30/01/2008

'Shock' Findings As Scientists Question Taser 'Safety'

Stunned pigs may lie at the heart of renewed doubts over the 'safety' of the controversial Taser stun guns.

Although specialist units of the PSNI are now to be armed with the weapons, which emit 50,000 volts, scientists at the trauma centre in Chicago's Cook County Hospital who stunned 11 pigs with the guns for two periods of 40 seconds at 15 second intervals, found that all of the animals suffered heart rhythm problems - two even died later.

Bob Walker, one of the lead researchers on the study, said the fact that one of the pigs died three minutes after being stunned cast doubt on the weapon's safety.

"It says that the effect of the Taser shot can last beyond the time when it's being delivered," he said.

"So, after the Taser shock ends, there can still be effects that can be evoked and you can still see cardiac effects.

However, Rick Smith, the CEO of Taser International, said he did not think much could be concluded from the Chicago study because it focused on pigs that weighed just over seven stones.

"The human studies are clearly much more relevant to policy-makers, and to people that are interested in the science of how Tasers affect people," he said.

The PSNI have purchased 12 of the weapons, which will be used in a pilot scheme by officers from the Special Operations Branch, from 2 February.

Speaking earlier this week, assistant Chief Constable for Operational Support Roy Toner, who is in charge of the pilot, said that officers had been trained to the highest national standards.

"In situations where there is a real risk to life or serious injury to officers, members of the public or the criminal, Taser remains a much more preferable alternative to shooting someone with live ammunition," he said.

(BMcC)


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