Taser International is a major sponsor of an upcoming police chiefs conference at which new research into electronic stun gun safety will be presented.
The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police commissioned a review into conducted energy weapons last fall after Robert Dziekanski of Poland died at Vancouver International Airport after being hit with the device by RCMP. At least five other Canadians have since died after being tasered by police.
Steve Palmer, executive director of the Canadian Police Research Centre, said he will present an overview of the report at the conference later this month in Montreal, but said the full review into the weapons commonly known as tasers is not yet complete.
“It’s an update,” said Mr. Palmer, who declined to give details. A final report is expected by next year after a full and independent peer review.
Called RESTRAINT, Risk of Death in Subjects That Resist, the review compares tasers with other methods police use to subdue difficult people.
It also looks at the characteristics of those who have been zapped, including excited delirium, a condition in which suspects are in a heart-pounding state of agitation. Excited delirium has been repeatedly cited to explain the sudden deaths of people after being tasered.
Taser International is one of the platinum sponsors of the conference that runs Aug. 24-27. The corporation has sponsored similar events in Canada and around the world.
For a minimum $25,000 fee, platinum sponsors can display their name on banners and signs, provide promotional items in delegate kits, be given an advance list of participants and attend conference sessions.
Steve Tuttle, vice-president of Arizona-based Taser International, said the company’s presence is important.
“You have to be there. It is a major sales event. It is advertising,” said Mr. Tuttle, who will be at the conference to answer questions about his company’s products.
Mr. Tuttle said while the new Canadian research is important, he has DVDs that contain 130 studies that have found the devices to be safe.
“You want to be there to be a conduit for information because clearly we have controversial issues in Canada, and the last thing that we want to be is shy. We stand behind our technology.”
Hilary Homes of Amnesty International Canada, which has called for a moratorium on stun guns, said having Taser as a sponsor and exhibitor sends a mixed message.
“It is very troubling,” Ms. Homes said from Ottawa. “What we need now is an objective discussion and accountability and this doesn’t seem to be creating the proper context for what needs to be a very frank and open debate.”
Officials with the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police were not available for comment.
Taser staff will be on hand to exhibit the company’s trademark X26 model used by the RCMP and other Canadian police forces. Taser is not listed as an exhibitor under its own name, but under its Canadian distributor, M.D. Charlton Co. Ltd.
The company will also be promoting new products such as a wireless taser round that is fired from a shotgun and has a range of 20 metres, he said. There will also be information on new products being developed, including a system called Shockwave that fires multiple taser rounds that can incapacitate a number of people in an area up to 100 metres.
A special video camera and audio device that police can wear to show what happens when an officer restrains someone is also in the works. Cellphone video of Mr. Dziekanski’s death that was shot by a member of the public made headlines around the world, but there was no police video of the encounter.
“Right now we have officers that are being called into question because of controversial uses,” Mr. Tuttle said. “The rage right now is that people are recording police officers with their cellphones.”
A total of 22 people have died in Canada after being hit with tasers, which can deliver a shock of up to 50,000 volts.