the results do not present a public safety concern.

"Because the numbers are such small numbers from an electrical engineering standpoint and where the safety thresholds are, it's a non-factor, so we don't have any concerns with the safety of the weapon itself," said Const. Joe Tassone, the Taser instructor in the Edmonton police department's training section.

Tassone also said his force supports testing all the devices. "At the end of the day, we're on board with whatever it takes to make certain — including having the public's confidence — to make certain that these weapons are safe."