Alberta's Taser use guidelines become stricter

Police agencies in Alberta will now have to follow new guidelines on the use of conducted energy weapons, such as Taser stun guns, which include annual testing of the devices, the province announced Friday.

Police agencies in Alberta will have to follow new guidelines on the use of conducted energy weapons, such as Taser stun guns, which include annual testing of the devices, the province announced Friday.

"I believe that a Taser is a great tool for the police to use in certain circumstances, and these guidelines are appropriate," Solicitor General Fred Lindsay said.

According to the guidelines, police services will have to test their existing Tasers every year and must test new devices before they are used by officers. The guidelines also set up a reporting system for the use of the devices that will be monitored by the province. Police agencies are now required to have a Taser co-ordinator.

The guidelines also provide clearer direction to police on Taser use, which is now limited to when an officer believes there is a "real likelihood" a subject could cause injury to themselves, the officer or a bystander.

The flight of a suspect in itself would not be grounds for firing a Taser, the guidelines say.

"If they're not posing a threat to either themselves, the public or an officer, then we don't believe that the machine should be deployed," Lindsay said.

The previous guidelines were based on a section of the Criminal Code that gives police authority to use force, government spokeswoman Michelle Davio said.

Police have always filled out reports whenever they have used Tasers. What's new is that the reports will be forwarded to the province, which will compile them in an annual report, Davio said.

Policy in line with new guidelines: Calgary police

A spokesperson for Calgary Police said the force was comfortable with the new guidelines.

"We've had a very preliminary review of that document and welcome it because it seeks to create clarity on the language we use in relation to the use of our Taser weapons as a use of force option," said acting Supt. Ray Robitaille.

"In this case here, the guidelines really just state that fact, so we're very comfortable that, one, not only are our policies complying with the guidelines but that our officers are using force appropriately."

RCMP in Alberta said they welcomed the new guidelines.

"Based on our preliminary review of the guidelines, we believe they are consistent with current RCMP policy and practices relating to the use of CEWs, following a number of improvements that the RCMP has made over the past year," Alberta RCMP spokesperson Cpl. Wayne Oakes said in a news release.

Earlier this year, the Alberta government had 412 of the stun guns tested by an independent agency. About 50 of the devices were pulled from service after it was found they "did not operate within manufacturer specifications."

The province then announced it would test all the remaining devices.

Alberta ordered the initial round of 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 specifies.

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